Let’s Talk Late Night

It’s 9 o’clock and the sun has set and all the kids are off to bed. How does a channel like Cartoon Network that’s designed for children get people to watch? Well they switch over to something completely different. From 9PM to 6 AM Adult Swim comes on which is home to some of the weirdest and most insane television shows ever seen. The goal is to pull in the older kids and younger adults who still love cartoons and shows that don’t resemble boring sitcoms.   Thanks to the success of various series like Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Intro

they continue to let strange content get aired on their channel. On February 11, 2007  at 11:30 pm Adult Swim aired Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job All Right. Awesome Show reflects a sub culture of the late 90’s and early 2000’s.The show steered away from standard television archetypes while trying to recreate the feel of cable access. Because of its production, it created a world more like our own compared to other television shows.

Thanks to the show being aired at 11:30 pm on a Sunday night it did not receive a high Nielsen rating. It did have some of the best ratings for its time slot though because not a lot of new content is aired at that time. The audience it drew in were males from 18  to 24. Because it is on so late and because it is aired on adult swim it is pulling new audiences that are not attracted to other late night talk shows. According to Bill Carter in the New York Time’s Adult Swim, the network that is, in many ways, the new force in late night, has some significant news, too: It is expanding again.” The fact that the network was growing shows that there were groups of people looking for something that was different from what had been the standard fare since the 1940’s and this shift started in the late 1990’s and early 2000s with shows like Tim and Eric’s Awsome Show.

Some of the major things going on in the USA at the time Awesome Show aired were the continuing war in Iraq and the housing market crash.  A lot of late night shows and a lot of mainstream television shows would talk about and reference these events. Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show did not do this. It did not worry about what was going on in the world; it made up it own events. This shows that not everything has to reference what is going on in the real world to make good television. Instead, Tim and Eric give the viewer something to think about that did not have to be related to current events. This appealed to a lot of younger people because of all the scary things going on post 911 in Iraq and the housing market crash. It gave them some escapism unlike the other late night shows.

Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show takes its overall structure form cable access/public access television. Public access is television made by amateurs and can consist of literally any kind of content. They usually have good equipment because they are produced at a local television station but because they are made by amateurs it comes across as funny sometimes when they mean to be serious. Tim and Eric grew up watching this type of TV and found it hilarious and unique.  They wanted to try to recreate it.  Every episode of Awesome Show is made to look the way cable access looks from the actors to the badly done green screen to even the costumes and makeup. All of which makes it look like a group of amateurs are making the show.

In episode 1 season 2 called Vacation, Tim and Eric play themselves hosting the show. Eric and Tim have just got back from their summer vacations away from the show and Eric has a new best friend which makes Tim jealous. The whole time this is going on, the show is using a lot of different elements to illustrate that Tim and Eric’s characters are amateurs trying to make a cable access production.

Raz’s Best Vacation Ever Video

First thing that shows this is what they are wearing. They are wearing matching outfits other than the color of their shirts. The set itself looks like this is all they had in the studio to work with.  It’s a gray drop background with 3 white columns and two chairs for the characters to sit on. The minimalness of the set shows that Tim and Eric’s characters are just using what they have to work with at the cable access studio. The lighting and camera work are done obviously to make it look like a multi camera production because that’s what people at a cable access studio would have. They do a lot of cuts that would not normally need to be done to try to show that they are amateurs filming it to give it more of that cable access feel.

In the episode, Eric’s new best friend, Raz, makes a video which Eric decides to show. Not only do they show the characters watching the video, they show them watching it on a tube TV and vhs player and throughout the video they keep cutting back to them watching it. In Raz’s video it has outdoor scenes of Eric on a boat which are obviously green screened and so is the jet ski Raz is riding. The editing is done poorly on purpose to make it look like amateurs have put this together which was the point.  What also makes it funny is the music and singing in the video that goes along with all the actions Eric and Raz are doing. Throughout this there are reaction shots of Tim kinda looking amused but also a little worried about Eric having a new best friend. Tim becomes so jealous of Eric and Raz’s friendship he decides to make up a fake friend and make a vacation video of them. This video is so funny because of how bad it is. All it is is a picture of Tim with this other guy, Tony, photoshopped in.

Tim and Tony

This makes Tim look petty as a character but also realistic because he doesn’t want to lose his best friend. All of these production choices add to the realisticness of the show because it is about the making of a cable access show so the viewer gets lost and forgets what they are actually watching. Because of the fact that the whole production seems to have been done by amateurs it truly makes the viewer feel like they are watching cable access.  This is a type of television exists and when watching this you forget that Tim and Eric are actually characters.  It makes this TV world more real because it seems like you’re watching real people try to produce a television show.

Over all Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show did a great job at giving younger people something to watch at night that was not like other late night shows and because of the way the show was shot and produced it created a world of it’s own not unlike ours. In a time where the world was big and scary it gave younger adults 11 minutes of something funny to laugh at instead of worrying about the war or the falling economy. It also used cable access and a way to make fun of other real world tv while at the same time showing the viewer a little look at the world of making TV.  What some people think is bad acting and bad sets only enhances the viewer’s immersion into the show and because of this they were able to make a world that changed late night television.

Great Job!


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