Mar 29, 2006

Quick Show of Hands: Who Knows What's On Saturday Mornings THIS Weekend?

As I was writing an article for my main site (look out for Who Killed Saturday Mornings? on The X Bridge in a couple of weeks), I found myself scratching my head.

I know that Saturday mornings is a dead institution, but find myself wondering what's actually on this weekend. I'm not talking about the cable networks, because everybody knows what's on. Reruns on Nickelodeon, new stuff on Cartoon Network, premieres on ABC Family. However, what if, on the rare occasion, I want to know what's coming on, say, 4KidsTV on FOX or Kids' WB? I could go three different routes: I could check out the television listings either in the papers, cable grids, or on the interweb, go to their online sites and see what's on, or actually wait until Saturday comes to see what's on and hope the morning isn't clogged with more reruns.

But the average person has better things to do rather than ponder what's coming on this weekend on broadcast television, like count the tiles on the bathroom floor (I have 1152 small tiles on my floor). There used to be a time when kids could see what was coming on that Saturday with much excitement and joy without having to actively search for what's on as if it was a high-school term paper.

And that time was 2005, the last year a broadcast network had a weekday lineup. Once Fox Kids ceased operations, its' biggest broadcast competitor, Kids' WB, began operating like the WWE after they bought out WCW. They grew lazy because they were the only broadcast game in town, so they aired reruns with glee, growing complacent and arrogant because they felt that, well, if they weren't looking at Kids' WB, they weren't looking at television.

That's the same kind of arrogance they displayed when they created that fake Toonami block back in 2001. You guys and gals remember that, don't you? You remember how much of a colossal failure that was, correct? Well, now that there wasn't any need to even try to program a watchable lineup, Kids' WB enjoyed a virtually competition-free broadcast existance. By strangleholding Cartoon Network's programming department, they felt that they were the only game in town. Meanwhile, in New York, Nickelodeon has not only overtaken the Saturday morning ratings, but has also taken over weekday afternoons. Nick tried something new yet familiar.

They didn't clog the lineup with reruns of toyetic/card-based programs every day. Kids' WB aired these type of shows on a daily basis while Nickelodeon was driven by comedic shows, which was, ironically, THE cornerstone of Kids' WB's programming schemes before they picked up Pokemon. Yeah, I remember a time when The Bugs and Daffy Show and Animaniacs were seen on weekday afternoons. On broadcast television. On an outlet people can actually turn to without resorting to broadband or a channel your cable operator will never get.

The fact is the weekday afternoon broadcast blocks was, for an entire generation of viewers, the cornerstone of the success of Saturday mornings. Since Kids' WB gave up earlier in the year, that fabled legacy is gone on broadcast television. Broadcast executives, scared of cable companies their parent companies own, felt that weekday programming was just a waste of time. What they didn't know is that what they gave up can never be recovered - - - the viewer's trust.


Jorge Garrido said...

About time someone said it, Jeff!

Enoch Allen said...

I still follow the SatAM schedules, and I will always follow them, as long as I'm alive.

4Kids, IMO, is to blame for the decline of quality programming on Saturday AM blocks. There is a way to develop shows that tell good stories as well as move fun merch, but the merch shouldn't be the focus of the show; the story should be. But then, that's just common sense, something that the execs seem to be in short supply of nowadays.