Following the construction of Paul Hall in 1873, a steady evolution in architecture and education came and went, while Paul Hall remains the only building left on Muskingum’s former Historic East Campus. So what all was up there?
To preface the following article, my definition of the “Historic East Campus” may vary from those set by historians. My view starts with the construction of the building that would become known as Paul Hall, named for President David Paul, as its history and what follows gives it a distinction as the only building still standing. I am also including the lots on Layton and East High Street as those houses were bought by the college for construction of new buildings in the 21st Century. Also included is the Little Theatre due to it being a part of the East Campus, and where its bricks were sourced.
Muskingum College began in 1837, and for 14 years its faculty and students met in a simple, three-story building that caught on fire in 1851. The structure was rebuilt, seemingly identical, and would later have Paul Hall added to the front. This is the reason for why Paul Hall has a short, nonmatching extension in the back that serves as the staircase and bathroom facilities, as the stairs between the two floors were contained in the 1851 building.
The next building on the East Hill to be constructed would be Johnson Hall in 1899. Like Paul Hall, it did not receive its name until much later, and being named after the College President that served in the time the building was constructed, Rev. Jesse Johnson. This expanded the school’s capacity for science classes, adding a chapel on the west side of the building, and contained rooms for Literary Societies. The building was constructed at $10,659 ($334,505.10 adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars) and was likely constructed on the cheap.
As the back portion of Paul Hall was considered unsafe due to it being a rebuild of the original College Hall that caught fire, the rear was removed and its bricks being recycled to build the Alumni Gymnasium. It was located across Layton Drive from where the College Drive Presbyterian Church sits today. This would be the first building for Muskingum focusing on the physical health of its students, and served this purpose for a few decades. It was a one-story building, its gym featuring bleachers, a wooden floor, and a raised ceiling.
Beginning with the Presidency of Reverend J. Knox Montgomery, he ensured a Manse would be built for him and his family to reside in during his term, which lasted until the early 1930s. A garage would be built later on for storage of the automobile Montgomery drove, with it being accessible from College Drive. The Manse stood west of four houses, 7, 5, 3, and 1 College Pl. 7 College Pl was likely built prior to the Manse based on photographs taken before the Manse’s existence. 5 College Pl was a one-story cottage design built either late 1890s or early 1900s, with 3 and 1 College Pl being built mostly identically. Of the four houses, 5 College Pl is the poorest-documented due to it often being obscured by Johnson Hall, or poorly-contrasted aerial photos.
Between 1963 and 1994, 5 and 7 College Pl were demolished, with their lots being used to expand the backyard of the President’s Manse for events, and eventually a new garage. 1 and 3 College Pl would later be bought by the school, and lived in by Phi Mu Alpha (Sinfonia) fraternity and Sigma Alpha Iota sorority, respectively, until 2008 when those two houses were also demolished in the construction of a new music building.
Following the construction of Caldwell Hall wrapping up in 2004, Johnson Hall and the Little Theatre (formerly the alumni gymnasium) began to see some of its primary functions migrate to the new building. Left behind, however, were the music, language, and art programs. Paul Hall housed the music programs despite how little room it had, and Johnson Hall still had the Louis Palmer Art Gallery in the west wing on the bottom floor, along with the language and art programs. The school recognized the disadvantage of space issues, and set out to begin adding room for the arts.
East of Paul Hall sat 57 and 55 N. Layton Drive. 57 held extra space for music practicing and classes, and 55 was formerly the house of Professors Charles and Ferne Layton, which later served as the Art Annex. Two lots on East High Street, 4 and 10, were subsequently bought by the college and demolished to make room for a new art complex.
In 2006, the John and Ruth Neptune Center mirrored the Cape Cod architecture of the Art Annex, while increasing size significantly for art workspaces. With the Neptune Center in existence, Johnson Hall slowly had its art programs migrated to Neptune, Art Annex, and even some in Paul Hall. Its Palmer Art Gallery would also move to the library, essentially putting the nail in the coffin for the building’s functions. Due to its age and increasing costs in maintenance, the construction ended a long chapter of history, leaving the land open for a new chapter.
