Saturday Morning: 1971 - VIDEOS
With pressure coming from inside the networks (thanks to the censors) and from outside activist organizations, Saturday morning television began to fracture. Out of the 14 shows to premiere in 1971 only 5 of them were brand new offerings. The rest were rehashes or revivals of older cartoons and live-action series. And out of those a majority featured an education bent...something that kids revved-up by chocolatey, sugar-coated cereal did not have the patience to watch.
The experiment would fail by 1972 as another surge of animated programs made their appearance. Until then, viewers had to deal with a lack of new programming and repeats of shows that had been repeated a few times already. So went the Saturday morning schedule in 1971-72. Let's journey back, shall we?
Gallery: Saturday Morning: 1971
ABC: New Shows -- The Funky Phantom, Jackson 5ive, Bewitched, Lidsville, Curiosity Shop
Returning Shows -- Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down, The Road Runner Show, Jonny Quest, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, American Bandstand
Of all the networks, ABC had the most new original programming on its schedule with two animated and two live-action series. The only one not new on that list was Bewitched. Still on the air in primetime, the network decided to take a page from the Monkees playbook and air earlier seasons of this show on Saturday mornings. The show would last on the schedule until the end of the 1972-73 season.
Both cartoons on the schedule continued various trends that had been around since the late 1960s. The Funky Phantom, produced by Hanna-Barbera, was one of the most direct duplications of Scooby-Doo ever created. Phantom featured three teenagers (one voiced by former Monkee Mickey Dolenz), their dog, and a Revolutionary War-era ghost (who sounded an awful lot like Snagglepus) and his cat. The gang would end up solving spooky mysteries during their adventures with the Phantom usually helping out.
Like The Beatles cartoon in 1965, the Jackson 5ive cartoon brought a real life band into the animated universe. Produced by Rankin/Bass in one of their first forays into pop-band genre, Jackson 5ive aired the fictionalized adventures of the musical group that was not voiced by the members of the Jackson Five themselves. Each episode would contain an animated music video featuring hit songs from the Mowtown band.
On the live-action side, Sid & Marty Kroftt continued their reign on Saturday morning with the show Lidsville. Starring former Munsters star Butch Patrick, Lidsville followed the adventures of his character, Mark, as he journeyed through the land of living hats. As with previous Sid & Marty Kroftt shows Lidsville had a villain who kept the citizens of that land in fear. He was Horatio J. HooDoo, played by Charles Nelson Reilly. Mark's goal on the show was to help the good hats of Lidsville resist HooDoo while finding the way back home.
The other original live-action entry was Curiosity Shop. Produced and hosted by animator Chuck Jones, this show mixed live segments with educational cartoons and puppets, Each week, a pair of kids would visit the shop and discover something new. Various segments on the 60-minute show would highlight the new discovery. Think of it as an older Sesame Street with commercials.
CBS: New Shows -- Help!...It's the Hair Bear Bunch, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, Archie's TV Funnies
Returning Shows -- The Bugs Bunny Show, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Harlem Globetrotters, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (minus the Groovie Goolies), Josie and the Pussycats, The Monkees, You Are There, CBS Children's Film Festival
CBS had three new shows on the schedule. Actually, it was only one original show since the other two shows were spinoffs of other programs. The original show was Hanna-Barbera's Help!...It's the Hair Bear Bunch. This time around the talking animals on this program were a trio of hippie bears -- Hair Bear, the Yiddish-speaking Bubi Bear and Square Bear -- who spent their time trying to give it to the man by making escape attempts from Wonderland Zoo. Obviously, they were emulating another smarter-than-average bear. Unlike Mr. Yogi Bear, the Bunch had a "bachelor pad"-type den and traveled outside of the zoo on an invisible motorcycle. Unlike other cartoons at the time, the bears of the Bunch did not have a band.
Hanna-Barbera's second entry, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show , was a spinoff of The Flintstones. Now a teenage couple, Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble (voiced by Sally Struthers and Jay North) were seen during their daily activities in and around Bedrock High School. Joining them were friends Moonrock, Penny, Wiggy and Schleprock. There were also appearances by Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty...marking the first time that these four characters had appeared in an original Saturday morning program. The show only lasted one year and was incorporated into The Flintstone Comedy Hour during the 1972-73 season.
Rounding out the new offerings on CBS was another incarnation of the long-running Archie franchise named Archie's TV Funnies. This time around, Archie and the gang moved away from their popular formula of comedy segments mixed with music videos. Instead, the gang were running a local television station where they would show short, animated adaptations of several newspaper comic strips of the time. Some of those featured were Dick Tracy, Nancy and Sluggo, MoonMullins, and Broom Hilda. The show ran for two years and was eventually replaced by another Archie show that hearkened back to a more familiar format.
NBC: New Shows -- The Woody Woodpecker Show, Deputy Dawg, The New Pink Panther Show, Barrier Reef, Take a Giant Step, Mr. Wizard
Returning Shows -- The Further Adventures of Dr. Dolittle, The Bugaloos, The Jetsons
Out of the six shows that premiered on the NBC Saturday morning schedule, only two were actually original. The others were either revivals of shows that previously aired or were pretty much the same as the year before but had a new title. The two cartoon revivals were The Woody Woodpecker Show and Deputy Dawg. Both programs had been around in both syndication and Saturday mornings during the 1960s. Now, during the less violent days of the early 1970s, the shows were brushed off for a new generation of viewers.
The live action revival was Mr. Wizard. Originally airing on NBC from 1951 to 1965, this new version starred the original Mr. Wizard, Don Herbert, as he amazed children with various scientific experiments. With the focus on education so prevalent during the 1971-72 season this was a perfect addition to the schedule. However, it only lasted one season as the networks turned to more animated fare in the next year.
What was left were three new shows. The New Pink Panther Show wasn't really a new show per se. Rather, it was just a rebroadcast of the Pink Panther cartoons with the Ant and the Aardvark theatrical shorts from the mid 1960s. Barrier Reef was a live action program that featured the adventures of a 200-ton windjammer of off Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Take a Giant Step was another educational program that focused on tweens and teens of the day (even though they weren't called tweens back then). The unique part was that the show was run entirely by teenagers.
Next time on Saturday Morning: the second Cartoon Revolution begins.