Nearly 25 years after wrapping its run, Ren & Stimpy are returning to TV.
Comedy Central has greenlit a “reimagined” take on the former Nickelodeon and Spike adult animated series. Details are scarce, but the ViacomCBS-owned cable network plans to hire a new creative team for the update, which will be reimagined for a new generation. The series hails from Nickelodeon Animation Studio. Additional information, including writers, an episode count and premiere date, have not yet been determined.
The updated Ren & Stimpy show marks the latest push into adult animation for ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group president Chris McCarthy, who also greenlit Daria spinoff Jodie, updates of Beavis and Butt-Head and Clone High. Both Jodie and Beavis and Butt-Head were picked up for Comedy Central, while the new Clone High does not yet have a network attached.
“We are excited to reinvent this iconic franchise with a new creative team and our partners at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio,” McCarthy said. “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.”
All four shows are being produced by ViacomCBS’ in-house production studios, with Nickelodeon — home to the original Ren & Stimpy — overseeing the new take, while the others are from MTV Studios. McCarthy launched MTV Studios two years ago with a goal to monetize the company’s vast library and sell to third-party buyers. With McCarthy now overseeing Comedy Central, MTV and a slew of other cable brands at the company, he’s now turning the studio into a content supplier of his own.
For its part, Comedy Central continues to ramp up its animated offerings with Ren & Stimpy joining Beavis and Butt-Head, Jodie and veteran South Park. The cabler is also the home of syndicated repeats of adult animated series including BoJack Horseman, Mike Judge’s King of the Hill and Seth MacFarlane’s The Cleveland Show. (It’s worth noting that Judge and co-creator Greg Daniels had “preliminary conversations” with Fox for a King of the Hill revival in 2017.)
This is McCarthy’s latest major programming acquisition for Comedy Central since he took over from former network president Kent Alterman as part of a larger ViacomCBS executive consolidation. Since then, Comedy Central has canceled Alternatino With Arturo Castro (which moved to Quibi) and Lights Out With David Spade while renewing its Crank Yankers revival, Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens and Tosh.0 (for four more seasons).
Ren & Stimpy was created by John Kricfalusi and followed the adventures of Ren, a temperamental Chihuahua, and his dim-witted feline sidekick, Stimpy. The series launched in 1991 as part of Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons push that also included Rugrats and Doug. While the series became a pop culture phenomenon and cult favorite, the network took heat for the show’s adult content and lack of educational value. Multiple segments were edited to remove references to religion, politics and alcohol. The original series ran for five seasons and nearly 100 episodes and led to a spinoff geared to more adult audiences, Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, which aired on the former Spike (now Paramount Network). Six episodes were produced as part of the animated programming block, but only three aired.
Adult animation continues to be a growth genre on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms. In success, shows like Rick and Morty repeat well and bring in younger audiences and can often lead to profitable merchandising lines. Franchises like Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers, for example, are considered to be worth billions. What’s more, animated series are able to be produced remotely during the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down hundreds of film and TV projects.