Beginning in December 2008, the two remaining College Place houses, the Manse’s garage, and Johnson Hall were demolished to make room for what would become Otto and Fran Walter Hall, the new music building, and home for the foreign language programs. Up until a few years ago, Microsoft’s Bing Maps had a Birds Eye View feature that contained images of Muskingum College right at the beginning of the construction. Thanks to another website, I was able to obtain higher-resolution images that weren’t compressed by Bing. Not long after obtaining these images, the Birds Eye Feature went down, and the images are believed to be lost as Microsoft no longer holds the license for those photographs.
Not long after Johnson Hall was demolished, another historic building was razed after being condemned for some time. The former Alumni Gymnasium, now known as the Little Theatre, would be demolished in June 2009. With the location being mildly inconvenient for the college to find any use for it, the lot sat empty for nearly a decade until citizens of New Concord decided to start the Friendship Garden on top of it.
With the Palmer Art Gallery using space in the Library, and with plans to completely remodel the Library next, the two remaining annex houses would be demolished in early 2012, with the Palmer Art Gallery opening in its own brick building the following year. This completed the plan to dedicate the furthest part of the East Campus to the Arts.
With all the changes made to the Historic East Campus from 2008-2013, the plans seemed to be finished, and two historic buildings remained: Paul Hall, and the President’s Manse. In 2015, it was announced that University President Anne C. Steele would be retiring the following year, and the Board of Trustees had made the tough decision to raze the Manse upon discovering significant damage to the foundation. Following the transition, a new house was made for incoming-President Sue Hasseler in the nearby Meadowood subdivision, and the Manse came down to a pile of rubble in July 2016.
With the President’s Manse demolition, this left, and leaves, Paul Hall as the last building holding up the definition of the Historic East Campus District. As buildings age, new ideas, goals, and chapters continue to begin. The school has done some work to archive and display its history, though it leaves a bit to be desired as not enough of it is available online, with this entire article coming from years of my fascination with my alma mater, carrying years of photographs, notes, and books I have collected.
As this article comes to a close, I do plan to continue uploading my digital collection online as much as I can over the next several years, and as I gain permission for some of the pictures of the college that many do not know I have acquired, those too will come up online someday. While I love studying the historical aspect of the college and its various buildings, I also understand how well practicality is a factor in continuing to attract new students and further their education. However, there is always room for historical preservation, through photos, classes based on it, discussions, or even a singular building dedicated to all of that. Muskingum University has not gone that direction yet, but I highly suggest that they take the opportunity someday to do it as you never know who will be the next student fascinated to a point of near-obsession over the school that changed their life forever.
Sources: – Muskingum County Auditor for the addresses, and 2003 satellite imagery – Google Earth Satellite imagery from April 1994 – Muskingum College Muscoljuan Yearbooks from 1920-2008 – Muskingum College (The Campus History Series) book by Heather Giffen, William Kerrigan, and Ryan Worbs – A History of Muskingum College book by William L Fisk – College music building rendering by Bialosky + Partners, uploaded by Timothy Dumm on Flickr – Otto and Fran Walter Hall final design picture by Joshua Franzos, as copied from Muskingum University’s About Music page – Information regarding design of the College Place houses were determined by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of New Concord. The 1918 and 1946 maps can be found on the website of the Library of Congress.
This particular area near Cincinnati is best known today for its Kings Island Amusement Park, which has entertained guests for nearly fifty years. Prior to this, Kings Mills had been known to its residents for housing a large ammunition factory. Founded by Gershom Moore Peters in 1887, the company would have its heydays in the days of both World Wars, supplying much-needed ammunition for the war cause.
Peters would be bought by the Remington Arms Company in 1934, manufacturing the ammunition needed in World War II, up until 1944 when production ceased. A lesser-known chapter began after Remington would sell the factory to Columbia Records, who in turn used the manufacturing space for the next five years in creating 78rpm phonograph records. This operation ceased in 1945.
Later, the factory’s warehousing space would be used by Seagram distillers until 1968. The lot would for the most part live an abandoned life, slowly being reclaimed by nature, and gain interest in ghost hunters and urban explorers alike. In 2015, the area was heavily cleaned up after being declared a superfund site a few years prior, and in 2019, it was ready for development. Today, the site is home to Cartridge Brewing, and the future home of many apartments using the old buildings.
