Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
Along with having worked as an executive for all three major networks, Silverman played
a large role in the growth of Saturday morning television when he was put in
charge of revitalizing CBS’ morning line-ups. He also helped usher along the creation
of Scooby-Doo (for which the character of Fred was named after him).
After becoming an independent producer in 1981, he created the shows Pandamonium
and Meatballs and Spaghetti and produced The Mighty Orbots and
Notable Roles: Ludwig Von Drake, Wally Walrus, Boris
Baddenov, Inspector Fenwick, Captain Peter “Wrong Way” Peachfuzz, Squiddly
Diddly, Morocco Mole, Double-Q, Yellow Pinkie, Claude Hopper, John Lennon,
George Harrison, Ape, Baron Otto Matic, Evil Star, The Thing, Santa Claus,
Burgermeister Meisterburger, K.A.R.R.
Frees was known as “The Man of a Thousand Voices”; a title
he shared with colleague Mel
Blanc. He began his career in the 1930s as an impressionist under the stage
name Buddy Green. This skill set would prove to be a boon to his career as he
would be called in to re-loop dialogue of other actors or correct for foreign
accents in various productions. In 1942, he began a 40-year career in radio
that was briefly interrupted by first being drafted into WWII and then attending
Art Institute before his first wife’s failing health sent him back into it.
Frees worked extensively with various animation studios of the time, including Disney, Warner
Lantz Productions, UPA, Jay Ward Productions,
MGM (which would lead him to Hanna-Barbera), DePatie-Freleng
and Ruby-Spears. His
first Saturday morning entry was The
Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, where he played multiple
roles including primary antagonist Boris Baddenov. While best known for his
voice work, Frees did make a few on-camera appearances in minor roles, was a
songwriter and a screenwriter. Frees died in 1986 from an overdose of pain
medication. Although ruled a suicide, his agent released a statement citing the
cause was heart failure.
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
The Dick Tracy Show
The Secret Squirrel Show
George of the Jungle
The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show
The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure
Fantastic Four (1967)
The Pink Panther Show
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour
The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie
Run, Joe, Run
The Pink Panther Laugh and a Half Hour and a Half Show
Notable Roles: Clarabelle
the Clown, Corny the Clown, Tinker, Captain Kangaroo, Mister Mayor, Aesop
After serving in WWII, Keeshan joined The
Howdy Doody Showduring the rise of television as the original
Clarabell the Clown. Portrayed as mute, Clarabell would communicate with horns
and would spray host Bob
Smith with a seltzer bottle. Because of a salary dispute, he and most of
the Howdy Doody cast walked off the
show in 1952 and were subsequently replaced. He played another clown, Corny, on
the local ABC program Time for Fun and created and starred in the preschool-aimed program
Developing ideas from Tinker’s, Keeshan
and his friend Jack Miller
submitted the concept of Captain
Kangarooto CBS when they were
looking for new children’s programming. CBS greenlit the show and Keeshan
starred as the titular Captain Kangaroo, so named for the large pockets on his
coat, beginning on October 3, 1955. CBS continually changed its timeslot and
length throughout its run, before he decided to end it when his contract ran
out in December of 1984. The show earned Emmy
Awards for its last three years on air. During Captain Kangaroo’s run, Keeshan tried to do a second show called Mister Mayor in 1964, but it only lasted a single year. In 1985, Keeshan hosted the
original run of CBS Storybreak for
three seasons, which featured
animated adaptations of various children’s books. He considered a revival of Captain Kangaroo, but was unable to
obtain the rights to do so. In 1987, he co-founded Corporate
Family Solutions, which provided day-care programs to businesses. He took
part in the 1993
congressional hearings against violence in video games and published his memoir
in 1995. Keeshan also received several honorary doctorates for his work with
children. Keeshan had suffered a heart attack in 1981 which led to his
receiving triple-bypass surgery. He died of another heart attack in 2004.
As a writer, he wrote an episode of The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn
Machine. As an actor, he played a police officer and bank president in an episode
of Darkwing Duck and Sid the Squid in episodes of Animaniacs, and
also provided additional voices to Mother Goose and Grimm.
Midnight debuted on October 7, 1938 as a syndicated
radio show broadcast to a few Midwest stations. Captain Midnight was a
former World War I
U.S. Army pilot named Captain Jim “Red” Albright until a general who sent him
on a dangerous mission gave him his codename when he returned at the stroke of
12. After the war, he became a private pilot that helped people in trouble.
However, when Ovaltine
took over sponsorship of the program in 1940, Albright became the head of the
Secret Squadron: an air-based paramilitary organization battling sabotage and
espionage against the country. When the United States entered World War II following
the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
the Secret Squadron joined in the battle against the Axis Powers. Most notably,
the female members of the Squadron were treated as equals and were often involved
in heavy combat missions. Captain Midnight was portrayed by Ed Prentiss, Bill Bouchey and Paul
Barnes over the course of the show.
