If you’ve tuned in to Cartoon Network lately, you might have noticed that it isn’t just about animation anymore. Aside from a few reality and game shows, Cartoon Network has begun beefing up its live-action development. They’ve already had success with live-action original movies and a few months ago premiered their first live-action original series Unnatural History.
This week, Cartoon Network premieres their 2nd live-action series Tower Prep.
The series tells the story of Ian Archer, a rebellious teen who mysteriously wakes up in a suspicious private boarding school. Yes, think The Prisoner. But for teens in a prep school.
The school appears to be heavily monitored and guarded. There’s nowhere to run and nothing to do but go to school where they’ll learn to develop their unique abilities. Ian, trying to find answers and a way to escape, meets three other students who also long to leave the suspicious place.
He then learns about their unique abilities and his own while they work together to find a way out.
The series gets off to a solid, though familiar, start. It is not like we haven’t seen people waking up in strange places to start a series before. But the premiere serves its purpose well. It assembles the main characters together and sets up just enough to make you want to tune in for more.
The cast which includes Drew Van Acker as Ian, Elise Gatien, Dyana Liu and Ryan Pinkston is fine. The series is fun and interesting, simple, yet plenty of potential for more.
But probably the biggest positive for me about the series is its look and feel. Like Unnatural History , Tower Prep is a step-up for children and teen cable programming. (And that includes shows about tanned Italians and pregnant moms that are being passed off as good television on cable these days.) The two series are by far fresher than anything on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel who seem to be stuck in the early 2000s.
Cartoon Network sets a great example in how programming for the young people doesn’t have to be laugh track-ridden idol/star vehicles. That a series can be appealing with an interesting story and good production values. And that these series can be accessible to audiences outside the target demo with no reason to be guilty about watching them.
Tower Prep is promising, as is all of Cartoon Network’s live action series development. Nickelodeon and Disney Channel should take some notes.