Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday Morning Television

Back in the early days of television, kids ruled the airwaves on Saturday mornings. The black and white screen came to life early in the morning and flickered with images of cowboys, space men and cartoon characters until our parents made us turn the TV off and go outside for chores. I remember the names of the shows; Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, The Lone Ranger, Andy's Gang and many more. Many of these shows were adaptations of radio shows in the late 40s and early 50s.

Tom Corbett came on early in the morning on CBS, way before Mom and Dad were ready to get up on the one day of the week they could sleep in. So my brother and I snuck into the living room, turned the TV on with the volume down way low and sat close so we could catch every word. And off we go following the adventures of Tom Corbett, Astro, and Roger Manning, cadets at the Space Academy as they train to become members of the elite Solar Guard. When the movie "Toy Story" came out, I felt that the character of Buzz Lightyear was based on Tom Corbett.

The Lone Ranger, starring Clayton Moore, who was replaced by John Hart from 1952 to 1954, and Jay Silverheels as Tonto was by far the highest-rated television program on the ABC network in the early 1950s and its first true "hit". The first 78 episodes were produced and broadcast for 78 consecutive weeks without any breaks or reruns. Then the entire 78 episodes were shown again before any new episodes were produced. All were shot in Utah and California. Much of the series was shot at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, California. We were transported to the old west and were transfixed to the TV when Clayton yelled out, "Hi Oh Silver, Away".

Andy's Gang ran on NBC from August 20, 1955, to December 31, 1960. It was hosted by actor Andy Devine and was the successor to the radio and television programs Smilin' Ed McConnell and his Buster Brown Gang. We would sing the sponsor's song; "I got shoes, you got shoes, everybody's got to have shoes, but there's only one kind of shoe for me - good old Buster Brown shoes!" I remember the green puppet, Froggy the Gremlin who appeared in a puff of smoke "Hi Ya, Kids, Hiya, Hiya, Hiya!" and was always interrupting the story and causing trouble. We would always yell 'Hiya, Hiya, Hiya' back at him and see what he had in store for long suffering Andy.

The cartoons back in the day were different than the ones you see on the TV today. Most of them came from the movie theaters, where they used to show before the feature, instead of the commercials you get in the theaters today. They were what I like to call "full motion" that is every frame was drawn with motion. In many of today's cartoons, the character's body is motionless except the mouth as the dialog is delivered. This cheaper form of cartooning is almost all you see these days. I always felt cheated when I saw that, and I still do today. Oh MY!

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