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.
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.
It continues to look as if the movie industry has totally run out of ideas for new concepts to bring the $10 a ticket crowd into the theaters. Dipping its foot into the television pool once again, it was announced that Universal has cut a deal to promote Sid & Marty Kroftt's Sigmund and the Sea Monsters to the big screen. This will be the second Kroftt movie for Universal (another property, H.R. Pufnstuf, is with Sony). The first, Land of the Lost starring Will Ferrell, has completed filming and is set for release in June of 2009.
For those uninitiated to the golden age of Saturday morning programming, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters premiered on the NBC schedule during the 1973-74 season. It featured a friendly sea monster (played by Billy Barty) who was befriended by two human boys (one of them being Family Affair's Johnny Whitaker). The typical sitcomy plot usually involved Sigmund getting into some sort of trouble that alerted his sea monster brothers and mother (who lived in a nearby sea cave), and his human friends making sure he wasn't found out. It became the first Sid & Marty Kroftt production up to that time to be renewed for a second season.
Becker sort of flew under the radar, but aired from 1998 to 2004. There was the short-lived Help Me Help You in 2006. Danson even voiced a part on King of the Hill (Tom Hammond in "The Accidental Tourist" episode).
But it's his stint as the sinister Arthur Frobisher in Damages that's brought him into the forefront again. It also helped to catapult him into his next gig -- a lead role in HBO's comedy pilot Bored to Death.
Seventeen. That is the number of premieres that aired during the 1973-74 Saturday morning schedule. It marked the largest number of premieres since original fare began to be offered during the 1965-66 season. It also marked an official shift in the what the networks decided was rating-getting Saturday morning fare.
Taking an example from ABC's successful Saturday morning schedule during the 1972-73 season, the other networks loaded up their time slots with animated versions of its primetime related fare. There was also a lack of animated rock bands. With The Osmonds, Jackson 5ive and Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan off the schedule only one band (and one solo performer) joined the fray this time around.
The 1973-74 season also marked the return of some old Saturday morning favorites: Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Batman, Superman and Aquaman. After a bit of a vacation these characters returned to the airwaves in new formats. For all, it would be the beginning of a long-running Saturday morning relationship that would last well into the 80s.
Okay, when I posted about the television personalities that have pitched computers, I didn't think that this would become a series. Yet, when I saw a comment from reader ThomasD, I had to prep another one because, frankly, this one is weird.
The ad features the fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, and then-current companion Romana, played by Lalla Ward, which puts the commercial sometime around 1980. The Prime automated office system seems to be a part of Prime Computer, a Massachusetts-based company that produced microcomputers from 1972 until 1992. According to the wonderful world of Wikipedia, the office automaton system that Who and Romana talk about featured electronic mail that functioned between Prime networks only and word processing on dumb terminals.
This is a very unusual ad. Even for the Doctor Who episodes of the era, the writing on this commercial was sub-par. Plus, why would the doctor need a rigid computer system like this when the systems on the TARDIS could probably handle billions of processes trillions of nanoseconds faster. Coming from such an advanced race as the Time Lords you would think that they would have some form of word processing! Unless, they were all using Windows. Ohhh, the horror!
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.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to take you into the world of how a writer of TV-related items thinks during his day. After reading about Jerry Seinfeld's new role as pitchman for Microsoft's Vista operating system my mind didn't turn to thoughts of how Jerry has become a corporate shill and will do anything to get his mug back on television. Nor did I think about the many pluses and minuses of Microsoft Vista. No, what I reflected upon was the fact that Jerry is not the first high-profile television personality to promote a computer.
That, in turn, brought me to YouTube and its glorious library of video history, from which I was able to cull a few examples of those other big-time TV folks who expounded on the glories of those new-fangled personal computers. New-fangled, you question? Yes, because these examples all come from the 1980s: the dawn of the personal computer era. Here are five examples of our favorite stars promoting the dickens out of their Commodore, Atari, and Texas Instruments computers.
With a couple of Osmonds, a few Brady kids, an old Chinese detective, a dog and his mystery-solving friends, and Bill Cosby, the second Saturday Morning Revolution began in earnest in 1972. And, it was a long road to hoe to get to this point. That was thanks to the radical changes that needed to be made to the schedule during the late 60s and first few years of the 70s. Changes that were the result of mounting complaints by citizen action committees as well as nervous network executives.
To review: from 1966 until about 1969 things ran fairly smoothly for the networks when it came to Saturday morning programming. With the popularity of superheroes during that time the schedules were full of programs featuring supermen, batmen, space ghosts and super presidents. As hero worship waned during the last years of the 1960s the networks turned their attentions to an older viewing audience, focusing on shows with a number of teenagers and young adults -- many of them in animated rock-and-roll bands.
But, by 1970, all of that changed. As pressures to air more educational and less violent and vapid fare came from all sides, the networks were unsure what to do. They wanted to continue airing cartoons, but they were so watered down (or imitations of what was already airing) that they weren't as entertaining. They presented a number of live-action educational programs to the schedule as well, but very few of them lasted more than a year. By 1971 it looked like the networks had all but given up on Saturday mornings.
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
Last contest's winner: miller980
"Let's see how much beer we can suck out of Norm!"
This week, in honor of The X-Files week here at TV Squad, a scene from the episode titled 'Dreamland' ...
(S02E20) I was never a regular X-Files viewer, so I can't say that I had a favorite episode, or that I really liked or disliked certain plots or narrative directions taken by the show. For the most part, all of the episodes run together in my head -- with the exception of one.
I saw it only once, when it originally aired back in 1995. I didn't remember the details of the plot. Instead, it was just the images that still randomly come to mind over a decade later. A guy hammering a nail into his face, another covered in tattoos and eating a live fish, and a fetus in fetu that made me terrified of ever having children.
Since this week is X-Files week for Retro Squad, I knew that I had to talk about Humbug. I didn't want to, but I knew it was time to re-confront my nightmares.
Do not adjust your web browser. You are now entering the Retro Squad, where we are reviewing past episodes of classic TV shows.
For the most part The X-Files was an intense character study of two FBI agents struggling with their beliefs in the supernatural, in America and in each other. Sometimes, however, it was just a show about cool monsters. Here are some of my favorites.
Eugene Tooms ("Squeeze," "Tooms")
Tooms was so cool and creepy he had to be brought back for another appearance. What I liked best about Tooms was that he was one of the few monsters that looked totally human but was pure monster. Whether he was eating livers or squeezing through an air vent, Tooms was the first threat on the show to make me believe that monsters might actually exist.
And the extraterrestrial and supernatural make for some good quotes, starting with the pilot, when Scully refers to Mulder by his nickname from the academy: "Spooky Mulder."
Or how about Mulder's understatement of the millennium: " ... in most of my work, the laws of physics rarely seems to apply."
Oh, I'll be there, probably on opening weekend, but something about the new X-Files flick makes me nervous as hell.
Maybe it's the fact that it has been ten years since the last movie, and I wonder if people are still interested in it enough to make it a hit (and push another movie into production). I also worry about the plot, since nothing much has been leaked about what the film is about, other than it involves snow, mysterious happenings, and Billy Connolly bleeding from the eyes.
No, the real reason I'm worried is that the movie has a "standalone" plot and is not part of the mythology arc from the show and the first movie. I think this could be a mistake.
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