From days of long ago. From unrecorded regions of your childhood. Comes a legend, the legend of Saturday Morning Cartoons. Feared by after school extracurricular sports. Loved by lazy children forced out of bed everywhere. Yes the SatAM cartoon block had been around for an incredibly long time. I could easily explain why and how it came to be. Equally I could go into explaining how it evolved over time eventually sealing it’s own demise with the slowest burn I had ever seen. Just that’s not what Saturday Morning Cartoons were. Not what they meant. Originally they were like free comic books. A weekly little continuous story block to look forward too.
An even mix of extremely butchered anime titles and licensed american series equally squaring off for your attention. It was the first time many of us got control of the living room TV let alone had other options besides whatever after school stuff was being shoved on Fox or Star 64. Most of those after school cartoon blocks being last year’s SatAM left overs anyway. You were not yet aware of exactly how much marketing went into each 21 minute minimovie and even if you did you didn’t care. You just wanted that new water magic battle damage GI Joe playset. There is this odd phenomenon where everyone thinks they watched “the last SatAM cartoon block” but that isn’t really true. Just the last Saturday morning block for their channel. After Kids’ WB and Fox Block gave up showing high quality shows Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network were still rocking SatAM with shows like this.
Saturday has stayed a proving ground for new shows for ages. Just as we get older we tend to not focus on the time block being important. Yes it was a big deal that there was a dedicated cartoon timeslot before we got Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Jetix, Boomerang, and any other number of children focused channels. Just because the bulk of the daily programming was animation it didn’t magically free up children to watch it. The Saturday morning cartoon block has been alive and well even up to a few years ago. Last set I actively watched live was on The Hub Network. That was only a few years ago. Late into the 2010s it had to date one of the best shows I have ever seen.
The shows never mattered much. The good ones lived on in one way or another. Especially when Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon branched out into larger more daily programming blocks. Netflix, Hulu, and an endless stream of illegal Dailymotion uploads saved the rest from fading away. So what exactly is the point of a Saturday Morning Cartoon block nowadays? Well none really. We have DVR, streaming, and on demand purchase options for everything. The current struggle for companies is branding. Building a large body of work behind your studio or network. For kids it’s about how they spend their Saturday mornings they will remember. It’s about what they choose to watch and having the time to indulge. As much as I want to say it was better to have a limiting time block dictate my watching, it really wasn’t. Yes I look forward to it more than I do nowadays waiting for my Saturday My Hero Academia fix. Sure I watched a good amount of shows I definitely wouldn’t have because the choice was down to the best of the worst shows on that morning.
Pepper Ann or Rocket Power is a choice I wouldn’t wish on any child today. That said just try and find something to watch on Netflix in under 20 minutes. I don’t have any idea how a kid today could use a streaming service in the limited time they have without just grabbing a random show. So I say the spirit of Saturday Morning will live on in every kid with an iPad, Netflix, and parents cool enough to let them have a few hours to themselves. Besides with nostalgia being such a strong market right now they will hear about the golden age. Either a new show will make them look up a classic.
Then of course we have the streaming apps themselves lumping older shows in themed collections to help get exposure on the titles they licensed out. Finally we have YouTubers and the like making references, doing reviews, and in a few cases just straight up giving a Saturday Morning retrospective that will guide them to some real special series while giving context. Saturday Mornings where about taking some time just for yourself to relax and do something just for you. The shows were indulgent and cheesey with a focus more about just being enjoyable above anything else. The snack food of TV shows. The Pizza Day of programing blocks. It was 5 hours of summer once a week. So even if it’s not a Saturday. Even if you don’t pick cartoons. Try and have yourself a Saturday Morning sometime each week. Some downtime to just watch what you want to. Kick back with some cereal and milk as soon as you wake up and dive on in. As for me, well consider me your extra radical 90s magazine that will push some shows your way. Expect some Saturday Morning goodness in the coming days and weeks because there is no shortage of shows worth a look today. Don’t believe me? Just YouTube 80s Saturday Morning Cartoon intros. You will find atleast 3 shows to check out regardless of what you like. Unless you seriously don’t like watching old cartoon shows in your free time. Feel free to think what you will about the magic of Saturday Morning program blocks just know I learned how to handle people like that on a Saturday Morning myself.