Ad for the movie serial.
Ovaltine’s sponsorship came a move to the Mutual Radio
Network, where Captain Midnight enjoyed a national audience and
allowed it to gain a regular audience number in the millions. The show ran
until December of 1949, and in that time inspired a newspaper
comic strip, a book
and comic books published by Dell
Comics and Fawcett
Comics. In 1942, Columbia
Pictures produced a 15-chapter spin-off
serial starring Dave O’Brien.
While some of the characters from the radio show were used, the serial took
some liberties with the source material. Captain Midnight became a masked
secret identity for Albright and the Secret Squadron element was removed from
the story. The serial was later brought to television in 1953 through early
1954 as Captain
Midnight’s Adventure Theatre.
The Silver Dart takes flight.
the same time, Columbia’s television arm, Screen Gems, was working on adapting Captain
Midnight for television as an ongoing show. Once again, some liberties were
taken with the source material as Captain Midnight (Richard Webb, an actual
veteran who got the role despite being older than what they were looking for)
became a veteran of the Korean War. Although
the Secret Squadron was in place this time, the only other established character
was chief mechanic Ichabod “Icky” Mudd (Sid Melton), who served as the show’s
comic relief. Joining them was scientist Dr. Aristotle “Tut” Jones (Olan Soule,
who played Agent Kelly, SS-11 on the radio show). The Squadron was a private
group often asked to deal with enemy agents, rogue scientists, investigate
sabotage and, in general, protect the country from the forces of evil. Despite
the science fiction elements present in the show such as robot bombs and space
stations, Midnight was the only action hero on TV at the time to not venture
out into space, sticking to the skies and the Earth’s orbit in his Silver Dart;
the experimental Douglas
D-558-2 Skyrocket which had both a jet engine and a rocket engine.
Ikky, Captain Midnight and Tut in the middle of a mystery.
an offer in their products for a membership kit that included a decoder badge
that would allow viewers to transcribe a secret message given to them each
episode. However, they continually only saw a marginal and temporary increase
in their sales as a lot of people would merely steal the wax seal from the
Ovaltine jar that they needed to send in. At a public appearance, Webb asked
those in attendance what their favorite breakfast drink was, and received the
overwhelmingly resounding reply of “Bosco!”
Since Ovaltine saw Captain Midnight as just a marketing tool to move
their product, they pulled their sponsorship and ended production of the show
after just two seasons, despite its popularity.
Original VHS release.
show entered into syndicated reruns in 1958, a problem arose. The Wander Company, the parent company of
Ovaltine, owned the rights to the Captain Midnight name. As a result, Screen
Gems was forced to change the name of the series to Jet Jackson, Flying
Commando for both the title and in every instance the name was said. Screen
Gems to attempted to purchase the rights from The Wander Company using Webb as
a mediator, but they wanted to hold onto the series for future use. Depending
on the source, the original Captain Midnight is either still on a shelf
somewhere, or the prints had long been destroyed. Parade Video released a VHS collection
of two episodes, which Rhino Video later
re-released as Captain
Midnight Flies Againalong with a second VHS
collection containing two episodes. All four episodes were from the second season.
“Murder by Radiation” (9/4/54) – Captain Midnight has to
recover a radioactive element from foreign agents.
“Electronic Killer” (9/11/54) – Enemy agents kidnap Captain
Midnight’s friend in order to get the secrets of his new guided missile.
“Deadly Diamonds” (9/18/54) – The Secret Squadron is sent to
track down a dangerous group of diamond smugglers with the help of one of Tut’s
“The Lost Moon” (9/25/54) – Captain Midnight has to discover
the secret of a lost moon orbiting Earth before enemy agents get their first
and take control of the planet.
“Death Below Zero” (10/2/54) – The investigation of the
poisoning of a dog belonging to a member of the Squadron leads Captain Midnight
to be locked into a cold storage locker.
“Operation Failure” (10/9/54) – Captain Midnight goes behind
the Iron Curtain to rescue a freedom fighter.
“Trapped Behind Bars” (10/16/54) – An investigation into
prison riots leads Captain Midnight and Ikky going undercover as prisoners.
“Counterfeit Millions” (10/23/54) – Captain Midnight
discovers the method in which counterfeit money is entering the country.
