Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Life and Death of Saturday Morning Cartoons

by Christopher Scott

When I was a kid (or should I say younger) there was no better day of the week than Saturday. It wasn’t the elation of not being at school that kept me going. Nor was it the fact that I could sleep in until my parents would be ready to go back to bed (mainly because most of the time I was up early anyway). No. It was that Saturday was the one day a week that cartoons would air on almost every channel for hours on end! It was a dream come true!

Each and every local network affiliate had some assembly of TV aimed at my age group. Some were educational and others were sophomoric, but all were great in their own ways. I would get up early (sometimes I even set an alarm if the show was good enough), plop down in front of the TV, and watch whatever cartoon was on that attracted my interests. Mainly these were colorful, well-animated shows that catered to young boys, but occasionally my sister would be up and we’d have to … “share.” My dad would usually have some sort of doughnuts or cinnamon buns to enjoy which only further reinforce my obsession with this day to end all days. It was, by far, the greatest memory of my childhood I have.

The cartoons that aired were also amazing in quality! The storylines were so much more elaborate than a normal weekday cartoon because the networks knew that they would have a captive audience every week. There was never a chance that someone would miss what they would have to offer, so they didn’t resort to just humor to catch interests. Shows like Sonic the Hedgehog, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, and X-Men were heavy hitters. Even non-cartoon shows like Power Rangers and Goosebumps premiered on Saturday-only occasions. Even while I write this, more names are coming to mind that are just stunning. Batman The Animated Series, Animaniacs, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Pepper Ann, Disney’s Doug. In my opinion, it was the Golden Age of cartoons and we will never have another time that they will make such an impact on children’s lives.

Today things are different though. Saturday cartoons still exist, but without all of the flair and excitement. Most of the shows that air have already premiered on other networks, which make them lose any semblance of uniqueness. The monopoly of Saturday morning has been replaced by multiple 24-hour cartoon cable networks like Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and Nickelodeon. Also, the quality of the original series on Saturday has gone down drastically. After looking at the programming lineup for Saturday this week on broadcast channels, I didn’t find a single new series for the 7- to 11-year-old age group except maybe this show called Horseland about girls who ride horses at a ranch. (I guess the horses can talk to each other, but not to the girls or something. I don’t know.) There are a few shows that are several years old that stopped airing new episodes like Yu-Gi-Oh and Sonic X, and Disney continues to replay the same episodes of Hannah Montana for the 150th time, but that is it!

I think the worst part of all is that this is just one more way kids are losing their childhoods without even knowing it. Sure, they can still watch great cartoons that air on some other networks, but it’s just not the same. Either they have to constantly watch out for when their show might be on, they have to set-up a DVR device, or they have to watch it online later. Plus, one great show that airs on Monday at 5pm, another on Wednesday at 7pm, and three on Friday on two separate channels starting at 8pm doesn’t have that impact that Saturday morning would have when every show worth watching was on at some point or another. And all a parent had to do to connect with their child back then was grab a chair and watch. There was no planning, no schedules, and no problems. There will never be another time that such a composition of great children’s programming will ever exist. When I have kids, I just hope that I can manage to keep the dream alive to give them the wonderful memories that I had growing up through the means of a DVR. It won’t be easy, but the payoff will definitely be worth it.

I want to hear from you! What shows or experiences do you remember about Saturday morning cartoon blocks? And do you agree with me, or do you think that things have actually gotten better since the demise of Saturday cartoons? Leave your comments below!
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Kelly said...

I liked Disney's One Saturday Morning block.

The fact that Captain Planet is not mentioned here deeply saddens me. There are so many people who can still recite the Planeteer song by heart :D

Nicole_Tee said...

When I was a kid I missed a lot of my favorite cartoons because my parents had me in a bowling league. As a not much older adult I got my Sling Adapter from DISH Network a while back when I started working for them and I haven’t had any issues missing my favorite shows. I’ve found that as long as there’s Wi-Fi or mobile 3G network I can watch my TV and DVR just like I’m at home on my Android. Now DISH is even offering free Sling Adapters ( and several of my friends with kids have already taken advantage of this deal so that their kids won’t miss their cartoons while commuting from school. Not that the cartoons of today have anything on what we watched as kids.