Adult Swim’s Mark McCray on cartoons and the future of television


Adult Swim’s Mark McCray is nostalgic about Saturday mornings watching cartoons in front of the television, but he’s also got an eye on the future of TV.

Mark McCray is a senior manager of programming operations for Adult Swim. Mark was also instrumental in the launch of the Boomerang Network and is an award-winning television writer. There are few people who know more about the history, and the future, of television than McCray.

We got the chance to talk to McCray when we ran into him while he was signing copies of his new book The Best Saturday’s of Our Lives at the Treklanta Star Trek convention. Mark was gracious enough to talk to us about his book, those magical Saturday mornings with cartoons in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, and where he thinks television is headed.

Show Snob – Thanks for talking with us Mark. You’ve got a new book called ‘The Best Saturday’s of Our Lives’ what inspired you to write about television and specifically Saturday morning cartoons?

Mark McCray – As a kid, I was really into cartoons. I would not only watch them every Saturday morning, but I started reading the credits, I would read about them in the papers, I even called the networks to see which shows were going to be renewed and which were going to be canceled. They didn’t put that information in the newspaper back then, and still, sadly they don’t do a lot of reporting on the kids’ side of the industry. By the time I hit middle school I was known as the walking TV guide because I could tell you if your show was going to live or die. So I’ve been into television and Saturday morning cartoons my whole life.

Show Snob – For many of us growing up Saturday mornings were our chance to see cartoons. Now there are entire channels devoted to cartoons twenty-four hours a day; not to mention what’s available on streaming services like Netflix. What do you think about this change, is it good or is it bad for cartoons?

Mark McCray – By going to school all week and then having Saturday morning for yourself to just sit back eat your cereal and watch all your favorite cartoons, it was special. With twenty-four hour networks and kids being able to watch on all screens it does kind of take away from the magic of having that special time and special place. You don’t have something to look forward to, you can’t have that cliffhanger episode. You don’t worry about what’s going to happen to the Justice League. So yeah it’s just not as special as it was back in the day.

Show Snob – Tell us a little bit about the book itself.

picture by Charles Evans

Mark McCray – The book actually started out as a newsletter called The Best Saturday’s of Our Lives and I used it as a way to get myself into the industry. Back in 1989, I met with Lou Scheimer who used to run Filmation and he encouraged me to get my information out there. So I decided to create the newsletter and write about what I liked. I sent it to everyone DC Comics, Marvel, Disney, Cartoon Network, anyone involved in the industry. Eventually, it started to catch on and Cartoon Network called and I ended up doing a pilot with them. 

So I decided to take all those newsletters from 1992 to 1996 and compile them into chapters with up-to-date commentary. So the book is an overview of the kids’ television industry it has interviews, schedules, programming strategies and reviews. It shows how the industry changed as computer technology became more readily available to animators. With Carmen Sandiego, Reboot, and the Fox Spider-Man series I  think the 1990’s was the last hurrah of Saturday morning TV.

Show Snob – Where do you think the future of kids television is going?

Mark McCray – I think we are going to see a TV that’s more like Pandora is right now. So it will serve up the things it thinks you like. So if you’re a science fiction fan it’s going to serve up Star Trek and Star Wars. I think there’s going to be a lot more niche television and the challenge is going to be how are companies and advertisers going to figure out how to monetize that. If I have a niche network how are my ratings really counted? So there are some challenges, but I feel like it’s only going to get more categorized down the road. 

Show Snob – So how do you feel about networks, are they fighting this change to steaming or are they embracing it?

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Mark McCray – Well the networks’ bread and butter is still broadcast TV for now, but if you’re a smart network you’re trying to figure out streaming. How are you going to count people who are watching? Also, how do you target that audience to make it work the way linear television works right now? I think that if you’re a network and you’re not embracing the new g whether it’s apps or streaming then I think you’re going to be left behind. It’s not going away, it just has to be figured out. Whoever figures it out I hope they get a big bonus! You know it kind of disappoints me a little bit when I can’t find any video on demand, or an app, or that next episode. I should be able to watch an episode I missed right away. Everyone is looking for that, as viewers we are spoiled. So the networks who don’t have those services, it’s disappointing. They are missing out on an opportunity for people to sample and share their content. 

Show Snob – Thank you so much for talking to us Mark. Where can someone find a copy of ‘The Best Saturdays of Our Lives’?

The best place to grab a copy is at my website. I always sign and date each copy before it’s shipped out so just visit to get a copy.

You can also follow Mark McCray on Twitter.