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August 31, 2015

Saturday Morning: 1972 (Part 2) - VIDEOS

by Richard Keller, posted Aug 23rd 2008 10:02AM

Last time on Saturday Morning we took a look at the ABC schedule for the 1972-73 season. This time around, we are looking at the lineups for CBS and NBC.

As mentioned in the previous post, the way that the Saturday morning schedule shaped-up during 1972 was due, in part, to the way that then Saturday Morning programmer for ABC, Michael Eisner, decided to infuse it with a bit of primetime philosophy. The result for the other two networks was a schedule that featured more movie-like and variety-based cartoons as well as animated fare that emulated the primetime hits of that day. In addition, some primetime talent was brought onto Saturday mornings to help jumpstart the educational fare that had slogged along during the last two years. By combining primetime personality with animated programming the networks introduce a new genre of program into the mix.

CBS: New Shows -- The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, The Flintstone Comedy Hour, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids

Returning Shows -- The Bugs Bunny Show, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Archie's TV Funnies, CBS Children's Film Festival

Continuing a tradition that began in the mid-1960s, Hanna-Barbera led the way on CBS with four new programs. Well, actually one new program and three new incarnations of previous programs. The first new show on the schedule was The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan, which combined two of the most popular cartoon genres during that time: mystery solving and rock and roll.

Clan was based on the adventures of the Charlie Chan movies of the 1930s and 40s but updated for modern times. In this cartoon Mr. Chan was the father of 10 children and the owner of a pet dog Chu Chu. During the fifteen episodes that were made, Chan and his children would travel the world solving mysteries in a van that could change its shape at the press of a button. The older Chan kids also had a musical group, the Chan Clan, that sang a song each episode. In addition to a number of standard voice actors featured on the program, Clan featured a young Jodie Foster as the voice of one of the children, and Keye Luke as the voice of Mr. Chan. Luke was actually the first Chinese person to portray Charlie Chan in any media.

The next show to premiere was The New Scooby-Doo Movies -- the newest incarnation in the Scooby-Doo franchise. Taking the mystery-solving format of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! one step further, Movies had the crew of Mystery Inc. getting assistance from a number of special guests, both real and animated. Okay, technically, the real people were animated as well. Those who voiced their animated counterparts were Jonathan Winters, Don Knotts, Jerry Reed, Davy Jones and, surprisingly, Sonny and Cher (I wonder if Cher now cringes from her appearance on that show).

There were also a number of appearances from characters from other Hanna-Barbera productions including The Harlem Globetrotters, Speed Buggy and Josie and the Pussycats, who returned to Earth just for the occasion. Movies was also a launch pad for two sets of characters who eventually received their own shows. During the first season of the program both Batman and Robin (the Olan Soule/Casey Kasem team) and the Addams Family joined Scooby and the gang to solve a mystery.

Right after Scooby-Doo Movies came the next incarnation of Josie and the Pussycats -- Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. Possibly realizing that the original Josie was a near duplicate of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Pussycats in Outer Space put the entire Josie gang in an out of control spaceship that lost its way home. On their journey to find home again, Josie and the gang encountered a number of aliens, both good and bad, who would guide them home. Oh, and the band, who happened to have their Pussycat outfits on board the spaceship, would perform a song each episode. Think of Pussycats in Outer Space as a combination of Archies, Lost in Space, and Far Out Space Nuts.

After Josie came the next incarnation of The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show -- The Flintstone Comedy Hour. Where Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm was a standard animated sitcom, Flintstone Comedy Show was more of a variety program. In addition to new segments featuring Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble at the top of each show, Flintstone Comedy Hour also featured new and rerun segments featuring Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm and the rest of the Bedrock Bunch. Like so many other cartoons during the time the show also featured a weekly song performed by Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm's band The Bedrock Rockers.

