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After these messages… we'll be gone, forever

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An Ode to Saturday Mornings Past
, by JessKat

I'm not quite sure how to explain this… especially to younger viewers who grew up in the 500-channel universe of cable television and satellite services and Netflix streaming… but for those of us old enough (or geeky enough) to watch cartoons over-the-air with a rabbit-ears antenna, Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons after school were the only times when animation fans could watch their favourite shows… especially where cable channels such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, YTV or Toon Disney weren't available.
 
September 28, 2014 was the day the animation died - ending a long and painful decline on broadcast television in the United States, with The CW (the newest broadcast network) being the final holdout… the last man standing, as it were.  This was the final Saturday morning with cartoons in America.
 
From here on out, animation fans in the United States will have to follow the path their Canadian counterparts took in 2001 to get their animation fix: a cable television or satellite subscription. If there is any consolation, it is that the ecosystem of Saturday morning cartoons seems healthier in Australia and Mexico.
 
To understand how we got to this point, we'll need to review the chain of events leading to the demise of animation on over-the-air television.

The beginning of the end

In 1984, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to relax limits on advertising that it imposed in the 1950s, allowing infomercials. This immediately inspired the "30-minute toy commercials" that became immensely popular as the decade wore on. These were the Transformers, ThunderCats, G.I. JOE, and He-Man series that parents detested and children loved. The backlash began in earnest against advertising towards children (and the low quality of animated series like Pac-Man: the Animated Series) from groups such as Action for Children's Television.
 
Viewers were becoming concerned of the increasing levels of fantasy violence in children's television, and by 1990, the Children's Television Act was signed into law by the FCC to address this, limit direct advertising to children, temper action/adventure series' violence and to add educational values, though this was loosely enforced until the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed.
 
Educational/Informational, or E/I requirements proved to be quite the hassle for animation houses and writers, who then had to shoehorn in educational lessons or content, change their shows entirely, or simply end their series. These requirements (and shows containing them) have simply increased since the late 1990s. With E/I programs having far lower ratings than other children's programming – as kids aren't nearly as interested in learning as their parents want them to be – this hastened the decline of Saturday mornings.
 
Increased restrictions on how much advertising could be made to children led some animation houses to believe that broadcast television was becoming less lucrative and appealing, and that they would have to move to cable television.
 
The rise of cable in the 1980s and 1990s is a large factor, with Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network offering cartoons practically 24/7 on dedicated channels. Without needing to schedule time for animation, viewers saw less of a need to dedicate Saturday mornings to their favourite shows, and the broadcast networks began to lose their audiences. The popularity of video games and the Internet, especially networked streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, led to further fragmentation.
 
The final nail in the coffin was media consolidation, with companies buying each other up to become bigger and even more profit-oriented, with the likes of Warner Brothers and Disney starting or buying television networks.
 

By network

In 1992, NBC was the first network to drop out of animation, switching to airing Saved by the Bell, various other teen-oriented comedies (such as the TNBC block), and a weekend version of the Today Show. Since this point, NBC has been programming its Saturday mornings exclusively with E/I shows alongside its news offerings.
 
Disney purchased ABC and its network owned-and-operated stations in 1996, replacing most of the existing cartoons and launching their own on the network in 1997, labelled as One Saturday Morning; though this would last until 2001, with animation ending in 2004. With Disney ending its animated line-up in favour of children-oriented comedies like those on the Disney Channel, CTV and Global in Canada followed suit, ending their animation line-ups on Saturday mornings. Disney ultimately ended programming its Saturday morning block entirely, handing it over to Litton Entertainment, filling it with E/I programming starting in 2011.
 
CBS, along with NBC was one of the first networks to air animated fare on Saturday mornings, inspired to make them as an offshoot of the Saturday matinées movie theatres used to show that featured cartoons and serials. With its vast library of cartoons, ranging from the original Terrytoons (Heckle and Jeckle, Mighty Mouse, Deputy Dawg) to Fleischer Studios (Betty Boop, Popeye) and to Famous Studios (Felix the Cat, Casper the Friendly Ghost), the network had the largest and most diverse line-up of the three networks well into the 1970s. CBS continued with Captain Kangaroo on Saturday mornings from the 1950s to the mid-1980s, alongside other programs, though its most-popular were the various incarnations of Scooby Doo and The Jetsons', CBS Storybreak, Really Wild Animals, Beakman's World, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, Garfield and Friends, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), Marsupilami, Timon & Pumbaa, and Project: Geeker. After E/I rules were tightened and strengthened in 1996, CBS, and the other networks, began changing their tactics. The network continued to air animated fare farmed-out from Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon from 2000 to 2006 after ending its own. From there, it's been exclusively E/I-oriented programming, also from Litton Entertainment.
 
