Friday, October 7, 2016

Space Ghosts, Scoobys and Smurfs: Choosing Your Saturday Morning Schedule

Redartz:  Hello, all!  Once upon a time, Saturday mornings were the subject of great anticipation by cartoon-hungry kids with bowls of cereal, a glass of milk and a tv set (color preferably, but black-and-white would do). It was loads of fun, but there was a conundrum: there was much to choose from, on three whole networks; but you could only watch one at a time. You couldn't tape the other shows, you couldn't hunt it down on YouTube, you couldn't dvr. You had to pick one show, and thereby miss at least two others. What's more, you had to negotiate with brothers and sisters as to what entertainment would be viewed at what time. How to make such a decision? There was TV Guide, and the tv schedules  were usually available in the newspaper. But each summer, those American TV networks reached out to us with some teasers, through the pages of our favorite comic books!

Usually found in comics hitting the stands in July, August and September, these Saturday Morning promo ads were found in countless comics starting in 1966 and running well into the 80's. Some years they were scarcely seen, other years they were everywhere all summer long. Marvel, DC, Archie: the promos were found in all (making for the amusing sight of Archie showing up in DC comics, Superman in Marvel, and Spider-Man in Archie). Some networks were more forthcoming with their offerings than others, and the shows varied widely. But regardless, these previews served to whet our appetite for the Saturday morning treats awaiting in the Fall, and helped us start planning our watch schedule.

And now, for your enjoyment and appraisal:  a collection of many such ads, in chronological order identified by date and network (yes, my obsessive nature is showing):

CBS 1966
ABC 1967
CBS 1967
CBS 1968

ABC 1969

CBS 1969

CBS 1970

NBC 1972

CBS 1975
CBS 1974

CBS 1977

CBS 1978
NBC 1978

ABC 1979

CBS 1979


ABC 1980
NBC 1979

CBS 1980
NBC 1980

NBC 1981

CBS 1981

CBS 1984

CBS 1982

NBC 1984

NBC 1985

How many of these do you remember? Who had the best-looking schedule? The most attractive ad? For our friends outside the USA, how many of these shows made it onto your screens?  And most importantly, did these promos get you to tune in (that 1967 ABC schedule certainly pulled me in, for the whole morning)? Grab a bowl of "Lucky Charms" and a spot on the floor, and have at it...


Martinex1 said...

Redartz that brought back a lot of memories. Thanks for sharing all of the ads. Some of those shows I have no recollection of at all... "Fantastic Voyage"?

We had a lot of kids in my family so we had to take turns picking shows. My one sister didn't like cartoons and would inevitably pick some movie or drama on a UHF channel. Groan. No option back then as we were all crowded around one black and white set.

Fun times.

Edo Bosnar said...

I love how we keep coming back to Saturday morning cartoons (and, of course, non-animated features). What a great, nigh inexhaustible topic.
I remember all of these ads from the comic books; in some cases, I can't believe how well they're burned into my memory. I think my favorites among those you posted here are the two CBS ones from 1975 and 1977 - I just like the art, which looks like it was done by Neal Adams (the first one for sure). Another reason I like the 1975 one so much is Isis - it came up on another post a few years ago, but I just love that she looks nothing like the actual TV show, instead faux-Native American flower-child outfit complete with moccasins. And she's shown crashing through a locomotive! So awesome.

As for how my Saturday mornings played out, until I was about 9 years old, we only had a small black and white TV, so that kind of sucked. But because there was 5 and 7 years between me and my older brother and sister respectively, I mostly didn't have anyone to fight over TV privileges (my older brother lost interest in cartoons when he turned about 12 or 13, something that still hasn't happened to me).
I did do a lot of switching back and forth, but one thing I remember is that I always watched the Bugs Bunny hour no matter what, and I similarly never missed any of the cartoons featuring super-heroes (Super Friends, Filmation's Batman and Tarzan, Fantastic Four, despite Herbie, Spider-man and his Amazing Friends, Spider-woman, Plastic Man, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Redartz, I'm very much appreciating your obsessive nature. Great job and so many memories. Where to start...?

Speaking of start, 1966 is about the beginning of my memories of Saturday morning TV. I would have been turning 5. So the late 60s-early 70s would have been my heyday. Would anybody have any idea when Saturday morning started being all about programming for kids?

