We’re all sad that there are not more Saturday morning cartoons on anymore. Well, kids today aren’t but those of us  who remember those fantastic days are. Man the memories! I have talked a lot about the cartoons I grew up watching those days, but there were more than cartoons. Sometimes a live action show would get me just as excited as The Muppet Babies or Garfield. Or Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Or The Real Ghostbusters. Or Alvin and The Chipmunks. Or The Smurfs. Or…..what was I talking about?

 

 

All kidding aside, today I decided to do a run down of five Saturday Morning shows I loved that were not cartoons. The order is from shows I kind of liked to shows I really loved.

 

 

 

Land of the Lost

 

 

Uh, yeah. I watched this. For some reason. I have a brother and sister, can I blame them? Ok I titled this article shows that I loved but that may have been misleading. Because I did not love this show. I will admit to watching it, and finding it pretty silly. Of course I did not see the 70’s version since I was not quite born, but did see the 1991 revival. And what can I say?
It was stupid. But in a fun way. If you don’t know the show was about a family trapped in a parallel universe after after their Jeep Cherokee fell through a time portal while exploring the back country. You’ve stopped reading, haven’t you? This universe had dinosaurs, cavemen, and really corny acting. Did I mention the family lives in a treehouse? This show was just silly!

 

 

 

Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!

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I never saw the movies (well, maybe the Christmas one) but I loved Ernest’s commercials. Jim Varney was great at making that annoying character likable. And then there was this series, which I sort of remember. The only thing I really remember are some of the characters Jim Varney did, characters he would cross over into his movies (Auntie Nelda, Dr. Otto, plus those two guys Chuck and Bobby that everyone seems to love, etc). They started on this Saturday morning show. This was obviously a companion for another CBS show I will discuss in a second, an attempt to duplicate that success. The difference? It didn’t work because Ernest doesn’t have that charm to make this show appeal to kids by himself. He was almost every character! And the few Varney didn’t play we never really got to know besides their brief appearances. Plus the sketches and characters were all over the place there was no structure like, that other show we’ll get to. Oh sure there was a topic of the day but nothing to connect everything. Even You Can’t Do That on Television had a framing structure for every show, it didn’t just throw the sketches at you, and several cast members we got to spend time with and get familiar with. So Ernest only lasted one season though it wasn’t so bad. It feels like someone goofing around with a video camera. And since I have dropped enough hints, let’s discuss that other show…..

 

 

 

 

 

Pee-Wee’s PlayHouse

 

This show is like junk food for the child mind. Why do I say that? Because I remember very little about it. There was nothing intellectual or so brilliant that it stuck in my memory (I also loved the Christmas special though that was equally forgettable). I know I watched it. Well Ok, somethings I do recall like the word of the day and maybe some of the characters. Jumbi (or however you spell that), magic screen and everything else that could talk, and real life people like Yvonne and King of Cartoons (many played by many real actors and future celebrities who I didn’t know at the time like Lawrence Fishburne and Phil Hartman). So I watched an episode on YouTube. And? It’s really the same gags over and over. There is no real plot or story, just Pee-Wee running around acting like a goof.  I can see how that would be relatable as a kid. As an adult…..no. Every character gets a few lines and then the show moves on to the next bit. They have different kind of vignettes too like the always annoying Penny cartoons, plus songs and bad old cartoons and stuff. However this show was smarter then Ernest because we got to spend time with these characters and like them, it wasn’t just throwing random stuff at us. It’s what made us want to come back for five years! But there is nothing to make this show memorable later on so there is no wonder I don’t remember much about it beyond that VERY memorable opening theme song!

 

 

 

 

 

Saved By The Bell

 

I’ve talked about this one so I will try to keep it brief. This show was corny and silly, and was perfect on Saturday mornings. Who didn’t want to be the cool kids in high school? NBC did a very smart thing and did a sneak preview of this show in prime time. So we tuned in the next Saturday and fell in love. It was one of those things that was perfectly timed. It was cheesy and corny at a time when it was OK (late 80’s early 90’s), and it aired on a Saturday morning so the only people who were going to watch were the major demographic they wanted anyway. This show would have sucked in normal prime time (see Saved By The Bell:The College Years as a reference) but on Saturday morning it just fit in. It just worked and not only did it come on at the right time but it was unique as clones tried to copy the formula but failed (Did anyone watch California Dreams? Or god help me, Saved By The Bell:The New Class?). This show was just great and I loved watching Zack, Slater, Screech, Lisa, Kelly, and Jessie. Yeah NBC drained the well dry and it sucked by the last season, but man when this show clicked it really clicked! By the way I watched that biopic movie that came out a few months ago. It was total crap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Baseball Bunch

 

Oh my friends, have you got a minute? This was the show I got up at 6:30am to watch! Well, when I could anyway. What is it? It’s a Baseball show starring Johnny Bench. Basically was about a group of kids who were a little league team being taught by Bench and every episode it focused on teaching a different position, using a special MLB star to do that (Ozzie Smith, etc). The regulars were a group of kids (not sure if this was a real team or what but Bench was their manager, I think).  I was a huge Baseball fan and ADORED  this show. This was the show that introduced me to Johnny Bench, Tommy Lasorda (in segments I do not remember) and two cool mascots, the San Diego Chicken and the Kool Aid Man. In fact I will admit even though I never cared for The Padres, I loved that chicken. My one gripe was that it was a very National League centered show. I am a true blue Red Sox fan so that bugged me (though Jim Rice was in one episode I don’t think I ever saw). So for fun I watched an episode I found on YouTube and… it was boring. Ever remember something fondly only to look back at it and realize it wasn’t so great? Seriously it’s like watching someone’s home videos of a little league practice. The kids can’t act, there is no story just silly antics. Yeah the teaching of the fundamentals are cool but as an adult it’s boring. They do show highlights of real games featuring the cool guest star they had that week, that was cool. Why did I get up at 6:30 to watch this? Because I was a kid and I loved Baseball. Besides there was cool cartoons on afterwards! Guess I can accept that. Truth is while I joke it’s a shame there aren’t things like this for kids today. Simple, educational, and fun to watch.

 

 

 

Did I miss one that you remember watching?

 

 

 

Saturday Mornings will be missed, not because of the cheesy shows but the routine. Getting to get up early and watch TV shows designed for kids with my brother and sister for three or four hours in our PJ’s without parental interruption. It was a special part of my childhood and yes, I am sorry it’s gone.

By richb

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