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.
You Tube - Time For Timer,
PSAs that ran between cartoons.
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
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!
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
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."