FOX launched in 1986, but didn't have a real network offering of animation for its first couple of years. In 1988, Disney was preparing to gear its Disney Afternoon line-up into action. The problem was that FOX wanted to air Duck Tales, and later, the rest of The Disney Afternoon on its owned-and-operated stations and affiliates, while Disney wanted it to air on a station it purchased in Los Angeles (KCAL-TV 9) and wanted to air its programs on that station, instead of FOX's KTTV 11. Furious at this betrayal, FOX scrapped plans to air The Disney Afternoon and launched its Fox Kids lineup, spawning popular series like Eek! the Cat, Tiny Toon Adventures, Bobby's World, Power Rangers, and Biker Mice from Mars, but after 1993, some larger affiliates asked to opt out of airing Fox Kids on Saturday mornings in favour of news. When FOX outbid CBS for the NFL television broadcast rights, it hoped to gain further viewers for the games, so it bought New World Communications and its stations shortly after in 1994. They became FOX stations, though few remained interested in airing Fox Kids. As a result, by 1995 FOX left its animation block up to its affiliate stations, or other non-FOX stations in areas where the FOX station passed on airing Fox Kids. In a few cities, a WB or UPN station would air their animation block AND Fox Kids! As a result of these big network shake-ups of 1994, a few of its programs migrated over to the newly-launched WB Television Network, such as Animaniacs. By 2002, Fox Kids would be renamed the Fox Box and its programming was handed over to 4Kids Entertainment, but again, often airing on a CW or My Network TV affiliate, or even an independent station. Three years later, it was renamed once more to 4KidsTV. It would ultimately be merged with the Kids WB on The CW in 2008 to form The CW4Kids / Toonzai.
 
The WB launched in 1995 to much fanfare, and its Kids' WB lineup on Saturday Mornings and weekday afternoons was legendary. It competed with syndication's Disney Afternoon and various other cartoons with Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Batman: The Animated Series, Pokemon and other franchises from its large library of animation. The WB and UPN would later shut down in 2006, merging into The CW. While much of UPN's general programming was carried over at first, Kids WB was chosen, instead of UPN Kids. Kids' WB still exists as an online-only website-based programming block, having been revived in 2009.
 
UPN launched in 1995 within a few weeks of The WB, but was never as popular, partially for it airing usually on Sundays, instead of Saturdays. Its weekend-morning offerings were slim and largely forgettable. Its only real claim to fame was how it inherited Disney's One Saturday Morning and shifted it to an afternoon/Sunday mornings format, renaming it "Disney's One Too". This would last from 1999 to 2003.
 
The CW inherited Kids' WB from The WB in 2006, and would replace it with The CW4Kids in 2008, which would itself be renamed Toonzai from 2010 to 2012. Ultimately, Saban Brands (of Power Rangers fame) would program the children's block on Saturday (or Sunday, depending on station). From 2012 to 2014, this was Vortexx, the lone survivor of Saturday mornings. This too, would end on the weekend of September 27-28, 2014, being replaced with an E/I block by Litton Entertainment (who also program ABC and CBS' blocks) on October 4, 2014.
 
Syndication had many different shows, such as Double Dragon, James Bond Jr., and M.A.S.K., but arguably the most-famous syndicated shows were the Disney Afternoon block of shows, such as Tale Spin, Goof Troop, Darkwing Duck, and Gargoyles; part of the "Disney Renaissance" of animation of the late 1980s and early 1990s, sparked by their long-awaited successes in theatres with Oliver & Company (1986) and The Little Mermaid (1989). The Disney Afternoon started off in 1988 with the launch of Duck Tales, and its 1990 spin-off of Darkwing Duck, later expanding with Tale Spin, Goof Troop, Quack Pack, Gargoyles, Bonkers, and 101 Dalmatians, among others.
 
The CBC's fare was relatively limited, compared to American and even other Canadian networks (similar to UPN and PAX/ION), but its most popular offering was The Raccoons, which was seen in the United States on the cable network Trio (now Cloo).
 
