"Saturday! What a day! Groovin' all week with you!"
At the risk of sounding like everybody's Grandpa, kids today don't know how good they have it. Take cartoon shows, for example. If kids want to get a fix of their favorite animated hi-jinks, they can pick from a number of 24-hour kids' channels entirely devoted to cartoon mayhem, grab a DVD off the shelf or steal Mom & Dad's laptop or Smartphone and stream an entire season's worth of "Spongebob Squarepants" via Video On Demand.
When I tell my kids that I didn't have such luxuries when I was growing up, they look at me with a mixture of amazement and pity. "You mean, they only showed cartoons on TV on Saturday mornings, Dad? Wow!" "There were no DVDs? How did you live?"
As a child of the late 70s and early 80s, your humble narrator was part of the last pre-cable TV generation. Up until our neighborhood got wired for cable circa 1979 or '80, we had to make do with over-the-air broadcast channels, of which there were only four or five in our area. Precious little airtime was devoted to us young'ins on the major networks, therefore, Saturday mornings were a sacred time for us. Each weekend I'd get up early, tiptoe past my parents' bedroom door (a habit that I wish my own kids would cultivate sometime soon), pour myself a big bowl of cold cereal, and spend a few hours zoning out with all of the newest, coolest 'toons that network TV had to offer. Ahhhh, memories!!
...the only problem with such rose-colored bouts of childhood nostalgia is that in this age of Video On Demand, YouTube, and retro-themed cable TV networks, it's easy to revisit some of the oldy-but-goody 'toons of my youth...and therefore it's easy to see that most of them were pretty freakin' awful!! After reviewing some of these old shows, I am now quite sure that the writer's rooms in Hollywood animation studios in the late '70s/early 80s were populated exclusively by coke-headed psychopaths who didn't have kids, didn't understand kids, and probably totally hated kids. I mean, how else can you explain nonsense like Jabberjaw?
Maybe Jabberjaw was somewhat "hip" by late 70s standards, but have you seen it lately? Saying it "hasn't aged well" is being far too kind. For the uninformed, Jabberjaw followed the adventures of a great white shark (an obvious nod to the Jaws-mania of the late 70s) who not only talked, but also played drums in an otherwise all human rock band (!!) called the Neptunes. Double-J and his bandmates lived in an undersea city of the future and every week they'd have to solve a mystery or foil a plot by evil aliens or ocean monsters on their way to their next gig, then they'd close the episode with an awful song. My kids caught a re-run of Jabberjaw on the Boomerang channel some time ago and a few minutes in, my ten year old suddenly piped up, "Dad, this show sucks." I probably should've scolded him for his choice of language, but unfortunately... I agreed with him!!
It's just gonna get weirder...
Sliding even farther down on the "What the @#$%?" scale, there was The Robonic Stooges. I can only imagine how the pitch meeting for this (thankfully short lived) series went:
"Gentlemen, as you know, everyone loves the legendary slapstick comedy stylin's of the Three Stooges. But how can we possibly update the Stooges and make them relevant to children of the 1970s?"
"I'VE GOT IT! We'll turn them into a trio of robotic cartoon superheroes!"
"Great idea! Have another snort of coke, Johnson. We start production tomorrow. I smell a hit! That's lunch, everybody! Hey...what's that sound?"
"Um...I think it's the spirits of Larry, Moe, and Curly, turning over in their graves."
Gotta Basketball Jones?
Major cocaine use is also the only possible explanation for the creation of 1979's Super Globetrotters, in which the world famous basketball court tricksters lead double lives as super heroes. When the world is in peril, the team gets an alert from a basketball-shaped satellite, dives into their magic lockers (!), and emerges as costumed crusaders ready to protect Earth from any and all basketball-related threats. I am not making this up. Seriously. THIS SHOW ACTUALLY EXISTED. You can look it up!!
Video Games and TV Sitcom Transfers...
As the '70s became the '80s, super heroics and mystery solving were "out," and corporate synergy was "in." Cartoon studios were busily trying to get in bed with the next "hot property" that they could translate into a Saturday morning show, then spin off into merchandising bonanzas. Video games were the hot new trend, which led to a variety of cartoons based on game characters. The weekly Pac-Man show was the first to hit the airwaves and was a huge hit, in spite of its cheap-ass animation and utterly nonsensical storylines. I suppose it must've been a challenge to translate a simplistic, 8-bit video game that didn't have much of a 'story' to begin with into a coherent TV show, but the writers on Pac-Man barely even tried. Maybe they were creeped out by the idea of having to write scenes where the hero ate the villains week after week. Cannibalism rarely translates well into cartoon form.
