Wednesday, October 8, 2014

10.8.14 Hero of the Day: Saturday morning cartoons

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Name: Saturday morning cartoons
Age: was in its 50s
Occupation: entertainers of children and kids at heart
Last Seen: on cable
Awarded For: bringing us a joy most of us will never see again

Last weekend, several large spinning noises were heard.

The spinning noises were heard from the graves of those with names such as Hanna, Barbera, Schiemer, Freleng and Jones. Yes, the innovators of Saturday morning television, where once upon a time, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturdays, kids could be kids. They could wake up with a bowl of Cheerios in their hand in front of the TV watching Bullwinkle yank Rocky out of hat, or the Road Runner outsmart Wile E. Coyote and his wide assortment of ACME products or the Smurfs tra-la-la through their neighborhood of mushrooms.

However, last weekend was indeed the end of an era when for the first time in over 50 years, no major TV network - NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox or The CW - aired a single cartoon. It was The CW that had the honor of airing the last Saturday morning program, a Japanese anime. Like the other networks, The CW is now airing live action programs suited for both young and old. True, NBC still airs cartoons on Saturday mornings, but they're aimed towards toddlers.

It's no secret that the death of Saturday morning cartoons had two big nails in the coffin: competition from cable networks like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network plus regulation from the FCC ordering broadcast stations to air several hours weekly of educational and informative programming. or programs that are rated "E/I". Ratings were also a factor, which is why the big three networks now have Saturday morning newscasts.

But I do wonder if it's the right decision for the networks to ditch the toons for shows on cooking and animals. Several weeks ago, I watched CBS's "Dream Team" lineup and I saw the same four ads over and over mixed in with the cringeworthy ads featuring abused animals in cages. Back to The CW, it's amazing that it's half-owned by Warner Bros.; why can't they air Looney Tunes or Hanna-Barbera shows on Saturday mornings for the grown-ups at least?

You see, I grew up without cable and I currently don't have it. As a kid, there was no 24/7 channel showing cartoons. For me, it was the big antenna on our roof that beamed in NBC, CBS, PBS and a fuzzy ABC into our home near Torch Lake, MI. At least I was able to watch classics like Garfield and FriendsTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse amongst others. Thankfully, I became too old for Saturday morning TV when the E/I rules came into effect.

But the good news is that those with rabbit ears are in luck. RetroTV (Channel 64.3 here in Grand Rapids) has cartoon classics on Saturday mornings, mainly Filmation stuff like He-ManShe-RaGhostbusters and The Archies. Antenna TV (17.2) even has a block of classic cartoons Saturday mornings called Totally Tooned In, showing classics from the Columbia Pictures vault such as Mister Magoo, The Fox and Crow and Gerald McBoing-Boing.

See? Not all hope is lost!


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