BBS and CTV had very similar schedules for Saturday morning programming, mostly from BBS owning several CTV affiliates and a few independent stations, before buying the network entirely in 1998. Its programming was largely identical to ABC's from 1997 to 2002, simulcasting Disney's One Saturday Morning (labelling it as "BBS Master Control"), though airing some CBS programs (Marsupilami, Timon & Pumbaa), and even some older animated shows, such as Marmaduke (based on the comic strip of the same name). Before 1996, BBS and CTV aired identical programs to ABC, such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Cro, Free Willy, and Bump in the Night.
 
Global was a mixture of Fox Kids programs (having supplied Fox Kids with Dog City), as well as European programs like Tintin and domestic (Canadian) animation in the afternoon.
 
Saturday morning cartoons ended in Canada around 2002, for largely the same reasons as in the United States: cable television competition, as well as the province of Québec's law banning advertising towards children.
 
Though this may be the end of animation on the airwaves, they will live on in our hearts and memories. So, we want to hear from you about your favourite shows and your fondest memories from Saturday morning (and Sunday morning, and even weekday) cartoons.
 
While tempted to end with Porky Pig's "That's All, Folks!", I feel it's more appropriate to end on a more sombre note, given the situation:
 
Farewell, cartoons. We will miss you, and we will never forget you.
 
Saturday Morning Cartoons, 1960-2014
 

Sources

Comments

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Oh wow, great article! I grew up during the 1980s, and yeah, after-school afternoons on weekdays, then Saturday mornings... as much animation as you could watch. At the start of the 80s, few people had VCRs to tape programs with, and you never knew when an episode might repeat itself (if ever), so this was a huge incentive to be on the couch when the show aired. Within the space of a few years though, VCR prices had become a lot more affordable, and it was easier to "time-shift" when you watched your programs.

I remember the cartoon slots turning into half-hour commercials. Rainbow Brite, the My Little Pony original episode with Tirek (the first time I actually felt a bit frightened of a TV cartoon antagonist). I had a sinking feeling at the time about this new-found commercializtion, which went on for years and years. Sometimes the series were fun (Transformers), many were "enh" and utterly forgettable (Snorks), and some were just WTF awful. There would be annual trends depending on pop culture phenomenons of the time, like a year of cartoons based on arcade games (like Pac-Man), or on toy lines that hit it big (Rubik, the Amazing Cube).

I was surprised you mentioned Canada's Global network! Canadian television stations are required by law to play a minimum amount of shows produced, acted or directed in Canada (there's a points system). Global really, really, really wanted to carry American prime-time shows, so they had an extra programming block in the morning (like 6-7:30 am) when they'd air Canadian-produced cartoons. Most of the time this meant nothing but Care Bears and The Mighty Hercules (the 1960s one). Or any Nelvana cartoon. They originally made nothing but holiday specials so that they were guaranteed airplay and income in Canada; then when they got big enough they were able to make regular TV series they could market to the States.

Concerns against violence: You could tell that several cartoons wanted to be a little more edgy and mature, but were being held back. (Except anything by Filmation; they were all about having some kind of sappy moral at the end.) You'd have G.I.Joe and Cobra battles shooting a barrage of lasers back and forth - no deaths, no injuries, no explosions. If you're curious, check out the 1984 episode of Dungeons & Dragons, The Dragon's Graveyard. This was considered one of the most "violent" shows on TV at the time; that particular episode was controvertial in that the main characters went on the offensive, making a conscious decision to take the battle to their enemy. This almost never happened in most kid's shows.

Towards the end of the 80s a couple of things started to change. Disney animation re-activated itself, and the weekday slots become dominated by Disney Afternoon shows. Big influence on furry fandom; but while I admired the quality of the animation, I'd never liked the corporate behemoth side of Disney, so that killed my weekday cartoon watching for a couple of years.

There was also a reaction against the political-correctness of the 1980s; this lasted into the 1990s. Anything gross, insulting, toilet humor - people went for the lazy jokes instead of the smart ones. On the bright side, it also ushered in a willingness to do more social satire. Some of this expressed itself through cartoons. Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead), Daria, The Simpsons (especially Homer and Bart), and most of all Ren and Stimpy. Live-action wise you saw the same trend in shows like Married with Children, movies like the first Austin Powers film (an odd mix of both clever and stupid humor), and late-night talk show hosts relying on Monica Lewinsky jokes for their opening monologues for years. Other nice little animated surprises also came along such as Animaniacs.

