|Created by||Paul Dini|
|Starring||Drew Van Acker|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||13 (list of episodes)|
|Production locations||Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada|
|Camera setup||Film; Single-camera|
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Production companies||Dolphin Entertainment|
Cartoon Network Studios
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Original network||Cartoon Network|
|Original release||October 12 –|
December 28, 2010
Tower Prep is an American-Canadian 13-episode live-action teen science-fiction television series created by Paul Dini for Cartoon Network. It aired between October 12 to December 28, 2010. Prior to Tower Prep, Dini was a former producer and writer of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and other DC animated universe series.
The series aired for one season prior to being canceled by Cartoon Network. It featured Ian Archer, a teenager with supernatural abilities who explored the mysteries of Tower Prep, an isolated institution that he, and his classmates, arrived at with no memory of how they got there.
Tower Prep is an exclusive boarding school for people with special abilities. None of the students know where they are or how they arrived there, and there's no way to escape the campus itself, which is a large complex of buildings surrounded by dense forest.
The series starts with Ian Archer sitting at home playing a video game after being suspended for fighting another student at his home high school. Before he knows it, Archer finds himself waking up at Tower Prep with no memory of how he got there and no recognition of the other students around him. Panicking, he tries to escape, and in the course of his failed attempt he meets three other students: Gabe Forrest, Suki Sato and CJ Ward, each with their own unique abilities. Throughout the series, the four friends make it their mission to uncover the mysteries behind Tower Prep and find a way to return to their normal lives.
Through the series, the four determine that they are on Earth in a small peninsula, with steep bluffs, inherited by the founder of Tower Prep. The peninsula is also home to many rare specimens of plants and animals from around the world, such as poison ivy and a venomous fly only found in mid-continental Africa.
The teachers of the school do not use their actual names, and are instead called by the subjects they teach.
Paul Dini wrote the first episode of Tower Prep, and Cartoon Network picked up the series as part of their initiative to develop live action programming for a family audience. The pilot was shot in 2009, and full production of the first season began in 2010 in British Columbia.
Former X-Files writer Glen Morgan was hired as executive producer and showrunner, joined by a writing team including Dini, Glen's brother Darin Morgan, Riley Stearns, Aury Wallington, Jeff Eckerle and Marilyn Osborn. Discussing his influences in creating the show, Dini states, "I thought about incidents when I was a kid. I went to a prep school, and I leaned back on my feelings of what it was like at the time – the strangeness and the alienation." From the start, the writers' goals were to create a story that did not talk down to kids, and to write natural dialogue, avoiding unrealistic slang and catchphrases. Many of the characters shift between being perceived as heroes or villains, because, Dini explains, "[throughout high school], your allegiances are switched and relationships change.... To a degree, Tower Prep is a real high school. It's just that the elements are blown out of proportion and into caricature."
The promotion for the series began with a fictional storyline, in which Cartoon Network published vlogs from the four main characters. Prior to the series premiere, a sneak peek of the show was released for free download on the iTunes Store featuring half of the first episode. To promote the premiere, the network announced a giveaway of 1,000 iPod Touch devices that would take place during the show. The iPod Touch strongly resembled the PDA devices from the series. The song "Unstoppable" by Foxy Shazam was used in network promos and in the episode "Trust".
The last two episodes of the first season aired on December 28, 2010. In October 2011, Cartoon Network removed all Tower Prep content from its website. In December 2011, Paul Dini announced that the series would not return for a second season.
On March 23, 2011, Cartoon Network announced their new and returning programs for the remainder of 2011 and Tower Prep was not mentioned as one of the returning series.
In December 2011, over a year after the series premiered, Dini announced on his Twitter account that the series would not be renewed for a second season, ending the series on a cliffhanger. When asked if he will reveal the ending to the series, Dini replied that he is "sworn to secrecy." In May 2012, Dini also revealed that there were talks of foreign financing for a second season, but the deal fell through because Cartoon Network decided not to air the show regardless.
In January 2013, Paul Dini revealed that Cartoon Network never gave him an answer for the cancellation of the series, though he speculated on Kevin Smith's Fatman on Batman podcast that an increased young female viewership over the network's young male target was a principal cause. Per the network's reasoning, according to Dini, the show's female viewers would be less likely to purchase merchandise. "We had a whole, a merchandise line for Tower Prep that they shitcanned before it ever got off the launching pad," he said on the show. "Because it's like, ... 'Boys buy the little spinny tops, they buy the action figures; girls buy princesses, we're not selling princesses.'" Alicia Lutes of Bustle acknowledged the impact of merchandising on viability of shows, referencing Dini's comments: "An undeniable truth about the television landscape today is that it's largely driven by marketing and advertising sales — or at least, the ability to sell a show to not just a small screen audience, but beyond the confines of that screen. Namely, via products. For a network like Cartoon Network, that would be toys. But they've somehow deduced that girls don't buy toys, or make good enough television viewers."
