July 21, 2013



Among the many, many places where cable has been eating the lunch of the broadcast networks is in the anarchic, shoestring-budgeted world of adult late-night comedy, much of it animated, where Adult Swim has been routinely beating the late-night talk shows in young demos with lunatics-running-the-asylum work like Robot Chicken, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Children’s Hospital, Squidbillies and NTSF: SD: SUV.

Since Family Guy and American Dad are among the mainstays of Adult Swim programming, it makes sense that FOX would try to join the party, and on Saturday night July 27, it’ll launch what it’s calling Animation Domination High-Def, a mouthful that forms the (less funny than it thinks) acronym ADHD.  The network’s hope is to establish enough of a toehold to be able to challenge Saturday Night Live for some of the incredibly lucrative weekend late-night comedy audience–at a tiny fraction of SNL‘s massive budget.  To hype the idea, FOX previewed two of the first 15-minute arrivals in primetime tonight.

AXE COP was created as an online comic by brothers Malachai and Ethan Nicolle in 2009, when Malachai was 5 years old (his brother was more than 20 years older), and its exuberant charm comes from the anything-goes illogic of a child’s storytelling mind.  Professionally transferred to television by Nick Weindenfield and Judah Miller, it centers on the titular granite-jawed cop with an axe (marvelously voiced by Nick Offerman), and beyond that, it can go just about anywhere.  The previewed episode included a warthog whose best friends–who happened to be the cast of Happy Days–were abducted and eaten by King Bad Guy (he wears a crown), a chihuahua soldier (Giancarlo Esposito) who was once a human and can transform back into a human, but only if he’s not feeling like going to war, which he usually does, so he mostly stays a chihuahua, flying brain-eating dinosaurs (summoned by a dinosaur horn rented–not purchased!–at a dinosaur horn store) and a part-lion, part-gazelle super-soldier.  It’s fair to say that chemical substances could only improve the experience of watching Axe Cop, but even when sober, it’s giddy fun, and the primetime-level animation and actors never let on that they’re in on the joke.

The 15 minutes of Axe Cop fly by, but the same can’t be said for its companion piece HIGH SCHOOL USA.  Created by Dino Stamatopoulos, the comic who’s no stranger to cult TV as the maybe-not-dead Star-Burns on Community, it’s a fairly laborious one-note joke, that being a scuzzy remix of the Archie comic book world –or as close as it can get without the threat of lawsuits.  So Archie is Marsh, Jughead is Blackstein, Betty and Veronica are Amber and Cassandra, and Reggie is Brad.  The premiere episode mostly parodied afterschool special anti-bullying drama (“It doesn’t get better,” was one of the punchlines), which by the end was teaching that bullies were good and those who who don’t like bullies are the real bullies.  Mostly the comedy was supposed to come from the subversion of that old-line comic book universe (there was a lesbian kiss for the two girls, a glory-hole joke and Marsh’s binge-eating), but at this point in pop culture, the most subversive thing to do with that kind of material would be not to subvert it at all.  In order to wring anything remotely shocking out of this setting, a show would have to go a lot farther than a primetime, or even late-night, network series would ever dare.

The good thing, of course, about ADHD is that it’s almost instantly disposable.  FOX has ordered 6 15-minute segments of each concept, and if they don’t work, blink and they’ll be gone, with others in their place.  With that as the business model, going 1 for 2 isn’t bad at all.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."