Anyway, the politically-incorrect cartoons showed there was potential to make more cartoons for adults; although this was quite slow to evolve. The 1990 Children's Television Act you mention pretty much killed most of the weekday afternoon and Saturday Morning cartoons; I'm surprised it took until 2014 to truly end. But the early 1990s also saw the Cartoon Network and other specialty cable channels stepping in to fill the gap. (Being in Canada, I didn't get to watch a lot of these series unless a local network decided to pick them up.) This is when the more mature cartoons really took on their stride. DC was especially successful here with things like Batman: The Animated Series; and Disney took a very uncharacteristic departure into the gothic with Gargoyles.

A trend that appeared towards the end of the 1990s was international collaboration. Someone in France would write a script, basic animation would be done in Italy, it would be sent to Canada for post-production, then each of the countries would supply their own voice-acting - everyone getting some funding from their own country's government subsidies. I don't think this affected a lot of prime-time animation, but a lot of those second-rate, 5-minute filler animated cartoons all seemed to be like this. Especially if none of the characters had to speak.

And then in the 2000s, computer software like Flash made it easy to re-animate figures, do the walk cycles, all the facial and mouth movements programmed in, a sort of cut-out feeling to everyone. Anyway. Animation continues to evolve! Hooray! :-)

Interestingly, it was the crappy commercial cartoons of the early 1980s that helped put me onto the road to furry fandom. Watching cartoons had become a routine, and a lot of the time, I didn't enjoy any of them, but I still felt a preference for some over others, and I couldn't figure out why. Then one day I was looking through an issue of National Geographic, saw the word "anthropomorphic", and went to the dictionary to look it up - and then I recognized that all the cartoons I preferred had talking animal characters in them. Didn't find out about the fandom until the early 1990s, but the cartoons helped.

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hey, you're welcome! I had to mention the Canwest Global System (now Global Television Network) because I grew up in Canada watching their shows, and felt this article would be incomplete without covering everything. Your explanation of Global airing Canadian cartoons on weekdays and Saturday mornings so they could air even more American programming in prime time makes perfect sense, though i didn't realize that (or care too much at the time). :p

~ The Legendary RingtailedFox

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The first Japanese anime fan club was the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization in Los Angeles in May 1977, but one of the founders of the C/FO was a Filmation animator, Wendell Washer, who had personally bought one of the first industrial video recorders, the Umatic, in the early 1970s, and was creating a personal collection of one episode of every animated cartoon broadcast on television. This included the Japanese TV cartoons that were shown on L.A.'s Japanese-community TV station, Channel 52, once a week (in Japanese, usually subtitled in English "by KIKU-TV, Honolulu"). When the first consumer video recorders went on the market at Christmastime 1975, and s-f & cartoon fans got them, Washer was first persuaded to let fans copy his videos of TV animated cartoons that were no longer on the air, then to loan his videos of Japanese TV cartoons to early C/FO meetings until we built up a collection of our own videos. There was a lot of late '70s-early '80s video-trading between the C/FO's Mark Merlino who recorded American s-f programs like "Star Trek" and "Battlestar Galactica", and Japanese fans who recorded their TV cartoons (which was why the C/FO had so many untranslated anime videos).

Today, "all cartoons" are available on DVD collections (yeah, sure), so "nobody needs" broadcast TV cartoons any more. Still, as RingtailedFox says, it's the end of an era.

Fred Patten

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I hear "early video traders" and think porn. But that's silly, japenese anime fans wouldn't want anything dirty would they?

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Ha, ha! The earliest anime pornography wasn't until February 1984; "Lolita Anime I: Girls Tortured With Roses"; two 15-minute torture-rape of teenaged schoolgirls stories on a half-hour commercial video. Yep; we early anime collectors bought all the first commercially-released anime Original Anime Videos in 1983 & 1984, including the pornography. The "Cream Lemon" series was actually popular; those were usually animated pornographic comedies -- porno sci-fi, sword-&-sorcery, and other fantasy parody-vignettes. By then, anime fandom was growing in both Japan and North America, and all the fans plus the regular porno market made animated pornography financially practical. It was rumored that "Project A-ko" began as a porno video until someone realized, "You know, if we reduce the pornography and increase the comedy to make it just a risqué sci-fi comedy, we can have a real winner here that we can mass-market openly?" "Tentacle-rape" went in the other direction, although even "Urotskudoji" became respectable eventually; or as respectable as a horror-fantasy about giant demons with 50-foot penises raping nurses could be.

