Happy New Year, Saturday morning fans! It’s 2020! And as we get further into the future, it’s a good time to take a look into the past. 70 years into the past, to be exact, for the very first Saturday morning television schedule.
That’s right—while Saturday mornings wouldn’t evolve into the form most of us recognize until the end of the 1960s, they actually started in the 50s. Networks began programming for children on both weekdays and weekends, incorporating a variety of live-action programs featuring animals, acrobats, puppets and more. In light of this, Saturday Mornings Forever will be doing a year-long celebration of Saturday mornings. Every two months, we’ll be covering each decade as we see where it all began, where it ended up, and maybe even where it’s going to go.
When 1950 rolled around, television was still in its infancy. Despite having been in existence for a quarter century, the technology needed to bring some semblance of the system we’re familiar with today hadn’t yet caught up to the concept. Add a depression and a war, and TV’s overall development was hindered quite a bit.
|1950 TV by Zenith.|
However, once the war was over, TV began finding its way into the home. The technology for coast-to-coast broadcasting still wasn’t in place yet, so for anything resembling a national broadcast required the participation of affiliated local stations and physically sending a recording of the broadcast to them to air at a later date. Despite being the last network to enter the TV game, ABC was the first to eschew local programming for a national schedule on Saturday morning. It would be followed that winter by CBS, then NBC and, to a lesser extent, DuMont by the following fall.
|1959 TV ad.|
The 50s are also notorious for the lack of an archival mentality. Because of the expense of the material used to record a program, studios opted to reuse them frequently resulting in the wholesale destruction of anything previously recorded. Nobody ever considered the historical significance of what they were doing, or that anyone would ever want to see a broadcast again after seeing it once already. The concept of the rerun slowly came into fashion towards the end of the decade, thanks in large part to I Love Lucy, and the practice of erasure diminished more and more. Whatever did manage to survive was nothing short of miraculous. For many shows, the only evidence it even existed could be limited to merely blurbs in magazines and newspapers about them.
I think of the major early live Saturday Morning Shows, SPACE PATROL might be the oldest (December 1950) with existing episodes - most, if not all, of the 210 episodes of 30 minute version of the series exist in one form or another.
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