The Best Of Saturday Morning Programing
Continued from The Worst List
Last time was the worst of Saturday mornings, this time, its the best, so with out any large explanation, where we go, right into the 10 best things to ever air on a Saturday morning. I should state though, I keep stating Saturday morning for a reason, I figured it best to exclude first run syndication stuff like Transformers, G.I Joe and the like because if i didn't, I wouldn't give the true feeling of Saturday Morning, and I feel I'd be cheating all of you, and sadly though, as it omits alot of the awesomeness of the 1980s weekday afternoon fodder, it also negates shows like Johnny Quest, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Space Ghost and many others which were originally aired in primetime slots.
Ok with that said, here we go....
The 10 Best Saturday Morning Programs Of All Time:
10. Adventures of the Gummi Bears
Let it be known far and wide, that this one would have made the top 10 simply for the theme song alone, but believe me, there was alot more to it then just an incredible and infectious theme song. Gummi Bears was proof that when Disney thought outside of its box, they could not only create something that was visually beautiful and strikingly pleasing in traditional Disney animation style, but also something with a rich, deep and intricate plot. Gummi Bears was an experiment of sorts, an experiment in breaking from the Disney chain and starting new ground for the company, a test that would later see not only a long and beloved run for The Gummi Bears, but would later give birth to Disney greats such as Ducktales, Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers, Tailspin, the often forgotten but amazing Darkwing Duck, and ofcourse, Gargoyles, the greatest Disney animation ever created. Yes, even better then Kim Possible. But Gummi Bears on its own was an incredibly good story, sort of midevil steampunk in a way with an incredible backstory that was always being added too, and not once in the shows run had it felt tired and used up after a short time, which happens alot in saturday morning programs, oddly though, Disney has done very little in terms of marketing merchandise, even to this day, its kind of like Gargoyles in that respect, insanely beloved, but never really acknowledged or shown love by the parent company for some unknown reason. Shame really.
9. Mission Magic
Made as a spin off of sorts to the horrible cartoon about the kids from The Brady Bunch as a pop band with magic powers, Mission Magic starred then unknown in America Rick Springfield, who was sort of a teen heartthrob in his native australia in 1973, but it really had nothing to do with The Brady Kids other then that it was musical and solved mysteries with magic. However unlike The Brady Kids, Mission Magic stands out for many reasons, for the time period the animation was incredible, in the time when Hanna Barbara was pushing the music and animation drug trip angle with almost every cartoon they made, Mission Magic took more of a Yellow Submarine style approach to it, high end art with the perfect colors for the mood and expression, it was at times incredibly beautiful to look at, even if you didn't care much for the show itself, plus, alot of the songs are pretty pleasing to the ears and are a joy to listen too for a look at. Mission Magic, though a total drug trip of sorts based around Miss Tickle, a magical teacher who's classroom you entered through a drawn door in a magic chalkboard, and could also enter our world where she would use her magic to teach through adventures of various kinds. And if you are thinking that sounds familiar, or if Miss Tickle looks familiar to you, then you're right, she does, the show was remade in the 1990s as The Magic Schoolbus, with Lily Tomlin as Miss Frizzle, an almost exact copy of Miss Tickle in personality and looks, just with a magical schoolbus instead of being inside of being inside a door drawn in the land of chalk drawings. If you know where to look, you can find the series on DVD, its really worth a watch if you'd like a nice trip back in time to a simpler time, long before Rick Springfield wished that he had Jessie's Girl or took that job at General Hospital.
8. The Jackson Five
For whatever reason in the 1970s, every single cartoon was about a band, normally a band that solved mysteries or were superheroes on the side, so the logical step was to take a band that the kids love, and give them a cartoon where they basically goof about and have fun. The Jackson Five wasn't really about anything other then the band getting into wacky and goofy adventures that lead to comical outcomes and mixed in with musical numbers sung by the band. Like most other shows of its kind, the real band voiced their own characters, and had a hand in designing the look and movements and the like. The Jackson Five to this day is harolded as possibly one of the greatest cartoons of its era because it really was a hit with everyone, it didn't matter where you were from, you knew who the Jackson Five was, and you knew they had a cartoon, it successes where dreck like Rickity Rocket and Street Frogs fail horribly, which given the political and racial climate in the world at the time, was an incredible feat, Micheal himself said many times that the most fun he had was becoming an animated character. The show has now gained a giant cult following, specially after Micheal's death when two whole new generations were introduced to this lovely masterpiece. If you've not seen it, go have a look. :)
7. Sigmund And The Sea Monsters
When I was a child, my parents sat me down infront of a television on a sunday morning, turned the dial, this was back when televisions had dials, to a local indie channel that went on to become one of the flagship FOX stations, and I remember them telling me to watch with them. For the next few hours my eyes were opened to the world of Sid and Marty Krofft, two brothers who were completely insane, but were able to make insanity profitable. The first of the shows they aired, and my personal favorite, was Sigmund And The Sea Monsters, starring the great Billy Barty as Sigmund, the cutest sea monster there has ever been. Sigmund was not interested in scaring humans like his family, Sigmund would rather be friendly and enjoy life, he saw no point is scaring humans just because "its what sea monsters do", Sigmund wanted to be is own Sea Monster, a kinder gentler Sea Monster who could suck at Volleyball and you wouldn't be scared to tell him, because he won't rip your arms off and beat you with them, because thats not how Sigmund rolled. This was my gateway drug into the trippy world of The Kroffts, and to this day, I still love it so very much. But anyone thats seen my Sigmund Action Figure, which sits next to my H.R Pufnstuf action figure can tell you I'm still a fan. Oddly though, I couldn't find video of "You better run you better hide" the second season ending theme.