Many of the buildings have since been demolished, including a warehouse on the other side of the road. What remains is its foundation, which I was able to see a decent amount of by exploring the woods nearby. For more information regarding the factory, I recommend doing further research on the HMDB link listed in the sources, checking out the Wikipedia article, and perhaps best of all, visiting the site itself as it’s opening up to the public.
(Distributed by Focus Features; Image Copied from IndieWire December 10, 2020)
Release Date: October 2, 2009 Runtime: 1hr 46m Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“I didn’t do, ANYTHING!”
“When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies, don’t you want somebody to love?”
A Serious Man is a tragicomedy set in 1960s Minnesota, shortly before the Summer of Love, and retells the Book of Job through the eyes of the Coen Brothers in their style as a dark comedy with seemingly no apparent answers. Larry Gopnik, a physics professor, faces several challenges to his own status quo for seemingly no reason whatsoever, as if it’s a curse or God testing his faith.
His wife, Judith, is wanting a get so she can marry Sy Ableman; his son Danny is slacking on his studies for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah while owing a classmate money for marijuana; his daughter, Sarah, wants money for a nosejob; and his brother Arthur is wanting on several damning charges, feeling that God has deserted him his entire life. And what has Larry done to deserve any of this? In his eyes, nothing!
One of the recurring themes among many is the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment: is the cat alive or dead? The mathematics can show the cat is both alive and dead, yet the mathematics cannot make certain the path Larry’s life is intended to take. Sy Ableman consoles Larry, suggesting the best course of action for him while processing his divorce is for Larry to stay at the Jolly Roger Motel with Arthur. In a later scene, Sy dies in a series of car accidents involving Larry, though separate cars. At his funeral, Sy is hailed as a serious man, and continues to haunt Larry through his dreams, while Judith grieves with the sudden realization that her happiness is on standby. In that case, Sy can be both alive and dead.
Larry’s troubles around him are totally out-of-control to his eyes, unsure how to respond to anything. He frequently pleads to others that he hasn’t done anything, including over the phone with the Columbia Record company who says he owes money to him thanks to a subscription that wasn’t cancelled or paid for since Danny had signed up for it. “I haven’t done anything!” Larry pleads, while the company tells him that’s exactly his problem. He did nothing, which inaction under ignorance is still erring on the side of guilt according to them. In that sense, has he done anything at all to prevent his troubles with his wife and children, or has he done nothing? Maybe it’s a bit of both, he’s done some, other times nothing.
In addition to Larry’s financial and near-ruin of his marriage, he is left with uncertainty as to how his employer’s tenure committee will decide on whether or not to grant tenure to him, thanks to someone writing allegations against him for past actions, which Larry is being told not to worry about it. He does anyway, because the uncertainty has been introduced, and he believes it’s related to his pending action on accepting or rejecting a bribe from a Korean student about to fail his class. There’s only so many options on what to do with the bribe, when the father of the student is willing to file a defamation suit against Larry if he reports that the bribe came from the student. The option, an unwittingly favorite by Larry, is at the moment, nothing.
The choice of nothing bears a heavy weight on him, as his finances have been emptied by his wife earlier in the movie while he was staying at the Jolly Roger, and he is trying to pay for a lawyer to help with Arthur’s case, now charged with solicitation and sodomy. In his dreams, he considers giving the money to Arthur just so he can escape, when in reality he realizes that it likely is not a sensible option. However, everything begins to go up for him. His son does his Bar Mitzvah gracefully, and he receives a strong hint that he will be granted tenure after all. Upon this, he decides to take upon the bribe for his brother’s lawyer, and soon after is giving a haunting phone call from the doctor at the beginning of the movie, telling him it’s best that he comes in person to discuss his latest X-Ray results. Here, it seems that as soon as Larry accepts the bribe, he has ultimately failed the test, when for once doing nothing may have actually proven his faith in God.
But can we even be certain of that? The math seems to rule with uncertainty. Perhaps he was already dying and the phone call is merely a coincidence. And do we know if he’s dying? The doctor’s call seems to have a tone of “it’s urgent, you’d better come in so we can discuss what happens next.” Yet it isn’t certain. Here we are with Schrödinger’s Larry, he can both be alive and dead, regardless of whether he accepted the bribe.