“The Walking Ghost” (10/30/54) – A Squadron agent comes to
Captain Midnight for help in exorcising a ghost from a Southern mansion.
“Secret of the Jungle” (11/6/54) – An African vacation
becomes a mystery to find a stolen idol.
“Sabotage Under the Sea” (11/13/54) – Captain Midnight
engages an enemy submarine to find an experimental missile that disappeared.
“Isle of Mystery” (11/20/54) – Captain Midnight and Ikky are
sent to investigate why the small island of Luana withdraws permission for the
US to conduct atomic tests in the area.
“The Curse of the Pharaohs” (11/27/54) – Captain Midnight is
asked to investigate the disappearance of an archaeologist.
“The Deserters” (12/4/54) – While helping Squadron members
evicted from their clubhouse by developers, Captain Midnight stumbles onto a
“The Electrified Man” (12/11/54) – A scientist working on a countermeasure
for radioactive dust becomes incredibly dangerous after using too much energy.
“The Young Criminal” (12/18/54) – Captain Midnight sponsors
a youth gym to battle juvenile delinquency, and one of the patrons becomes
enamored with the lifestyle of a poolroom owner.
“The Deadly Project” (12/25/54) – A scientist working on a
heat-resistant metal for the Air Force is targeted by a rival who developed a
“Touchdown Terror” (1/1/55) – Captain Midnight and a quarterback
are kidnapped when the player refuses to throw an important game.
“Top Secret Weapons” (1/8/55) – Captain Midnight gives
asylum to a young refugee who was hypnotized to spy on the secret weapon being
developed at headquarters.
“The Human Bomb” (1/15/55) – A munitions genius is released
from prison and plots revenge against those that put him there.
“The Mark of Death” (1/22/55) – Heading to deliver a goodwill
message to India leads Captain Midnight and Ikky to have to rescue Bengra Tassi
from The Executioner.
“Arctic Avalanche” (1/29/55) – Convinced to take a sick
Eskimo to a hospital, Captain Midnight and Ikky end up walking into a trap.
“Mystery of the Forest” (2/5/55) – Captain Midnight and Ikky
pose as lumberjacks to investigate the largest non-nuclear explosion in
“The Invisible Terror” (2/12/55) – Captain Midnight has to
find the formula for a retrovirus that can protect the country from a
“Saboteurs of the Sky” (2/19/55) – Captain Midnight has to
find a kidnapped Squadron member who developed a method of creating hurricanes.
“Peril from the Arctic” (2/26/55) – Captain Midnight and
Ikky investigate a renegade scientist experimenting with an anti-magnetic force
to be used against the country.
“The Secret Room” (10/29/55) – Captain Midnight busts a
phony séance racket designed to distract from the theft of an invention.
“Mission to Mexico” (11/5/55) – Captain Midnight and Ikky go
to Mexico to find a radio station that broadcasted a message referring to fissionable
materials that might be used against the US.
“The Frozen Men” (11/12/55) – Captain Midnight braves a nuclear
testing ground in order to free a scientist from suspended animation.
“Doctors of Doom” (11/19/55) – Investigating reports of a
giant leads Captain Midnight to a sanitarium housing enslaved scientists.
“Sunken Sapphires” (11/26/55) – Captain Midnight and Ikky
help young siblings retrieve a cache of jewels.
“Master Criminal” (12/3/55) – A top criminal surrenders to
the Squadron in order to get access to the new jet engine being developed at headquarters.
“Secret of Superstition Mountain” (12/10/55) – Ghostly apparitions
harass Captain Midnight and Ikky when they find hidden treasure in Arizona.
“The Mountain of Fire” (12/17/55) – A volcanic eruption masks
the sabotage of an experiment to turn volcanic heat into electricity.
“The Jungle Pit” (12/24/55) – Captain Midnight and Ikky help
a Japanese boy find his father on an island who doesn’t know World War II
“Flight into the Unknown” (12/31/55) – Captain Midnight and
Ikky track down a banker who disappeared with a large sum of money.
“The Runaway Suitcase” (1/7/56) – A police officer comes to
Captain Midnight to help clear his name for a theft he didn’t commit.
“Million Dollar Diamond” (1/14/56) – A boy comes to Captain
Midnight about his abusive father, leading him to discover the man has been
replaced by a double to steal a valuable diamond.
“The Human Bullet” (1/21/56) – Captain Midnight volunteers
to test a new rocket sled, discovering an attempt to sabotage it and discredit
Company was a Saturday morning variety show hosted by Johnny Olson, his third
show for DuMont,
and Joe Palookacreator
Ham Fisher. It was a talent showcase where kids could come on and demonstrate
their particular skills for a television audience, such as dancing, singing, playing
an instrument and more. An off-stage organ would usually play along for the
musical acts under the stewardship of musical director Bill Wirges.