Fred Patten

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During my primary Saturday morning cartoon viewing years, it seemed like a majority of the cartoons were produced by Hanna-Barbera (even across multiple networks). These included Wacky Races, Scooby Doo, and a plethora of cartoons based on trends of the day featuring animated versions of the Harlem Globetrotters, The Jackson Five, and the Osmond Brothers. Other companies that had some representation during that era were Filmation (The Archies), Depatie-Freleng (The Pink Panther), and Warner Brothers, who at the time were still getting plenty of mileage out of their classic animated shorts (it would be more than a decade before they started producing series like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs).

Back in those days you didn't have video (VHS didn't take off until the 1980s) and you didn't have cable networks with cartoon channels, so if you wanted cartoons you watched whatever your local TV station ran at the times they ran them. On Saturday mornings they ran the network feeds, but weeknights the selection at various times included the likes of Flintstones reruns, Tom and Jerry, and one show that had some old syndicated cartoons such as Little Audrey, Baby Huey, and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Not exactly my first choices, but it was what was available, and as the saying goes, beggars can't be choosers.

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Little Audrey, Baby Huey ("Duh, I think you're da Fox an' you're tryin' ta EAT me!" -- Baby Huey's doting Momma was voiced by Mae "Betty Boop" Questal), and Casper the Friendly Ghost were all old Famous Studios theatrical cartoons that had been sold to Harvey Publications, who syndicated them to lots of local TV stations. DreamWorks Animation has just bought all of them; the old theatrical shorts and the rights to the characters. There are rumors of a forthcoming DreamWorks CGI feature starring Li'l Hot Stuff, the juvenile scarlet demon (there was never a Li'l Hot Stuff animated cartoon before, but Harvey Publications published a very successful Li'l Hot Stuff comic book for many years), and that DreamWorks has licensed out all of the Harvey characters for haute-couture clothing. Look for stylish Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Good Little Witch, and Richie Rich, the Richest Boy in the World shirts, suits, dresses, and sleepingwear soon.

Aha! I found this on the Cartoon Brew website:

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/cartoon-culture/joyrich-and-dreamworks-team-up-for-ri...

Fred Patten

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Yeah, the 1970s stuff was dominated by Hanna-Barbera and Filmation, now that I think about it. I wonder how the switch in marketing happened. That is - Ok, you had a cartoon like Scooby-Doo or Space Ghost or something, and there was merchandising created afterwards (lunchboxes, etc.) - but the series didn't seem to be created expressly *for* merchandising. The cartoons were on TV to suck up your attention for the ad breaks, the toys and breakfast cereals. That's where the revenue seemed to come from.

Then the switch happened - in the 1980s, the cartoons themselves were also advertisements. I wonder how they were pitched and greenlit? Like, say you were Hasbro, you've got this toy line called Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light - did you make the toys first, which would languish in some warehouse until the cartoon was finished, or did you make the cartoon pitch to the TV networks first, and only if they said "Sure, we'll air that," did you go ahead and invest the money into both the animation and the toys? Because without assured airtime, seems to me that would be a big financial risk. Which would mean that the TV networks had a major stake in what the next year's major toy lines would be? I dunno, I'm just wondering how the whole practice worked, how these shows and toys got created and promoted. Which came first, the concept pitch, the toy, or the cartoon?

It certainly increased the number of animation production companies during the 1980s. Now there was Sunbow, DiC, Disney, and probably a whole bunch of others I don't feel like Googling. :P

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In many; if not most, cases, the cartoon pitch was made to the networks first; but the pitch was made by the cartoon studios, not the sponsors, and it included the cartoon studio promising, "We've already got a guarantee from the sponsor that it'll buy a half-hour on your channel for this cartoon at whatever your price is." Then, if the offer was enough to meet the network's price, the network would say yes, the cartoon studio would report back to the sponsor, deals would be signed, and the studio would start cartoon production at the same time as the sponsor began the toy/merchandise production.

Of course, it was more complicated than just that. The sponsor would have had to make sure that it had enough guarantees from licensees to make enough toys, pajamas, bedsheets, lunchboxes, pet food and cereal, and whatever to cover the cost of the network's price. Sometimes the network charged more than the sponsor could sell to licensees, because the prospective licensees decided that the toys cost too much to make, or the sponsor couldn't get enough licensees. Something like Rubik's Cube might be okay for a toy, but not interest any breakfast cereal or band-aid manufacturer. Sometimes the cartoon studio said that the proposed cartoon would cost too much to produce. The studio and the sponsor would have to agree upon a mutually acceptable price, which often meant the sponsor having to pay more than it wanted to, and the studio getting less production money than it wanted.

