ABC, American Bandstand, Batman, Cartoons, CBS, CW, DC, Dungeons and Dragons, Filmation, Hanna-Barbera, He-Man, Herculoids, Hong Kong Phooey, Kenner, Life as It is, Marvel, Mr. T, NBC, Pac-Man, Plastic Man, Rant, Saturday morning, Schoolhouse Rock, Shazam, She-Ra, Shirt Tales, Smurfs, Snorks, Soul Train, Space Ghost, Spider-Man, Super Friends, Tarzan, television, Thundarr the Barbarian, Thundercats, Time for Timer, WCHS, WOAY, WOWK, WSAZ, WVVA
So, CW, the last bastion of Saturday morning cartoons, has ceased its showings of anything that resembles animated entertainment. It wasn’t even that long ago (ok 30+ years) that almost every American kid, aged 4-13 or even older, was getting up at some ridiculous hour on a Saturday to watch our favorite superheroes, mystery machine, little blue people, animals, underwater world or outer space adventure. This, after complaining that we had to get up early to go to school 5 days a week; we had no problem getting up for these hand drawn nuggets. I’m sure there will be animated commercials but not actual cartoons. So sad.
I remember back to when I was only about 4 or 5, my dad would get up to go to work in the coal mines, but before he did, he’d place a blanket over the seat and back of the couch. He’d then come get me out of bed, even carrying me, usually, lay me across the blanket and then wrap me like a caterpillar in a cocoon. He’d then turn the TV on to channel 4, WOAY, for those in WV, because that’s where the Super Friends could be seen. But before that, on the same channel Bugs Bunny and Yogi Bear would come on. Afterwards, I would work my way out of the very tight wound pocket I was resting in, have some cereal, I was (and if so inclined am still) a Fruity Pebbles kind of guy. Then maybe I’d work my way to channel 3 (WSAZ) or 6 (WVVA), both were NBC stations to see Sigmund and the Sea Monsters or, my grandfather’s fave, The Pink Panther. Maybe, I’d switch to Channel 8, WCHS (Now ABC, Channel 13, WOWK, eventually took over) for what CBS had: some Josie and the Pussycats or Speed Buggy or whatever. It started with ABC.
As I got older, my watching habits didn’t change, just what I watched, or at what time. I wasn’t wrapped like a birthday present anymore, but Dad still made sure I was up, or my mom may have been at that time. Super Friends moved to later time slots, but I still watched Bugs, Buggy, and Hong Kong Phooey. Even though it wasn’t animated, Land of the Lost was big at the time. Oh! and Shazam! I LOVED Shazam! and when Isis was addded, it was extra cool. Things like The Ghost Busters (with Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker, not the ’80s movie) and Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle and The New Adventures of Batman really turned my key. The latter was part of either Tarzan… or Batman and the Super 7. Even Plastic Man was so popular at this time, he had a 90 minute show! Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!? was brought back from the ’60s, as well. I’m longing for all that now, the more I write this.
When 1977 came along and Star Wars happened, every other commercial was about the action figures, play sets, breakfast cereals, clothing lines or anything else related to the brand. And that was OK. I never minded commercials during Saturday morning cartoons because it was stuff that always interested me. Speaking of space, NBC brought back the 60s hits Space Ghost and Herculoids to capitalize on the outer space phenomenon that was happening.
There was an educational element while Saturday morning cartoons were happening. ABC played the now-famous Schoolhouse Rock which I was barely old enough to use them for what they were meant for. The idea was to help students remember multiplication tables, and moved into American history, science and grammar. I was just going on 3 when they started and didn’t need all that education, but the other thing SR was supposed to do was entertain because that’s how many of us learned, heck, most of us, even. But, later, when reruns started back, I got through my 9th grade American Studies project of reciting the Preamble of the Constitution by singing it in my head. But, that wasn’t all. CBS had 30 Minutes and The CBS Saturday Film Festival. And Time for Timer!? Who didn’t love Time for Timer? And Chopper? I didn’t even know what Peoria was, but I knew I should do pushups if I did know. Hmmm… We learned and we didn’t mind it.
Even later in my cartoon watching career there was Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Smurfs, Shirt Tales, Mr. T (he even had a cereal), Pac-Man (also a cereal), Snorks, and Laff-a-Lympics. I had plenty of Saturdays that my friends had spent the night before and we watched cartoons together, or when we went out to play, we’d talk about how Samurai saved Superman and Apache Chief by shouting the famous “Kaze no Yō ni Hayaku” a time or two and how Darkseid was thwarted because of it.
But, with all this, there was one thing for sure: American Bandstand meant it was time to go outside and play. We still did that. We went out and played. Not that I didn’t like American Bandstand. The first time I heard “Turn Me Loose” from Loverboy was on American Bandstand. I always thought it was weird that I had never heard any of the songs that Dick was polling the crowd about. And Soul Train, I liked watching the dancing. Still, usually, American Bandstand meant, OK! Saturday morning is over; let’s move on. And we did.
I can remember when things started to fall apart. It was still mid-’80s. When He-Man, She-Ra and their respective “universes”, or Dungeons and Dragons, Thundercats and, basically, all those first-run syndication cartoons started playing during weekday afternoons and they brought back the Saturday morning toons for syndication all during the week, many parents stopped letting the kids sit in the house and watch cartoons on Saturdays. They could watch cartoons all the time at this point. I loved and hated that. I loved that I could watch cartoons all the time (and I still watch the old ones when I get the chance) and hated that I could see it was the end of Saturday morning fun.
So back to the original thought here. Those were the “good ol’ days.” My son will never know the joys of WANTING to get up on a Saturday to watch cartoons. He’ll never know the elation of talking about those cartoons with his friends. Sitting under a blanket, in his Underoos or Superhero pajamas, eating cereal with feelings of suspense to see if Batman is going to escape the Riddler this time… won’t ever happen. I’m so thankful to my dad, mom, friends, Filmation, Hanna-Barbera, Kenner, Post, Kelloggs, DC, Marvel, ABC, CBS, NBC and many more for making my childhood the fantastic time that it was. I’m sad that time has passed, but like everything, all good things must come to an end. There’s still cartoons, yes, and some of them are really good, but NONE can compare with what we had on Saturday mornings.
What are your thoughts/memories of Saturday mornings, dear reader? I’d love to hear your stories. Comment, if you will.
Until next time, same blog channel at SOME blog time…
“Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe – here in this great hall of justice – are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled.” – Ted Knight, Narrator, Super Friends
“When my ten gallon hat is feeling five gallons flat, I hanker for a hunk of cheese!” – Time for Timer