Bombs over Fandom: Frustrations with the Cartoon Network Scheduling System

steven bomb

**Please note while this article makes reference to leaked content, it will not discuss any of the details of said content**

In the last 48 days, there have been four new minutes released of Steven Universe. Sorry, did I say released? I meant accidentally leaked. By their own network.

Mistakes happen. But, Cartoon Network, like our favorite human half of our favorite interspecies couple once said: we need to talk.

“Steven Bombs,” five episodes in a row in one week followed by months of indefinite hiatus, are fraying at our dedication to this wonderful show. It’s not the Bombs themselves that fans are necessarily upset about. There was a strawpoll conducted on the highly subscribed-to Steven Universe subreddit, which asked the question: Assuming the overall rate of episodes is the same, how would you prefer to get your new Steven Universe episodes? Although the sample size–685 votes as of writing this article–is small, I kept an eye on this poll as the results came in. The votes were steady at a relative 25% pro-Bomb and 75% pro-weekly episode rate.

I think about this as a political analogy. If “I only want Bombs” is one party and “I only want weekly episodes” is another, the vast majority of fans including myself are moderates: we may have our preferences, but the main thing we care about is consistency and clear communication. It’s not the Bombs themselves that people are so averse to, it’s the fact that tacked onto them are hiatuses of which there’s no clear end in sight! It’s been almost two months since the last episodes–the fourth Steven Bomb–and it was three months between Steven Bomb 4 and Steven Bomb 3. Again, while not anyone’s favorite, it seems hiatuses are part of the landscape of modern cartoon fandom–but please, please, please, Cartoon Network, we beg you: tell us when they’ll be over. Give us a schedule we can work with, for the hiatus is dark and full of spoilers.

Seriously, the leaks. Why do they keep happening? It’s not just the clips, either–six months ago, a slew of episode titles were released, by accident (again) on Cartoon Network’s website. This is a show that has lore and foreshadowing lovingly drawn into practically every storyboard–in other words, it is made to be over-analyzed and picked apart. What else were we going to do when we got a list of episode titles with allusions to events we have theorized, but not even begun story arcs for? Although we’ve since gotten the message that these were nothing official and we should assume many of the titles are subject to change–it’s still frustrating. Especially, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, because we still don’t have any idea of when episodes will return.

Now, by virtue of not being a mom, I mostly interact with the tertiary audience of Steven Universe, aka those of us in the 15+ age bracket. Most of us try to keep that in mind when griping about the scheduling–but it isn’t a stretch to extrapolate that the target audience would also lose interest in Steven with one intense week slapped in the middle of months of nothing. If anything, kids have shorter attention spans than adults do! Regardless, as I hope you’ve caught on from the article so far: we aren’t television executives. If Bombs are better for kids and/or your ratings, so be it. Just tell us when they’re going to happen so that we have something to look forward to.

I asked reddit how they felt about Bombs vs weekly episodes. Here is what they said.

I just want a consistent schedule. Whether five episodes every other month or an episode a week I just really want to know when episodes are coming out. MAN I REALLY WANNA KNOW! -OptimisticRobotLord (please note this was the highest upvoted comment in the thread)

These bombs are a problem, and it’s not because I prefer the consistency of a “traditional” schedule, which I would prefer, or that I hate the hiatuses, I’ve waited a year or more sometimes to see a new season of my favorite show. It’s my son, when SU first started on the weekly schedule it was his favorite show (and one of mine) and we would have discussions and think about what might happen next week and both be sooo excited to watch it together, we would even change our minds sometimes halfway through the week and come to a completely different conclusion, the back and forth was so fun and for an eight year old to think that deeply about story arcs and character development was refreshing. The first bomb was a great end to the season, a lot of oohs and aahs. At this point with the long hiatuses and everything all in one week, he doesn’t get as excited about the show anymore, which I miss. It’s hard to think that a show with so much magic would be losing it’s… well… magic. He’s happy when it comes on still, but not as excited as he used to be, and he is exactly in the demographic the show is made for! -sandusky-s

If I don’t have that certainty [of routine], I’ll just have to resort to … frowned-upon means to get my episode later, and if I’m doing that why the hell do I pay for cable? -Guest522

