As someone who, to this day, greatly enjoys cartoons as well as animes (although I would argue those are different culturally from the American definition of cartoons so I won’t touch on that much), animated television matters greatly. I believe animated television has a laid-back feel to them. They are just as capable of conveying serious tones, but not in the same intense manner as live action. Whenever I watch live action shows, I almost feel second-hand stress, fear, or anger on behalf of the characters. Whenever I am watching animated shows, however, this stress goes away. I can enjoy the characters and the plots without getting as sucked into it, which I enjoy. Whether this is the same with others, I know not, but in my opinion it is an added bonus of animated television. Whenever I want to lose myself in a show but not suffer any negative backlash from the downpour of emotions, I can do so.
When it comes to what animated television can and cannot do, it is definitely more “free” than traditional, non-animated programs. Like Randell-Moon and Randell pointed out in their article, animation is not as constrained by shot types and can get more creative with their cinematography and color choices because, due to everything being animated, there is literally no limit to what they can and cannot do. The show can portray creative imagery and more abstract concepts which simply are not possible in any medium other than animation. This is obvious by BoJack Horseman having characters who are animals who behave and look like humans to an extent, to Big Mouth depicting basketball players as literal walking, talking, penises, and F is For Family showing the television store as this brightly colored, almost overwhelming, high when the parents walk in to make a purchase.
Animated television shows have some “affordances” of being able to be more abstract and strive for a wider variety of content. There is a fine line between conveying serious adult themes such as alcoholism, drugs, sex, depression, etc., in a medium traditionally meant for kids shows. In a way, this allows for these themes to be portrayed in a less intense manner but still just as accurately or intensely as the directors wish. As Randell-Moon and Randell pointed out, it is also faster in terms of production and takes less time. There are no locations or costumes or sets, which makes production easier for quite a few people.
I do not believe Adult Swim to be confined to a narrow or niche demographic but I understand how young men aged 18 – 24 tend to be more attracted to the content offered by it. The transition between Cartoon Network into Adult Swim makes the switch of content easy to see and slip into, especially for those in their teens. This is how I was introduced to the concept of adult cartoons as well as some animes, because when I was younger—about 13 or 14 perhaps—I would watch Cartoon Network and if I stayed up late enough Adult Swim would start automatically. I would say more than those within this demographic watches Adult Swim and similar programs, especially with the prevalence of adult cartoons on mediums such as Netflix. The Simpsons and Family Guy are similar programs which contributed to this more common shift of these animated programs having more “worth” because, based on my personal experience, they attracted a wider array of audiences. My dad and I would watch the Simpsons together over dinner when I was in high school, so these shows were not limited to this age group of those in their late teens and early twenties. This age group is, however, likely more attracted to animated television than other demographics so it is natural that they view animated television and represent the show, so to speak. I believe Adult Swim’s block of nighttime programming has made a positive impact of animated television because of its exposure which made animated television more recognizable to viewers who may not have been aware of it, and once it was getting views, it paved the way for similar content creation.