Thursday, April 05, 2007

Saturday Morning's All Right for Watching

Courtesy of a two-page center spread in Top Comics: Uncle Scrooge #2, let's set the Time Bubble for September 1967! South Vietnam holds its first elections! NASA space probe Surveyor V lands on the moon! Jim Morrison sings about getting higher on The Ed Sullivan Show! Harry Connick, Jr. is born! BBC Radio 1 is launched! But to heck with all of those things...The CBS Saturday Morning Cartoon Lineup trumps them all!:

CBS Saturday Morning 1967 Lineup Ad
(Click image to embiggen)

You young whippersnappers today with your Nickeledeon and your Cartoon Network and your Kids WB and your BBC America may find this hard to believe, but at one time American kids, hopped up on pure cane sugar and unfiltered cigarettes, had exactly three networks of Saturday morning TV viewing to choose from (except for the weird kids watchin' PBS). You had your choice of NBC, CBS, and ABC, and CBS surely was targeting the growing fans of comic books with these series, weren't they? According to this excellent survey page of 1967's Saturday mornings, ABC had CBS well-beat from 9:30 to 10:30 with the double-punch of the original Fantastic Four and Spider-Man cartoons, but I'd sure as heck be hanging onto CBS for the rest of the morning.

The banner on the ad reads "Saturday's Super Heroes," and hoo boy, they weren't kiddin': except for the day opening with (unshown in this ad) Captain Kangaroo and ending with The Road Runner, every single show on CBS's '67 lineup is science-fantasy heroic adventure. What's interesting is that of all the shows in the '67 CBS Saturday morning lineup, only two can probably be considered true "classics" (minus the word "camp" in front of that): Jonny Quest and Space Ghost. Jonny was in its third year, but no original episodes were being broadcast since the show's first season, perhaps contributing to its placement in the tail-end "graveyard" of the lineup at 12:30 PM. (But the cartoon lineup ran until 2 PM with The Road Runner!) Poor Space Ghost doesn't even get a picture in this cartoon ad; the man known south of the border as El Fantasma del Espacio was only in his second season, yet like Jonny, new episodes were produced only in season one and the rest of his run was re-runs. You can catch most of the other shows shown here on Boomerang and they haven't aged well, but those two seem to have stood the test of time. I'm fairly partial to the updated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the Quest parody The Venture Brothers, and it's out of love for the original concepts that I came to enjoy the new ones.

By the early '80s the great art of action-adventure cartoons seemed to be at a nadir, replaced by gag cartoons like Heathcliff, The Smurfs, The Littles, Laverne and Shirley in the Army (their sargeant was a pig! Really!) and Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (they travelled in a time machine with a dog named Mister Cool!) Slowly the field began to build up again (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was an early sign of the swing back) and by the mid to late 1980s we had turtles, transforming robots, real American heroes, and, by the early nineties, the height of the TV animation medium, Batman: The Animated Series. Which all goes to show: if you don't like what's on TV now, wait a while. Surely something you like will come along soon. Me? I'm waiting for the Gilmore Girls 2099 cartoon.

Purely to win brownie points with Tegan, here's a closeup of panel for The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure:

The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure

Secret messages? Way cool! I hope they spelled out ZJFZNZM RH XLLO ZMW MLG ZG ZOO OZNV.

Parents of today may think twenty-first century kids have a lot to keep track of—schoolwork, friends, instant messaging, Tivo, MySpace, MP3s, Gogurt, and a million other outside demands for time, which can dog-pile on the young 'uns of today and sadly lead to child stress and meltdown. Well, I'm telling you, those kids have nothing against the children of '67, who had to keep track of dozens of amazing Saturday cartoon shows in their pre-cell-phone limited memories! No wonder kids in the late 60s were snapping left and right! But Bully! (I hear you asking.) How the heck could we even keep track of such a wonderful line-up of senses-shattering action, adventure, magic and heroism back in the Summer of Love? Why, that's simple, true believers, because with the same thoughtfulness and generosity they will later show in allowing Julie Chen to report on both news and reality TV, CBS has provided a handy pocket chart:

CBS '67 Saturday checklist

Don't even bother asking Mom and Dad for permission to use the scissors, kids: just tear it out of your hard-earned comic! Who cares if you're ripping out a panel of Carl Barks's sublime work on the other side? No matter if you've just destroyed the future resale and collectible value of your weird-ass bumpkin Top Comic! Paste it in your scrapbook alongside all your Marvel Value Stamps! Just don't come crying to me when Mike Sterling tells you that Top Comic you want to sell to him is worth pennies instead of thousands because you tore out the freakin' chart!

