Why so many animated comedies on broadcast TV?

Even aside from the Cartoon Network – which may be a result, and not a cause – it seems like there are a lot of animated comedies on broadcast TV these days: The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy, Futurama and I’m sure a slew more that aren’t occuring to me since I don’t watch any of them.

Back when I was a wee twickster, The Flintstones was (IIRC) on in prime time – but that’s a looooooong time ago. Can’t think of any in the '70s or '80s – then The Simpsons came along.

What can cartoons do that live action can’t?

Some things are much easier to do in animation, e.g., Marj Simpson’s hair, and Kenny (of South Park)'s frequent deaths.

The 70s birthed the eminently forgettable “Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home” which was sort of like an animated “All in the Family” with less social relevance.

The Simpsons debuted on The Tracy Ullman Show in 1987 and on its own in 1989.

One biggie that helps account for the longevity of The Simpsons, et al: They can have children that don’t age over the course of the show.

Which completely negates the entire point of the question. :rolleyes:

I started to enumerate the various things animation can do better than live-action, and realized that it came down to one primary aspect: special effects are no more expensive than normal effects in animation. Stuff that would take a movie budget to reproduce live-action can be easily produced with animation. (For a relative value of easy, anyway.) Celebrity guests can be faked with clever voice acting, pratfalls can be made more explicit, and more fantastic elements can be incorporated into the story.

As for why there’s more on prime-time than before…I’m just providing assertions without cites, but before the Simpsons came along, America had a pretty much ubiquitous view that cartoons were for kids. There were some niche adult cartoons and animation, certainly, but they were very niche. The Simpsons came along at about the same time Japanese anime started gaining popularity, and both of them in their way showed that animation can be enjoyed by older audiences as well as younger. It’s just a medium of expression, not a kiddie genre. Same goes for CGI, which is seeing far greater use than traditional cel animation these days.

They can be a lot cheaper.
No set designers, no make-up people, no lighting crews, cameramen, etc.
You can have a cast of a hundred people in a cartoon and not have to pay 100 different actors.
You can have multiple locations that you don’t have to build or drive to, all you have to do is draw them.

With all the locations and characters in The Simpsons I think if it were a live action show the costs would be over the top expensive.
As it is now they just have writers, voice actors, and animators on the payroll.

Same reason as reality TV: They’re popular and cheap to make.

This all makes sense. Thanks, folks. (Or should that be, “Tha-a-a-a-a-at’s all, folks”?)

And one reason the Simpsons get so many guest stars is because the actors love it. Don’t have to get wardrope and get hair and makeup done. Just learn your lines, record them and leave. It’s a one day, not a one week gig.

I don’t speak smiley so I’m not sure if you’re rolling your eyes at me for noting that The Simpsons appeared partially in the 80s or at yourself for not realizing it. Either way, the two shows that I mentioned were the only ones that originated in the timeframe specified. My mentioning The Simpsons wasn’t an attempt to show you up or negate your question or whatever.

Cartoons can also get away with stuff that would be censored on a live action program. Compare the amount of nudity on Family Guy or the Simpsons to anything else on network TV.

The former. The fact that the show, as a show, debuted in 1989 is a nitpick that doesn’t undermine my point that the '80s, as a decade, wasn’t a period when there were a slew of prime time cartoons on the air.

Well, it wasn’t intended either as a nitpick (I would have said “nitpick” if it were) or to undermine your point so your taking it that way is on you.

Er, I kind of have a nitpick. The OP listed four animated shows on prime time network television. One of them (Futurama) was canceled years ago, although we can go ahead and replace that with “American Dad,” to keep the count even.

Still that gives us a grand total of only four television shows (three of which have been on the air for many years) out of over a hundred on the fall schedule for this, and the last several years. Really, can anyone name a single other one that will be on this season?

No offense, but the OP reads like it was written about six or seven years ago, when a plethora of animated shows popped up and then quickly disappeared after a few forgettable episodes.

Now that’s nitpicking to the extreme! The first real Simpsons episode aired on December 17, 1989, just two weeks before 1990. :smiley:

Same reason that King of the Hill is animated. Events can take place in Dallas or Houston and you don’t have to build sets or shoot location scenes. People like Tom Petty, the Tuetels, or ZZ Top can guest star and record their lines close to home instead of traveling to Hollywood. Bobby never ages. Even though KOTH strives for realism instead of over-the-top storylines, it’s still cheaper to produce than a live-action series.

There was one called “Where’s Huddles?”, about a pair of football players and their scheming neighbor. I don’t think it lasted an entire season. Paul Lynde was one of the voices; Mel Blanc was another.

If on really wanted to nitpick one would point out that this show aired in 1970, which since there is no year zero in the Gregorian or Julian calendars, means that it aired during the decade of the 1960s.

Not that it changes your larger point, but Futurama will be back on the air later this year.

It’s still an interesting question.

All of the current shows mentioned in this thread are (or were) on Fox. So it doesn’t look like there are that many animated comedies - just one network that scored a huge hit with one and has successfully followed up on it.

Even in the 1990s and 2000s there are plenty of failed animated comedies, such as God, the Devil, and Bob, Clerks, and the CGI Father of the Pride as well as some stop-motion attempts like The PJs and Gary & Mike.
The return of Family Guy showed there was room on TV for more than just The Simpsons, but there still isn’t a great many on network TV. Does anybody besides Fox have prime-time animated shows? (I’d look myself but I just spent an hour finding the name of Gary & Mike and I’m done.)