Even stranger was an animated version of Q-Bert, which for some reason chose to portray the big-nosed, foul-mouthed, orange video game fuzzball as a teenager in a 1950s style world, complete with hot rods, sock hops, soda shops and saddle shoes. Geez, had any of the guys who wrote this show ever seen a video game??
"Fonz and the Happy Days Gang"
Speaking of the 1950s, everyone remembers the classic sitcom "Happy Days" and its most popular character, "The Fonz"...but do you remember The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang? Yup, just as the popularity of the live-action prime time sitcom started to dip, someone at ABC got the bright idea to move Fonzie into his own Saturday morning show...with a science fiction twist. In this stinker, Fonzie was saddled with a cartoon pooch named "Mr. Cool" and met "Cupcake," a "future chick" who dropped in on Milwaukee 1957 via time machine. Yes, really. Fonzie, Ralph Malph and Richie Cunningham accepted Cupcake's invitation to come time traveling with her, then spent the rest of the series trying to get back to 1957 when a mechanical mishap aboard the machine sent them spinning randomly through time. I guess ABC figured that since Fonzie had already "jumped the shark" (both literally and figuratively) on his "real" show, there was nothing to lose by embarrassing him even further on Saturday mornings.
"Laverne & Shirley in the Army" (1981)
Other klutzy sitcom-to-cartoon transitions around this same time period included Laverne and Shirley In the Army, in which the man-hungry pair suddenly decide to leave the Shotz Brewery behind and join the armed forces, where their commanding officer is a pig in an Army outfit named "Sergeant Squealy." Obviously the show was inspired by Goldie Hawn's then-hit movie Private Benjamin, though Lord only knows where the idea for the pig came from. (Cocaine's a helluva drug!!) Reruns from this show, as well as the Fonz 'toon and an additional short lived Mork & Mindy animated spinoff were eventually packaged together and syndicated under the unwieldy The Mork and Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/The Fonz Hour title. I seriously doubt that any sane child ever actually made it through an entire hour of this combo platter..
Meanwhile, over on CBS, the hit live-action series The Dukes of Hazzard also made the jump to Saturday Morning toon-dom with 1983's The Dukes, in which them good ole Duke boys took part in a "Race Around the World" against the villainous Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane and visited a different country every week. Wait a minute. Call me crazy, but I bet The Dukes was actually some sort of ham-fisted attempt at hiding an educational cartoon about world geography under the guise of car-crashin' redneck fun!! Nice try, Network Powers That Be! Ever'body knows that Saturday mornin's ain't for learnin' stuff!!
The Most WTF Cartoon EVER?
Make no mistake, all of the cartoons I've talked about thus far in this Hub have been bad. However, for my money the most WTF Saturday Morning Cartoon EVER... yes, even more screwy than Fred and Barney Meet the Thing or the Fantastic Four cartoon that replaced the Human Torch with a robot named "Herbie"... the absolute nadir of the animated art form...has got to be 1983's Rubik, The Amazing Cube. How do you make an animated cartoon out of an inanimate puzzle toy? Simple. Make it into a MAGIC puzzle box that fell from an evil magician's wagon. (Shades of Clive Barker's Hellraiser!) "Rubik" ended up in the hands of the the Rodriguez kids, who spent the rest of the series protecting him from the magician, who tried to steal him back in every episode. Whenever the kids ran into trouble they'd "solve" Rubik's puzzle, causing him to sprout legs and a little Yoda-looking head (again, I want to stress, I am not making any of this up) and he'd save the day with his ability to fly and other magical powers. I wonder why they didn't just solve Rubik once and keep him that way so he could fly around doing good deeds all the time, but that's neither here nor there. It must be noted that in spite of its utter WTFness, Rubik the Amazing Cube holds a special place in television history because it was the first-ever Saturday Morning series to feature Latino main characters (take that, Dora the Explorer!). Rubik's theme song was even performed by the then-hot Puerto Rican boy band, Menudo! Seriously, does it get any cooler than that?? None of of the above, however, helped make the show watchable. I saw the show once -- ONCE! -- three decades ago, and it's haunted my nightmares ever since. (Comic Book Guy Voice) "Most. WTF. Show. EVER."
"Rubik, the Amazing Cube"
That'll do for now...
I love vintage cartoons and animation as much as the next guy, but it's obvious that there are far more bad cartoons out there than good ones. For proof of this theory, all you've got to do is turn on the Boomerang channel or Cartoon Network and wait a couple of minutes...something truly awful will march across the screen fairly quickly. Maybe that's why, as I approach middle age, I still stick to the classics like Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Max Fleischer's Superman, etc... they don't make'em like that anymore, and if the shows in this Hub are any indication, they haven't made'em like that in a very long time, either!! Thanks for reading, and if you've got a bad 70s or 80s 'toon that you think deserved a mention in this Hub, feel free to remind me of it in the comments below. If there's enough response, there may be a sequel to this article somewhere down the road... till then, stay tooned!!
