Thursday, March 27, 2008
NBC's Saturday mornings in 1974
Having already covered ABC's Funshine Saturday lineup from 1974, this time, we'll take a look at NBC's roster. I've always considered NBC to be the weak sack network when it comes to Saturday mornings, partly because they usually had the shortest lineups, and partly because they showed The Smurfs. Not surprisingly, NBC would be the first network to drop an official Saturday morning cartoon lineup.
But in 1974, they were plugging along with a few winners.
7 a.m. The Addams Family
While I loved the classic 60s sitcom, this 70s animated version just didn't do anything for me. Given that this was right in the middle of the whole movement to improve Saturday morning TV by eliminating anything less than wholesome, I wonder why anyone would try to make a cartoon about a macabre family in the first place.
But hey, at least Jodie Foster got some voiceover work as Pugsley.
7:30 a.m. Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch
If my son had been born when I was, aside from having some bizarre family pictures, he likely would've been obsessed with this cartoon, instead of the movie Cars, as he is now. Yet another Hanna Barbera product, this followed the adventures of Wheelie, a red VW Beetle and his vehicle pals. Honestly, it got to the point in the mid-70s that a person could tell apart half the HB shows even at gunpoint.
I should point out that despite the title, the Chopper Bunch were not Wheelie's pals; instead they were a group of tough-guy vehicles. Here's the opening:
And just because I like you, here's one of the episodes that aired on the day in the TV Guide I got these listings from. Oh, it's dubbed. In Portuguese. Enjoy!
8 a.m. Emergency +4
This show was right up my alley. I remember watching Emergency all the time and totally digging it--despite having no memory of any actual episodes. This cartoon version added four teens (hence the +4 in the title) who made up an ambulance crew who'd help out Gage and DeSoto. And because it was against federal law not to do so, the kids were saddled with a few wacky pets. If not for cartoons, I never would've known what a mynah bird was, let alone that they could help rescue me from a natural disaster.
8:30 a.m. Run, Joe, Run
Falsely accused of a crime he didn't commit, our hero is on the run from the authorities, going from town to town, helping out those in need. You'd almost think this was a cartoon version of The Fugitive but for the fact that Joe was a German shepherd, accused of attacking his master. No, I'm not kidding. Look at the credits if you don't believe me. As far as I know, Joe was not looking for a three-legged dog who was the real culprit.
9 a.m. Land of the Lost
Probably the coolest show in the lineup, LotL featured the Marshall family, who had the terrible misfortune to--wait, you know what? Watch the opening credits. That'll tell you everything you need to know:
Now that is a damn fine theme song. I miss theme songs that tell you specifically what the show is about. I still don't understand why the lyrics refer to "Marshall, Will, and Holly" if the dad is Rick Marshall. The delightfully cheesy effects made this show an afternoon favorite in syndication as well as a Saturday morning classic.
I would love to hear the Meat Puppets do a cover of this song. Don't know why, but I just would.
9:30 a.m. Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
Back for a second season, this Krofft show featuring everyone's favorite reluctant sea monster gained a new character: Sheldon the Sea Genie (sure, why not?), played by the ever-butch Rip Taylor. Sigmund was still not evil, he still looked like a walking lump of kelp, and the laugh track didn't help.
10 a.m. Star Trek
The voyages of the starship Enterprise continue in animated form for a second if incredibly brief season. With only six new episodes, that meant a lot of reruns from the previous season. But it also had the first appearance of a holodeck on Star Trek, in the episode "The Practical Joker." That's got to count for something, right?
This was a fun show to watch, though it always seemed so serious because of the sparse musical score--compare with the Spock-Kirk fight music in "Amok Time", for example. And you can now buy the DVDs and make a drinking game out of it. Every time there's a close-up shot of a character half framed with another in the background, take a shot. Every time Jimmy Doohan does a voice for a character other than Scotty, wet your finger with the drink of your choice and let it evaporate. Any more than that, and it could mean a hospital trip.
Well, they didn't have a lot of shows that year, but they got some fairly decent ones. Next time, it's CBS' turn to shine. And given that their lineup ran from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., that's a lot of shining.