Ah, sweet memories!. Now if you’re not familiar, you may wonder what the big deal is. A special previewing the new line up for Saturday mornings? What’s so special about that? Well, some of these specials were really cool, even going above and beyond to get us excited for the brand new shows coming on the next morning.
They usually aired the Friday before the new cartoons were set to premiere (which as a kid was as exciting as Christmas!). In the 70’s they were like variety shows with music and entertainment. In the 80’s some networks got more creative to present these shows, even including a plot in many! So today I want to change my format a bit, and do a quick overview of some of these very memorable specials.
As I noted these began in the 70’s but I was way too young to remember those. They seemed silly enough with specials hosted by The Osmonds,The Brady Kids, Lee Majors, and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.  But I wanted to acknowledge these so I asked my good friend Les if he remembered anything special about these shows.

Les: Not really.  The 70’s specials were of the variety show type, with loads of guest stars and short comedy/music sketches  The Kroft Supershow, for instance was one of those comedy troupes that does short bits and basically emcees the shows that they showcase.  They troupe consisted of a”Fonzie” clone called “Captain Cool,” his girlfriend,”Superchick,” a ditzy southern girl called “Nashville,” and a cliche sidekick dummy called “Turkey.”  In the special, they had some of the stars from the shows (Billy Barty, the midget was a star in Dr.Shrinker) and, for some reason, Darth Vader from Star Wars(Even though he never appeared on the show again LOL!
RichB:Cool! Almost a shame that I missed them. Thanks for the insight my friend.
So let’s discuss the shows which aired in the 80’s that I do remember (well, sort of) :

 

ABC:

 

This network’s preview specials weren’t the most creative.Over the year’s their Saturday Morning Preview Specials have been hosted by the casts of popular sitcoms at the time including Perfect Strangers, Mr.Belvedere,Roseanne and the cast of Family Matters, Boy Meets World, and Step By Step among others. The early 80’s had two Dick Clark hosted specials. One also featured Henry Winkler and Scooby and Scrappy Doo. The other in 1983 was unique because not only did Dick Clark preview the new Saturday morning line up but they looked back at the last 30 years of Saturday Morning on ABC. In 1984 there was a special called Preview Park hosted by “Weird Al” Yankovic, featuring Wolfman Jack, Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo. The trio is touring an amusement park while talking about the awesome new shows coming on Saturday morning.
In 1985 they had a show called Saturday Sneak Peek & Fun Fit Test hosted by Tony Danza. This special actually featured the droids of Star Wars! I would love to find this online! I have no memory of it but it sounds cool! On the show Mary Lou Retton gave a “Fun Fit Test” as a preview of her five minute “Fun Fit” show. The special is not online but some of her Fun Fit segments are. ABC was the only network to keep these specials going well into the 90’s including One Saturday Morning on Friday Night, a preview special for their One Saturday Morning lineup and Preview Party hosted by Melissa Joan Hart of Sabrina fame.
CBS:

 

CBS did a few too including one from 1983. The Preview Special Hosted by Scott Baio; featuring the Krofft Puppets, and Sorrell Booke and James Best in-character as Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard…HOW COOL IS THAT?? Obviously the animated The Dukes was on that year, and Boss Hogg and Rosco were determined to make sure that the dance party obeys the laws of Hazard County and Boss Hogg gets his share of the profits.  Another in 1984 was called Saturday’s The Place and was hosted by Joyce DeWitt featuring Richard Pryor, Howie Mandel and Ted Knight. I sort of remember this, but couldn’t find any clips or details about it online. The only thing I remember is Joyce DeWitt watching the Muppet Babies voice actors recording some dialogue for the show. I think it was Joyce giving us a backstage look at Saturday morning, but why do I remember some sort of Alice in Wonderland-type plot device being used?
In 1985 there was the All-Star Rock N Wrestling Saturday Spectacular. The special was on the year WWF tried its hand with a cartoon show. The show is taken over by Rowdy Roddy Piper (he takes it over from the planed host, Hervé Villechaize. Weird). This was a big variety special with a live audience which also featured Patti LaBelle, Hulk Hogan and Pee Wee Herman. They really don’t make stuff like this anymore!! Did I mention Cyndi Lauper is in it too and saves the day? Total 80’s cheese! Finally in 1987 there was Saturday Rocks. Jim Varney hosted this as his Ernest character, as well as his other many characters, because his show was on that year. Yes I watched it.
But the network that went above and beyond was NBC. Now we’re talking! Check these out:

 

1983-The Yummy Awards

 

It was a mock award show hosted by Ricky Schroder and Dwight Shultz and that’s about all I got on this one. I did find a few clips online, and it was different. It always amazes me how different the early 80’s are from the mid-to late 80’s. There was a 70’s campiness to everything that didn’t really fade until 1984. Speaking of which…..
1984 – Laugh Busters

