Thursday, September 13, 2007

Memories - Prime Time Cartoons

Today prime time cartoons have come into their own and between The Simpsons and King of the Hill, and a few others, not to mention cable channels dedicated to animated series, they seem to be here to stay. It's almost difficult for some to realize that there was a time when cartoons were strictly Saturday and Sunday morning and just after-school fare. But there were several efforts to introduce animation into prime time and they largely failed.

I was very young, possibly fresh out of diapers, but vaguely remember that I used to watch Alvin and Chipmunks just before I went to bed but I really couldn't tell you if that was for the night or for a nap.

Also when I was around kindergarten age The Flintstones were a Prime Time show. (I also remember Mom reading the newspapers wondering if Fred & Wilma were going to have their baby -- Pebbles -- in the upcoming episode; that seemed to be a point of interest to a lot of people in that time.)

These two shows are a permanent part of our culture and are known all over the world. There was an attempt to bring animation into prime time around 1970 and it apparently failed.

First off there was Wait Till Your Father Gets Home which I remember quite well and used to watch pretty much every week and can still remember the plot of a few episodes. The cartoons theme seemed to be to avoid political extremism on both the left and the right (though today the position of the show would be considered extreme right). Dad was caught between his liberal kids and their foolish and misguided liberalism and his right-wing vigilante neighbor Ralph (and his sidekick- - an old lady named Sargent Whitaker). The theme of the show appeared to be "Moderation is best" but moderate circa 1970 is far different from moderate today.

Two episodes stand out. 1) Dad was going to get an award and his family was going to a special dinner where he would receive it, but his teen-aged daughter decided she would wear a see-through blouse to the dinner- - Dad couldn't talk her out of it until he embarrassed her by announcing he was going to wear only his underwear to receive the award using her arguments to bolster his case and she quickly relented. 2) They rented an expensive beach house for a vacation and then the youngest son was not allowed on the beach because the neighbors insisted on nude sunbathing until the youngest son guilt-tripped them with a speech on how their selfish demand for the right to be naked meant he couldn't enjoy the beach. No they weren't all about inappropriate clothing but those are the two that stand out in my mind.

Another Prime Time Cartoon from around the same period, but only made 10 episodes was Where's Huddles which was a cartoon about a professional football quarterback and his neighbor (the team Center) and their families. They were an inept pair, but along with the team running back "Freight Train" managed to win most of their games and still handle the crisis of the week. In spite of the shows failure to survive it is historically significant because it was the first animated series to include a black character as a regular character who was considered an equal by the other characters. The show was canceled to open slot for All In the Family which was understandable.

A few years earlier there was one other Prime Time cartoon that my mother preferred that I not watch as it planted nightmares in my 6 year old mind and that was Johnny Quest. I saw reruns of it several years later and didn't understand why it gave me nightmares as a child, but it did. Actually the stories weren't half bad but none really stand out.

These cartoons are largely forgotten and prime time went many years without an animated series as it was believed to be undo able until Homer, Marge and Bart proved them wrong almost 20 years later.


Blogger dons_mind said...

sitting in the theater last week with my daughter and her hubby to watch the simpsons movie there was a preview for the upcoming release of a new alvin & the chipmunks movie!!!! can't wait! they were/are favorites of mine....

gotta say i don't recall those two that you mentioned...but i do recall johnny quest - we were always fans of warner brothers toons anyway.....

8:23 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

My wife remebers 2 of the three that you mention. No cartoons when I was growing up. My family first got a t.v. when I was about ten.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous tim said...

Johnny Quest rocked! I wanted to grow up to be Dr. Quest and my best friend, Russell was going to be the two-fisted, ex test pilot bodyguard Race Bannon! I used to also love the Spiderman, Fantastic four, and the other Marvel series (Capt. America, Hulk, Iron Man, Submariner, and Thor). I miss being a kid, and would love to go back and do it all over again, blissfully ignorant of the responsibilities of adulthood.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

I think cartoons aren't near as good today as they used to be. I have such fond memories of the Flinstones, the Jetsons and Scooby Doo among others. For awhile it was nice because Cartoon Network would re-air these old shows.

1:03 AM  

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