6. Spiderman (1967)
I wanted to add atleast one superhero cartoon here, and though I could do many great ones that have been made over the years, I picked this one simply because it was marvel's first saturday morning attempt, and their second cartoon attempt over all, second to the super rare but also insanely cult 1966 Marvel Superheroes Show that aired weekday afternoons in a very small market, back when you could air shows in very small markets and be ok with it. Spiderman kind of sums up everything that would eventually follow with comic book based cartoons until the 1990s when everything became serious and no fun, Spiderman was as funny as it was serious, and it truly gave you the feel of the character, Spiderman is funny and serious at the same time, and actually enjoys his work, much like any of us would if we were suddenly given powers like this, plus the theme song, that lovely lovely theme song that just drips awesome all over the place. To farther explain my point of why this show was so great and worthy of a spot in the best, I'll give you this clip, possibly one of the greatest bits of 1960s animation ever...
Yeah thats some good old fashion awesome... I could watch that all day long.
5. Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales
I have said this many times, and I will continue to say it till the day that I die, everything that I learned about science, I learned from Phineas J. Whoopee and his marvelous 3.D.B.B (Three Dimensional Black Board), and it was all thanks to this amazing bit of early animation that still stacks up today among the all time greatest. When they talk of iconic television, they talk of characters that years later have become part of our every day culture, the things they say, the stuff they've done, their names, all of it, all iconic, Tennessee Tuxedo is sort of a textbook case of ironically iconic animation, its the goofy story of a penguin named Tennessee Tuxedo and his friend, the rare south pole walrus Chumley, they live in a zoo and as they strive to be seen on the same level as human beings, always doing some scheme or another that would get them recognition from humankind, the whole time annoying the hell out of Zoo director Stanley Livingston, and getting help from every mad scientist's idol, Prof. Phineas J. Whoopee, owner and creator of The 3D Blackboard or 3DBB, and sometimes they're either helped, or hindered by the other animals in the zoo as well. Its goofball comedy before goofball comedy had to be forced, like other shows from its time, Rocky and Bullwinkle, King Leonardo And His Short Subjects, all pretty much just out and out goofy comedy and various secondary characters, Tooter Turtle, The Hunter, and afew others are just as iconic as the main characters. Its pretty amazing really. If you've never been lucky enough to have seen this show, get to youtube yo.
4. Clutch Cargo
Is that not the coolest, wackest, most insane drug trip of a limited animation cartoon ever? Seriously this show is a god damn trip though time that you just don't wanna ever forget! Its some stone cold freak nasty yo. The concept of Clutch Cargo is basically Johnny Quest, but with out Benton Quest, so its just Clutch Cargo, middle aged muscular rugged adventurer, who lives alone with a young boy and a dog, and how they go on adventures all over the world and even the moon, its sort of like TinTin but with the racism taken out and a sort of creepy nambla feel to it all. Thats pretty much all there was to Clutch Cargo really, its a great little show that actually lasted almost 40 years in syndication, spanning from the late 1950s into the 1990s in some small television markets in the united states. Its more renounced for its insanely weird animation style, where the characters are more limited animation then Speed Racer, and the mouths are, well, the mouths are real mouths placed into the animation, a concept used many times over in various other forms of comedy based on obscure and silly concepts of filming and animation. Its not hard to find Clutch if you're looking for a good trip down trippy classic lane, the dvds aren't hard to come by and aren't expensive, get on that yo.
3. Fat Albert
Long ago in a time called the 1970s, long before he started to play a white man with 15 grandfathers that were all jazz legends, Bill Cosby had a whole other career, you see back then, Bill Cosby was funny, I mean really funny, but as I said, he eventually went on to play an old white guy in everything he did from the 80s onward. But in the 1970s, he created his greatest creation, even greater then The Chicken Heart, there was everyone's favorite overweight kid, Fat Albert. Fat Albert was an early attempt to make cartoons both fun and educational, an idea that went through out the series, goofball antics style comedy where in Bill Cosby would address the kids and tell them what the lesson learned by what they did that day was, normally it wasn't anything all that super important, just being nice to each other and stuff, but still it was memorable enough to stick with you. They also infused music and the message that as long as you could imagine something, it could be, oh and also, don't under estimate the fatties, cuz Fat Albert had skills for a kid that probably would lose his foot to diabetes by the final year of high school, and his friends have one heck of a way of working out the creation of instruments and stuff out of what they found in the junkyard, it was sort of like the Jackson Five with out it being about a real band in that respect, and the kids they just ate it up, they still do. Fat Albert has remained current and relevant for somewhere around 35 years, even if you exclude that horrible live action film from 2004, which really is best left forgotten, or burned in a fire, and then stabbed in the eye with a rusty fork. But if you would like a nice little bit of classic americana, then honestly, Fat Albert is it.
