Apparently, it wasn’t made crystal clear that last week’s edition of The Only TV Column That Matters™ was an April Fool’s joke—a masterfully written and brilliantly executed April Fool’s joke, but nothing to be taken too seriously. Just stop with the phone calls and e-mails, OK? While it really does own practically every TV network out there, the Viacom corporation is not using its monopolistic power for pure evil. Evil, yes, but not pure evil—think more of a light ‘n’ fizzy evil spritzer.
For all its evil-lite doings, Viacom’s networks do occasionally get something right—by law of averages it has to happen once in a while. Take Nickelodeon’s Invader Zim, the most insanely daring mainstream cable cartoon since the net’s own Ren & Stimpy debuted 10 years ago. There isn’t a single animated TV show—or live-action one, for that matter—that can touch Zim’s surreal dark humor and mind-blowing graphics (said to be so expensive that only Viacom could produce them), and here it is in primetime Friday nights on Nickelodeon.
Yeah, well, not for much longer.
One year after introducing the psychotic green alien from Irk, Nickelodeon has pulled the plug on the show, citing poor ratings from their core demographic, kids 2-11. Meanwhile, Invader Zim’s rabid cult following of Internet-wired adults has set their keyboards ablaze launching letter-writing campaigns and online petitions to, you guessed it, Save the Show. Not to incur their dreaded e-wrath or anything, but the Zimheads should be at least grateful that Nickelodeon didn’t try to step in and make Invader Zim more “normal” and “kid-friendly.” Remember the final Nick-ized seasons of Ren & Stimpy? No one else does, either.
Invader Zim’s premise is cartoon-simple: The alien race of Irk, much like Viacom, exist only to invade and conquer. Crazed Zim really, really, really likes conquering, so much so that he nearly destroyed his own planet getting an early start on an invasion called Operation Impending Doom. To get rid of the pint-sized pain in the ass, the Irk send Zim on a bogus mission to scope out some insignificant planet called Earth for Operation Impending Doom 2. Our own military could learn a thing or two in the mission-naming department from the Irk.
Along for the ride is utterly useless robot sidekick GIR, who spends the entire six-month journey singing the catchy “Doom Song” (“Doom, doom, doom, doom, doom, doom” ... you get the idea). Once on Earth, Zim “blends in” as an elementary-school student with green skin and a bad pompadour wig. Somehow, only fellow student and Fox Mulder-wannabe Dib can see that Zim’s an alien—a bitter arch-rivalry is born, sugar-amped social satire ensues and little pink pigs seem to represent pure evil.
“Nickelodeon has reneged on its order of 40 episodes of Invader Zim, reducing the number to 26, effectively terminating the crew on the spot,” creator Jhohnen Vasquez allegedly wrote to pop-culture geek website ICv2.com. “This makes more room for more quality programming like Butt Ugly Martians.” Allegedly, because most Internet conjecture is impossible to verify—anybody can post this crap and it’s taken as gospel. Ain’t it cool? Someone should write a book.
Elsewhere on the Net, a letter from a “writer” at Nickelodeon insists that suits were concerned about Invader Zim’s destroy-Earth-now violent undertones and that impressionable kiddies might go out on killing sprees during commercial breaks. It was unspecified whether said suits were more concerned about the killing sprees or the missed commercial breaks, but this one smells funny, anyway: Invader Zim is still on Friday nights, as well as Sunday mornings in a full-hour block. Nickelodeon doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to take it off the schedule, and it’s a very real possibility that Viacom could be persuaded to move Zim to MTV, where the viewers are already soulless social pariahs—sorry, desirable 18-34 demographic soulless social pariahs.