Saturday, October 11, 2014

Farewell to Cartoons on Saturday Morning

Last weekend on the Yahoo homepage I stumbled onto an article that began like this:

So, I was potty training my daughter this past Saturday. Going outdoors was not in the cards -- I wanted (needed!) her within 20 feet of a potty at all times. But what to do?  How to entertain an ornery toddler for hours in a city apartment on an unseasonably warm day?
And then it hit me -- Saturday morning cartoons.
I turned on the TV only to discover that the beloved product-placement-heavy 'toons of my own youth were no longer on the big networks. In fact, they weren't anywhere. While the cartoon exodus has been going on for years, this past Saturday morning was the first weekend in 50 years with no morning cartoons of any kind on American television's major networks. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
The rest of the article is here. 

I just had to read this article.  I'm not a parent and gave up on cartoons in the mid 1980s as I entered adolescence, a time I felt was too big for such things, notwithstanding later on in my life when I would watch an occasional cartoon movie or show from Disney or Nickelodeon or the animated Sunday night shows on Fox. I mean, who hasn't been able to resist the long-running antics of The Simpsons?   But watching animated shows on Saturday mornings was something I did until around 1983.

 As anyone who grew up in the 1980s (and earlier) can attest, Saturday mornings  were the time for watching animated shows for several hours while eating Lucky Charms or Cheerios.  In between, you would catch commercials for the latest toys that you would soon be begging for as Christmas approached.   Some toys even became popular enough to gain a cartoon series on Saturdays.  Remember when the famous Rubik's Cube got a cartoon show?

And remember Saturday morning cartoons based on prime-time series? Shows from the 60s and 70s such as The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch,  and Gilligan's Island all had animated Saturday morning counterparts.  This phenomenon became especially popular in the 1980s when shows such as Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, The Dukes of Hazard,  ALF, and Punky Brewster  all gained animated counterparts on Saturday mornings.  And in 1983, Mr T, star of the hugely popular show The A-Team, was also the star of his own Saturday morning cartoon.

But Saturday mornings weren't just about the cartoons. On ABC, in between the cartoon shows, there was the famous animated Schoolhouse Rock, which consisted of three-minute segments that taught us (through animation and song) about grammar, math, science and American history/politics.  And NBC would have the One to Grown On segments, in which stars of then-current prime time series on the network, would show a scene in which a child faces an ethical dilemma, followed by the actor telling the audience what the child should do.  These were replaced by the current The More You Know PSAs starting in 1989.  And as I stated earlier, the commercials for toys and cereals were also a part of Saturday mornings.

This is how I remember my Saturday mornings. I'm sure other will have similar memories, especially those who like me who grew up in the 1980s. Though I'd long given up cartoons by then, I was aware the NBC gave up on animation on Saturday mornings in 1992 when they began airing a Saturday edition of the Today show as well the TNBC lineup (aimed at teenagers) that lasted until 2002.   They currently have the NBC Kids lineup, so they apparently haven't given up on the kids on Saturdays yet.

The Yahoo article above stated that CBS gave up on Saturday morning cartoons not too long after NBC did, and that ABC followed suit in 2004, Fox in 2008, with the CW as the final holdout.  CW aired its final Saturday morning animated shows on September 27.  It's a shame that kids today won't have these experiences.  They can watch DVDs, but won't have the memory of snapping on the TV on Saturday morning and watching animation.  They also have to settle for cable stations showing animated programming, again, not a bad thing, but that's the only option they will have.

Farewell to one of my childhood memories.  To have been a child of the 1980s was good for some things.

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