You’ve read by now that this last weekend was the first weekend in America in over 50 years without the traditional Saturday Morning Cartoons. Tears were had all over Facebook, and everyone declared that the terrorists won.
And while everyone went bananas, my son and I watched cartoons. On Saturday morning, even.
So sure, our fetishized nostalgia for Saturday Morning Cartoons (which, coincidentally, is why I keep capitalizing it) makes me think back to all of those great cartoons (and live action kid’s stuff) I used to watch – Captain N: The Game Master! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Super Mario Bros Super Show! X-men! Pee-Wee’s Playhouse! WWF Wrestling! Saved by the Bell! Punky Brewster!
This’ll take you back:
But…looking beyond that gigantic, throbbing nerd-boner I just erected, I’m not sad.
I’ll spare you the detailed history of the rise and fall of Saturday Morning Cartoons, because you can read that on Wikipedia. The long and the short of it is: Saturday mornings used to be the best time slot for networks to get cartoons to kids. The weekdays had school and after-school activities, and Sundays had, in the then-largely Christian America, church. So you knew that Saturday morning was your almost-guaranteed slot for eyeballs. And eyeballs meant ratings, ratings meant money from advertisers. Then cable TV happened. Then VCRs turned into DVD players and then into DVR machines and brought with them streaming services like Netflix. We’ve even got network-specific apps for streaming.
Kids no longer have a concept of urgency when it comes to watching a show – and if we’re lamenting something, it should be that, instead of a block of programming. Kids know what’s available to them nowadays (everything), and it’s a miracle that they actually sit through an entire cartoon anymore knowing that they can simply request another whenever they’d like. And sometimes, my son does just that.
Is my son’s fleeting attention span and saturation with options a little annoying? Sure. But I wouldn’t trade around-the-clock access to shows like Adventure Time, Regular Show, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Phineas & Ferb Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and Star Wars Rebels just to assuage my nostalgia and get back a 4-hour block of unrecordable, unrecallable shows. Oh, sure, you could have recorded them…with 30 tapes, a VCR and nimble fingers. But none of us did.
Now, I do have one problem with the death of Saturday Morning Cartoons. As a middle class guy with a household income and all the stuff that goes along with it, I’m able to pull up any cartoon any time because I’ve got cable, a DVR, Netflix and an internet-connected computer. But some Americans don’t. While I don’t know anyone who still uses rabbit ears on their television, I’m sure there’s still plenty of low income households that are living like that – and the death of Saturday Morning Cartoons means that their children have been losing out as the networks tapered programming off of the Saturday morning slot. I wonder how many families did still rely on a no-cable schedule for television.
In my household, Saturday mornings will still have cartoons. They’ll just be served up by Disney XD and the Cartoon Network instead of NBC and ABC. So while I’d love to get whipped into a nostalgia over the “death” of Saturday Morning Cartoons, I’m just going to watch cartoons instead.
BTW – I’ve showed my son The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and he hated it. If I’m sad about something, it’s that.