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Adam Conover Gets Animated

Adam ruins everything is trying something new on tru, as the series’ midseason start offers a half-dozen animated episodes starting March 20. Under the title Adam Ruins Everything Presents Reanimated History, the show continues to tackle historical topics, as host Adam Conover debunks universally accepted narratives.

Conover spoke with Multichannel News about the new episodes, which see him take on the American Revolution, Native Americans and the Cold War, among other hot topics. An edited transcript follows.

MCN:Why animated episodes?
Adam Conover: We really have a “kitchen sink” approach to making the show. We do digital effects, we do animation, we do puppets, we’ve done Claymation. I come from a sketch comedy background, so I love to parody every single format under the sun. Last year, we did an all-animated episode for the first time, a Magic School Bus parody. We had a ton of fun doing it.

It’s fun and rewarding to think about how to make a whole show with animation. I was a huge fan of animation growing up, and I still watch cartoons. We and the network decided it would be a cool way to extend what we’re doing.

Part of it was just practical. Adam Ruins Everything is such a production-intensive shoot — it takes four full days to shoot an episode, not including the editing time. We realized, if we animate some episodes, we could have a little miniseries to fill up part of the year and get our comedy and content out there at the same time we’re making a live action show.

MCN:Which animated shows do you watch?
AC: I’m a huge, huge fan of Steven Universe on Cartoon Network. For those who haven’t seen it, you’ve got to go watch it right way. It’s so gorgeous; the animation is the best I’ve seen on television. The message and themes of that show are so heartwarming, it makes me c`ry almost every single episode.

Rick and Morty does such incredible things I’ve never seen done on an animated series.

Animation is one of the most vibrant, experimental, innovative spaces on TV right now. I was really excited to get to do something in that space.

MCN:You tackle George Washington in the premiere episode. What will viewers learn about the father of our country?
AC: We have this very rosy, romantic view of the American Revolution that we get from the sort of afterschool special version and what we’ve seen in other cartoons. On this show, it’s like watching a 1960s-era cartoon where a smug narrator tells us about the great revolutionaries overcoming tyranny. I pop in and tell them the real version over the narrator’s protest.

And George Washington is where all of our biggest myths reside. With the Revolutionary Army, the story we tell ourselves is that it’s brave patriots who said, “No, we want to throw off British oppression,” and they pick up arms. The reality was, and any history book will tell you, these people were farmers and working people and a lot of them just wanted to be left alone. They saw it as a rich man’s war. It was wealthy landowners who were upset about British taxation.

The soldiers had to be bribed and cajoled and sometimes even forced to fight. There was very low morale. Mutiny was a constant problem. George Washington had to take some pretty drastic and unfortunately violent measures to keep his troops in fighting formation. That’s the fact of the matter, but it’s not a story we tell because it doesn’t align with our national myth.

MCN:Ever fear you’ll run out of topics to tackle on the show?
AC: [Laughs] No. Never, never, never, never, never. Anything that people are incorrect about that you can look into more deeply is a topic for our show, and there are an infinite number of topics. Every day in the news, there’s a topic that people misunderstand and we’re ready to talk about. People are talking about how video games cause violence. That’s a myth we need to tackle.

I don’t think we’ll ever run out. We did do the easiest ones to tackle first. Some of the low-hanging fruit is off the tree. But new fruits of ignorance blossom on that tree faster than we can possibly pull them down. I think our supply is inexhaustible. Luckily so, because we have a great time doing it and people love to see it happen.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.