From the time I was a little kid until my teen years Saturday was the greatest day of the week. As a kid there were Saturday morning cartoons to start the day and Chiller theater to close it out. Later on Saturday evenings gave way to Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live. There were other fun things sandwiched between the cartoons and late night tv, but the shows were the items that sat the tone for my day.
If I got up early enough on Saturday the stations had old episodes of Lassie, Skippy, and Daktari. If I got up too early there was the farm report or a test pattern. Neither of those interested me, but I loved the old Ivan Tors animal shows and Lassie was okay as well. A little later in the day the Saturday morning cartoons would start. Most of these were just that; cartoons. Live action Saturday morning fare was much less common. The big and possibly only exception to this rule was Sid and Marty Krofft… oh and the Hudson Brothers.
Recently I picked up season one and three of Land of the Lost on eBay for about $3 each. I already had the second season, so this completed the original series from my childhood. There was a reboot of the series in 1991 which my son watched, although he swears he only remembers watching the show on Nickelodeon. I never really warmed up to the reboot, and the theme song was nowhere near as catchy, but I loved the original 1974 version. It was one of the shows I hated to miss. The show I practically refused to miss was Return to the Planet of the Apes. I remember Mom had made a doctor’s appointment for me one week during the time Return to the Planet of the Apes was airing and I was extremely vocal about my disappointment in missing it. To Mom’s credit she didn’t smack my ass and tell me deal with it, she tried to reassure me that I could catch it on a repeat. Sadly it was cancelled and that episode never was repeated. I now have the whole series on DVD, but after 37 years I’ve forgotten what the storyline even was in the episode I missed. One day I just need to sit down and watch the whole series from start to finish. It only ran for 13 episodes, so that should be about 6 hours or less.
There were a plethora of fun shows on Saturday mornings during those years, but Chiller theater became more important to me toward the end of grade school. I was a huge fan and regular reader of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Castle of Frankenstein and The Monster Times. My fondest wish was to try and see all the classic monster movies. Every once in a while I would get lucky and find one of the Mummy movies or the Wolf Man, but usually it was B grade fare like Monster on Campus, The Monolith Monsters or The Indestructible Man. I still watched them, but I yearned for Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, or Godzilla.
As I entered fourth grade, I discovered Monty Python and British comedies. I would stay up until 11 PM waiting for the new Python episode. Python had a completely different sense of humor and I loved it. It also had occasional nudity which was another plus. The first episode I remember watching featured the skit Blackmail, where a game show host played video footage, showed pictures, or read partial lists of information about an illicit tryst in order to blackmail the guilty parties into paying him money.
Saturdays changed forever once our local NBC affiliate finally picked up Saturday Night Live. They didn’t carry it during the first season or two, opting instead for episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. My nephews had been watching it from the first episode and I got to see one episode when we were visiting them (for the record it was the one hosted by Hugh Hefner). I watched SNL up until the early part of the sixth season. I caught a few sporadic episodes over the next five years, but didn’t really start watching again until the 11th season which was probably one of the worst seasons in the show’s history. I gave up on it again until season 14 and then watched it religiously for several years.
These days Saturday mornings don’t even play that many cartoons. Most of the ones they do play are not exclusive to Saturday mornings either. And of course unlike in those days of yore, Saturday morning is not the only place you can find cartoons on tv. There is Cartoon Network, Toon Disney, Boomerang, and many other channels carrying nothing but animated programming. Chiller theater is long gone, but the classic monster movies are almost all available on Blu-ray or DVD. The only thing missing is a DVD of our syndicated horror host, Seymour. The entire series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus is available as are the first five seasons of SNL. I still wish the other seasons of SNL were available, and I would also love a region 1 release of The Goodies which I also watched on PBS during that same time period.
The other big change is that now I don’t get up early enough to watch whatever the stations are showing, and I’m at work usually when SNL is on. I set my DVR for it if for no other reason than to catch Weekend Updates or the occasional on air flub (thank you, Jenny Slate).