I had similar experiences to Edo - 2 older siblings thus the TV to myself, loved Bugs Bunny and superheroes, etc. In hindsight, what I remember about the superheroes like those early FF and Spidey cartoons was that I loved them but since I was just a little kid I had no frame of reference to the notion that they were comic book characters. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that there were actually comics that these characters were based on.

Man I could re-visit these ads all day. Edo you prompted me to give another hard look at CBS 75. Adams? Yeah I think maybe so. I also noticed at the very bottom "Remove this and put it on your wall". More excuses to be a comic cut up.


Metal Mikey said...

Pretty much 1979 and onwards are what stand out to me, the most. And discovering those ads came after their initial periods of airing, since I very intermittently collected any comics for my first 6 years of life. (Those ads did not, thankfully, influence much of my then-teenage viewing habits, because the only ones I remember being in comics in the 90's were for NBC's AWFUL teen comedies.)

William Preston said...

I was born in '62, so I start remember things around '67 or '68. CBS looks to have been the place where I hung out, since I was fond of most of those shows.

I watched way too much TV as a kid.

Redartz said...

Martinex1- "Fantastic Voyage" was a pretty cool show, four scientists who shrunk down in a flying ship and had spy- type adventures. Ran a couple seasons, I believe.

Edo- you were fortunate in terms of your channel selection! My younger brother and sister were close in age, and we had to deal over the viewing choices. There were many tradeoffs, but luckily we all agreed on the best ( Bugs Bunny, for instance). And you're probably right on that ISIS ad, sure looks like Adams.

Tom- Seems like the heyday for Saturday mornings started about 1965. Prior to that there were some cartoons and adventure shows, but the networks really seemed to start promoting them in the mid-60's. Hanna Barbara had earlier shows but they were often shown evenings in prime time.

Anonymous said...

Up here in Canada, we didn't get all of these shows (no Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, no Shazam), but some of the later ones are familiar. The old 1960s Spider-Man show was on the whole time I was growing up, so I watched that a lot. Also "Canadian" shows like Rocket Robin Hood and Mighty Hercules.

Other than that, I was pretty much an NBC guy; I watched Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Kidd Video, Mr. T. I did watch a few others: Muppet Babies sometimes, the Punky Brewster cartoon, the ALF cartoon (which was funnier than the actual show in many ways), and of course, the Looney Tunes stuff is almost ubiquitous.

Mike Wilson

Humanbelly said...

Man, that ABC 1969 line-up was just about dead-awful (other than the mentioned FANTASTIC VOYAGE, which I think I did catch a couple of times). And it was indeed SO strong a couple of years prior!

Yeah, my sisters and I had a whole wheeling-dealing "take turns" system for working out ahead of time what we'd watch when the new cartoons started. . . which almost invariably consisted of us "convincing" my youngest sister of what she wanted to choose when her turn came up. I was FAAAAAR more invested in cartoon watching over the course of our childhood than they were, though.

And even though the networks seemed to go to greater and greater lengths to build this sense of full network-loyalty for those three to five hours. . . pffft, that had absolutely zero effect on me and my pals. You'd jump to the cartoon you liked best. Period. Fool me once with that awful DR DOLITTLE. . . but you won't get me a second time. I really do remember at least a year or two prior to the examples here. Captain Kangaroo's Saturday program was huge for me, and I was crushed when they dropped it after 1968.

These comic book ads never carried much weight w/ me either, 'cause a kid (ESPECIALLY a little kid) immediately picks up that the drawings are not accurate depictions of the "real" animated characters. They look "off", y'know?

Earliest iterations of SCOOBY-DOO were by far my favorite-- through the "Scooby-doo Movies" era, in fact.
SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIE (a cool, forgotten experiment)
Wacky Races/Dastardly & Muttley & their Flying Machines
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH was surprisingly gripping.

A particular oddball favorite from the mid-70's that does NOT EXIST anywhere was the free-wheeling, tongue-in-cheek, KIDS FROM C.A.P.E.R.-- a total hoot of a spoof that disappeared pretty much after its first run. I would watch that one now. . . !


Dallan said...

One thing you neglected to mention in your (all too brief!) writeup is that, for awhile there, several networks would even air a prime time, half hour, special, preview show heralding the arrival of the coming Saturday morning cartoon season, as well! It was basically a live action version of these print ads. I don't remember too much about them, other than looking forward to them for exasperatingly long days after first glimpse of a commercial announcing their impending broadcast. I think some were narrated, and others were actually hosted by tv stars of the day. (I need to go YouTube hunting and track some down.)
Love your blog! Keep it up.
You're doing God's work. :)

Redartz said...

