In My Day

Rants from a 30 Something Curmudgeon

Saturday Morning

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In my day we had a weekly holiday called Saturday Morning.  Sure, Saturday mornings still exist in the way that Wednesday mornings exist, but Saturday Mornings, capital M, were something all together different.  On a normal day I would find anyway to get a few extra minutes of sleep.  If this meant sneaking into a closet to nestle in the off season clothing, so be it.  Saturday Mornings were the exception.  It didn’t matter how late I was up the night before, there was a drive to fling my little body out my G.I. Bed Tent.  This often led to injuries given that it was perched on the top bunk.  Still in pajamas, I would walk past the shower and into straight to the kitchen where I would proceed to make a bowl of multi-colored compressed sugar with milk.  It was time to turn on the television and enjoy Saturday Morning.

The tubes warmed into a crecendo of static electricity.  The television lit up with flashing imagery that delighted the young mind into a joyous comfort that few moments could bring.  For the next few hours the world belonged to every kid who rolled themselves out of bed just to enjoy a few hours of cartoons.  For my household, like many others in the 1980’s, cable television was more of a luxury.  There were three basic network stations and PBS.  I personally perfered CBS’s line up.  Show’s like Muppet Babies, Garfield and Friends, Dungeon and Dragons, and CBS Story Break were among my favorites.  Of course a skilled watcher would know when to flip channels to maximize the enjoyment.  The only thing that brought down the elation was seeing Soul Train or ABC’s Wide World of Sports signal the end of the morning.  Thus starts another week of waiting.  The rest of the week belonged to our parents, school, and the other regulators of childhood, but during Saturday Morning, it was our time alone.

One could argue that many of the shows were just long commercials, being that so many were based on toys.  That maybe true, but it does nothing to detract from the moment they created.  We lived in happy times, blissful in our childlike ignorance, completely unaware that there were dark forces who were consipring to end Saturday Mornings forever.  Not only would they put their nefarious plans into action, but they would win.

The first group of people were the worried parents who wanted to over sanitize Saturday Morning.  Cartoons were constantly being bombarded by parent groups who worried that cartoons were not educational enough or or too violent.  Some groups complained that many of the cartoons were just selling toys, which many were.  But hey, still very entertaining.  In 1990, the FCC mandated that a certain amount of hours be set aside primarily for educational or informative purposes, thus the E/I label on many shows today.  Some good things did come out of this push.  The PSA’s we all remember and love were born out of this movement.  Who could forget Woodsy Owl, OG Readmore, and the many others.  Thanks to this one, I still don’t refuse to drown my food.

Indeed, Saturday Mornings could have very well survived these groups and initives, but cable was growing in popularity as well as VHS tapes.  There was less need to wait for Saturdays to see cartoons.  Still, Saturday Morning would have survived.  So what was the final bullet?  Saved By the Bell.  NBC decieded to run the live action show on Saturday Mornings.  The show did well among older kids and inspired NBC to run another show called California Dreaming.  Other networks started following course and the perfect storm was created.  Saturday Mornings were gasping, drowning in the sea of change.

Saturday Mornings are little more than a nostalgia trip today for those of us who lived during the golden age of childhood.  Reality TV has even taken over networks like Cartoon Network. Disney Channel is not much more than a platform to shove teens with an inflated sense of entitlement into the public stream.  And to make matters more tragic, the actual state of childhood is being dimished by Abercrombie parents and networks who find it more profitble to market to the ficitous new class called Tweens.

Although Saturday Mornings may be dead, I still want my child to experience a small portion of the joy we had.  I’ve started collecting DVD’s of shows from that era.  And when she is old enough, she will have a reason to roll out of bed, load up on cereal and watch cartoons once a week.  A time that is worth saving.

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Written by Jess Boldt

November 22, 2009 at 8:09 pm

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