Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What the Kaji Dha happened to Saturday morning TV? Part 1

What the Kaji Dha happened to Saturday Morning TV? I'm not sure why this popped into my head, but I have a feeling this will be the first of a few Saturday Morning themed "What the..." Wednesday posts.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my childhood. I've watched re-runs of TV shows, hunted down movies I liked and toys I played with on eBay, and generally been overcome with a wave of nostalgia. The thing's not always accurate. Not in the way that you remember it better than it actually was (thought that does happen periodically), but that it's the wrong time frame! I blame, and love, syndication and cable TV for that!

See I love TV in general, I grew up mostly watching shows from the 80's but thanks to TVLand, Nick at Night, Cartoon Network, and the recommendations of my mom and grandparents I grew up very familiar with TV from the 50's, 60's and 70's too. Most of my focus was on cartoons, after all I was a kid.* I poured over a book from the public library that chronicled Saturday morning television. I impressed (I think) my friends with my vast knowledge of studios (Hanna Barbera, Filmation, Ruby-Spears and Warner Bros.) and voice actors (Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Don Messick, June Foray...). I doodled and sketched and painted cartoon characters on any and every surface I could...heck I even had a sketch I did of the Funky Phantom tattooed on my arm...much later in life, of course.

Like any kid I struggled to get up on time for school Monday through Friday, but Saturday morning I was up at the crack of dawn, with a big bowl of Cap'n Crunch, planted in front of the TV waiting to see what kind of magic was in store. This is where things get fuzzy though...where the wrong time comes forgive me if my decades blur, or as a Doctor Who fan might gets wibbly wobbly timey wimey! I loved shows like "H.R. Pufnstuf", "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" and other Sid & Marty Krofft classics! The previously mentioned "Funky Phantom" (one of Hanna Barbera's many attempts to build on the success of mystery solving teens like "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?") left its mark in more ways than one! I watched "The Banana Splits Show" and know all the words to the song! (though that could be in part due to the cover version by punk rockers The Dickies, or the Liz Phair version from the 90's CD "Saturday Morning: Cartoon's Greatest Hits"). "Challenge of the Super Friends" was a staple of my viewing menu, as were "Flintstones", "Laff-A-Lympics", "Wacky Races", "Space Ghost", "The Tick" and yes, even "The Smurfs".

As bad as they usually were, I loved shows based on TV and movies too, like "Fonz & The Happy Days Gang", "Gilligan's Planet", "Beetlejuice", "Mr. T & the T-Force" and two shows about Ghostbusters. I liked both of them for different reasons; the "Real Ghostbusters" because of it's ties to the awesome 80's film, and "Filmation's GhostBusters" for its quirkiness. A fun bit of trivia...that Filmation cartoon was actually based on a 1975 live-action series of the same name starring "F-Troop" alumni Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch...and when I found that out I went on the hunt to find some episodes...they fall into the "so bad they're good" category.

One of my favorite things though, were the pre-season specials! Does anyone else remember them? It was usually late August or early September and there'd be a prime time special, hosted by some sitcom star and/or child actor, where they'd announce the "new" Saturday morning shows, returning was pure visual candy, low on substance, high on sugar! 

What happened to it though? I remember growing up Saturday morning TV filled several hours! I know I'd be up at 7:00-7:30am and would watch straight through till at least 11:00am (that's when the programming shifted toward educational game shows or kids news/entertainment in my area). Now, looking at my local line-up it's mostly weekend versions of weekday news shows. The CW has a couple hours of programming but its mostly imported Japanese animation like "Digimon", "Dragonball", and "Yugi-Oh"...sure there's Cartoon Network and Disney Channel...but it's not the it?

What do you think? Any favorite shows, Saturday morning memories, you want to share? 

*Who am I kidding...I still watch cartoons to this day!

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