Dini also added that him and Cartoon Network intended for the series to run for 'five seasons' and had plans for season two to air in February 2011. Dini expressed interest in writing season three where he had planned for Ian to be the leader of the gnomes.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||US viewers|
|1||"New Kid"||Terry McDonough||Paul Dini||October 12, 2010||1.323|
|Ian Archer (Drew Van Acker), is suspended for fighting while defending another student. That night, while playing a video game he hears a buzzing noise and blacks out. He wakes up at a mysterious preparatory school called Tower Prep, with no idea on how he got there. When he tries to escape he meets CJ Ward (Elise Gatien), Gabe Forrest (Ryan Pinkston) and Suki Sato (Dyana Liu) who, with the exception of CJ (who has no memory of her life before Tower Prep), were sent there by their parents. They all want to escape and find out where they are. Unfortunately, their escape plan is thwarted by creatures in the forest called "Gnomes", which force them back to the campus. Later, Ian and his new friends pull a prank on Ian's initial roommates for messing with him. As the episode ends, Ian mentions getting a note that says "I'm scared, too...", But the group claims they didn't give him the note, leaving them wondering who did.|
|2||"Monitored"||Thomas Wright||Paul Dini||October 19, 2010||1.061|
|A number of personal items are stolen and Ian is blamed since some of the stolen property is found in his room. Because of this, he must defend himself in the school tribunal and must be shadowed all day by a school monitor. Meanwhile, Gabe, CJ and Suki work to prove his innocence. While Ian is in his room, he finds a secret entrance to the tunnels, where he discovers that the real thief was using them to frame him. The thief and Gabe's roommate, Howard Gilmore, stole the items and tried to frame Ian out of jealousy.|
|3||"Whisper"||James Wong||Glen Morgan||October 26, 2010||0.881|
|The gang attempts to find out who wrote the message "I'm Scared Too", and discovers an older version of Whisper, Whisper 23. They believe Whisper 23 holds the answers, but when they turn her on she locks the room down and forces them to play a deadly video maze game where the loser is electrocuted. They are saved by a power surge which short-circuits Whisper 23, and it is later revealed that Whisper 119 wrote the message and caused the power surge.|
|4||"Buffer"||Peter DeLuise||Glen Morgan||November 2, 2010||0.903|
|Ian develops a rivalry with the Yellow buffer team and is offered a chance to join the red buffer team. Ian discovers that Coach History has a mysterious connection with the gnomes. In an attempt to learn what Coach History knows about the gnomes, Ian sacrifices his Buffer match in order to fight off the gnomes while CJ and Gabe steal evidence from Coach History about the gnomes. They then discover that the gnomes are really students at Tower Prep.|
|5||"The Rooks"||Thomas Wright||Aury Wallington||November 9, 2010||1.065|
|Gabe tells Ian about a fraternity at the school called the Rooks, who choose certain students each year to join their ranks, subjecting them to demeaning activities. Ian is the only one who makes it in. He learns that Jeremy (the Rooks leader) plans to sabotage CJ's dance, so he betrays the Rooks, only to be beaten up by Jeremy (who has a preflex ability, like Ian). However, Gabe stops the Rooks and Headmaster cancels the dance organized by CJ. Coach and Headmaster discuss Ian and the Corvus H-40 (an ability enhancing chemical taken by the Rooks) and it's revealed they were Rooks when they attended Tower Prep.|
|6||"Book Report"||Peter DeLuise||Darin Morgan||November 16, 2010||1.018|
|While reading the Odyssey, Ian discovers notes about how to escape Tower Prep, written by a former student named Norman. While on his quest, Ian encounters students similar to the creatures in the book. It is later revealed Ian is not supposed to escape, but find out what Tower Prep is all about from within the school.|
|7||"Election"||Michael Rohl||Riley Stearns||November 23, 2010||0.978|
|Gabe decides to run for class president when the other candidate becomes ill. Students begin losing their powers shortly after the campaigning begins. Ian discovers a chemical called "Chemica Desin" implanted in the campaign buttons and infecting the students. Ross Anderson, the campaign manager for Emily Wright (Gabe's election opponent) was the culprit. Gabe wins the election and Headmaster and Nurse ask Ross to show them how she improved the chemical using only Tower Prep supplies.|
|8||"Field Trip"||Dwight Little||Paul Dini||November 30, 2010||0.986|
|The Biology class is sent into the woods to research the Tower Prep flora and fauna. Paired randomly, they have little time to check out the forest to find out exactly where Tower Prep is located. Ian and Cal discover an underground gnome lair. In the end, it is revealed that Cal intended to become a gnome. Phillips, a student that once escaped the school, is revealed to be "Redfang", a creature haunting the woods. He is also the leader of a mysterious group hiding in the wild who will save as many students they can from becoming gnomes.|
|9||"Dreams"||Brenton Spencer||Darin Morgan||December 7, 2010||0.901|
