21 August 2011

On Saturday Morning Cartoons

I was up early yesterday morning, not feeling particularly well, so I turned on the TV.  I caught the end of the [adult swim] loop: episodes of Robot Chicken, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies and Stroker and Hoop.  After that, I switched to the other Cartoon Network feed and caught an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Then I popped in the Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray and watched three of the bonus Justice League episodes.  By then, my wife was up and we caught Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo on Cartoon Network and capped off my Saturday morning of animation with an episode of Transformers: Prime on Hub.
Ahsoka Tano is the coolest character added to Star Wars since Yoda.
It was a blast going through all that stuff, most of which I hadn't actually seen before.  Yet, one thing that really irked me was the realization that not one of my local stations shows a single cartoon on Saturday mornings anymore.  I get that now they have two different Cartoon Networks, Boomerang, Hub, two different Disney Channels, their own DVD/Blu-ray/digital libraries and access to streaming content on half a dozen devices.

Saturday morning cartoons were different from weekday after-school cartoons.

Sure, they ran Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all six days, and I can remember Transformers on Saturday mornings (the three fourth season episodes aired on Saturdays here) and later The Adventures of Batman & Robin aired on Saturdays, after Batman: The Animated Series had been a weekday show.

But for the most part, the stuff they showed on Saturdays was different.  Garfield and Friends, The Smurfs, The Tick, The Real Ghostbusters, The Snorkels, Pac-Man and perhaps the greatest of them all, Muppet Babies...you had to catch those on Saturday mornings.

The other part about this was that it was really the only time of the week that child my age was 1) generally allowed to pick what to watch on TV and 2) had to actually make a choice between channels.  The rest of the week, even the rest of Saturday, we rarely had more than one channel showing cartoons at the same time.  But on Saturday mornings, particularly after Fox really began showing cartoons, it was a frenzy!

Switching between as many as three channels isn't overwhelming today, of course, and I'm not so deep into "cranky old man" mode that I think kids today should only have a few hours a week to choose from three channels of content.  I think it's terrific that there are more options--and that those options include a lot of solid shows that have come along since I was a child.  Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Transformers: Prime are both great; I actually like both those shows more than the recent movies in either franchise and to be honest, Prime is superior in a lot of ways to the Transformers that I grew up watching (though, until they have Grimlock and the Dinobots, it's still a one-sided competition).  Yet, despite the obvious ways in which today's cartoon situation is superior to that of my childhood, I can't help but feel that today's kids are being cheated out of the kind of structure my generation enjoyed.  Cartoons were special for us.  I don't know that today's youth feel that way.