Among the youngsters that appeared were George Segal, Leslie Uggams, Bobby Darin and Marvin Hamlisch, all of whom grew up to
have careers in the entertainment industry.
Johnny Olson and his co-host.
Company debuted on DuMont on September 1, 1951 and ran for two seasons,
originating from the Ambassador
Theater in New York City. The show was primarily sponsored by The Red Goose Shoe
Company and their mascot, a red goose (naturally), appeared on the show in
puppet form to interact with the hosts during commercial segments. As a result,
Red Goose shoes were often awarded to the show’s participants, as were watches and defense bonds. Each week an award was presented for “Kid of the
Week”, recognizing examples of great courage and determination and overall good
community citizenship. The awards were given by the National Junior Chamber of Commerce, and were
often presented by guest celebrities. For the final episode of the season, a “Kid
of the Year” was chosen and was given a trip to meet President Harry
S. Truman, amongst other prizes. Bill Ballard served as a writer
for the show.
A baton twirler does his thing.
In 1956, Olson
and the puppet were reunited by ABC for three
ninety-minute specials called Red Goose Kiddie Spectaculars, which were
essentially a revival of the concept of Kids and Company. Known
surviving episodes of the original show are held by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Paley Center for Media and the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Before
his death in 1955, Fisher’s Joe Palooka would become a brief media
empire and eventually ended its newspaper run in 1984. Olson’s career led to
his being off-camera more than on as a popular on-air announcer, particularly
for gameshows created by Goodson-Todman
Productions, which he did until his death in 1985.
Winchell had ambitions to become a doctor, but the Great
Depression eliminated any possibility of his family affording medical
school. While sick with polio, he saw an ad for a ventriloquism kit and created
his first dummy: Jerry Mahoney. He worked on his act and took it to the Major Bowes Amateur Hourin
1938, which he won. The prize included touring and playing with the Major Bowes Review.
Bandleader Ted Weems saw
Winchell and offered him employment, which Winchell accepted. He refined
Jerry’s design and created a second dummy, Knucklehead Smiff. He also created
Ozwald, a character rendered by drawing a face on his chin and filming himself
upside-down. He and Jerry first appeared on radio in 1943, but was overshadowed
by Edgar Bergen. They found
success in the 1950s on television with The Paul Winchell Show, which
aired in various timeslots under various names and formats for its duration.
Following that, Winchell and his dummies appeared on various programs, with his
last regular on-screen role being in the children’s game show Runaround. Beginning
in 1968, Winchell became a voice actor, notably as the voice of Dick Dastardly
for Hanna-Barbera and
Tigger in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh franchise,
and later on as Gargamel in The Smurfs franchise. In between, Winchell
realized his medical ambitions by becoming a pre-med student at Columbia University, a graduate of The
Acupuncture Research College of Los Angeles, working as a medical hypnotist at
the Gibbs Institute in Hollywood, invented an artificial heart with Dr. Henry
Heimlich, and developed over 30 patents. In the 1980s, he attempted to aid
starvation in Africa by coming up with a way to cultivate tilapia fish in
tribal villages, but was denied Congressional support. Winchell retired from
acting in 1999 and died of natural causes in 2005.
Dink and You was the pioneer in interactive television, and some would even
say was the first video game.
Promo image of host John Barry with Winky Dink and their show's gimmick.
Harry Prichett was a graphic
designer working for the agency that handled the account for Benrus Watches, the primary sponsor of Your Show of Shows. At
one point, Benrus had a campaign that advertised their watches as being “$39.95
and up”. Overscan
(when portions of the broadcasted image ending up outside the visible area of the
television screen on certain sets) often cut off the “and up” part of the
promotion. As a result, customers were angry that they couldn’t buy the
specific watch shown on one of the commercials for that price.
Barry with Winky Dink's voice, Mae Questel.
The agency’s staff was tasked with
watching the show and reporting back what was visible on their screens.
Prichett got the idea to put a piece of cellulose acetate film over his screen
so that he could sketch out exactly what was visible in grease pencil. While
waiting, he kept himself entertained by doodling over the images on the screen,
erasing them, and doodling new ones. While working on another commercial,
Prichett once again performed the screen doodles with his colleague, Ed Wyckoff, present. He drew a
stick figure in the middle of a prize fight and the fighters seemed to interact
with the figure, and vice versa. They realized that kids might enjoy doing that
and figured they had a perfect marketing opportunity on their hands. They came
up with the concept of their interactive television show and pitched it to CBS.
