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Cartoon Network unveiling two series

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Mac is the main charactor in <i>Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends</i>.

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Two new animated series come to Cartoon Network this month, but they're aimed at decidedly different audiences.

The Venture Bros. is another outrageous addition to the channel's Adult Swim programming block - it is not a show for children - but Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is designed for viewers ages 6 to 11. Let's start with that one.

Created by Craig McCracken, Foster's is his follow-up series to the popular Powerpuff Girls. The new show is set at a place where imaginary friends can go if a child who creates them outgrows them.

"I started randomly drawing in my sketchbook these weird characters and then I had to come up with a show to justify having random oddball characters," he said. The idea of the foster home was inspired by two dogs adopted from a shelter by McCracken and his fiancee. "We wondered what happened to them before we got them. We were always curious about their past."

The show focuses on 8-year-old Mac and his imaginary friend, Bloo, who looks like a blue ghost and who lives at Foster's, where Mac visits him every day.

Other imaginary friends include the tall, self-sacrificing Wilt, the cuckoo Coco, and purple monster Eduardo.

"Powerpuff is definitely more campy and tongue-in-cheek," McCracken said, "where Foster's is more character driven."

After the 90-minute premiere at 7:30 p.m. Friday, episodes will regularly air at 7 p.m. Friday.

Imagine a cracked Jonny Quest and you'll have a good idea what to expect in The Venture Bros. Created by Jackson Publick II, whose real name is Christopher McCulloch (The Tick), Venture Bros. ostensibly centers on the exploits of dimwitted teenage siblings Hank and Dean, but really centers on the adventures of their father, Doctor Venture (voice of James Urbaniak).

The boys travel the globe with the doc and his "walking Swedish murder machine," Brock Samson (voice of Patrick Warburton).

"It's almost like I'm trying to

revive a genre that seems to be lost, but do it as a comedy," Publick said. That Jonny Quest genre came about in the '60s "when science fiction and adventure and superheroes almost crossed over with each other."

He compared Venture Bros. to the Austin Powers films, "a spoof that has its own life."

Publick said that despite the title, the show is really more about Doctor Venture's story.

"Calling it The Venture Bros. is more of the joke, kind of a nod to The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift and Jonny Quest. I wanted it to look and smell like this thing it's making fun of."

Judging by the first couple of episodes, Publick has succeeded, introducing the core cast and also some memorable villains, including The Monarch, who is costumed as a butterfly and has the sexually ambiguous Dr. Girlfriend as a companion. Dr. Girlfriend looks like Jackie Kennedy but sounds like Harvey Fierstein.

"Honey, what are you going on about?" Dr. Girlfriend asks The Monarch.

"Don't call me that in front of the henchmen!" The Monarch snaps back.

The Venture Bros. premieres tonight in its regular 11 p.m. time slot, but repeats at 12:30 a.m. and at 3:30 a.m. Monday.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is the TV editor for the Post-Gazette.

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