Tower Prep

Tower Prep

Intertitle from the network promo
Genre Action/Adventure
Teen drama
Science fiction
Created by Paul Dini
Starring Drew Van Acker
Ryan Pinkston
Elise Gatien
Dyana Liu
Composer(s) Kristopher Carter
Michael McCuistion
Lolita Ritmanis
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 13 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Paul Dini
Glen Morgan
Bill O'Dowd
Producer(s) Peter Lhotka
Karen Mayeda-Vranek (co-producer)
Darin Morgan (supervising producer)
Location(s) Vancouver, Canada
Cinematography Philip Linzey
Editor(s) Scott Richter
Geoffrey O'Brien
James Coblentz
Camera setup Film; Single-camera
Running time 45 minutes
Production company(s) Dolphin Entertainment
Cartoon Network Studios
Distributor Cartoon Network
Original network Cartoon Network
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original release October 16 (2010-10-16) – December 28, 2010 (2010-12-28)

Tower Prep is a Canadian/American television series. It debuted on October 16, 2010, after the world premiere of Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster. The series is created by Paul Dini, a former producer and writer of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and other DC animated universe series.[1][2] It is Cartoon Network's second one-hour live-action series, after Unnatural History.

The last two episodes of the first season aired on December 28, 2010. 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.[3]

In December 2011, over a year after the series premiered, Dini announced on his Twitter account that the series will not be returning for a second season, ending the series on a cliffhanger.[4][5] When asked if he will reveal the ending to the series, Dini replied that he is "sworn to secrecy."[6] On 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.[7]


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.[8] The pilot was shot in 2009, and full production of the first season began in 2010 in British Columbia.[9]

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.[9] 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."[8] 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 catch phrases. 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."[9]

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.[4][5]


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.[10] He also added that he 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.


Tower Prep is an exclusive school for people with special abilities. None of the students know where they are or how they had arrived there, and there's no escape. One moment Ian Archer was at home playing a video game; the next, he found himself waking up at Tower Prep with no memory of how he got there. Panicking, he tries to escape, and in the course of his failed attempt he meets three other students: Gabe, Suki and CJ. 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.

It is determined that they are on Earth in a small peninsula inherited by the founder of Tower Prep. Tower Prep is a school that houses students that have unique powers. 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 cast of Tower Prep (from left to right), Drew Van Acker as Ian Archer, Dyana Liu as Suki Sato, Ryan Pinkston as Gabe Forrest, and Elise Gatien as CJ Ward.

Main characters

Tower Prep staff

The teachers of the school do not use their actual names. They are instead called by the subjects they teach. For example, if a teacher teaches math, they are simply called Math. The headmaster of the school is simply called Headmaster. If a teacher teaches two subjects, they are called by both. For example, if a teacher teaches both history and physical education, they are called Coach History.

Secondary characters

Minor characters


No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date U.S. viewers
(in millions)
1"New Kid"Terry McDonoughPaul DiniOctober 12, 2010 (2010-10-12)1.323[15]
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 WrightPaul DiniOctober 19, 2010 (2010-10-19)1.061[16]
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 underground 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 WongGlen MorganOctober 26, 2010 (2010-10-26)0.881[17]
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 DeLuiseGlen MorganNovember 2, 2010 (2010-11-02)0.903[18]
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 WrightAury WallingtonNovember 9, 2010 (2010-11-09)1.065[19]
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 DeLuiseDarin MorganNovember 16, 2010 (2010-11-16)1.018[20]
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 RohlRiley StearnsNovember 23, 2010 (2010-11-23)0.978[21]
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 LittlePaul DiniNovember 30, 2010 (2010-11-30)0.986[22]
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 SpencerDarin MorganDecember 7, 2010 (2010-12-07)0.901[23]
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 RobisonAury WallingtonDecember 14, 2010 (2010-12-14)0.982[24]
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 RohlRiley StearnsDecember 21, 2010 (2010-12-21)1.068[25]
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 WrightJeff Eckerle and Marilyn OsbornDecember 28, 2010 (2010-12-28)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 LittleGlen MorganDecember 28, 2010 (2010-12-28)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".