I don’t have cable, so I’ve been buying episodes as they become available on Amazon Instant Watch. Because AIW bundles episodes into pairs, new episodes airing weekly means I have to wait two weeks between episode purchases… With Bombs, though, I get new double-features every other day! … I must acknowledge that the Bomb format doesn’t give individual episodes much time to breathe. This is less of a problem for me, since I’m buying each episode outright and can rewatch at my convenience … [U]nless physical media becomes available, Amazon Instant Watch makes the Bomb format far superior for me, but it would probably be my preference even without those considerations. Better still would to have any consistent predictability in airing order, of course! -jsnlxndrlv

It would definitely be much better if we knew when the next bomb is, but again, weekly/bi-weekly episodes would be MUCH better. -lirranl

The only time CN makes a big deal about SU now if there’s a Steven Bomb. I can’t help but feel that the show could be more successful if it was in the spotlight more often, like if there was a regular airing schedule, as opposed to short bursts months after hype has cooled down. -yogurtisalive

I guess bombs would be fine if we knew when is the next bomb coming. Then we would have something to wait for. Not … another week of hiatus. -WayTooSquishy

The bombs themselves have not really worked out well in terms of managing fan hype, network support and getting the story out… the hiatus associated with bombs feels like a ‘mini cancellation’ rather than a break while the show catches up. The secrecy about when the show will return begins to feel like secrecy over if it will return as time drags on and on… A regular time slot and regular new episodes or reruns would be a habit forming option for the show which would allow the show’s comfy vibe to attract viewers rather than relying on CN’s hype machine making the bombs ‘an event.’ … So the decision NOT to use regular programming and reruns to build ratings and create a habit for their viewers seems questionable. Throw in the out of place preview, the way the show’s schedule was released in a spoiler triggering manner while the actual schedule for airing episodes is still top secret, and CN seems particularly poorly suited for putting the big event marketing spin on the show associated with bombs. -EmptyMoleskine

The biggest casualty of the bombs is the ability to talk about individual episodes. You can really only discuss the bomb as a whole because there’s only one day to talk about the newest one before there’s another episode. Now, this sort of thing is fine for Netflix shows, where a season drops all at once and is meant to be analyzed as such, but a community like SU lives on its episode discussions and bombs make those impossible. -Dr_Irrational_PhD

It’s not as much about the hiatus for me. I think that bombs take away from important plot points and the hype that certain scenes could have because were cramming so much information in one week. And the excitement is all at once so now we’re kind of tired of repeating ourselves so the fandom gets less excited. -wwwperidotcom

If you guys are going to do bombs then fine. Just have enough episode prepared for every month and when a bomb ends tell us when it’s coming back. But I would like weekly episodes just so every thursday I have something to look forward to. AND BE CRYSTAL (pun unintended) CLEAR ON TWITTER. And hire a community manager. The working staff shouldn’t have to put up with us. -Langstonian

Pros… Discussion and analysis as the bomb airs feels richer and more interesting, to me, because there’s a lot more to talk about at once… After the bomb’s over, rewatching it as a batch feels more satisfying and complete than 11 minute weekly chunks. This applies even moreso when the bomb follows a specific story arc… Cons… Hiatuses and irregular scheduling provide ample time for more fickle fans to lose interest. We’ve heard … that the bomb format nets CN the highest raw ratings for their premieres lately, but it’s probably safe to assume that long hiatus periods aren’t good for bringing in new fans or keeping the attention of existing ones… During the bomb, dodging spoilers can get super intense if you can’t watch the episodes immediately. -cowboydandank

Weekly schedules are better, and it’s not just the hiatus. When we get an episode a week, we have time to theorize and react to each episode individually. When we get a whole bomb, questions from the first four episodes are often answered by the end of the bomb. This means we have less speculation to fill the hiatus with…The bombs don’t just make hiatus longer, they make it worse. -Earthward-Bound

Even if you don’t like the bomb format, the real issue comes from the uncertainty. I don’t think people would be nearly as upset if they didn’t know a black void was at the end of the 5th bomb episode until who knows when. I’d prefer once a week but I would settle for CN clearly defining the plan. -Scoodlebap

[T]he Bombs themselves are overwhelming. We have SO MANY thoughts and feelings and creative urges and theories about each new episode and we need to TALK ABOUT THEM. When that happens every day for a week, it takes over your life. I was exhausted by the end of the last Steven Bomb, and so were most of my friends in the fandom. Being bombarded with new information and emotions is exciting, but it gets to be too much pretty fast. -PearlandDogs

