Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is Saturday Morning really dead?

Over the last 22 years, the networks have slowly killed off the traditional business model for Saturday morning television, such that when the new season starts in September, only 1 broadcast network---NBC---will actually be airing animated fare, and NBC was the one that abandoned cartoons all the way back in 1992.

For first-run animated fare, kids are turning more and more to cable television. Nickelodeon, however, can't be trusted, since a lot of the time they schedule marathons willy-nilly of certain shows that to them are still "hot" with viewers (i..e. Spongebob Squarepants). Disney Channel & DisneyXD don't use Saturday mornings for a lot of premieres, either, mostly using reruns of shows that get played to death during the week. One wonders why Disney refused to repurpose shows like Suite Life On Deck (to succeed Suite Life of Zack & Cody) or Brandy & Mr. Whiskers or any other series that conceivably could've fit the FCC's E/I mandates over the last decade. They simply didn't see the need.

Cartoon Network let DC Nation die a slow death due to then-programming head Stuart Snyder's decision to put more emphasis on lame comedy. Not all the comedy shows CN has are legitimately funny. One that was, The Tom & Jerry Show, is burning off the remaining episodes on weekdays this month, meaning it got a quick hook when ratings didn't exactly set the world on fire. The fact that this was running premieres on Wednesday afternoons instead of Saturday mornings, where the legendary duo were a proven commodity, proves that the programming remains an issue that new president Christina Miller needs to address, preferably yesterday.

The problem with CN is that a lot of their Saturday schedule replays on Sundays as well, with less fanfare, and there are replays during the week. Talk about burning out your product.

Over at the Hub, they get it. Sure, the schedule changes periodically, and there have been some clunkers (SheZow, anyone?), but the Aquabats SuperShow is a proven winner. The network, following the lead of others, rotates their shows in and out, rather than run each series through one or more rerun cycles like in the old days. The Transformers will return with a new series in 2015, but one wonders if there will be a 2nd season for Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch after all the hype that accompanied the series' launch last October. Given that Archie Comics is doing a more mature take on Sabrina come the fall, and the bad rep that Moonscoop, the producers of Secrets, has gained, well............!

Back to the broadcast networks. CW will join CBS, ABC, & Fox in programming a lineup that will be totally E/I, but all totally live-action in content. Fox's new block, Exploration Station, will be another exercise in E/I futility, much like CW's Litton-programmed block. Litton also programs for CBS & ABC, and probably would be happy if NBC stopped repurposing from cable cousin Sprout, which they bought outright from PBS a while back. However, NBC/Sprout is the last bastion of broadcast animation on Saturdays for what Ivan Shreve calls the cereal & footy pajamas set.

With most cartoon shows also accessible online, it's a matter of time before the cablers begin shifting gears as well. Disney Channel splits their AM schedule in half. The first half is a primer for sister network Disney Junior, for subscribers who don't get the latter channel. The second half is the same, tired teen-coms (i.e. Jessie, Dog With a Blog), the type that they wouldn't let ABC have so they could retire That's So Raven a few years back. Cartoon Network's sister channel, Boomerang, is supposedly undergoing a face-lift later this year that is meant to make it more girl-or-family-centric. We'll see if that works out, and it should.

So, is Saturday morning TV really dead? No, but it ain't on life support, either.


SaturdayMorningFan said...

"Is Saturday Morning really dead?"
Not in my house. I've collected all the shows I used to watch as a kid in the 1970s (including Schoolhouse Rock and other interstitials) and I play them for my 4-year old daughter, complete with 1970's ads (mostly for products she already has, so I don't hear a lot of begging). She absolutely loves it and looks forward to it every week, and I like the nostalgia rush brought on by revisiting the Saturday mornings of my youth. We don't watch anything modern, just the shows I've bought.

hobbyfan said...

Seems that's the way to go. Collect the DVD's and share the memories. I've got my eyes on bagging a few Super Friends DVD's at FYE over the next couple of months. Pricey, but they're the only retailer in my area that has 'em. Walmart can't keep them in stock, and I'm loathe to make an order with the local comics shop, because the owner is dumber than a bag of hammers, and spends more of his time playing Magic. He's the Mike Francesa of comics, since he thinks he knows his subject matter, but I know better.....