Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons!

Grab your cereal and pull up a rug, it's time for Saturday morning cartoons!

Saturday morning cartoons is the term for the animated television programming which was typically scheduled on Saturday mornings on the major American television networks from the 1960s to the 1990s. In the United States, the generally accepted times considered to be Saturday mornings are 8 a.m. to noon Eastern.
In a time not so long ago, Saturday mornings were indicative of one and only one pastime for children — watching cartoons. Throughout the '70s and '80s, the broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC dominated the Saturday morning airwaves by inundating children with cartoons. Cartoons on these networks used to earn ratings of more than 20 million viewers. Today, network Saturday morning cartoons only exist on ABC Kids, FOX Kids and Kids’ WB!, the latter two networks either did not exist or did not air cartoons two decades ago. Current successful cartoons on FOX Kids or Kids’ WB! can garner a mere two million viewers. That statistic does not even take into consideration that the population of children in the U.S. has increased by approximately ten percent over the last 20 years. Due to this precipice in viewers, network cartoons are left struggling to make money while advertisers remain befuddled without a mainstream channel to promote new toys and products to children. Why have children stopped tuning in on Saturday mornings to network cartoons and what are the ramifications of this change?
Six key factors have led to children watching less Saturday morning cartoons: more recreational sports, the introduction of cable and satellite TV, the Internet and video games, a poorer quality of animation, and a greater emphasis on family time. These factors are rather self-explanatory with the exception of the latter: the divorce rate of Americans now stands at 49 percent, and time on the weekends has become more precious for children as many commute between parents’ houses. For parents who only have limited access to their children due to either divorce or career advancement, plopping them down in front of the television for five hours on a Saturday morning is no longer a viable option. Among most parents, divorced or not, there is a new emphasis on "quality" time. Consequently, taking one’s children to the theater, mall, museum, event, zoo or beach on the weekend is deemed more appropriate to being a "good" parent, than letting kids sit and watch cartoons. To this effect, American society has changed substantially enough over the last two decades to the point where Saturday morning cartoons are less important to our culture.
Before cable TV, allocating time for children’s programming on broadcast networks was at a premium. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were essentially five networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS. Consequently, these five networks had to cater to the tastes of all people. As a rule of thumb, networks aired children’s programming in times when adults did not want to watch TV. For this reason, cartoons were syndicated during weekday afternoons in the hours after children arrived from school and before adults arrived from work. Cartoons also appeared on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Sunday morning cartoons were always less successful than Saturday morning ones because they were in syndication on local channels rather than on broadcast networks, and they conflicted with many Americans’ church schedule. The most notable ‘80s Sunday morning cartoon block was The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbara, featuring shows like Fantastic Max! and Don Coyote. In the end, Saturday mornings provided the longest number of consecutive hours on which to air cartoons and proved to be the most successful.
Will cartoons ever return to Saturday mornings to the same degree that they existed during the ‘70s and ‘80s? The answer is no. The reason for this is the same reason why people no longer watch silent movies or black and white TVs or primetime sitcoms where married couples sleep in separate beds: once things evolve, they seldom return to their simpler forms. Saturday morning cartoons were a phenomenon that now resides in the history books. It is an anomaly in the history of children’s broadcasting, the likes of which will never be seen again. For anyone who remembers the paramount of Saturday morning cartoons, they can keep those memories of childhood dear in their hearts and relive some of them here on AS t.v. every Saturday morning!



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