Barry interacting with Winky Dink.
Winky Dink and You debuted
on CBS on October 10, 1953. The show featured live-action host Jack Barry
company co-produced the series) and his assistant, the dim-witted Mr. Bungle
(Dayton Allen), interacting with animated little boy Winky Dink (Mae Questel) via an on-set screen. Each
week, Barry would prompt the viewers on how and when to draw on their screens
as either part of a sketch featuring him and Mr. Bungle, or to help Winky Dink on one of his adventures. For instance, Barry could be
talking to a woman comprised entirely of prop puppet lips on the stage and would task
the kids at home to draw in the rest of her body. Or Winky Dink, in all his
extremely limited animation glory, would need a way to cross a river and would
wait for the kids to connect dots and draw in a bridge for him to continue
(naturally, as the segments were pre-rendered, Winky Dink would get
across if the kids drew anything or not). There were also word games where kids
were asked to trace letters that appeared on the screen in order to receive a
secret message, and pictures that would need to be completed by drawing in various
M. Heyward served as a writer for the show.
A group of kids waiting for their turn to draw on the magic screen.
The audience participation was
accomplished through the Winky
Dink Magic Television Kit. For 50 cents through a television mail-in offer—or
$2.95 for a deluxe
version available in toy stores—kids could get a plastic screen, wiping cloth
and colorful crayons. The screen was charged with static electricity by wiping
the cloth on it and then sticking it against the TV’s screen where it would, in
theory, stay in place (in practice, however, the screens often had trouble
achieving the necessary cling to stay up). They could then draw on the plastic screen
with the crayons in the colors and places designated by Barry, and then wipe it
off with the cloth for the next segment.
A page from the Winky Dink comic, keeping up the interactivity of the show.
Unfortunately, despite everything
going well for the series, CBS ultimately decided to cancel it in 1957. One
reason was the concerns about x-rays
emanating from TV picture tubes—especially on early color sets—and the close
proximity children had to be to them in order to draw on the plastic screen.
The other reason was CBS received numerous complaints from parents who had
decided to not purchase the Magic Kit, which inspired their children to draw on
the actual screen and ruin their (relatively expensive) sets.
Despite the show’s end, the series
had remained ingrained into the minds and hearts of the kids who grew up
watching it to the point that Wyckoff was often greeted with renditions of the
theme song. An attempt was made to revive the series in 1969 with 65 syndicated
color episodes during the nostalgia craze, but it didn’t catch on as
prolifically as the original. In the late 1990s/early 2000s, some of the
syndicated episodes were packaged
together with a new Magic Kit.
Notable Roles: Ruff, Professor Gizmo,Ricochet
Rabbit, Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo, Muttley, Spike, Boo Boo Bear, Ranger Smith, Dr.
Benton Quest, Mumbly, Godzooky, Bamm-Bamm Rubble, Papa Smurf, Azrael, Dreamy
Smurf, Astro, R.U.D.I., U.N.I.B.L.A.B., Hamton J. Pig, Droopy Dog
Messick originally wanted to be a ventriloquist and made a
living at it early on. After performing in front of the program manager and
chief announcer of radio station WBOC in Salisbury,
Maryland, he was given his own weekly show at age 15 where he performed all of
the voices and sound effects. After serving in the U.S. Army’s Special
Services unit, Messick was hired by the Mutual
Broadcasting radio station in Los Angeles to play Raggedy Andy and Farmer
Seedling on The
Raggedy Ann Show. At the suggestion of Daws Butler, director Tex Avery hired Messick to perform
the voice of Droopy Dog when his regular actor, Bill Thompson, was unavailable,
giving Messick his start in animation. He and Butler joined Hanna-Barbera as regular
players in 1957 and were often paired together. Messick typically played
sidekicks like Boo Boo Bear, provided the narration for various shows, or sound
effects for various creatures. He became a major headliner when he was cast as
the voice of Scooby-Doo,
which would turn out to be the studio’s most enduring character. However, after
Pup Named Scooby-Doo, he retired from the role, claiming quitting
smoking robbed him of the rasp he needed to perform it (although he did perform
one more time in a 1996 Burger
King commercial). After suffering a stroke while recording in 1996, Messick
retired from voice acting altogether. He died from a second stroke the following
She provided the Mexican dubs for Diamond Tiara, Fleur De Verre and
Cloudchaser in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic; Flora in Pokémon:
Black and White;Frankie Greene in Transformers: Rescue Bots;
Pip in Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal;Sid Chang in The Loud House; Elise
in Pokémon XY; Shasa Guten in Beyblade Burst: Evolution; and Makini
in The Lion Guard.