Saturday Morning: 1973 (Part 2) - VIDEOS
Last time on 'Saturday Morning' we took at look at the ambitious NBC schedule of the 1973-74 television season. This time we will examine the lineups for ABC and CBS during that time period.
At a quick glance, both networks maintained the 'primetime' look that was established by ABC the season before by adding a number of shows that featured animated versions of nighttime television characters. This was in addition to the shows that already existed, which made this one of the first seasons where real-life characters nearly outnumbered imaginary ones. This was also the first year for the 'all-star' genre of cartoons. ABC featured two of these types of programs, both featuring characters well-known to a previous generation of Saturday morning viewers.
Despite the networks sporting nine new shows together, there was still a feeling of sameness. One show featured another animated singing star, while two more came directly from the files of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You in format and characterization. All of the new shows listed here were also produced by the big three animation studios at that time: Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, and DePatie-Freleng. Still, their schedules were diverse and memorable enough to keep these shows in viewers hearts until today. So, without further commentary, let's journey back in time once again.
ABC: New Shows - Yogi's Gang, SuperFriends, Lassie's Rescue Rangers, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Mission:Magic!
Returning Shows - The Bugs Bunny Show, The Brady Kids, The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, American Bandstand
It was all Filmation and Hanna-Barbera for ABC in the 1973-74 season as they just about split the new releases. First on the new schedule was Yogi's Gang. A spinoff from Yogi's Ark Lark, which was featured on The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie the previous season, Gang featured Yogi Bear and his little partner Boo Boo as they traveled in search of Utopia: a place without pollution or crime. Joining them on this journey were a number of Hanna-Barbera stars from the 1950s and 60s, including Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, Magilla Gorilla, and Secret Squirrel.
Villains they encountered along the way were named after their characterizations and, for some weird reason, were quite formal. For instance, Mr. Fibber taught members of Yogi's crew to lie. Mr. Sloppy tricked the gang into cutting corners on the ark, making it a dirty mess. Mr. Smog was a corporate bigwig who tried to convince everyone that smog was good for them.
Right after Yogi's Gang came SuperFriends. The first in a long-running series of shows, SuperFriends joined a number of DC Comics heroes together into a more family-friendly version of the Justice League of America. Family friendly because, for the first season at least, no one threw a punch or a kick. Instead, Batman, Robin, Superman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman enlisted the skills of their teenage sidekicks Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog to talk themselves through each adventure.
Despite the lack of action, SuperFriends proved to be popular in its first season. Not only did it feature the big players at DC Comics at the time, but it also guest-starred a number of other fan favorites such as Plastic Man, The Flash and Green Arrow. SuperFriends would be canceled after this season (though it would remain on the ABC schedule), but return a few years later in a new format that would usher in a run that would last until the mid 1980s.
Next on the schedule was Filmation's Lassie's Rescue Rangers. Another spinoff from The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, Rescue Rangers starred the famous collie dog Lassie, this time living with the Turner Family near Thunder Mountain. The Turners worked as the Forest Force, a rescue team that protected the Mountain's national park. Lassie formed his own group of Rescue Rangers to support the Turners. Except this team was comprised of wild animals living in the park.
Unlike the original Thunder Mountain movie, Rescue Rangers went more more to the absurd in its adventures. For instance, one episode featured Lassie and the team researching the cause of strange earth tremors. Another had the team finding a sunken galleon and an enemy submarine. Yet another episode took the disaster movie approach and featured a tidal wave heading towards the team's Florida vacation spot. Only 15 episodes of Lassie's Rescue Rangers were made, with the original run completing at the end of 1973. Repeats of the show remained on the air until 1975.
The next show was the annual "Scooby-Doo" entry for the season. Goober and the Ghost Chasers had all of the elements of a good Scooby-Doo formatted program: a group of teenagers and their semi-human dog solve spooky mysteries wherever they go. There were a few differences between this show and Scooby-Doo. One was that the ghosts that they eventually found were actually real and not concocted by some slightly-tarnished human intent on ruling their small little piece of the world. Another was that Goober, the dog, had the power to become invisible when he was scared by ghosts. The third was that the kids from the Partridge Family, minus Keith, appeared as themselves (voiced by the actors) on a number of episodes.
The final new show to air on ABC this season was a spinoff of The Brady Kids called Mission:Magic! The show featured an animated, pre-General Hospital/ "Jesse's Girl" Rick Springfield as he journeyed along with the magical Miss Tickle and her after-school group of adventurers as they made their way through time and space. Since Springfield was the star of the show he performed a song at the end of each episode that usually tied into the moral of the story. The strangest thing about Mission is that it shares a number of characteristics with a later educational cartoon -- The Magic School Bus. Each show was a mix of education and entertainment, the red-headed teachers both had magical powers and the students that accompanied each of them came from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
CBS: New Shows - Bailey's Comets, My Favorite Martians, Jeannie, Speed Buggy
Returning Shows - The Flintstone Comedy Show (last season's Flintstone Comedy Hour), The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, Everything's Archie (repeats of previously released material), Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, CBS Children's Film Festival
CBS, usually the bastion of Hanna-Barbera programming, diversified in the 1973-74 season to give viewers a range of shows from the big three production studios at the time. First on the schedule was the DePatie-Freleng production Bailey's Comets. Another in the on-and-off genre of racing cartoons, Bailey's featured a team of teenagers on roller skates who competed in a worldwide race to win a million dollar prize.
Unlike Hanna-Barbera's Wacky Races, which featured a number of 'good guy' racing teams against one 'bad guy' team, the Bailey's Comets team were the good guys amongst a pool of racers who were inherently bad in one form or another. For example, The Texas Black Hats were a group of western outlaws who rode on skate-wearing horses. The Stone Rollers were a caveman and a dinosaur. The Yo Ho-Ho's were a team of pirates who used a skate-equipped raft. Progress on the race was maintained by commentators Gabby and Dooter Roo, who monitored events from a helicopter.
Filmation's entry into the 1973 schedule was an animated spin-off of the 60s sitcom My Favorite Martian called My Favorite Martians. The 30-minute comedy starred Tim O'Hara, his Martian friend Martin (voiced by Lost in Space's Jonathan Harris), the ditsy Mrs. Brown and the cold-hearted Detective Bill Brennan. However, in order to cater to the younger set, Martin was joined by his teen-aged nephew Andromeda, who had only one antenna and lesser powers than his uncle, while Martin was joined by his teen-aged niece Katy. Martians lasted for two seasons on CBS.
Next on the schedule was another animated spin-off from a 60s sitcom. This time around it was Hanna-Barbera's answer to I Dream of Jeannie titled simply Jeannie. In this series Jeannie, who now looked much younger than her live-action counterpart, gained a new master in the form of high school student Cory Anders (voiced by Mark Hamill, who also sang the theme song). Jeannie was joined by junior genie Babu (voiced by Joe Besser) who tended to make messes that his charge needed to correct. Unlike the live-action version of the character, this Jeannie crossed her arms and whipped her ponytail around to produce magic (probably to save the studio money from animating blinking).
The last new series to premiere on CBS was Speed Buggy. Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-esque entry for the network, Speed Buggy followed the adventures of an anthropomorphic dune buggy (voiced by Mel Blanc), his mechanic Tinker and his two friends. Speed and his pals would travel around the world to complete in races and encounter mysteries and capers along the way. The unusual thing about Speed was, despite the fact he had a mind of his own, Tink carried a remote control with him that he could use to signal his dune buggy during dangerous situations.
That's it for 1973. Next time around we move to the 1974-75 season and the big return of live-action programming to Saturday mornings.