as the networks gave in to years of lobbying from parental groups and
put an end to all violence on Saturday morning programs, syndicated
cartoons came along offering up violence galore. This marked the beginning
of the end for the golden age of Saturday morning programming.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles', 'GI Joe', 'Jem', 'Thundercats', 'Strawberry
Shortcake' and other cartoons started flooding local weekday afternoon
every popular kid show in 1988 had product tie-ins. Typically, the product
came first and then the cartoon series was offered to TV stations at
a loss - because the programs were just one long commercial! Parental
groups became even more distressed by this new trend.
the end of the 1988 season, NBC talked openly about replacing Saturday
morning cartoons with the 'Today Show' because they couldn't compete
with violent cartoons airing on independent stations and cable. NBC
finally did give up in 2001, selling their Saturday mornings to The
Discovery Channel. By then, CBS had given over its Saturday morning
programming to Nick, Jr.
there are fewer older children than there used to be, so I would say
that while five years ago we were targeting toward an eight-year old,
this year we have a six-year old audience. And it's expected to stay
that way through the Nineties." - ABC's
Saturday Morning VP Squire Rushnell in 1987.
CBS Saturday Morning Cartoon
Line Up with Commercials (1988)
The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy
Garfield and Friends (canada)
Hey Vern, It's Ernest!
Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures
To counter criticism that all Saturday Morning cartoons
are based on toys that promote violence, really old favorites like
Raggedy Ann are brought out.
It was still based on a product
of course - and sales of the doll spiked. In the cartoon, the
rag dolls meet wizards, dragons and other things to be attracted
to, then run away from. Returned for the 1989-90 season in the
The 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'
(already popular in syndication) occupied the 7:30 slot in 1988.
They would come to dominate Saturday mornings in the years to
Superman / CBS
All-new (but not very good) cartoon adventures
of the Man of Steel.
Supes had a long Saturday run
in the Sixties (CBS, 1966-1970), in the Seventies as a member
of the 'Super Friends' (ABC, 1972-1985), and in 1985-86 as part
of the 'Super Powers' team.
This 1988 series only ran one
year, it was Superman's first solo Saturday series in twenty years.
Each episode ended with a four-minute
look at Superman's past.
Muppet Babies / CBS
Fourth year of the well-executed
cartoon series that ran until 1992 on Saturdays mornings and is
still seen on cable today. 'Muppet Babies' won three Emmy awards
the first year.
The 1987-88 season also had a Henson
Saturday entry - 'Fraggle Rock' based on the HBO series - but
it didn't catch on like 'Muppet Babies' did.
Playhouse / CBS
Third year of five. Based on
the long-running punkish stage show that played on LA's Sunset
Strip in the early-Eighties, an on-stage parody of television
kid shows that actually became one.
The character of Pee-Wee
Herman was probably based on Pinky
Lee, a famous kiddie host of the Fifties.
The manic set designs were created
by underground cartoonist/artist Gary Panter. Pee Wee was CBS's
big gamble in 1986, and it paid off - ending up the highest-rated
Saturday show of the season with a huge audience of adults tuning
in as well as kids.
So many people were taping this
show and watching it later that the Neilsen ratings folks thought
they might have to overhaul the whole ratings system.
Friends / CBS
Gag me with a spoon!
It's Ernest / CBS
Based on the popular commercials that
became popular movies then a TV show (now that's a first!) - starring
country bumpkin Ernest, and a multitude of other characters brought
to life by recently deceased Jim Varney. Some interesting make-up
effects, quick cuts and short segments make it fun. Only runs one
Magazine style show for kids. Very new-wave and 'sassy' in that
from the schedule after only one month.
Mighty Mouse, the
New Adventures / CBS
Ralph Bakshi ('Fritz
the Cat' movie) goes back to his Saturday Morning roots (he worked
on 'Mighty Heroes' in 1966) to resurrect Mighty Mouse.
Lots of fun episodes that are sharply satirical
and nicely designed by John K of Ren and Stimpy fame.
The network got in a bit of trouble
when they aired an episode that seemed to show Mighty Mouse snorting
cocaine to get his powers back! (He actually snorted flower petals.)
Ratings were soft, but Mighty
Mouse was renewed for a second season.
Beany & Cecil / ABC
adventures of a seasick sea serpent, along with Dishonest John and
Based on the memorable, long-running
Sixties' cartoon series that was based on the Fifties' live action
ABC canceled it after only one month because of
creative conflicts with John Kricfalusi, whose Spumco studio was
animating it for the DIC animation company.
New Adventures of
Winnie the Pooh / ABC
Disney's two 1988 entries ('Gummi Bears' and 'Winnie the Pooh')
were competing for viewers on opposite networks - hardball programming.