2. The Bugaloos
Long ago, in 1970 two brothers name Sid and Marty Krofft riding high off their monster pop culture creation H.R Puffstuf decided to see if lightening could strike twice, and taking a cue from the rise of teen idols in pop music among the non-woodstock set, decided to create their own multimedia crossover band, having made The Banana Splits for Hanna Barbara just before their own creation of the iconic Puffnstuf, and seeing how much the Splits were bringing in not only as a show, but as a legitimate band, no really if you ever get a chance check out a Banana Splits album "Till Tomorrow" is a forgotten jewel if I ever heard one, Sid and Marty wanted to get in on that sweet sweet cash, so they set about making up a band that could be on tv, and that kids could wanna go out to see a live show by. I'm sure you've seen this pattern repeat many a time on both this best and worst list, and there are tons of hits and misses in this area, but well, this had to be possibly the best. Deciding to take a page from The Monkee's playbook and playing on the Davey Jones popularity, Sid and Marty went about obtaining the services of a group of British teens who were young, easy to look at, and able to vocally harmonize convincingly enough to sell that they're a pop band, once that was done, they created The Bugaloos, a group of insects who are a pop band among the insects of the world, each episode focused on The Bugaloos, sometimes driving around in their odd as hell looking dunebuggy (I guess everyone in the 1970s drove dunebuggies everywhere from what shows like this and Hanna Barbara's stuff show), sometimes with their friend Sparky The Firefly, played by brilliant midget actor Billie Barty, who'd go on to be in every other Krofft creation sense, including starring as Sigmund The Sea Monster. And the whole time they'd be being thwarted by Benita Bizarre, played by the legend of the stage and screen Martha Raye, near the end of her life and career. The show was basically Josie And The Pussycats (both regular, and in space) meets A Bugs Life, and for all of its goofy surrealist offbeat humor, which was standard issue for Krofft Brothers work, The Bugaloos remains one of their most beloved and most popular, some could argue its just as popular as H.R PuffnStuf and Sigmund, their two most well known works. I would also note I put this show on the list over Puffnstuf simply because I've always found the whimsy of saturday morning was how you had shows like this, that were created with a stage show to follow in mind from the very start, where as shows like Puffnstuf had them tacked on later. Oh and for those wondering, if I was a Bugaloo, I'd be called Shadow and I'd be a Tarantula Hawk Wasp with dark wings, and I'd be a DJ or front a metal band.
1. The Wacky Races
Every now and then a company will strike gold, and not just gold as in one character or a show that has a timeless following, sometimes they'll strike gold with a show that will in itself become an iconic and beloved series, that will also spin off and serve as a prototype for many other shows to come. And for Saturday Morning Kings William Hanna and Joe Barbara, their first gold strike of what would become many, was a show called The Wacky Races, which not only created some of the most memoriable moments in Hanna Barbara's history, but would be the launching pad for classic characters either by name or formed from characters on the show, it would also lead to the genre of cartoons where you team up known and unknown characters and set them off on a task, you'd find it again in Laugh-a-lympics and Yogi's Space Race most notedly, given that most have forgotten the short lived Yogi's Treasure Hunt and Gumball 500 which to date were the last of the "Team up toons". Wacky Races was pretty simple in concept, a group of 11 cars do a cannonball run style wacky race or another, the whole time out smarting and pulling tricks on each other, as well as adding in jokes to what the narrator's saying, its all pretty goofy and silly, but thats what matters when you talk of the things that air in the saturday morning genres. Plus the show is important for afew reasons, all the cast when onto become someone else, or fame in their own right, Penelope Pitstop, The Ant Hill Mob and Dick Dastardly and Muttley all started out in The Wacky Races, and those The Ant Hill Mob and Penelope Pitstop, with afew alterations and change of the Bulletproof Bomb to Chuggaboom, would go on to be in their own brilliant series with the Paul Lynde voiced Hooded Claw, Dick Dastardly and Muttley would go on to have in their own right one of the most memorable shows of Hanna Barabara's library as well as become their most popular villains. The rest of the cast would be prototypes for others; The Slag Brothers would go on to be the design used for Captain Cavemen, The Gruesome Twosome would go onto Laugh-a-lympics, Professor Pat Pending would be Hanna Barbara's design for Prof. Keenbean on Richie Rich, and the others would show up now and then. What makes this show some memorable though is that for over 40 years now, its been loved and homaged many times over in various tv shows, you can find references even in today's modern cartoons, its pretty great really, and if you haven't seen it, you really should, you won't regret it.
well thats my list.... I hope you enjoy both halves of it...