You’ve tumbled out of bed and sleepily made your way to the kitchen for a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Bowl in hand, perhaps a blanket to wrap yourself in, you flip on the television. And here you will sit for the next few hours or so, assuming you had parents that would allow such a thing. Such were the magical Saturday mornings of the 1970s.
For youngsters, Saturday mornings seemed like an amazing gift from the networks, a smorgasbord of robots, space travelers, cartoon characters and crime fighters. Little did we know that their motives weren’t exactly altruistic.
The purpose of this television programming was to herd up all the kids at the roughly the same time each week, and bombard them with every toy and breakfast cereal ad they could fit into each time slot. And that’s exactly what they did.
Meanwhile, each network had to compete for those young eyes and tried to outdo the competition with the most appealing programming. CBS had the rights to the Warner Brothers cartoons so Bugs Bunny started their schedule.
ABC, on the other hand, possessed two formidable weapons of their own, Scooby Doo and Super Friends. NBC brought some great live action to the mix with offerings such as Land of the Lost and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.
Variety shows were also popular on Saturday mornings, such as the Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show, The Krofft Superstar Variety Hour, and the Harlem Globetrotter Popcorn Machine. There were also some respectable educational efforts made, such as CBS’s In The News which helped kids understand current events, and Schoolhouse Rock which covered everything from grammar to mathematics to civics.
Usually the festivities wrapped up around noon, and once American Bandstand came on, that meant that fun time was over until next week. Oh sure, there were a few things to watch on Sunday. There was the long-running Wonderama and, of course, Davey and Goliath, but Sundays paled in comparison because the networks figured that more kids were in church than watching television.
For the serious Saturday morning aficionado, the Friday after school started was a special event all its own. That was the day that the networks announced what their lineups would be for the coming season. All three networks would round up a bunch of celebrities and premiere their fall schedule in a one-hour special on TV.
Since these usually aired simultaneously and there were no VCRs, kids found themselves flipping frantically between channels so they didn’t miss any of the action. This was the best way to put together a game plan for the following morning.
And once that special day arrived, kids across Long Island and around the country sat glued to the television for hours, watching their heroes and learning about every breakfast cereal known to man.
The Saturday Morning tradition lasted through the 80s, but quickly faded in the 90s with the proliferation of cable channels and kid’s networks such as Nickelodeon.
Future generations would never experience the same week-long anticipation for Saturday morning to arrive, a time to put all that studying aside and see if those pesky kids were going to unmask the villian de jour. Suffice to say, it was a great time to be a kid.
What are your most cherished Saturday morning memories? Did you prefer cartoons like Hong Kong Phooey or the live-action Far Out Space Nuts? I’d love to hear all of your recollections in the comments section below, as I pay humble tribute to a wondrous era.