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That’s Why It’s Difficult…Difficult Like Saturday Morning March 23, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, TV.

Broadcast TV, glad you could make it here today. Can I get you a Fresca? Perhaps a Cinnamon Pop Tart with the crusts cut off? You’re good? Okay..look I think I need to get serious. And we’re not talking Yahoo Serious so don’t expect me to go all Young Einstein on your ass. Something’s happening here. What it is is pretty damn clear.

I admit I haven’t been hanging out with you much since the mid nineties when I was actually able to afford something more than foil covered rabbit ears. I mean, you have to know that with the extreme speciality of cable that you have no shot. I’m paying boatloads for it so I’m almost contractually obligated to watch my cable no matter how bad it is (thus explaining my knowledge of all things Beastmaster related). But I’m coming to you today for reasons you may not have seen at first when you made this monumental decision that came to my attention recently.

It was last month when I accidentally found myself awake on a Saturday morning (That is only sort of true. Replace accidentally with still drunk) Feeling an odd familiarity with that time of the week, I searched my vomit infused soul and realized that perhaps it was my inner child fighting his way through a whiskey infused haze and imploring me to return to my youth and watch the one thing that made me happy when I was a child: The Saturday Morning Cartoon Block. (Well, I also squealed at the episodes of GI Joe when they showed the Baroness in a bikini…ah, the easily placated hormones of youth.)

The Saturday Morning Cartoon. Simple, yet fully ensconced in every mind of every thirty something in this nation. You, TV, did it and did it well. No matter what your cartoon tastes weaned to, the gods at Broadcast TV gave it to you. You liked fluttery ponies and rainbows, you got it. You liked lasers and pithy one-liners created solely to sell action figures, they had that too. You had Snorks (Smurfs underwater), Trollkins (Smurfs in trees), the Littles (Smurfs in your walls), Monchichis (Smurfs as strangely haired tiny Japanese monkeys) and the Smurfs (Smurfs as, well, Smurfs). The Saturday Morning Cartoon (and yes, its capitalized to leave no doubt as to its royal status in pop culture history) was everything a child could want and everything a parent could need. Get your children up early enough on Saturday that they would tire out by a decent hour so you could do “adult” stuff. It was the babysitter you didn’t have to pay. And it all came with a noon time limit. When the afternoon sports started, your child would have to find other things to do. No more cartoons…well, then we’ll re-enact them outside. It was the rock star of TV to the under 12 set. Networks took out blocks of evening broadcast time to announce their fall lineup usually with the hot bubblegum star of the moment (Nothing beats Debbie Gibson telling you just what to expect on the upcoming season of The Real Ghostbusters.)

Yet here I was a few Saturdays ago, anxious to see just what new animation my future children might be grooving on. And I was hurt, dismayed, even a little disturbed to find…no freaking cartoons. I saw a few strange things that may have either been animation or maybe the morning news that just looked weird as I fought back alcohol poisoning. There were a few “Kid-coms,” which thanks to Saved by the Bell, are still all the rage. But these “kid-coms” are not the replacement the Saturday Morning block deserves. I mean, even a child has heard the re-hashed jokes and strangely Afterschool Special like lessons these shills are selling. And I was even more than dismayed to see not one, but two things by the Discovery Channel. That’s right…the Saturday Morning Cartoon has been replaced by that science teacher who always smelled strangely like wet chalk and pastrami. RIP, Cartoons. But it goes much deeper than that.

Now, I don’t need the cartoons anymore. I have Adult Swim and strangely erotic Japanese Anime (which, if you stick around long enough, always guarantees a pink haired, big eyed female in schoolgirl skirts being courted by a laser infused squid of some sort). And the kids nowadays have DVD in the car, the playroom, the bathroom and the tiny space in their closet not taken up by Barney paraphernalia. So, don’t weep for them Argentina. No, there is a much bigger casualty, TV. You have single handedly destroyed the lives of hundreds of cereal mascots.

Think about it. During you Cartoon blocks, you had no less than 576 hours of commercials starring tiny mythical creatures hawking every flavor, color, shape and sugar level of breakfast cereal. And what were most kids eating during the watching of said ads? That’s right: Cereal. Perhaps it was the high sugar ratio that enabled their blood streams to pump fast enough that it made the flashy and staccato animation styles easier to digest. Or maybe it was the Big Brother like brainwashing. You’re eating the cereal and there’s someone one telling you to buy more and all the while the good feelings being laid on to you by Speed Buggy are reinforcing your karmic perfection.  God, if the Democrats had figured out that shill, we’d still think the word Bush was a cheap buy you buy at NASCAR events.

Yet once the cartoons were gone, these creatures had no outlet. You can’t have Cap’n Crunch gallivanting around on a rickety wooden ship amongst the Clairol ads and Maybelline commercials of soap operas. And Snap, crackle and Pop would surely be stomped by late night infomercials. So the cereal industry took a hit. Sure, the world may blame childhood obesity and my generations high level of Teenager-Onset Diabetes, but I’m a realist. And I blame you.

How bad has it gotten? Count Chocula roams the tenements and brothels of Romania looking for anything sweet. The only work FrankenBerry gets is as a bouncer at gay clubs on Halloween. The Trix Rabbit gets front billing on Easter weekend at the local mall and then spends the rest of the year sweeping up the corridors behind the Spencer Gifts (Letting everybody design their room like a college Freshman’s dorm since 1975). And we all still lament the Cinnamon Toast Crunch chefs who were convicted of illegal drug trafficking in 1998 (Gives new meaning to the words “Oh, this…that’s just powdered sugar.”) Cap’n Crush running half ass tours of the East River. The degradation goes on and on.

We may not be able to save them now, but there’s a whole generation of sprites, pixies and colorfully hued specters that can still have their shot. But we need to bring back the cartoon block. Still worried about Sugar? We have Splenda and Saccharine now. And sure they may cause brain damage and serious hypertension, but are a few less twenty something worse than unhappy cartoon characters with a bunch of cereal to move? Think about it.

So, TV thanks for listening. I implore you, let go of your bad Saturday morning programs. I mean, come now, you are still employing JD Roth. And if there’s anything worse than the death of animation and the demise of the advertising icons of my sugar cerealed youth, that may be it.

Well that and the fact that Tony the Tiger just charged me twenty bucks to do my taxes. He needs the money. And yes, the money I get back from the IRS was GRRRRREAT. (That one was too easy.)



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