June 25, 2014

WHAT IS SATURDAY MORNINGS FOREVER?

            All week long, you had to be chased out of bed to get ready to go to school. But, on Saturday, you were up at or before 8AM without the aid of an alarm. You were already filling a bowl with your favorite cereal and preparing to sit in the living room and watch television for the next four hours.

            Saturday mornings were a special kind of time when you were a kid. For many of us growing up, it was the only time to see programming geared specifically towards us on a continuous basis. Especially in the days before cable and internet streaming.

            Saturday morning television was initially comprised of reruns of programs the three (that’s right, THREE) major networks broadcast during the week, or of cancelled programs that had run their course. It wasn’t until the 60s programmers saw the value of creating original programming for the time period, namely that they could target more kids for advertisers, and commissioned new shows.

            As the 60s rolled into the 70s, parent groups began criticizing some of the content seen on Saturday mornings. Too violent. Too commercial. Too stereotypical. Basically, a lot of the same things you hear brandied about today. Their influence grew and networks generated content rules for the studios producing their shows. Educational content was also slowly worked into the programs, with shows either working lessons into their plots, delivering a lesson at the end, or focused entirely around educating the viewers. Regardless, Saturday mornings continued to thrive well through the 80s.

            In the 90s, things began to shift. The Federal Communications Commission enforced a new rule in 1990 that a network was required to broadcast three hours of educational content per week, as well as tie-in merchandising during children’s hours. Many networks chose to air those three hours on Saturday mornings, replacing more popular shows in some markets with educational ones. First-run syndicated programs were subject to looser rules and standards, allowing more creative freedom and more adult-oriented content than programs designed for Saturday mornings. Cable, originally designed to provide television to those in far-off rural areas, began to become mainstream and new stations made available to everyone. This led to a rise in children-oriented stations such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, making Saturday mornings a bit redundant. And prime-time cartoons made it okay for adults to like cartoons again.

            Many networks opted to discontinue their Saturday morning programming in favor of infomercials or local programming, like news. Some continue to show reruns of old cartoons or imported programs, or have opted to show their content on Sundays instead. For all intents and purposes, Saturday morning television is dead.

            But, we remember, don’t we? We may not remember vividly, but we remember. All it takes is an image, a sound clip, seeing part of an episode and suddenly we’re transported right back to our living rooms sitting in front of the TV and watching those programs again for the first time. With the rise of television released on home media it’s easier to recapture those memories than ever before, and those memories are what we’re here to celebrate.

            Saturday Mornings Forever will endeavor to chronicle every show that ever had an original episode air on Saturday between the hours of 7AM and 1PM. Here, you’ll not only get  the rundown of what the show was about, but whatever behind the scenes information is available, original airdates (including both American and whatever country of origin for imported shows) and a complete episode guide. We’ll explore the creation and legacy of these shows and share in the rekindled memories they might bring. And, in fact, I invite YOU to share some of the memories it might rekindle in you with us. We have a comments section—use it!
           
            Welcome back to the best day of the week. I’m not sure what kind of schedule I’m going to follow in terms of getting things posted as each entry takes a while to research, compile, write down and proofread. But, I’ll try to keep it frequent and consistent. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to experiencing Saturday mornings with all of you again!

--Chris Buchner

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