Anyone reading this may or may not understand what I am about to tell you. There used to be only three networks to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Not this on demand, dvd, YouTube, digital download or even cable tv whenever you what it, wherever you want it. A time when yes, there were afternoon cartoon shows of countless poor quality reruns of the past. Which incidentally, are not all bad, but even when going up in my day kids did want a lot of new shows to watch. These actual new shows for cartoons were not premiered at almost random scattered Nielsen rated sweeps week all year long but within the month of September. Just when those first few days of going back to school were beginning to take a toll on the kids.
I cannot remember exactly what year it was but I could not have been older than ten. I was in the local convenience store. And I saw all those colors. The TV Guide. The FALL PREVIEW TV Guide. People under than a certain age, let me quickly explain this guide. Before the internet, before cable tv and DVDs. This magazine about the size of a paperback book how what was going to be on the following week. Even articles about other shows in advance. Yes, TV Guide is still sold, but I look at it like a failed experiment of Dr. Frankenstein. I shun it. To really appreciate TV Guide and what it stood for being that FALL Preview Issue. I paid 25¢ for that map of my childhood viewing for the next year. It could have been a warm sunny day, but I went home and began reading every single page. But the week that usually grabbed me the most, second to this glorious day of reading was when the Friday Night Preview of new Saturday morning cartoons would be broadcast. Remember again, before DVDs, VCR and VOD. So, if you did not see this show, you missed which show to see first and which show you wanted to avoid. Or in a worst case scenario, which show you would have to flip back and forth. Sometimes so loudly my mom would yell down from the kitchen to stop doing that to the TV or it will break the knob. Oh, let me add, we never owned a remote for the TV, I had to get up and physically change the channel. So, one of the rules of my home was picked a show and watch it completely. At one point, I did switch channels enough on our kitchen portable B/W (Black and White) TV that the knob broke and we had to use a pliers to change the channel. I think I might have been punished for an evening for breaking it. And even Superglue couldn’t fix the knob.
So, back to the TV GUIDE FALL PREVIEW Issue. My memory is hazy, but I am pretty sure the Friday Night Preview was listed in that Fall Preview Issue. I never subscribed at that age, but this was one time during the year that I did buy the magazine. And for 15 years I even kept the issues like a comic book collector. That faze faded. But the memories of the selection process did not. So, there I was flopped down on my bed, TV Guide open, scanning for the Friday night listings.
I went exactly to the 7 O’clock Hour. There they were. The three most important shows in my life at that moment. The Friday Night Saturday Morning Cartoon Preview Shows Listing. At one point, the shows started to air after 8PM, by then I had my mind on other subjects and never watched it them ever again. But, that is a whole other story about the downfall of Saturday Morning cartoon shows.
This show was a half hour, 30 minutes with two, maybe even three, four minute commercial breaks to give me all the information about that year’s Saturday Morning cartoon viewing habits to my interests. This show would usually have a live host and guests of that year’s top rated show who kids could relate to. There would be comments made. And then after a build up of anticipation, a mere 30 second preview would be flashed up on the TV screen. But, in my mind that would be enough to cement my viewing habits for the next year. And I would repeat this ritual all the way through high school just I just went away to college.
I did not have a preference over which network I would watch. But subconsciously, even though I never wrote it down, which show had more show previews that I wanted to learn about was the show I watched. Unless my parents were out for the evening and I had free reign to switch back and forth and hope the shows had different commercial breaks. That way I could watch one while the other was trying to sell me Old Spice After-Shave Cologne or Calgon Bath Salts. But when I watched, I watched intensely at that 30 seconds. It was like hypnosis even though I have never been hypnotized in my lifetime. I was spellbound.
Shows like Super Friends. Flash Gordon. Godzilla. Thundarr the Barbarian. Lone Ranger and Tarzan Hour. Josie and The Pussycats in Outer Space (It had sci-fi in it). The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan. Sealab 2020 (The original Saturday morning adventure show, not the Adult Swim version). Speed Buggy. Yogi’s Gang. The New Adventures of Gilligan. Wheelie and The Chopper Bunch. Partridge Family 2200AD. Hong Kong Phooey. Return To The Planet of the Apes. The Great Grape Ape Show. The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty. Dynomutt – Dog Wonder. The Robotic Stooges. Captain Caveman. I Am The Greatest (with Muhammad Ali). Space Sentinels. The New Adventures of Batman. The New Fantastic Four (Human Torch was replaced by H.E.R.B.I.E. The Robot). Fang Face. Spider-Woman. And The Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Hour. There might have been others, but these were the ones that come to mind off the top of my head.
In conclusion, kids these days who can get when they want it, where they want it are missing out on truly the lost art of anticipation. Waiting one week, maybe even two or more just to see that a animated show or shows that may or may not be rebroadcast. It concretes the memories of it even deeper than the one you can re-watch by turning on your tablet device or computer. Just for fun since you have read this far, try it. Try watching something only once. Try to look forward to something without ever looking at spoilers (those dreaded bits of information that gives away the whole plot of a story). Anticipate. Appreciate. You’ll thank me in the end.