Critical reception

The premiere episode of Tower Prep received positive reviews. Brian Lowry of Variety said the show's mysteries might appeal to children ... and adults, calling it "a series that points the way toward a best-case scenario" for Cartoon Network's live-action programming.[26] Robert Lloyd in his Los Angeles Times review praised the show's energy, casting, and writing in spite of its modest production values.[27] Both reviewers noted the series shares elements with The Prisoner and other works such as Harry Potter, Lost and The X-Files. Todd 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, he specifically pointed to the involvement of creator Paul Dini and producers Glen Morgan and Darin Morgan as reasons he believed the show will grow into a compelling series.[28] 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".[29]


  1. Cartoon Network Picks Up First Two Live-Action Series - Turner Newsroom Release Date: 11/6/2009
  2. Cartoon Network holds 2010 upfront - Radio Business Report/Television Business Report 21 April 2010 04:49:00
  3. Seidman, Robert (March 23, 2011). "Cartoon Network Unveils New Programming Slate Including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and Details on 'How to Train Your Dragon'". TV by the Retrieved March 23, 2011.
  4. 1 2 "Over :(". Paul Dini's official Twitter. December 7, 2011.
  5. 1 2 "Nope. Sorry.". Paul Dini's official Twitter. December 7, 2011.
  6. "Sorry. I'm sworn to secrecy.". Paul Dini's official Twitter. December 7, 2011.
  7. "There was talk of foreign financing for season 2, but CN decided not to air it again in the US regardless, so the deal fell thru.". Paul Dini's official Twitter. May 27, 2012.
  8. 1 2 Phegley, Kiel (2010-08-05). "CCI: "Tower Prep" & "Firebreather"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
  9. 1 2 3 Phegley, Kiel (2010-11-23). "Discovering Paul Dini's "Tower Prep"". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
  10. Goldman, Eric (2013-12-16). "Paul Dini on Cartoon Network's Programming Decisions and Why Boy Viewers Are Valued Over Girls". IGN. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  11. Ian Archer profile
  12. Gabe Forrest profile
  13. CJ Ward proile
  14. Suki Sato profile
  15. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: 'Sons of Anarchy' Drops; Teen Mom Special Second-Best to Yankees/Rangers; Stargate Universe, Caprica Weaken & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2011-12-09. (ratings for October 19, 2010 broadcast)
  16. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: Heat/Celtics Slam Dunk; 'Sons of Anarchy' Steady; 16 & Pregnant, Caprica, Stargate Universe, Millionaire Matchmaker & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  17. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: 'Sons of Anarchy' Rises; 'Stargate Universe' Steady + 'Dirty Jobs,' '16 and Pregnant,' 'In Treatment' & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  18. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: 'Sons of Anarchy' Dips, Tops Cable; 'Stargate Universe' Steady + 'Dirty Jobs,' '16 and Pregnant,' 'In Treatment' & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". 2010-11-10. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  19. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: 'Sons of Anarchy' Rides Higher, Tops Cable; 'Glory Daze' Modest in Premiere; 'Stargate Universe' Steady & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  20. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: 'Sons of Anarchy' Rides Steady, Again Tops Cable; 'Stargate Universe' Inches Higher; 'Glory Days' Slides & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  21. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: 'Sons of Anarchy' Finale Rises; 'Stargate Universe,' "Glory Daze' Steady; '16 and Pregnant' & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". 2010-12-01. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  22. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: '16 & Pregnant' Rises; 'Eureka,' 'Warehouse 13,' 'Glory Daze' & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". 2010-12-08. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  23. "Tuesday Cable Ratings: '16 & Pregnant,' 'Glory Daze' Slip + 'Millionaire Matchmaker,' 'Tower Prep' & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  24. "Tuesday 12/21 Cable Ratings: '16 & Pregnant,' 'Glory Daze,Storage Wars,' 'Tower Prep' & More - Ratings | TVbytheNumbers". Retrieved 2011-12-09.
  25. Gorman, Bill (December 25, 2010). "Tuesday 12/21 Cable Ratings: 16 & Pregnant, Glory Daze, Storage Wars, Tower Prep & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved December 26, 2010.
  26. Lowry, Brian (2010-10-16). "Tower Prep Review". Variety. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  27. Lloyd, Robert (2010-10-19). "Television review: 'Tower Prep' on Cartoon Network". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  28. Todd, VanDerWerff (2010-10-17). "Tower Prep - "New Kid"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  29. "Leo Awards, 2011 Nominees by Name". Leo Awards. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
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