Like many Coen Brothers movies, you can almost earn a dissertation by analyzing several themes or recurring elements from each one. In this movie, every major point seems to have no bearing on the actual story. A Serious Man opens up with a scene set in 19th century Russia, where a man believed to be dead randomly shows up to someone’s house. Believing him to be a dybbuk, the wife of the man helped by this supposedly dead person stabs him to free the house of this curse. As the alive/dead man walks outside, we’re left uncertain as to whether he was a dybbuk, and where he disappeared to in the snow. Who is this man? Is he somehow related to the Gopnik family and the curse has been passed on through hereditary inheritance? Why is this never called back to in a later scene? None of those questions are answered directly, but are subtly called back to in later scenes particularly with the recurring Schrödinger’s cat theme.
One particular scene is when Larry is speaking with the Second Rabbi, where he tells a parable of a dentist who found the words “help me” inscribed in Hebrew on the back of a patient’s teeth. The dentist tries and tries to understand the meaning of it. The parable simply ends on that note, with Larry unsure why the rabbi would bother telling him that story if there’s not really an ending to it. It’s similar to how A Serious Man ends. After the phone call from the doctor regarding Larry’s x-ray results, the audience is left with the same uncertainty the protagonist is, and a tornado is approaching Danny’s school while they’re having trouble unlocking the severe weather shelter outside. We don’t see the results of the x-ray, and we don’t see Danny take cover with the seemingly-imminent danger just several thousand feet ahead. Once again, they’re left alive and dead with however we interpret the ending.
These points of nothingness remind me well of another Coen Brothers movie, the sleeper-hit-becoming-cult film The Big Lebowski (1998). Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski is essentially an outcast from society, hanging out with the same two friends at the bowling alley, where life outside of that and his home really don’t matter that much to him. The only disturbance in the status quo that occurs is when The Dude is visited by a couple of men meaning to intimidate the real, big Jeffrey Lebowski, where one of the men pees on The Dude’s rug. The rest of the movie involves The Dude getting involved in a convoluted plot between Jeffrey Lebowski, his estranged wife Bunny, and nihilists who want money. The Dude simply wants a rug to replace his ruined one, as it did tie the room together. All he wants to do is nothing.
With Larry Gopnik in a state where he has everything, but is seemingly losing all of it due to him taking no action against threat to his desire to be a serious man, he’s on the opposite spectrum of The Dude. He feels that by doing nothing, he deserves nothing of what’s coming to him but believes that if he continues to do nothing, things will eventually get better for him. The Dude does nothing unless it shakes his ability to continuing doing nothing, a simple desire since he has so little to lose to begin with.
If luck may have it, A Serious Man deserves a similar status to The Big Lebowski. Neither movie were hits when they came out, but over time there are several pieces of philosophy that can be looked at through each scene, each piece of dialogue, and even material objects. At the same time, the Coen Brothers don’t necessarily state what their movies mean. They come out with a production, and leave the audience to decide what it means. Maybe both movies are modern parables. Maybe they’re totally about nothing, which may be something, but may actually be nothing at all. Because there’s rarely a consensus on what the movies mean, they’re both something and nothing.
Animation. An expressive form of storytelling, bringing illustration to life through frames, turning drawings into a vivid, living piece of work. A medium to give a sense of expression that real life does not always capture. Something once considered goofy and innocent grew up to serve various purposes. From Steamboat Willie to propaganda cartoons starring Daffy Duck, it seemed that the farthest a cartoon would go in terms of suggestive material would go above any kid’s head, and into an adult’s heart. A little over halfway into the century, these cartoons would evolve into what we know today as adult animation. While cartoons were intended to be for a broad audience, a lot of shows took the opportunity to appeal to families. One of the earliest examples to take the opportunity to air at primetime is Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones, which premiered in 1960. The sitcom is basically a sitcom set in the Stone Age, featuring enough slapstick and humor to make the cartoon fun for any age to watch. For its time, the Honeymooners-inspired series broke ground for primetime television and animation. While the show is tame compared to what we have today, primetime meant that an animated series could build an audience that did not focus just on kids, and families could watch the show together. Kids would come for the slapstick, adults would come for the situations and subtle dialogue. It was also a hit for advertisers who, back in the time when cigarettes weren’t bad for you, didn’t mind having product placement within the show.