So. Saturday cartoons. I miss 'em. And so do you.


Anonymous said...

I have vague memories of seeing The Impossibles and Frankenstein Jr. and thinking they were great.

But I was 8 at the time, so I'm not sure I'd feel the same if I saw them now.

googum said...

Wow, I feel slightly less old, since I was all about later-issue 'toons like Super Friends and Battle of the Planets...and Space Ghost, and the Herculoids, and Jonny Quest, so I guess I'm old after all.

My older son loves Krypto, and will get up early for that. He'll occasionally watch the Batman and Legion of Super-Heroes with me, but it's a far cry from the days when Saturday morning was an event to be looked forward to all week.

rob! said...

hey bully,

can i use that embiggened scan for my Aquaman Shrine? i had planned to dig through all my old DCs to find it, but you've saved me the time!

but i'll only use it if i get the hooves up from you...

Tom Bondurant said...

I can't get over ... a Moby Dick cartoon?!? I'm picturing "Time For Timer"-style interstitials on how the whaling industry works.

But yeah, it seems like I was more of an ABC kid growing up: Scooby-Doo, Super Friends, other assorted Hanna-Barbera shows. Deeper into the '70s, CBS had the Filmation versions of Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, and Batman, as well as the live-action shows like Shazam!, Isis, and Ark II. I stopped paying attention to NBC after the animated Star Trek was cancelled, but they had the second Fantastic Four cartoon (with Herbie), Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, and an animated Shazam! show as well.

Not only were there these two-page spreads in the comics, the networks ran Friday-night preview specials the day before the new Saturday-morning season began. (At least they did in the '70s; I don't know about earlier.)

Good times.

Bully said...


Of course you can. Please help yourself. (Please copy and save to your own server rather than hotlinking is all I ask!)

Yer little stuffed Aquapal,



Don't forget my two favorite CBS live-action shows: Space Academy and Jason of Star Command. I loved these shows to pieces. How much did I love them?

I wrote SA and Jason fan fiction.

rob! said...


thanks so much!

and absolutely, i'll be hosting it myself. i'll let you known when i post and def give you a shout-out.


Jeff Rients said...

Although a little before my time I still dig the Herculoids whenever I can catch an episode.

FoldedSoup said...

their sargeant was a pig! Really!

Not just a pig.. but a pig voiced by Horshack himself, Ron Palillo.

I don't know why that stuck with me, but I remember it from my kiddiedom.

And, yeah.. nothing beat the anticipation of those Saturdays. And I did cut out a few of those planners myself to lay out my upcoming season's viewing. I can still remember "Holy Crap! Darkseid and Firestorm are on the Superfriends this season!?!" blowing my young mind.

Dorian said...

Hey, The Smurfs was an adventure cartoon! Especially in its early years, when many stories were based on Peyo's comics. It didn't degenerate into a gag show until much later in its life-cycle.

(I so rarely get to bring out my irrational Smurf-fan side, Bully)

SallyP said...

*sniff* I used to love Saturday mornings. God, I miss Jonny Quest and Space Ghost. Tarzan and Zorro which came later were pretty good too.

Ever see Galaxy Rangers? Great stuff.

Sleestak said...

That schedule embodies some of the best toons ever.

Bill D. said...

Apparently there was a Mork and Mindy toon, too, but I never saw that one. I remember the Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley cartoons, though. Yeah, besides maybe Spider-Woman, Superfriends and a season or two of Pac-Man, I tended to avoid ABC cartoons when I was younger. The Littles, The Puppy's New Adventures, and that creepy Rubik the Amazing Cube show... all kinds of not-good to be found there.

But I always did love the Saturday morning ads, and I always watched the Friday night preview specials. The last one I remember watching was the one that introduced Saved By The Bell, which of course, eventually killed Saturday morning. There's a special place in Hell reserved for Mark Paul Gosselar and the gang for that.

Captain Infinity said...

Did Captain Marvel have different powers back then, because I don't remember him ever yelling "Shazzan!"

Devon Sanders said...

Man, I miss being a kid.

Anonymous said...

I still remember the TV promo song:
"Men of the future! Men of the past! A Whale and a Genie! It's a Super-Blast! Saturday Morning CBS Cartooniverse!"

Richard said...

I must have been glued to the television set on Saturdays, because I remember this entire lineup vividly. (I'm a little surprised that Marionette must be older than I am, because I didn't think anyone was.)

One thing I've learned since then is that Johnny Quest is even better than you remember it being. And Moby Dick was not about the whaling industry.