At the midpoint of the 1970s the Saturday morning schedule was remarkably different from what it was a mere five years before. Instead of featuring animated rock n' roll bands, animated mystery-solving teenagers and animated versions of Jerry Lewis, the 1975-76 schedule was filled with live-action series. Lots of live-action series.
In fact, about half of the new series to premiere this year were live action shows. Add those to existing series making return appearances and half of the 1975 Saturday morning schedule featured live actors and actresses. It would be a trend that would continue until the end of the decade and would give animated fare a run for their money.
Consider this your way-too-far-in-advance sneak preview at a future DVD extra for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 set for Shout! Factory. On January 17, MST3K creator Joel Hodgson and original cast member and writer Trace Beaulieu gave a crowd at M.I.T. a peek behind the scenes of the venerable sci-fi comedy show with their lecture, "The Design and Speculative Technology of MST3K," which they filmed to use as a future DVD extra.
For the uninitiated, Joel was the original host, was shot into space by evil scientists (Dr. Forrester was played by Beaulieu) and forced to watch (sing it with me, MSTies) "cheesy movies, the worst we can find." To help him handle the torture, Joel built four robot friends, two of which, Crow (also originated by Beaulieu) and Servo, watched the movies and made fun of them with Joel. Together, Joel, Crow, and Servo cut the best silhouette in show business (at least to comedy and movie geeks like myself).
But then, if you're reading this, you probably know all of that.
The 1980s was the beginning of the end for Filmation Studios ... sort of. For, while their Saturday morning fortunes began to fade and eventually disappear, their successes turned to the burgeoning syndication market. It was there, starting in the early 1980s, that the studio introduced us to a sword-wielding warrior who became an animated legend.
Unfortunately, the studio's success in syndication would be a small, but powerful, blip for the two-decade old company. By the end of the 1980s the studio would fade into memory as the company was broken up and its talent moved onto bigger and better things.
Just in time to tax refund season -- because you can't use the money for things like gas, food and basic survival -- comes the newest Barbie releases from toy giant Mattel. They're the Star Trek Barbie dolls -- three dolls that represent Kirk, Spock and Uhura. Okay, that's neat. But, there's just one issue...
See, these dolls are not designed after the original Star Trek cast from the 1960s. These dolls are modeled after the stars that will play those iconic characters in the new and highly anticipated Star Trek prequel coming out in May. Each doll comes dressed in the Starfleet outfits that are familiar to fans of the original series and carries a phaser (Type II model) and a communicator.
The cost for the dolls...forty-four friggin bucks a piece! Don't worry, because you have until the end of April to save up before they are released to Wal-mart, walmart.com, and Barbiecollector.com. Get them while they last before someone sells them on eBay for triple the price.
If the 1960s was a decade of birth for Filmation, the 1970s was a time where it skipped childhood and moved straight into the role of responsible adult. With somewhere in the area of 30 programs airing during that decade, the team of Lou Scheimer, Hal Sutherland and Norm Prescott became big players on Saturday mornings. Not only that, but the trio helped usher in a number of genres that would become staples for both their own productions and those of the other studios as well.
If that weren't enough, the 1970s saw Filmation dabble into something that had come and gone on the Saturday morning schedule since the 1960s: live-action series. Combining comedy, drama and special effects, the studio produced an number of shows that provided a lot less cheese than the live-action series of, say, Sid & Marty Kroftt.
January 15th, 1974. It was on this cold winter day (cold, because it was pre-global warming) 35 years ago that the American public was introduced to Richie Cunningham, Fonzie, Potsie, and the rest of the gang of Happy Days. A simple family sitcom, the Gary Marshall-created program would change the face of ABC, as well as television, for the ten years it was on the air, as well as beyond.Happy Days came at a time when the family comedy was going through an upheaval. Gone were the days of simple shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Dick Van Dyke Show. In its place were shows like All in the Family which turned the typical family comedy on its heels. With Vietnam, a poor economy, and Watergate all weighing down on Americans at that time, the introduction of Happy Days gave viewers a chance to remember and laugh at some simpler times.
Everyone, I need your attention! I am about to do something that rarely pops up in my life and, I'm guessing, in yours as well. It might be a little shocking, so I want to make sure that you're near a chair. Deep breath, here it goes...
I want to thank my cable provider. I'll wait until you can sit down. Need a drink of water? Breath of fresh air?
I'm being serious here! I know that it's rare that someone publicly thanks the utility that sucks their money away and provides little if any variety, but I think this time it's merited. You see, for years now the networks have been lacking a very important series of programs that are important to the proper education of our youth. I speak about Looney Tunes cartoons.
But for stalwart fans like myself who tend to consider every nuance and minor detail of the show's sketches, the sentiment is either only partially true or not true at all. Sure, the show saw a spike in viewership thanks to Tina Fey's Sarah Palin impression, leading critics to praise SNL's "creative resurgence." But the buzz was just as strong when Will Ferrell played George W. Bush nine years ago. (And, furthermore, it wasn't as if the show didn't have its culturally resonant hits in recent years, not limited to Maya Rudolph's Donatella Versace impression or Andy Samberg's fusion of Internet humor into the mix).