Fast forward to December 17, 1989. The Simpsons premiered on Fox on a Thursday evening just in time for Christmas. Two years after starring on shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show, this turned out to be a groundbreaking success for Fox, and for series creator and Life in Hell comic illustrator Matt Groening. Not long after, other animated series came up on the network frequently to the point where Fox became an early hub for primetime animation. Critical success became a pattern for the network when King of the Hill, Family Guy, and Futurama, topped off the 1990s. Less-remembered animated series, such as The Critic and The PJs, with the former originally airing on ABC, ran short runs in the late 90s on primetime as well. By 2005, Fox had deemed that its cartoons could be enough to sustain a two-hour block on Sunday evenings. Gaining the attention of fans by reviving Family Guy a second time and ordering the first new animated series in years, American Dad!, it’s no wonder they realized how well an animation block would work. Thus, the birth of Animation Domination began on May 1, 2005. Arguably, Fox had a very popular block on their hands for nine years, but it was not without controversy, nor without several bad judgments. The block eventually came to a close 9 years later in 2014, and with its recent revival, it seems there’s still a lot to discuss about how the block will perform in its second incarnation. However, without the success, or failures, of Animation Domination, adult animation would not be where it is today without some of the lessons learned from Fox’s once-seemingly-powerful block.
Chapter One: The Golden Era (2005-2009)
On May 1, 2005, Family Guy made its triumphant return from cancellation, with an unprecedented move from successful DVD sales, which in turn were thanks to high viewership of reruns on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. Fox’s animation staple, The Simpsons, as well as newcomer American Dad! and Mike Judge’s King of the Hill, were also on Fox’s animation block for Sunday nights. Notably missing was Futurama which, after having multiple issues in being consistently aired in a profitable timeslot, was unfairly cancelled in 2003. Or rather, Fox simply stopped ordering more episodes.
Besides that, the first few years could be considered a golden era of adult animation for any channel. Whether or not any of the series from that era hold up today, Fox’s success was considered the best spot for any creator’s animated series, at least from the outside. While many unique producers pitched their series to Fox, there were a couple of problems that were consistent in the pitches that were not accepted. We will get to that later though, as the pattern did not become immediately obvious until certain shows were announced. The next four years for Animation Domination were smooth, with attempts to change the lineup nonexistent until 2009 when King of the Hill came to an end. With Fox in good faith that Seth MacFarlane could deliver a third successful show to the network, and wanting to give Mitchell Hurwitz another deal after cancelling the critically-acclaimed, yet ratings-troubled Arrested Development, this could be an indication that Animation Domination faced problems as early as 2009.
As any time before 8:00 is a time that most shows perform poorly in viewership, Fox needed to make a decision on which of the five animated shows would be moved to that block. Seeing that King of the Hill was ending soon, it only made sense to move its regular run to 7:30 and to give Sit Down, Shut Up a chance to shine. This show featured familiar voice talent, with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler reuniting from Arrested Development, and was based on a short-lived Australian sitcom of the same name. With the show being a very fresh face to the Animation Domination lineup, it is no wonder that Fox was excited to promote the series by placing it between The Simpsons and Family Guy at 8:30PM.
Unfortunately, Fox’s judgment could not have been more disastrous. Sit Down, Shut Up began its run far too late in the season on April 19, 2009, which is close to the end of a normal broadcast season. After just two episodes, Fox immediately shoved Sit Down, Shut Up in the worst timeslot on the block: 7:00, the very time that killed Futurama six years prior. As a result, the show met a gruesome end after just four episodes, and Hurwitz’s animated series was hardly given a chance to make up for it. The next nine episodes were saved for syndication later that year, and aired at 11:59 PM on Saturday evenings, which seemed like twisting the knife in a mortal wound. While it’s easy to admit that the first few episodes are terrible, the show’s best episodes were not given a fair spotlight to air. Because of that, it is mostly a forgotten show, with the exception of some of the show’s staff. When Arrested Development premiered its fourth season on Netflix in 2013, one of the episodes released gave a fairly decent nod to Sit Down, Shut Up by having it pop up in the background during a scene.