While I would prefer a weekly schedule, I could tolerate the Bombs so much more if we knew when the next one was going to be. Like so many others have already said, consistency is the key here. -CoasterKat95

I definitely want one episode a week. I’ll be honest, prior to the leaks, I was really losing interest with this show. There’s only so much fanart and theories you can read to try and convince yourself that the show will come back soon but, the hiatuses are just so constant. I don’t want 5 new episodes in a week after 3 months of nothing and then another god knows how many months of nothing. I need something to look forward to and I can’t really look forward to praying that it’ll be on in a month if even the creators don’t know…Steven Universe is a song on the radio. You get it once and then they take a break for the rest of your drive and only play commercials. -jaakeup

I’m mostly ambivalent to the Bomb format, however, it does make it less convenient for myself and, in my opinion, other viewers… Having to deal with [a varied work schedule] PLUS a new episode every night (and often needing to catch the previous day’s episode before it as a rewatch) is a large hassle. -Grefyvros

I’d be fine with the bombs if they were maybe a once or twice a year thing. Like a special treat at the end of the season. But I’d much rather have the weekly episode schedule. It’s nice to be able to look forward to something. -ArchtypeOfOreos

[The schedule as it is now with Bombs is] preferable to the format that most shows have, with one episode a week for a few months, and then a huge hiatus through most of the year. If we get 5 episodes every 2 months, that’s already more bearable. -Genoscythe_

What I think they should do with the bombs is just continue as normal after them. No extended hiatus, just a shorter airing season with a bomb at the beginning. Or no stevenbombs at all. That works too. -Kazzack

I would VASTLY prefer a weekly schedule. It allows for better fan communication and keeps the show fresh in the mind of the viewers. Since SU is basically aimed at kids no matter how much us adults like to view it, that is actually important. The kids I know forget about shows quickly if there are no new updates for months on end…I think it would make a lot more sense for the show to return to a weekly format, not only because of my own preference, but because the routine this format builds is ultimately good for the show. But if this is not possible for whatever internal network reason, then Cartoon Network should at least give out a clear schedule so fans can look forward to and plan for the next bomb. -lunchboxprincess

I don’t mind bombs because I like the excitement of week long new episodes. I don’t mind not knowing when the next one is because they usually just tell us anyway, they never air bombs without advertisement at least a week or two in advance. -argentarachnids

The wait isn’t what kills me, it’s being kept in the dark and having no idea when to expect new episodes that really sucks. -Crunchy_Bagel

I am fine with the scheduling- as long as they have a solid timeline before they put us on an 8 week hiatus. Like “hey guys, this week is a bomb but you’ll have to wait until april for the next one!”. I wouldn’t be mad, I’d be grateful for the info. -copycal

I wouldn’t mind Steven Bombs if we didn’t have to wait 3 months in between them. The complete uncertainty and the wait between is absurd. I’d rather have a single episode every week. If they had one Steven Bomb every month and a half or so, that would be fine, too. -Bojangles1987

I love the idea of a Steven Bomb for alleviating hiatus frustrations, but when it is followed by an uncertain extended hiatus? I feel like I’m being teased. What would be nicer would be a bomb format for the purpose of handling one particular arc and then a new episode every week even if it’s once in a while… In short, I like Steven Bombs for handling a particular story arc, but much prefer weekly episodes for a few months at a time. -BiceRankyman

Personally, I prefer Steven Bombs. I’m not very involved in fandoms and my attention span doesn’t allow me to keep any “hype” for something and usually dies by the end of the week, no matter how much I like the show. I know a lot of people don’t like them, but I’ve been pretty happy with them. But similarly to the other fans, I don’t like being in the dark about when the next episode will be. I’d really appreciate something like telling us which season it’ll be in, then perhaps a more solid date is given to us a couple months before they come out -FunkMasterA

An inconsistent schedule is what killed Firefly and I don’t wish to see a repeat -Scalpels

 

There you have it folks. We are not a fandom divided so much as a fandom frustrated with the feast-or-famine format.
What do you think about the Bomb scheduling? Let us know in the comments.

Author: K-K Bracken

K-K Bracken grew up overseas and in the Washington, DC area, went to the Ohio State University to get her BA in English, and has been in Columbus, Ohio ever since. She is working on her first novel and co-wrote the book for “Edit:Undo,” a musical featured at the Kennedy Center.



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