Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cereal and Pajamas

The Fox network has just announced that they'll be dropping their Saturday morning block of children's programming in favor of infomercials. With this act, the concept of "Saturday Morning" as I knew it growing up, is officially gone.

Thanks primarily to 24-hour cable channels devoted exclusively to children's shows, there will never be another generation of children to know the sublime pleasure of the classic Saturday morning experience.

When I was a kid, it was a big thing. The networks used to buy ads in the comic books promoting their Saturday AM line-ups, and in the 70's they would usually have a prime time preview of all the new shows the Friday night before the new season began. Monday morning playground discussions would frequently include spirited analysis of the previous weekend's offerings.

Me, I'd get up early and stumble downstairs in my Mr. Spock PJs, turning the television set on en route to the kitchen, where I'd fix myself a bowl of Cocoa Puffs or Count Chocula, before sitting on the floor in front of the set. I had the schedule of my favorite shows memorized, and knew which of the three channels(!) I needed to turn to in order to see them. Personally, I really dug the live-action stuff from Sid & Marty Krofft and Filmation, and the adventure cartoons: The Land of the Lost, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, The Super Friends, The New Adventures of Batman, the animated Star Trek, the animated Godzilla and Tarzan. Shazam! and Isis. The Bugaloos and Electrawoman & Dynagirl. The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. The Lost Saucer. Space Ghost. Lidsville. Blue Falcon & Dynomutt. Space Academy and Jason of Star Command. Thundarr the Barbarian. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show. The Groovie Goolies. Ark II. Return to the Planet of the Apes...

But now, thanks to those aforementioned cable television networks and home video, the institution has faded away. It's a shame. Saturday mornings were something to be eagerly anticipated when I was a kid, something that belonged to me and not to my parents. For those four hours or so, I controlled the TV... and that was special, back then.

Oh well. Network television itself is a dinosaur lumbering towards inevitable extinction, and home entertainment is rapidly evolving into something radically different. We're no longer slaves to rigid network schedules; TV Guide is no longer our bible. We have hundreds of cable channels at our fingertips; video games, the internet (and it'll all be internet soon)... but I still wanted to take a moment to note the passing of an institution – and be grateful that the same home video revolution that helped killed it off has enabled me to collect and own a fair number of the childhood favorites listed above.


NoelCT said...

Having gone from child to teen in the 90s, I got to witness firsthand the death of network children's entertainment as 24-hour cable took over. The first loss was the block of toons weekday mornings that I'd watch as I got dressed, downed some breakfast, and got my bookbag in order. Then went the afternoon block of action shows that I'd use to wind down after the school day. And now we have the final fall, the death of Saturday morning adventure goodness. And it brings with it the downfall of American produced TV animation as more and more of what is on the air is imported from Asia, Europe, or Canada. Not to say that this is a bad thing, but it truly does mark the end of an era.

On the plus side, I got to grow up on the early years of Cartoon Network when they aired the complete archive of Hanna-Barbera. It was great getting to experience a lot of the same stuff my parents watched as kids.

vidsaw said...

I agree with all that you said Chris. Also, we watched the exact same damn shows. I guess everyone of a certain age did. :)

My son is three and a half, and we don't have full cable - just basic local channels - I'll miss watching Spider-Man with him.

Now granted, he is not lacking for media - there is still PBS and DVD's and plenty of stuff we can watch and download on the internet - not to mention stuff we rent from the library etc.. Oh and also there's outside, sometimes we go outside. :) (I am a media junkie, therefore I raise a media junkie)

Anyway, this is a little sad. Because those sat am times were special when I was a kid.

Michael May said...

Beautiful post, Chris. You've captured everything that was special about Saturday mornings when I was a kid.

I couldn't be dragged out of bed for school the rest of the week, but I was up every Saturday morning and in front of the TV - with cereal - before the first show came on.

I ate many a bowl of Freakies while staring at those multi-colored bars and waiting for that infinitely long tone to end when programming began for the day.

Rich said...

Thanks for posting the ad. I remember those shows, so it must be mid-1970's. Looks like some nifty Neal Adams artwork, too, if I'm not mistaken.