Now, what about The Cleveland Show? Despite the initial odds of survival, the show went on to steal the 8:30 PM slot, and this is when the Animation Domination block became the home to three Seth MacFarlane cartoons, and just one from Matt Groening, with Mike Judge’s King of the Hill ending that year. The diversity by creators had mostly been destroyed, and future attempts for other cartoonists to shine became near-impossible. Remember when I mentioned that other pitches were made to the network? The first problem in these pitches being made appeared to be the premise. If a nuclear family was not the center of the series, Fox seemed quick to pass on it. Sometimes a series could be lucky enough to be produced by Fox however, and air on another network, such as Brickleberry. I’ll go ahead and read a few of these quality pitches they passed on:
THE AFTERLIFE: a digitally animated comedy about a family that dies from a freak photography accident and winds up in purgatory, which looks a lot like suburban los angeles
GODPARENTS: animated comedy billed as a twisted family show about a couple ill-equipped to raise kids who are forced to take care of their godchildren
MASSHOLES: animated comedy a smart nerdy tween trying to survive in a small Massachusetts town full of tough guys and half-wits
SWELL: animated comedy about a family from the 1950s that is somehow transported to the modern day
SAY UNCLE: animated comedy about a family whose life is disrupted when their uncle moves in with them. Now this is a show I might have found interesting, considering half of the Home Movies production team was in on this.
These all come from the development watch catalog on The Futon Critic. Go there if you want proof I am not making these up, and to see other bizarre pitches. Back to why these shows never got picked up, the second problem seemed to rely in the creator. If Seth MacFarlane had no attachment to the project, the series was doomed. By 2009, Animation Domination became a near-monopoly for Seth MacFarlane, apart from Matt Groening. For the next two years, The Simpsons remained on the block next to Family Guy, American Dad!,and The Cleveland Show, until an unexpected newcomer broke the mold in 2011.
Chapter Two: Diversity Attempts (2011-2012)
In 2011, Fox attempted to break the pattern of MacFarlane’s shows again with the premiere of Bob’s Burgers. Created by Loren Bouchard, whose credits stretch as far back as Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and Home Movies, his venture into Fox seemed doomed from the start due to initially poor critical reception and a hard time competing with the big shots. The show’s quirky and off-beat humor was something unusual to the form of the other shows on the block. However, a second season was ordered, with the catch that it would be nearly a year until the show could air its next episode due to production times. Oddly enough, scripts were preemptively ordered in October 2010 in the event that a renewal could happen at the end of the season, but whatever the case, the second season was still delayed until March 2012.
In the meantime, a new show had to at least compete with Bob’s Burgers, to fill in the coveted 8:30 PM slot, and because Fox ordered two other animated series that were not MacFarlane-branded. Note here that during this half of the 2010-2011 season, Fox had to decide which of MacFarlane’s shows would be sacrificed to make room for the new show. American Dad! was thrown to the 7:30 PM slot to give advantage to The Cleveland Show, which was still fairly new and needed a chance to grow. Why Family Guy was not shifted around is unknown, but it could have been that Fox did not want to jeopardize an already-successful series for the third time, or catch flak from fans and workers for suffering another cancellation on the same show. Following the change, viewership for American Dad! dropped, with Bob’s Burgers and The Cleveland Show maintaining a steady audience. During the 2011-12 season, a new show was given the 8:30 PM slot, this time being the critically-panned series known as Allen Gregory.
Behind Allen Gregory were David A. Goodman and Jonah Hill. Goodman already had experience as a writer and producer on Family Guy and Futurama, which put him in a good relationship with Fox. Wanting to break the mold of the dysfunctional, nuclear family sitcom on Animation Domination, Goodman and Hill created a show starring the latter as the show’s namesake. Instead of a nuclear family, it was setup with two gay dads, an adopted child, and then our titular protagonist, Allen Gregory De Longpre. Besides breaking the nuclear family mold, it also broke the standard look of animation on Fox. Unfortunately, the animation is the only nice thing that can be said about the show. If you are curious on why this show was hated, there are plenty of reviews on the internet that perfectly sum the show up. Shortly after Allen Gregory started, it died. The show’s existence has been forgotten about. Purposefully, the show was removed from digital sources and is no longer legally available to purchase, which is unlike the other unsuccessful Fox series. Allen Gregory was the red-headed stepchild of Animation Domination, and was immediately thrown to the curb. During Allen Gregory’s use of the 8:30 PM slot, The Cleveland Show moved to 7:30 PM, and American Dad! found better success at 9:30 PM.
