Regular Show, a cartoon about two anthropomorphic animals and their coworkers, is the brainchild of J.G. Quintel, an animator who led The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, which ran on Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2010. Regular Show premiered in 2010 and has followed its protagonists, Mordecai (a bluejay) and Rigby (a raccoon) in their exploits for seven seasons and an animated made-for-TV movie.
The show’s new episodes, finishing out the seventh season, will be released exclusively online at CartoonNetwork.com, beginning next month. Though “Chili Cook-Off” will air on television (on a Saturday), subsequent episodes will only appear online. This move isn’t damning; the show is one of the first in Cartoon Network history to last this long. Instead, the move away from television is likely part of Cartoon Network’s larger plan to appease cord-cutting millennials and the children we’re all having or going to have.
As the network announced recently, their focus going forward will not be on children’s programming, but on building out animated worlds that can be accessed from several devices, through video games, social media, comics, and toys.
Back in 2012, Regular Show took home the Emmy for Outstanding Short-format Animated Program, and it’s been nominated each year since. Though it has a fuzzy, tripped out Mark Mothersbaugh-produced soundtrack and its two leads are constantly in trouble for “slacking off,” the show never outright calls itself a stoner comedy. American Dad even featured a bluejay and raccoon enacting a drug deal in the forest in a nod to Regular Show’s subtext.
Regular Show uses the same winking references that Cartoon Network’s best projects do, and this creates a tension for adult viewers who aren’t sure if the cartoons are coded a certain way purposefully. Clarence, for instance, depicts kids living in varying levels of poverty; Sumo sleeps with all of his siblings in a single bed, and continually doesn’t recognize his friends’ nice toys. Several theorists have analyzed Adventure Time as a post-apocalyptic lesson in nostalgia and grief, and Over the Garden Wall, a dark fairytale miniseries, uses Grisaille-style painting tricks.
As always with Cartoon Network’s smartest programming, audiences have to ask themselves who Regular Show is for, exactly, since the average kid won’t understand the parallels between Mordecai’s friendship with Rigby and the bond between old characters like Cheech and Chong, the bowling team in The Big Lebowski, or Craig and Smokey in Friday. Even if kids don’t understand why adults might assume characters like Mordecai and Rigby shirk their responsibilities to smoke weed and chase girls, they can still comprehend wanting life to be less complicated. Regular Show happens in a universe where dead-end jobs, concert tickets, and that ex-girlfriend you disappointed are the only things that really matter. That seems to appeal to adults and children alike.