So to those who say SNL is back, I say, have you ever seen Molly Shannon's Jeannie Darcy? Because it is, by far, one of the most brilliantly executed, underrated characters to ever appear on the show. (Or maybe I just have a thing for mullets and bolo ties. Same difference.) See what I mean in the video after the jump.
After the jump ... Remember this pop cultural gem (video below) that gained traction on the Net not too long ago? The sheer oddity of the clip alone forces us to ask ourselves several questions: do these people all live together? Why is Marla Gibbs dressed like an astronaut? Does Bea Arthur do everybody's shoppingl? CAN'T NELL CARTER JUST SIT DOWN AND REST HER FEET FOR A SECOND? (Seriously, give her a break!)
New Year's Eve. A time to celebrate, get poop-faced drunk, reflect on the last year and the new one to follow, and get even more drunk as you see the daunting task ahead. It is, or was, also a time for an annual tradition that, whether you were stone-cold sober or falling down drunk, was a regular part of your celebrating.
Until his stroke in 2004, Dick Clark counted down the remaining seconds of the current year with millions of others during his annual New Year's Rockin' Eve specials, first on NBC (1972 and 73), then on ABC. In the beginning, most of the show was live. But as the years moved on, only the Times Square performances would go out live while many other performances would be pre-taped (remember that episode of Friends?). In it's most recent incarnation, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest (God, what an awful title), there's a lot more performance and a lot less celebration.
For me, that phony vernacular of new age buzzwords that culminate in testimonials of poorly-worded self-expression are simultaneously the best and worst elements of a reality show. Naturally, that's what made Starting Over one of the few reality shows I could not only tolerate, but adore.
The species known as the network executive (networkitus executivus) is unique in the world of nature. Seemingly human in stature and characterization, the network executive is unusual in the sense that its brain is seated firmly in its tushie region. As this area of the executive's body gets the least amount of blood during an average day this leads to some very strange programming decisions. Thus, the reason that viewers were entertained by Cop Rock, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? and that sitcom that starred Emeril.
This lack of blood also causes memory loss. At least, that's what I believe it does because it's the only way I could think of that NBC would hire Ben Silverman to co-chair the entertainment division. Or, rather, hire another man named Silverman to help program their primetime schedule. For, if their memories were working properly, they would have realized that another man with the last name of Silverman came to the NBC 30 years ago and proceeded to muck everything up as well.
In the glory days of the Saturday morning cartoon, translated to be from about 1966 to sometime in the 80s, a handful of studios dominated the network schedules from year to year. Eventually, names like Hanna-Barbera, Sid & Marty Kroftt, DePatie-Freeleng and Rankin-Bass became as common to see on the screen as the characters they created. Add to that list an animation and live-action studio that presented two faces: one of quality storytelling, characters and imagination, and another of mass-produced, limited animation.
I speak of Filmation Studios. From 1966 to 1988, this studio produced dozens of cartoons and live action series and paved the way for a number of genres that are still remembered to this day. It also gave us a number of talented artists and writers that went on to bigger and better things. Today, we take a look at this studio, which gave us The Archies, Jason of Star Command and He-Man.
Last time on "Saturday Morning" we reviewed the busy 1974-75 schedule of CBS. In this installment we take a look at the lineups for ABC and NBC.
When looking at the respective schedules you can see a few patterns that were prevalent in Saturday morning programming of the 1970s. As mentioned last time, one of these themes was the increasing amount of live-action shows on the air. Six new live-action programs came out during this year, with three premiering on ABC and NBC combined. Another pattern was the use of prehistoric locations for shows. Each network had at least one show that took place during the time of the dinosaurs. The third pattern was the continuing decrease in quality of the Saturday morning animated fare. Nothing much could be done on that front since the networks were asking for more of this material faster than the studios could produce it and for less money than they needed.
Still and all, 1974 was a good time for Saturday morning programming as it produced a number of programs viewers remember even today. Two such programs are featured in this installment. Now, if the Way-Back Machine is ready, step on in and let's journey back 34 years in the past.
Children's television is the ultimate pacifier. Where else in the world can a terrible, horrific monster that destroys both life and property with nary a whiff of sympathy be turned into a soft, cuddly character who has his own line of soft, cuddly dolls being sold at the local Wal-Mart? It's only later in life, after they've adjusted to these de-fanged monsters, do they realize that their beliefs were so wrong. Aaaannnddd, that's where the therapy comes in.
But, we're not here to talk about the emotional problems that are paralyzing you today. We're here to talk about those vampires, ghosts and mummies that were stripped down and made to be funny, clumsy and even musically oriented. After the jump you'll see a few examples of what I mean. Don't worry, they won't scare you...they've been homogenized for your nightmare-free pleasure.
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