“Animation Domination” kicked off on May 1, 2005 with popular and long-running FOX shows “The Simpsons”, “King of the Hill”, “Family Guy” and newbie “American Dad!”. (The latter aired its Pilot episode in February to big ratings.) But while all four programs were on the Sunday schedule, it wasn’t until Fall 2006 that FOX actually devoted two straight hours on Sunday nights to animation, without a live-action interruption.
2009 saw the short-lived “Sit Down, Shut Up” starring the voices of Will Arnett and Jason Bateman. FOX aired the first four episodes in the spring and the other nine in the fall before cancelling it. “King of the Hill”, which had been on the air since January 1997, aired its one-hour series finale on September 13. Taking its place on the “Animation Domination” lineup: Seth McaFarlane’s “Family Guy” spinoff “The Cleveland Show”. MacFarlane now had three shows on FOX Sunday nights – all after Matt Groening’s “Simpsons”.
In January 2011, “Bob’s Burgers” debuted in the 8:30pm slot and quickly became a hit. FOX tried more animation programming with Jonah Hill’s “Allen Gregory” in Fall 2011 and the TV series version of “Napoleon Dynamite” in Spring 2012, but both didn’t go farther than a single season. However, the 2011-12 season marked the first time Animation Domination had five programs at one time (from 7:30-10pm). MacFarlane was then at work on another animated program for FOX – his take on “The Flintstones” that was going to debut in Fall 2013. But the network passed on it, and they cancelled “Cleveland” in Spring ’13.
Midseason 2014 was the beginning of the end of “Animation Domination”’s original run. The block shook-up when FOX sought to air its groundbreaking “Cosmos: A Space Odyssey” on Sunday nights at 9pm. So it kept “The Simpsons” at 8, moved “Family Guy” up to 8:30 and bumped “Bob’s Burgers” and “American Dad!” to 7 and 7:30. In a big surprise, FOX then decided to give up “Dad!”, and TBS stepped in for its new home (where the show currently still airs).
And then – they eliminated “Animation Domination” altogether. FOX put Season 2 of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in between “Simpsons” and “FG” and aired short-lived “Mulaney” and brand new “The Last Man on Earth” at 9:30 during the ’14-’15 season. Animated “Bordertown” did make the Sunday lineup from January-May 2016, but it was quickly shifted from 9:30 to 7:00, followed by “Simpsons” reruns. The ’16-’17 year saw one-and-done “Son of Zorn” and “Making History”. “Ghosted” flopped in the ’17-’18 season. And “Rel” and “What Just Happened?!” couldn’t make much noise last TV season.
SO – FOX finally decided to revive the “Animation Domination” lineup with the addition of hand-drawn “Bless the Harts” at 8:30, after “The Simpsons”. But a twist was announced: “Bob’s Burgers” is now at 9:00 and “Family Guy” moved from 9 (where it was a semi-institution) to 9:30. The popularity of “Bob” has risen so much that FOX is clearly gearing-up for the theatrical “Bob” film opening next summer.
“Bless the Harts” will run 13 episodes before Amy Poehler’s animated “Duncanville” and “The Great North” enter during Midseason 2020. No matter what – FOX wants to keep the 8:00-10:00 block all animation this television year. So far, “Bless” has averaged around 2.5 million viewers with its first few episodes. And that’s about what the others have been getting each week for the past couple of years (if they’re lucky). Football lead-ins help, but the ratings have shown that around 2 million is where the longtime animated shows hit for first airings of new episodes.
FOX clearly spent A TON of money on “Animation Domination” at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con. I was shocked to see giant posters with the characters from all four current shows on a hotel, trams, a giant outdoor ferris wheel and game area. Was it all worth it? I’m glad to see Animation get so much attention, and “Simpsons” is still one of my favorite shows. But I’m concerned that the ratings will keep getting lower. And after watching some of “Harts”… that fourth animated program will keep rotating for several more years.