 

No variety show, clip show, or mock award show. This was aspecial with a story! I barely recall this and could find no clips online. The story is that the director of the show has found that a villain named Gargamore has kidnapped the Smurfs in an attempt to wipe out Saturday morning. Long story short, several characters including Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Kidd Video, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Snorks, Pink Panther and Sons, &  Mr. T have to get together to rescue them. Also in this special is KITT from Knight Rider. Awesome!! The title was a play on Ghostbusters, and as you will soon see NBC made a habit ofnaming their Saturday morning preview specials after the big hits of that particular year. I wish I could find clips of this; alas there are none that Ican find.
1985 – Back to Next Saturday

 

I wish there were some way I could convey in this forum how much I loved this special! I mean, I NEVER forgot it, ever. It inspired stories of my own and for a long time was the coolest thing ever. Ok, here is the rundown. Keshia Knight Pulliam and Lisa Welchel star, and Lisa Welchel is babysitting Keshia (they have character names, but who cares), who after she has gone to bed has a dream where she is lost in a cave. All the new characters from NBC Saturday morning have to help, including the cast of Punky Brewster who appear live on the show (thanks to Glomer!) and Kidd Video. If you blended Facts of Life, Cosby Show and Punky Brewster together you’d get this awesomeness! This special was just so amazing, and it is on YouTube if you wantto check it out. Of course it does raise some questions. Why wasn’t the whole special revolved around Punky rather than throwing Keshia Knight Pulliam in? And why was the special given the Back to the Future logo? I’m really not clearon that…..But I’m nitpicking this special was great, and I didn’t evenmention Lisa Welchel as the good queen.
1986 – Alvin Goes Back to School

 

Ok, I am really upset! I don’t remember this even though IMUST have watched it. I also can’t find any trace of it on YouTube!! I did pull up the original TV Guide ad, and it made me want to watch it more! Suffice to say the story is Alvin from Alvin and the Chipmunks going back to school and convinces officials that he’s the new principal and changes the curriculum so that students can have more fun. It is a mix of animation with live-action andhas an all-star cast and I really want to see this!!!
1987 – ALF Loves a Mystery

 

Now this one I remember. Alf hosts this all-star cast (by all-star cast I mean people who were big on NBC at the time). It starts with Alf talking about his new cartoon series regarding his life on Melmac. Benji Gregory, who played Brian on Alf, appears and the special ends up being Alf creating a mystery story for Benji to be in. Literally. So while the special makes funof mystery stories we also see the new cartoons coming on the next day. The best part of this was the other stars from NBC who appear including Jackee and Betty White. Truth is this special was kind of dull. But I loved the preview of I’m Telling, a horrible game show that never went anywhere. Shannon Doherty is in this too, wonder if she is proud of being Alf’s date at the end?
1989 – Who Shrunk Saturday Morning?

 

Ok get this, the cast of Saved By The Bell is in this, and you’d think they just talk about the cool new cartoons, right? Nope. The story is Zack and Screech are shrunk by Screech’s shrinking machine and trapped in aTV. They have to escape before the truant officer played by Marsha Warfield catches on. While Kelly and Jessie keeps her distracted, Zack and Screech (andSlater and Lisa who are also shrunk) try to find help from the stars of the various new cartoon series including Alf and John Candy. They need to travel through TV Land to find the master programmer who will get them out. No, I am not making this up! I didn’t even mention how they have to follow the circuit path road….I feel I am losing you. It’s the craziest episode of Saved By The Bell ever, but where is Mr.Belding? By the way this is on YouTube, so check itout!
1991 – NBC’s World Premiere Cartoon Spectacular

 

If you saw Linkara’s review of NBComics than you should have an idea what this show was all about. It featured those cartoons and as you may know this was the last year NBC even tried cartoons. This special was hosted bu the stars of NBC’s “Chip& Pepper’s Cartoon Madness”. I was finally getting too old for Saturday mornings at this point so I either did not watch or totally forgot it.I imagine it wasn’t as imaginative as the previous specials, it was 1991 afterall. Ah, whatever happened to the 80’s??
I never watched Fox or WBKids so I can’t vouch for them.There you have it, the really cool specials previewing the new Saturday Morning cartoons. They were corny, silly, and I miss them! I love the 80’s, man were those the days! When Saturday mornings were something to truly look forward to.I am glad that I got to experience it. Kids today have no idea what they’re missing.
And yes there were preview specials for the regular prime-time line-up’s, big ones, but I have had enough nostalgia for now. Maybe I will discuss those another time. I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and thanks again to Les for his help.

By richb

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