The last, and longest-lasting, cartoon to premiere on the CBS 1972-73 schedule was Filmation Studios Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Fat Albert, as well as many of the other characters that appeared on Cosby Kids, were originally part of Bill Cosby's comedy routines in the 60's and early 70s...albeit, without the education values and musical numbers of the cartoon. In each episode Fat Albert (voiced by Cosby) and his friends, known as The Junkyard Gang, would deal with an issue commonly faced by young children of the 70s and early 80s. At the end of most episodes the gang, using instruments culled from stuff left over in the junkyard, would sing a song about the theme of the day.

Fat Albert was unique in the Saturday morning universe of the 70s. First, a pretty big name in the primetime television world at that time, Bill Cosby, was at the helm of the show, even participating in the live-action bookends surrounding the animated scenes. Next, after years of trying to establish an education foothold on Saturday mornings, Fat Albert was able to get kids to watch cartoons and learn at the same time. Finally, with very few changes in the format, Fat Albert remained at about the same time slot on CBS throughout its original run...a feat that was very rare at any time during the reign of Saturday morning cartoons.

NBC: New Shows -- The Houndcats, Roman Holidays, The Barkleys, Sealab 2020, Runaround, Talking with a Giant

Returning Shows -- Underdog, The Jetsons, The Pink Panther Show, Around the World in 80 Days

While ABC and CBS featured a number of Saturday morning shows that resonated with viewers then and now, NBC really never had that vibe during the early days of Saturday Morning programming. Oh, they had their memorable hits, like The Banana Splits, Pink Panther, Birdman, and H.R. Pufnstuf. Yet, these gems where hidden amongst some mediocre fare. The same could be said for the 1972-73 season, which featured only two shows out of the six premieres that had some staying power. And one of them only obtained that status when it was remade and parodied during the early days of Adult Swim.

The first new show on the NBC schedule was the DePatie-Freleng creation The Houndcats, which featured a group of bumbling dog/cat creatures who handled a number of missions a la Mission:Impossible. The show only lasted 13 episodes and one season. After that came the Hanna-Barbera produced The Roman Holidays. Taking the exact formula as previous primetime entries The Flintstones and The Jetsons, Roman Holidays met in the middle and took place in 'modern day' Ancient Rome where the focus was on Augustus "Gus" Holiday and his family.

The next premiere was another DePatie-Freleng production called The Barkleys. Inspired by the primetime hits All in the Family and The Honeymooners, The Barkleys featured a bus-driving dog, his wife, and their three children. Like All in the Family, Barkleys focused on topics, like women's liberation, that would normally not be the focus of Saturday morning television. Most likely, this was the reason that the show lasted only one year.

After The Barkleys came the only memorable show on the NBC schedule -- Sealab 2020. This Hanna-Barbera production focused on an underwater sea base in the year 2020. Unlike Hanna-Barbera's other slapsticky entries of this era, Sealab took a more serious tone in its adventures, focusing on more environmental issues than fights and weapons. While the series only ran for 13 episodes Sealab became a cult favorite when it was re-edited and re-dubbed for Adult Swim and renamed Sealab 2021.

Bucking the trend of moving away from live-action series, NBC aired two non-animated shows during the 1972 season. One of them, Talking With a Giant, was a revamp of the previous year's Take a Giant Step series, which featured three teenagers who focused on a number of topics. Runaround, the other live-action series, was actually a game show hosted by ventriloquist Paul Winchell. A Heatter-Quigley production (the same folks that brought us Hollywood Squares), Runaround featured children answering multiple choice questions by jumping onto one of three different answer areas. It would not be the first game show to air on the NBC Saturday morning schedule.

Next time on Saturday Morning: a ton of premieres in 1973.

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So... Was the Chan Clan's big gimmick that they were Chinese? It sounds vaguely racist.

August 23 2008 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I *loved* RUNAROUND.

Having a group of kids actually run to a space that represented the correct answer was cool. There was peer pressure involved, too.

If I remember correctly, wrong answers got you eliminated. Right answers got you a ping pong ball. The kid with the most ping pong balls won.

The grand prize winner always scored a puppy.

August 23 2008 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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