Thank you everyone for the comments and memories!

Mike Wilson- a brief aside comment regarding two shows you mentioned: did you know that Ralph Bakshi studios made use of some animation from "Rocket Robin Hood" while producing the Spider-Man cartoon? Specifically, one such episode was "Revolt in the 5th. Dimension". Oh, and Muppet Babies was terrific!

HB- you are right: there was no 'loyalty' to a given network, it was a tooth-and-nail competition to catch the best show (the exception, for me anyway, was that 1967 ABC season- with Spidey, FF, Beatles, George of the Jungle and that "Journey to the Center of the Earth" you noted). Also, do you recall that the networks also started featuring limited cartoon programming (usually reruns from prior seasons) on Sunday mornings? Rocky and Bullwinkle was frequently found on those Sundays.

Dallan- Thanks so much for the kind words! Doug and Karen have given us a wonderful 'playground' to run around in. Incidentally, those Saturday morning preview shows came up in another post recently; they may be a good subject for a future post. 'Stay tuned'...

Humanbelly said...

Redartz- I honestly thought the brief Sunday cartoon slot was local programming! I didn't know that was a network thing. Yep, watched that a LOT, although I don't recall what else there was besides that one show (ABC?)-- and there weren't cartoons competing on the other two channels. Often something like a Sunday morning movie (Three Stooges or Tarzan or Jungle Jim or Abbot & Costello, etc). And a related experience: Do folks recall that for years on the Friday after Thanksgiving we got a WHOLE BONUS DAY of Saturday cartoons? At least on a couple of the networks? Oh, that was a golden time--!

Another particular oddball favorite that only lasted one season: THE CURIOSITY SHOP, which was hosted, I believe, by Chuck Jones. It may have been a bit of a gem that was slightly out of its time. . .


Anonymous said...

Hmm my fuzzy memory recalls my favourites as Space Ghost, Birdman, Scooby Doo and JabberJaw!

- Mike 'I've conveniently erased Scrappy Doo from my memory banks' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Unknown said...

it's ALL about The Funky Phantom. ;)

Humanbelly said...

Funky Phantom. . . Funky Phantom. . . not even a glimmer of a memory (probably after my cartoon years, I bet). Boy, sounds like it could have been dangerously culturally offensive (!!!).

Hunh-- and THERE'S an idea for a future post, although it may veer way too much into the realm-political for the easy vibe we maintain here: Cartoon characters based on ethnic, cultural, nationalist, or even racial stereotypes. Man-- they're almost impossible to avoid the farther back in time you go.

One last quick observation-- although the Saturday morning cartoon "Boom" on television may have taken off in the early/mid '60's, IIRC it was really following a trend that had been set years earlier by the broadcast radio networks. Superman, Hopalong Cassidy, Lone Ranger-- weren't those all Saturday morning shows as well? (I'll probably try to look it up after this. . .)


Humanbelly said...

Nope-- at least not those shows. All evening programming, although many switched in later years to an after-school time slot (which makes sense).

Hmm-- my second-hand memory is a bust, perhaps?

HB (Who am I? Where am I? When am I?)

Redartz said...

Kitty Trundle- "Funky Phantom"; what a concept that was! An 18th. Century ghost helping hunt spooks and crooks...

HB- fear not regarding your second-hand memory! Seems like Saturday mornings did have a tradition of shows like you mention, as well as (for us, locally) Three Stooges shorts, and some cartoons. Those were often Casper or Woody Woodpecker, theatrical cartoons essentially. I think the local channels may have put those Saturday morning schedules together. But it all really seemed to take off in the early to mid 60's, and the first ads in the comics seemed to coincide with the advent of the "Batman" craze in '66...

Anonymous said...

@Redartz: Yeah, that sounds familiar. I know they reused backgrounds over different Spider-Man episodes, so it makes sense they'd use them for other shows too. I don't remember too many actual episodes of Rocket Robin Hood...I think I've blocked it from my memory!

Mike Wilson

Unknown said...


HB pre WB takeover cashing in on Scooby, but FP had it's own vibe, it's own charm. unlike hiptstercrap, lol

Bird of Paradise said...

The days before the NEA and the watchdog groups when saturday mornings were fun but now at least you can get them on DVD

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