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Adult Swim (stylized as [adult swim]) is the adult-oriented nighttime programming block of the American children’s cable network Cartoon Network, operating daily 8 p.m.–6 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time. It is programmed by Williams Street Productions, a subsidiary of Turner, which also developed two other programming blocks for Cartoon Network: Toonami (which later became a block on Adult Swim in 2012) and Miguzi. The block gets its name from a phrase used by public swimming pools in the United States to label designated times when children are restricted from using the facilities in favor of adults.
Debuting in 2001, Adult Swim serves as the nighttime identity of Cartoon Network and was established as alternative programming during the late night hours when Cartoon Network’s primary target audience, children between the ages of 7–16, (now the target is a smaller range about 7-13) would normally be sleeping. Much of Adult Swim’s general content is known for their experimental, risqué, unorthodox, crude, dry, and improvisational humor, along with purposefully cheap-looking animation, and often bizarre presentation. In 2005, the block was granted its own Nielsen ratings report from Cartoon Network due to targeting a separate demographic. The block features stylistically varied animated and live-action shows including original programming, syndicated series mainly consisting of Fox animated programming, short films, original video animation, and anime, generally with minimal or no editing for content.
In the United States, Adult Swim has frequently aired adult animation features, anime, mockumentaries, sketch comedy, live-action, and pilots. Shows may have sexual themes, frank sexual discussion, nudity, strong language, and graphic violence; in other words, programs that would be deemed inappropriate if aired during the day on Cartoon Network, when children would be watching. While the network features comedic and dramatic programs of all types, many of its programs are aesthetically experimental, transgressive, improvised, and surrealist in nature. Thus, Adult Swim has become a source of conflict, with some saying that it is too controversial, while others noting that its ability to question the norm brings a level of surrealism and experimentalism that is welcome. Adult Swim has contracted with various studios known for their productions in absurd and shock comedy.
As with Cartoon Network, Adult Swim’s reach through various services totals 94 million American households.