In January 2012, it was time for Fox to air another new animated series, which was a continuation of cult hit Napoleon Dynamite (2004). On its premiere, its first two episodes received a good amount of viewers, but two weeks later, the message became clear that it would not last when viewership became severely lacking. A week after Dynamite’s last episode aired, Bob’s Burgers returned for its sophomore season and began building an audience again. Not long after, even Kevin Reilly, Fox Entertainment Chairman, had nice things to say about Bob’s Burgers. Bouchard had finally climbed the mountain of Animation Domination, and became the first creator who was not Matt Groening or Seth MacFarlane to have a show last more than one season on the block.
Chapter Three: The Unraveling (2012-2013)
With both Allen Gregory and Napoleon Dynamite failing, but with Bob’s Burgers succeeding, it was clear that the block was no longer a MacFarlane monopoly. Eventually, David Goodman crawled from Allen Gregory’s grave and offered a new animated show that would go back to conventional animation routes, while still bringing a new perspective to Animation Domination. Around the same time this announcement was made, a MacFarlane show was shelved. His Flinstones revival failed to gain traction with Fox President Kevin Reilly, and this began shaking the core of Animation Domination’s block. In 2013, The Cleveland Show aired its final episode, and this became the first of MacFarlane’s animated series to be axed by Fox in recent years. Family Guy had initially been cancelled, but revived several years prior, and is currently the only MacFarlane show still running on Sunday nights. The 2013-14 season became the last for American Dad!, which was shipped off to TBS so they could have the liberty of expressing more vulgarity than creativity in its dying days. With that fatal blow, Fox only had three regular animated series running, leaving The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, and Family Guy, to hold the walls of Animation Domination up. In reflection, it seems that the pioneering block was unstoppable until this point. Looking back, there seems to be another reason for the untimely death. As it turns out, there was one more show that may have hit the nail in the coffin, before it had a chance to reach critics or even an audience. This would have filled in as the fourth show in the two-hour block, and had a chance to keep it alive for at least another season.
This new show heralded by Goodman and Jason Ruiz would be Murder Police, with an interesting array of cast members starring as members of a precinct in a crime-ridden city. Ordered for a season of 13 episodes and slated to air during the 2013-14 season, Fox promoted the show by taking the cast and crew to the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, where promo images were revealed and posters were distributed. A panel was held, giving the show creators a chance to talk with attendees who were interested in the show. Supposedly footage was shown, however I do not have a reliable source to back this up, nor any clips of the panel to support this claim.
By the time the new broadcast season began on Fox, nothing was said about Murder Police, which by this point was assumed to be delayed until spring. Shockingly, on October 8, 2013, Fox announced that they had cancelled yet another failed animated series, before it had even aired a single episode. Fox began taking down information about the show from its press site Fox Flash, and everything about the show seemed to be dead in its tracks. Presumably, you would think that the show was probably in an early production stage and taking too long to finish work, right?
Apparently, this was not the reason. Murder Police made it far enough in production that all scripts were completed by the time of its cancellation. According to the Copyright Catalog, the final episode script was copyrighted on August 7, 2013, three months before the fateful announcement, and almost four months after the copyrighting of the first episode’s script. With that amount of time, the show was so far in its production that it was likely that episodes had been fully storyboarded, or possibly even completed. No reason had been given for the abrupt cancellation, and no one has spoken on the show’s fate since that announcement.
Rather than stop everything, production apparently continued. It is evident as the Copyright Catalog indicates that all thirteen episodes exist on Betacam SP master tapes. On March 10, 2014, the first episode’s tape was copyrighted, and the final episode was copyrighted 9 days later on March 19. As of the date of this video’s release, no progress on the show’s existence has been reported to the public, and no network has picked it up. Goodman has since moved on, and whether or not the show would have been another Allen Gregory, it is likely hard on people to work on something for so long, only for it to never see the light of day.
Strangely enough though, interest in Murder Police came into light two times after its cancellation. On January 7, 2015, another show animated at Bento Box Animation that was produced by Fox met cancellation, which was Brickleberry on Comedy Central. When burning off its last three episodes for season 3, “Cops and Bottoms” premiered on March 31, 2015, and ended up using the heads of Murder Police’s main characters in a brief cameo. This is the only time images from Murder Police made it to television, even if there are slight differences in the character designs.
