Saturday Morning: 1974 (Part 1) -- VIDEOS
1974 -- the start of the second revolution of live-action, Saturday morning programming. There's no clear reason why, after nearly a decade-and-a-half, the networks decided to infuse their schedules with more live-action fare. Perhaps, after 10 years of non-stop animation, they decided to mix the formula up. Perhaps they were looking to further model the Saturday morning schedule like their primetime partners. Or, perhaps they realized that ordering live-action programs was cheaper than ordering new cartoons.
IIIIII'mmmm going with 'cheap' as the main reason.
Of the fourteen shows that premiered in the 1974-75 season nearly a third of them were live-action programs. Only one of them came from the Sid and Marty Kroftt factory. The others came from two studios that hadn't had much experience with 30-minute, live-action fare...Filmation and Hanna-Barbera. The rest of the schedules were filled with animated retoolings of primetime programs, talking motorcycles, and dogs who performed karate. As we've done of the last few installments the 1974-75 season will be split into two parts. This time we'll look at CBS's schedule. So, if your Schwinn is in the garage, let's journey back to a far simpler time.
CBS: New Shows - Partridge Family 2200 A.D., Valley of the Dinosaurs, Shazam!, The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine, The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show, U.S. of Archie
Returning Shows - Speed Buggy, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Jeannie, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, CBS Children's Film Festival
The CBS schedule of 1974 was heavy on the flesh-and-blood and light on the animated fare. Out of the three new cartoons that premiered only one was an original (although a near duplicate of a live-action series on NBC). The other two were rehashes of previously aired live-action and animated programs.
The first show to air on Saturday morning was Hanna-Barbera's Partridge Family 2200 A.D. This animated version of the ABC live-action comedy had an interesting history considering the Partridges weren't the first family considered for this cartoon. Fact is, Partridge Family 2200 A.D. started out as an updated version of The Jetsons where both Elroy and Judy were all grown up. Hence, this is the most likely reason that this animated group of Partridges seem to live in the Jetsons' universe.
Other than flying cars, robot dogs and futuristic musical instruments, not much was different with the Partridges themselves. Many of their tastes and personalities didn't change from the live-action series to the animated one. This was thanks to Danny Bonaduce, Brian Forster and Suzanne Crough voicing their Danny, Chris and Tracy characters on the cartoon. Only Shirley Jones, David Cassidy and, after two episodes, Susan Dey, didn't voice their animated counterparts. The family was joined by Orbit, their robot dog, and two exchange students to Galaxy High: Veenie, Keith's friend who was able to teleport from one place to another; and Marion Moonglow, a friend of Laurie's, who had the ability to float upward if her stress level increased. Together, they traveled the Earth and galaxy of 2200 A.D. to get into mischief and, being a cartoon about a singing group, belt out a song or two each episode.
After Partridge Family came the second Hanna-Barbera entry on the schedule -- Valley of the Dinosaurs. Although they may not have known it then, the concept of Dinosaurs was extremely similar to that of another 'lost in time' concept premiering on NBC -- Sid and Marty Kroftt's Land of the Lost. Just read the description of the show: Valley of the Dinosaurs was the story of a family transported back to the Stone Age after being sucked into a whirlpool during a rafting expedition down the Amazon. Replace whirlpool with earthquake and you have the circumstances on how Marshall, Will and Holly ended up in their predicament on Land of the Lost.
There were some differences between the two shows, other than the obvious fact that Dinosaurs was animated and Lost was not. There were no aliens like the Sleestaks on Dinosaurs. Instead, the Butler family was befriended by a Neanderthal family who taught them the ways of the Valley. The other difference was the staying power of both shows. Valley only lasted 16 episodes while Land of the Lost lasted through 43 installments.
The next new show to premiere was the first of three live-action offerings for CBS. Shazam! was the first full non-animated program to be produced by Filmation Studios (Fat Albert had some live-action elements starring Bill Cosby) and one of the more successful for the company. Unfortunately, for many comic-based Captain Marvel fans, the show veered wildly away from its six-paneled origins. In this television adaptation Billy Batson/Captain Marvel was a teenager who traveled across America in an RV (they loved their RVs in the 70s). He was joined in his journeys by "Mentor", an older gentleman who would guide Billy through his weekly adventures righting wrongs.
The only thing that was the same between the television and comic book series was the utterance of the word 'Shazam' by Billy Batson in order to become Captain Marvel. This was only done once per episode -- most of the time towards the end of the program. The rest of the time Billy and Mentor were the main focus. When Captain Marvel did appear he was portrayed by two actors. Jason Bostwick portrayed the 'Big Red Cheese' during season one, with John Davey taking on the role during seasons two and three. Despite the campiness of the show in the eyes of today's finicky viewers, Shazam! was a hit for CBS and remained on the air for three seasons. It eventually led to a spin-off series, The Secrets of Isis. By 1975, the two shows combined to become The Shazam!/Isis Hour.
Next up were the Harlem Globetrotters, who took a stab at a variety show with the live-action Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine. The show featured the popular Globetrotters at the time (Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal, etc.) in a number of comedy sketches and musical numbers that were designed to teach specific lessons to children. Joining the Globetrotters on this 30-minute program were the comedian Avery Schreiber and, making his television series debut, Rodney Allen Rippy. Popcorn Machine lasted just one season on the Saturday morning schedule.
Airing right after the Globetrotters was The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show. Starting off as simply the Hudson Brothers Show, a Saturday-evening summertime replacement, the Saturday morning incarnation continued in the variety genre with comedy sketches, musical numbers, and the use of puppets. The only difference between the nighttime and morning shows were goofier gags and cornier jokes to play to the young ones. The show ran for a year on CBS.
The last show to premiere during the 1974-75 schedule was the latest incarnation of the Archie cartoon series entitled U.S of Archie. Taking advantage of the upcoming Bicentennial celebration, this Archie version took the gang from Riverdale and planted them into various eras in American history where they would interact with such figures as George Washington Carver and Thomas Edison. At the end of each episode a song performed by The Archies would summarize the plot. By the end of 1974 the show was demoted to Sunday mornings.
Next time on Saturday Morning -- we continue to examine Saturday morning 1974 with looks at the NBC and ABC schedules.