Mar 18, 2006

The Peacock Ain't Proud No More

Speaking of network indifference . . .

Remember when NBC actually had a successful Saturday morning lineup? If you do, chances are you're old enough to vote now. Until Fox Kids came around in fall 1990, NBC OWNED Saturday mornings, airing most of the highest-rated shows on Saturday mornings with the exception of the number one show (that would be The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, which aired on ABC before it became Disney's programming zombie slave). Since pressure from fundamentalist parental television groups forced them to get rid of animation, not to mention the fact that Fox Kids was kicking their butts, NBC changed formats to a teen-oriented live-action lineup preceeded by a Saturday edition of their Today program.

They set a trend that would follow in the years to come as CBS and recently ABC followed that route. Meanwhile, Fox Kids continued to dominate the Saturday morning lineups until Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and a newcomer, Kids' WB took over the spotlight. Nick had Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Catdog, Spongebob, and Fairly Oddparents beginning to take over Saturday mornings away from their traditional Sunday morning premiere block (where they killed the much-loved USA Cartoon Express). Cartoon Network also had their Cartoon Cartoons as well as Looney Tunes dominating Saturday mornings until 2001 when idiots took over and began to migrate older programming (read: anything made before 1995) to an unseen network I think is called Boomerang (it's been around since 2000, and I still can't find it). Those same idiots also ran Kids' WB, which did the unthinkable and killed Fox Kids with a powerhouse of toyetic properties like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh (ironically produced in this country by 4Kids, who took over the Fox lineup). As the years progressed, CBS and ABC became slaves to their cable counterparts, Nickelodeon and Disney Channel/Toon Disney, respectively.

What did NBC do?

They killed two birds with one stone by hiring Discovery Communications to program their Saturday morning lineup and fulfilling the ridiculous educational mandate with actual educational programming (contrary to what ABC will tell you, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, That's So Raven, and their other live-action fare are NOT educational, and shows based in that magical, wonderful kids' favorite hangout known as school are universally a joke). Yeah, NBC had programming in place and earned numerous accolades during the years Discovery Kids on NBC was on.

But accolades don't mean scat unless you have eyeballs tuning in, which they weren't.

So, it comes as no surprise that Discovery Kids and NBC agreed this week to mutually end their partnership effective this fall. Discovery Kids programming will be completely exclusive to Discovery Kids, and NBC programming will be . . .

Oh, crap! They don't have any!

The Peacock is screwed! They're messed up. They have to scour for a production company to scab on to like everybody else since every other network is directly linked to another studio either by corporate blood like ABC or by freelance labor like Fox and soon CBS.

NBC is the network that pretty much invented the Saturday morning industry as we know it. Afterall, they aired the first Japanese-animated series Astro Boy predating other opportunists that feel that foreign animation and labor is cheaper than domestic products by decades (I'm looking at you 4Kids Entertainment). They helped make Hanna-Barbera and sibling studio Ruby-Spears superstar studios throughout the 70s and 80s, even though most of their product at the time were Scooby-Doo and Smurf ripoffs on that network and the lame Flintstones Family shows.

But now, NBC is 20% owned by a company whose primary business was sewer systems until they decided that entertainment is where the money is (see here). NBC Universal isn't known for kids' entertainment, except from those lame Land Before Time movies (and Cartoon Network is airing the series version this winter, *sigh*). They haven't really set out a plan for what they're going to do this fall as this announcement caught many by surprise.

But I can tell you this.

Whatever NBC puts on the air isn't going to be watched by a lot of people. They're watching Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, 4Kids TV on Fox, ABC Kids, and whatever the hell Kids' WB is going to be called in the fall. I think more viewers will be watching that Slumber Party DiC block on CBS than whatever NBC is planning (unless DiC double-dips and plans a boys-based block on NBC). Regardless, NBC realizes that they've already lost the battle before they've even started.

The once-proud network is now eighth-best, and it's a crown they're doomed to keep for the forseeable future.

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