25 September 2009

Learning something? From TV?!?

Odd, the way things work. A month ago we didn't have squat-all to do at work. Now we're working overtime-in fact I'll be going in on Saturday morning to stay ahead of a couple of big projects. It does beat sitting around trying to look busy.

I hate working on Saturday. I'll miss the morning cartoons! Actually that isn't much of a miss these days, but for people in their 30s and 40s, Saturday morning cartoons were probably a big event. I think children's programming was better back then. I remember in second grade being trooped to the school's TV to watch The Electric Company to learn all about phonics. A good watch, The Electric Company. If you watch the clip, note some of the troupe-the short woman in front is Broadway stage star Rita Moreno, and the two African-American players are none other than Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman! Quite a cast for a PBS kids' show.

But Saturday morning was the best. I'd wake up, pour a giant bowl of Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Cereal, and watch The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner cartoon show. These were the original Warner Brothers cartoons that kids enjoyed for the slapstick violence and adults enjoyed for their comments and parodies of people and events of the time.

I suspect that some of the oddball schemes Wile. E. Coyote cooked up to try to dispatch the Road Runner set me on my path to product design. Sometimes his cockamamie ideas and my cockamamie ideas come to the same bad end.

Some of the other cartoons I enjoyed were The Pink Panther (I DO like Henry Mancini's original score from the movies), Hong Kong Phooey (which probably wouldn't make it on TV today due to 'offensive stereotypes of Orientals'), Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (probably some stereotyping here as well, however I can't help but think what today's version would look like. Snoop Dogg's New Fat Albert Show-'Bust a cap in yo' ass, Russell! Hey Hey Hey!'), and the animated Star Trek (would've been great if they had today's CGI technology).

I never got into any of the Superhero cartoons, and oddly enough I don't really care all that much for Scooby-Doo. How many times to you have to debunk some ghostly figure or nefarious scheme before the crew of the Mystery Machine just looks at it as another day on the job? C'mon, man!

Of course, if you watched cartoons on a given Saturday back in the mid 1970s, you saw at least one episode of Schoolhouse Rock or its variants. I know if I gave the segments themselves a lot of thought at the time, but most of the tunes were catchy (some of them are still bouncing around in the cobwebby recesses of the vast empty hangar that is my mind) and as I watch them now, they really do cover their subjects well.

Some of the SHR's that still linger:

Conjunction Junction-hookin' up words and phrases and clauses...

Verb-The theme reminds me a bit of the theme from 'Shaft'. That Verb is one baaad motherf-/Shut yo' mouth!'

Noun-A little 70s country/rock/folk to teach you about the word for person or a place or a thing!

Bill-A three-minute bluesy jaunt through the American legislative process. Somehow this segment fits in well with the current health-care debate going on now.

Electricity-I've sat through basic electrical courses that didn't give as good a thumbnail sketch of the creation of electricity.

Good stuff, eh? And some of you either got a memory dredged up, or worse yet, learned something!

Once the 1980s rolled around, cartoons really became a way to sell a given toy line, the networks decided (rightly or not is open to debate) that they didn't have to do a lot of educational programming, and I think most of the magic was lost for Saturday cartoons. But I'm glad I was around for that particular bit of television history.

Nowadays I watch PBS for the do-it-yourself shows and Saturday night programs from the Beeb and CBC.
I do still like the occasional animated work-lampoons like The Venture Bros. and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

What'd you watch in your misspent youth? Send links to them.

A pleasant weekend, all!

yankeedog out.


  1. Hard to go past Hey, Hey It's Saturday when it was in it's prime.



  2. what I used to hate was they'd interrupt the cartoons with music clips. Battle of the planets, Astroboy and Prince Planet also Gigantor.

  3. Still tend to watch the cartoons before leaving to play footy on a Saturday. I was never very good at getting up early so I missed a lot of the Sat morning cartoons as a kid.

    I caught ALL the after school ones though. Battle of the planets was great but my favourite was Star Blazers.

  4. Bangar-'Hey Hey It's Saturday' reminds me a bit of a show from Chicago back in the day called 'Son of Svengoolie', which was a Saturday afternoon show with skits and featuring a movie (usually a Godzilla flick or similar).

    Good stuff, though, from down your way! I like the idea of winning a cruise on some EastBloc flagged liner jaunting across the South Pacific!

    Barnesy-We didn't get any anime style stuff here, except for a brief bit of 'Robotech'. Now there's a bit more of that genre on TV here.

    Nautilus-I like the ships from 'Star Blazers/Space Cruiser Yamato'. I need to pick up some of the models of those vessels!

  5. Didn't go for Sat morning cartoons, after school maybe. But Sat morning was there for going out and DOING STUFF. Playing footy/cricket, going to the beach, riding BMXs off drainage culverts, generally wreaking havoc (no K.) Though I keep meaning to get my hands on that Saturday Morning Cartoons alternative/punk covers compilation that came out in the mid 90s.

  6. Doc-You have to get the 'Saturday Morning' album! We used to listen to that at the previous job. Interesting stuff-like Sublime doing the 'Hong Kong Phooey' theme and The Ramones singing the theme from the old 'Spiderman' TV show.

  7. Remember HKP et al. Sesame St, Get Smart, big fan of I Dream Of Jeannie when I was about 9, don't tell anyone please ?
    My faves though were Batman, the Adam West version, 6 Million Dollar Man, the original Thunderbirds and any scifi on at the time, Dr Who, Blakes 7, the original BSG...
    Good times, nice post YD.

  8. Drej-I watched all of those shows myself. No worries. Well, we didn't get Thunderbirds-but we had Space: 1999 for a couple of years in the mid '70s.