Ren & Stimpy Ren & Stimpy

Viacom can’t help itself. Rather than investing in new animation talent, Viacom’s cable channels are aggressively pouring all their resources into rebooting vintage properties. Last month Comedy Central announced that it would resuscitate Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head while MTV announced that it would do the same for Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Clone High.

Today, Comedy Central continued the trend by revealing its most ill-advised reboot of the year: an adult remake of Ren & Stimpy. This the second time that the influential early 1990s Nickelodeon kids’ series is being rebooted for adults. The first time was in 2003 when Viacom’s Spike TV produced six episodes (but aired only three) of Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon, an infamous series that is legendary as much for its dysfunctional production (disclosure: I worked on it) as its incoherent episodes and wildly inconsistent production quality.

There will be a key difference between this new production and Adult Party Cartoon: the show’s creator John Kricfalusi won’t be involved either creatively or financially in the new production. Kricfalusi, 64, was accused of harassment and underage sexual abuse in a 2018 Buzzfeed exposé. He responded with a widely derided letter that acknowledged there was “some general truth” to the accusations, and blamed his behavior on bipolar disorder and ADHD, which he claimed made it “almost impossible to control your impulses and obsessions.”

Viacom believes that removing Kricfalusi from the reboot will allow it to sidestep any controversy around the show. ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group president Chris McCarthy said in a statement, “We are excited to reinvent this iconic franchise with a new creative team and our partners at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio. Ren & Stimpy joins our rapidly expanding roster of adult animation including South Park, Beavis and Butt-Head, and Clone High as we continue to reimagine our treasure chest of beloved IP for new generations.”

However, the general sentiment in the animation industry is that the show’s reputation is too damaged by its creator’s personal behavior and that ViacomCBS could have done better by investing in contemporary talent rather than coasting on old IP. If today’s reactions on social media are any indication, the reboot may even have a hard time attracting quality talent to work on the production, which could put a dent in Viacom’s ambitions to get the show off the ground, even though it has already been greenlit. (Curiously, the new episodes will be produced by Nickelodeon Animation Studio, which would make this the first time that the studio has produced an animated series expressly geared towards adults.)

Here’s a small but representative sampling of how people in the industry and beyond feel about the idea of a Ren & Stimpy reboot:

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