There was the big shift in control from the cartoon studio to the network or the sponsor around the 1970s. Before then, Hanna-Barbera or whoever the studio was would create a program concept -- "Huckleberry Hound" or "Yogi Bear" or whatever, line up the licensees, and pitch it to the networks. This resulted in the cartoon studio retaining residual rights. If the cartoon was really popular, and someone wanted to license Jello rights five years later, the cartoon studio would get the money. The networks didn't like that, so they started to create their own concepts. The studios found that when they went to the networks with a proposed new lineup, the networks would say, "Not this time. We already have our own idea, for Cap'n Caveman. We'll pay you to produce it, but we own the licensing rights and the residuals." I think that in some cases, a network would license a popular concept like Pac-Man or Rubik's Cube before any cartoon studio could, sublicense the merchandising, then tell the cartoon studios, "We have this concept that needs to be turned into an animated TV series. Which of you will produce it most cheaply?" Or a giant sponsor like Hasbro or Mattel would create a concept and decide to license it directly to a network, so whatever cartoon studio produced it did so as a pen-for-hire for either the network or the sponsor. That's why some TV cartoons like "Dungeons and Dragons" took so long to come out on home video or DVD; the rights were a mess between the cartoon producer, the network, and the original creator which in that case was the TSR gaming company (or whoever).

Fred Patten

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This is sad.. I don't even have TV cable but for some reason, I feel really sad.
Why force educational garbage on a Saturday Government? I mean we already have a thing for education: School or the Internet (Depends). Let kids have a break for god's sake!

Just imagine if the Internet was controlled like cable.

Speaking of whatever, I wonder how's Boomera... oh

Diamond_Man.exe - Not real fursona
Science/Knowledge/Sense > Bias or Biased

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If anyone is actually interested in the old Hanna-Barbera "Richie Rich" TV cartoons, Mark Evanier posted this on his website this afternoon:

http://www.newsfromme.com/2014/11/17/tales-something-8/

Fred Patten

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The only reason this would be considered any loss is for nostalgic reasons, and the only sorrow is merely upon the passage of time and how things are different than what they were.

To me it is like arguing that gaming is dead/gone forever because the last arcade shut down. One is purposefully ignoring that the reason the arcade shut down because access to the content once exclusive to that domain was more accessible by more people within their own homes.

I'm hard pressed to think of many homes that have only access to public broadcast channels and with no internet these days. I'd say grandma's house, but my grandparents had cable before my family did.

I mean, could I really argue with a straight face to the kids that I had something they didn't have? When they can do a quick Google search of the cartoons I tell them were so awesome and probably watch them whenever they wanted at some video site rather than wait until one day of the week to watch a rerun of the show as you desperately await them to *ahem* 'reboot' for the third season?

It is a good well written article about an interesting event. But without it, would have the tree made a sound in mine ear when it fell? Probably not.

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Children's TV activists banned live children's TV hosts from advertising products, and that killed the live host in 1975. Now the activists stepped in it again, resulting in low-rated educational TV. They don't seem to notice or care that the good stuff is on cable, as long as it isn't over the air. Another reason why broadcast TV is becoming less and less relevant.

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One thing I remember about Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s out here on the West Coast is that they were too often preempted by sports. Years later, as Fox was playing out the last seasons of Futurama, they dumped the show on Sunday night at 7, which was usually preempted by football on the East Coast. I wouldn't have known it except for the complaints on message boards. But as I read them I couldn't help having a smug sense that finally geography worked in my favor, and someone else was having their cartoon preempted by sports.

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That happened with "Dungeons and Dragons". The TV animated series was about a group of all-American kids who were kidnapped into a fantasy role-playing world, turned into a stereotypical barbarian, knight, wizard, and the other traditional questers (with Uni, a pet baby unicorn), and every week they would have an adventure (usually fighting the villainous Venger) while trying to get home. The final episode of the final season was preempted by a sports game, leading to an urban legend that it was really the final episode to the series, in which the kids defeat the villain once and for all and get home; but nobody saw it because it was preempted. The head writer of "Dungeons and Dragons" has said that was just wishful guessing; it was really just another cliffhanger episode like any other.

Fred Patten

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I guess it's up to you guys to come up with something like this if you happen to own the full version of Adobe Flash.

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About the author

RingtailedFoxread storiescontact (login required)

a freelance editor & writer and Fox-raccoon hybrid from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, interested in bicycle riding, reading and video games