The next year ('89-'90), the two
Disney shows were combined into 'Disney's Gummi Bears/Winnie The
Pooh Show', an hour show on ABC. Today, Disney owns ABC.
This show (the first TV series
for Winnie) used a higher quality animation than was common for
network Saturday mornings because it was originally run on the
fledgeling Disney Channel.
Third of four years for the Ghostbusters,
now with 7 and 14 minute 'Slimer' (a kooky ghost) episodes.
This was called the 'Real Ghostbusters'
because it's based on the famous 1984 movie - but that wasn't
the FIRST 'Ghostbusters.'
There was a live-action Saturday
morning show in 1975 called 'The Ghost Busters' with Larry Storch
and Forrest Tucker that lasted only one year.
After the movie hit, there was
a syndicated 'Ghostbusters' cartoon launched in 1986 that was
based on that original Saturday show, but it lasted only one year.
For years, lawsuits were filed
over the name 'Ghostbusters' because of this confusion.
When the Ghostbusters movie
was released on DVD in 2005, two episodes of the Real Ghostbusters
cartoon were included.
Scooby-Doo / ABC
Featured a younger version of Scooby,
Shaggy, Velma and the gang that everyone had been watching on
Saturday mornings for over a decade. Scooby runs for three years
in this format.
& Tweety / ABC
Tweety appealed more to younger kids, so he got second billing
after Bugs Bunny in 1988 - sorry, Daffy!
Musketeers Candy Bars had some unusual ads in 1988. In an
attempt to modernize the candy bar's image, three modern day ('88)
teen guys represented the Three Musketeers.
12:00 Animal Crack-ups / ABC
Game show hosted by Alan Thicke ('Pictionary') with four celebrity
panelists - people like McKenzie Astin, Charlie Callas, Betty
White, Caryn Richman, Harvey Korman, Tina Yothers, Arlene Sorkin
Produced by Vin 'America's Funniest
Home Videos' DeBona, this
show ran for three years.
Kissyfur / NBC
Returned for a second year (after
a year off). Kissyfur was a circus bear that lived in the swamp
with his father Gus. Featured 'The Popples', Care Bear-looking
creatures with hearts for ears. Ran until 1990.
The Gummi Bears / NBC
Fourth year for the cartoon show based on the popular candy (?!?).
Another first, I guess.
Smurfs / NBC
The Smurfs dominated Saturday mornings as the highest-rated Saturday
show for years, until Pee-wee came along. Smurfs was just starting
to run out of steam in 1988 after 7 years, this season knocked
back from an hour to a half-hour.
"If you look at cartoons from
ten years ago, you can really see the difference. Now there is
more of an interest in adding subtle social messages." - Winifred
White, NBC VP Saturday Mornings, 1987.
ALF / NBC
Cartoon version of the prime-time hit show about a puppet from
outer space, now in the second year of three, expanded to one-hour.
Paul Fusco was the voice of Alf.
A weird new segment, 'Alf Tales',
is introduced, about life on Alf's home planet - it was spun off
into a separate show in 1989.
In 1987, NBC had a Saturday cartoon
version of another prime-time hit, 'Punky Brewster', but it was
Also dumped by NBC in the fall
of 1988 after long runs - The Fraggles, Archie and Foofur.
The Chipmunks / NBC
Produced by Ruby-Spears, based on the 1961 prime-time cartoon,
now in the fifth of eight years.
In this format, the Chipmunks
are hanging out with some teenage girls.
"Kids don't change. If you do
a good show, you can rerun it 20 years later and it will be very
successful." - Joe Ruby
(The Completely Mental)
Ed Grimley / NBC
Martin Short's geeky 'Saturday Night
Live' character comes 'to life' as a cartoon, mixed in with live
segments starring Martin Short.
Also featured: Joe Flaherty, Andrea
Martin, Catherine O'Hara, Frank Welker, Jonathan Winters and other
Did very well - ran for a few years.
12:00 2Hip4TV / NBC
Starring Ahmet Zappa (son of Frank
Zappa) interviewing notable rock stars and presenting musical
acts from his funky basement set, complete with bowling alley.
This series lasted only five weeks,
failing to attract the older, preteen audience NBC was hoping
Ahmet Zappa's co-host was future
"Saturday Night Live" regular Colin Quinn, who was also the announcer/sidekick
on MTV's game show "Remote Control" at this time.
Too hip, indeed - in 1999 the
show was revived (basically) on late-night cable, this time with
CO-host/brother Qweezil Zappa but that series only lasted a few
weeks as well.
Jacob Gilbert writes: "2 Hip 4 TV (1988)
took a break for the Seoul Olympics, and when it came back, Ahmet
Zappa was gone, replaced by Barry Sobel (later of “227”).
Colin Quinn was actually the host of the show right from the jump,
and was still doing “Remote Control” at the same time.
I remember this because I was channel-flipping the day Sobel debuted."