|When Ian, Gabe, and Suki have dreams about a mysterious yellow elevator, they search for it in the tunnels. They observe a new student being brought out of the elevator. He becomes Ian and Gabe's new roommate and can infiltrate dreams. They discover Cornelius Tower's office (Tower Prep's founder) and investigate. They take some items from Cornelius' office and bring it to the observatory. Conner then escapes and reveals, in Ian's dream, that he is a "scout". They find that Conner took the things from the observatory, but left a picture of Cornelious Tower with a young child. Ian realizes that the young boy is himself.|
|10||"Phone Home"||Michael Robison||Aury Wallington||December 14, 2010||0.982|
|On his birthday, Ian demands to speak to his parents. Headmaster allows the call, but it is later revealed that it was really Whisper impersonating his mother. Suki spies on Headmaster's office and sees her brother, Shinji, who she believed was dead, he was once a student at Tower Prep. Knowing her brother plans to later call home, Suki attempts to piggyback onto the signal with a homemade satellite phone. As the group are about to reach the roof of the nearest satellite point they a blocked by a gaping hole. When they are about to swing across CJ kisses Ian, since earlier he had admitted he had never kissed a girl. When they get across they discover Whisper was upgraded from version 119 to Whisper 120. They then successfully make the call, but Ian's mom claims that it is too dangerous to talk and hangs up.|
|11||"Trust"||Michael Rohl||Riley Stearns||December 21, 2010||1.068|
|Ian suspects Cal is a spy for Headmaster just as the group's escape plan begins to come together. When he finds Cal in CJ's room, Ian begins to suspect CJ is giving Cal inside information. Elsewhere, a group of students known as The Broken are discovered in the woods. Emily Wright then reveals that she intends to join The Broken and their resistance. These actions may have also led to the Art teacher's dismissal (Art was the faculty advisor for the school newspaper). The group agrees to meet The Broken, but find their hideout empty. Ian and CJ clear their trust issues, and Headmaster meets with the school's head administration, telling them that The Broken is mended, but Ian is still "broken", but not for long.|
|12||"Snitch"||Thomas Wright||Jeff Eckerle and Marilyn Osborn||December 28, 2010||N/A|
|Conner returns to the school and claims to know how to get out. He and his group of exiles believe West Campus is the way out of Tower Prep. He tries to get to West Campus but the gnomes made him turn back. He ends up in Ian's and Gabe's room with Chemica Desin 2.0. Ian sends him to the observatory, but the gnomes capture him in the tunnels. Ian takes the maps and key to West Campus and goes there himself to find out what really happens to students at West Campus. He finds a way out, but in the meanwhile Suki's brother tries to take her home. In the very end, it is revealed that Headmaster is CJ's father.|
|13||"Fathers"||Dwight Little||Glen Morgan||December 28, 2010||N/A|
|Gabe is sent to West Campus for refusing to reveal his source for Chemica Desin 2.0. His West Campus roommate is a guy named Demetrius, who was hired by Headmaster to protect Gabe from Jeremy and the Rooks. It is revealed to Ian that "3's the charm" meaning their third escape attempt will be successful, but only for three of them. Suki's father arrives to take her back home but she is rescued by Ian. Meanwhile, Headmaster and CJ argue in his office, until Headmaster sends a text to Ian pretending to be CJ. Ian and Suki both arrive to finally learn that CJ is Headmaster's daughter. Ian tells Headmaster he will be leaving the school, no matter what Headmaster does to stop him. The argument escalates into a physical fight, until Ian knocks out Headmaster. Ian, CJ and Suki then go to West Campus to rescue Gabe, just as he is about to be assaulted by The Rooks. The team escapes after crawling through a vent Ian found in an abandoned kitchen. Outside, they meet a woman who turns out to be a hologram of Whisper 120. She tells them that seven people know the Headmaster is trying to return the school to what it was when Cornelius Tower founded it: Suki, Ian, CJ, Gabe, Headmaster, Cornelius Tower and one more person. Whisper tells the four that they have escaped and that "not many people do".|
Tower Prep received critical acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Brian Lowry of Variety said the show's mysteries might appeal to both children and adults, calling it "a series that points the way toward a best-case scenario" for Cartoon Network's live-action programming. Robert Lloyd in his Los Angeles Times review praised the show's energy, casting, and writing in spite of its modest production values. Both reviewers noted the series shares elements with The Prisoner and other works such as Harry Potter, Lost and The X-Files. Emily VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club stated that while the pilot episode suffered from low production values and murky fight scenes, it benefited from a strong primary cast, Dini's use of superpowers, and potentially intriguing moments. Further, she specifically pointed to the involvement of creator Paul Dini and producers Glen Morgan and Darin Morgan as reasons she believed the show would grow into a compelling series. In the 2011 Leo Awards, Brenton Spencer was nominated for Best Direction in a Youth or Children's Program or Series for the episode "Dreams".