An era has ended. It had been "dying" for years, in decline... but now, it's truly gone.
Saturday Morning Cartoons is no more.
ABC, NBC, and CBS trashed their lineups years ago, sadly, but FOX and the WB (and now CW) had kept it up. Then FOX let it wither, and today, the CW's "Vortexx", the last remaining Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup, has officially finished its last broadcast day. The era of broadcast televsion saturday morning cartoons is over, and I won't lie, I felt a serious kick in the psychic teeth when I realized this.
One of my memories from my childhood is my dad explaining what it was like to see television start from nothing, and how his favorite show was "Kukla, Fran, and Ollie". I'm going to have that conversation with Elijah one day, where I'll regale him with tales of so many things:
- Mighty Orbots, the greatest show, cancelled in its prime.
- Mr. T and his inexplicable association with gymnast children
- How the Smurfs ruled the world and spawned imitators faster than breeding rabbits
- the strange legacy of the ABC Weekend Specials ("Og!")
- wondering why BLACKSTAR only got one season
- Scooby-Doo's strange decline from sublime to wretched as Scrappy-Doo took over his show
- Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble becoming cops alongside the shape-shifting Schmoo
- The Fonz and the gang taking over a time machine that looked sort of like an art deco jukebox
- The Dukes of Hazzard racing around the world
- the eternal debate of which Pole Position car was cooler
- Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, in all respects
- wanting to kick Alvin in the chipmunk-nuts for being an insufferable diva asshole
- the one time the Really Rottens actually won for a change
- vague memories of Drak Pack actually being kinda cool and strong memories of Turbo Teen being emphatically not
- feverishly buying all the Jake Rockwell toys for Centurions (POWER EXTREME!)
- arranging my action figures on a coffee table so they could watch cartoons with me
- the ever-present bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios because it was the only vaguely-sweet cereal my parents would buy
- the surreal wonders of Kidd Video
- the triumphant validation of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon making my hobby cool with my classmates for a time, crying deep tears of emotion when Uni gave up living in the secret unicorn grove so she could stay with Bobby instead
- rolling my eyes at the attempt to make Menudo interesting
- watching the rough animation for cues -- "that part of the wall's not the same color, it's a secret door -- CALLED IT!"
- staying up late on friday evenings in september to watch all the Saturday Morning Preview shows with awkward sitcom guest stars so I could make a detailed schedule of what to watch for that fall's new season
- the Pokemon craze taking over the WB network's every waking moment
- watching Xiaolin Showdown and FILLMORE! every saturday morning years later with +Gretchen Sher as we bonded over our mutual love of these crazy shows that informed our childhood and beyond ...
I could go on for hours. The memories I have of the Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup are deep, wide, inconsequential and all-important, quiet and intense, all in equal measure. A cultural institution has died, and I will mourn its passing. I wanted so much to have the experience of sitting on the couch with my son as I introduced him to this morning of wonder, as I would discover with him what would be the Smurfs and Orbots and Wheeled Warriors of his generation. Instead, I'll have to settle for bittorrenting the old shows and possibly failing to explain what I saw in those dated relics, and letting him pick from his favorites on youtube or netflix or some other online venue. And that's fine, but it won't be the same, and I can't help but feel that something important has been lost.
I leave you with perhaps the most iconic opening of all Saturday Morning History, the late 70's and early 80's intro to The Bugs Bunny & Road Runner Show:
OVERTURE! CURTAIN! LIGHTS!
This is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every part by heart...
Goodbye, Saturday Morning Cartoons. Thank you. For everything.