On July 27, 2015, the only footage known to exist was released on YouTube. User fluffybroadcast321 leaked the opening credits sequence to Murder Police, which runs for thirty seconds. While people commented on wondering how the user gained access to upload the footage, the uploader never responded and the mystery surrounding this bizarre release is still unsolved. Even more bizarre, the video has survived this long. Nobody from Fox’s offices either seemed to notice, or care that it leaked. The show may not have been cut out for Fox’s animation block, but that is not necessarily the end of the story. With the age of Netflix, the executives apparently liked Waco O’Guin and Roger Black enough to order a new series from them. What happens if you mix the art style of Brickleberry with the concept of Murder Police? You get Paradise P.D., which premiered early into 2019. Despite being a critical failure and a ripoff of its predecessor, it has gained enough of an audience for a second season.
Chapter Four: Animation Dominated?
With no new ventures to try out, Fox killed their Sunday night staple, Animation Domination, after nine years. While the block was dead, a new one was created, now titled Sunday Funday, beginning with the 2014-15 season. This was likely due to Fox’s slow shift away from animation, and for trying out new shows from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, such as Son of Zorn, a semi-animated sitcom that didn’t live long. During the 2015-16 season, Fox aired Bordertown, yet another Seth MacFarlane show that was doomed from the start. Its first season would be its last, and was the last fully-animated show Fox aired after the death of Animation Domination. Another animated series, Golan the Insatiable, was given a second chance with the collapse of another Fox block, Animation Domination High-Def, or ADHD for short. Golan only premiered during the summer, and was cancelled before Bordertown’s premiere. The history of ADHD is a bizarre story itself, but best saved for the next episode.
The following broadcast season, the lineup had changed yet again. Bob’s Burgers is the only show that has consistently been renewed despite the odds of airing in the death slot for the last few seasons, and is anticipating a feature film in 2021. The Simpsons and Family Guy remain in their positions at 8 and 9 PM respectively, while the other two slots have seen various uses. Will Forte’s live action series The Last Man on Earth used the 9:30 PM slot and had meager success. Despite this, the show’s ratings were not sustainable and it met cancellation after its fourth season in May 2018. As for every other show that have taken the :30 PM slots, none have been as lucky. Brooklyn Nine-Nine was initially taken off of its Tuesday block for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, then given its spot back after its last episode on the Sunday Funday block aired on December 13th, 2015. Every other show has been cancelled after only one season.
Even with the death of Animation Domination to bring better life for Fox’s shows on Sunday Funday, success has been considerably worse for their network. As for the fate of Murder Police, who’s to say what will happen with the era of Netflix and other networks? While its death may have been intended to save the Animation Domination block, it also poses the question of whether or not the show may have been the block’s last chance at survival. Since the agonizing death of many series on Fox, successful creators appear to be moving to the streaming platform. Matt Groening’s Disenchantment premiered on Netflix in August 2018, as well as receive a generous renewal from the streaming giant. Loren Bouchard has two shows coming up, with The Great North to air on Fox, and Central Park on Apple TV Plus, handing the reins of Bob’s Burgers over to Nora Smith. However, as much as streaming seems to be the new road for creators such as Raphael Bob-Waksberg, best known for Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, producing Lisa Hanawalt’s Tuca & Bertie and co-producing Amazon’s Undone with Kate Purdy, there’s been a recent struggle with the unionization of animators at Shadow Box. Tuca & Bertie became the first Netflix original animated series to be cancelled, with BoJack Horseman following suit just a few months later, and the fate of Undone remains unknown despite being renewed for a second season. It’s possible that animation will do better on one platform than the other, but the lesson here is that ideas and demands change frequently. Disney opened its streaming platform Disney+ in November of 2019, and with its ownership in Fox, they are able to stream The Simpsons on there.
In an unusual twist, Fox announced after its collapse in 2014 five years later, the revival of Animation Domination, which has newcomers Bless the Harts and Duncanville. As for Seth MacFarlane, no new animated projects have been announced as of this writing. Family Guy still airs at 9:00PM on Sundays, and American Dad! has continued modest success on TBS.
While this analysis of Animation Domination does not equally cover some of the prehistory and other odd pieces of history involved with its death, there is still another large chunk to discuss as there were an entire block of other shows that had a minor connection in the death of Animation Domination.