Pamela Shaw on November 13, 2019:
I love the old cartoons. I really loved the futuristic cartoon segments. The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss the list could go on and on.
Jamie Moffett on June 12, 2019:
Love the old school cartoons dungeons and dragons voltron silver hawks tiger sharks turbo-teen transformers gobots pole position just to name a few that i loved.
Dennis on February 18, 2018:
Obscure Sat. morning 80's show...
Hi. Great site! Hoping someone can help me with the name of a show that aired around 7 a.m. Sat. morning between '88-'90. It wasn't really a cartoon, I think it was more like stop motion animation. It had these robotic cubes that battled each other on another planet. They had a spaceship on this planet and I think they had a human commander. Don't remember if it was on a network or cable channel. Thanks in advance
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 12, 2016:
Hi Scorch - I wish I could help, but that description doesn't ring any bells with me. Sorry...
Scorch on October 11, 2016:
I'm trying to remember the name of a cartoon about a prince that is forced to run away from home and live with a wizard, where he accidently makes three monster children: any clues ? It's killing me!
Something like "The little monsters " or the "LittlePrince"not the one on the moon .
Suzie from Carson City on April 26, 2016:
Keith...This is a fun, nostalgic read. I've had the pleasure of viewing 3 generations of Toons, my own, my kids & my grandchildren.
Yes, Saturday morning in my day, was Cartoon day & I was faithful. Back then it was mostly Disney characters, very mild & easy. I also remember Popeye, Brutus & Olive Oyl!
Much more recently, I've grown to be fond of Sponge Bob, but admit I have no idea WHY!
Thanks for sharing this enjoyable take on the world of animation. You sure know your Toons, Keith!!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 01, 2015:
when i was young, i love jabberjaw. I don't know why but this sharkie doesn't eat humans
Consolacion Miravite from Philippines on March 26, 2015:
I guess, my kid was a little staid. All I remember were Tweety Bird, Sylvester, Three Little Pigs, and Japanese anime.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 25, 2015:
Oh man, H.R. Pufnstuf was just creepy, haha!
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 25, 2015:
Sadly, I remember Jabberjaw, too. And let's not forget The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. The perfect WTF mix of rock (?) + cartoon animals + live action. Then there was H.R. Pufnstuf...
All these folks should be thanking bloggers like you for keeping their memories alive. :) Thanks for the trip to the silly 70s!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 25, 2015:
Hi BizWhiz ... I hear what you're saying about Scooby, he seems to stay consistently "cool" no matter the year. My kids were big Scooby fans when they were younger, too.
My 8 year old found a new (!) PAC-MAN cartoon on Netflix some time ago... and it was just as terrible as the old one, haha!
TheBizWhiz on March 25, 2015:
Lol! Thank you for writing this original Hub. It brought back a lot of memories.
I agree there were some weird ones during that time. You even mentioned some I have never heard of such as Rubiks and Pacman.
I will say that a few from that era are still classics. My kids are very young and up until recently watched only the computer generated cartoons found on Disney Junior, but recently they found Cartoon Network and instantly fell in love with Scooby Doo. It surprised me a bit, but since that time I have bought them some Scooby DVD's and even one with the Laugh Olympics. They bring back a lot of memories. Let's just hope the After School Specials never catch back on!
theuhsomething on November 03, 2014:
i agree that most of these cartoons suck, except Jabberjaw, which I like for the beautiful underwater backgrounds, monsters and oldschool electronic music.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on September 23, 2014:
Hi peachpurple - glad to hear I'm not the only one who remembers "Rubik"...sometimes when I talk about that cartoon, people look at me like I'm nuts and accuse me of making it up, haha!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 23, 2014:
i watched rubik and jabberjaw when i was young. Nyuk, nyuk sounds ugh.
Bill on July 30, 2014:
You forgot the Friday before the new cartoon season NBC & ABC had 1/2 hour or hour previews of what cartoons were going to be premiering or returning. Going to be early though it was a weekend so you could be up before they started. Then agonizing which you were going to watch if 2 you wanted to watch were on at the same time lol
I liked Rubik myself. But Dungeons & Dragons, Mighty Orebots, Captain Caveman... I could go on. Damn this is depressing lol
Writinglover, I am 43 & I still watch cartoons all the time. No shame in that imho
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on May 02, 2014:
More recently, The Globetrotters made numerous random appearances on "Futurama," obviously as a nod to the weird cartoon shows they starred in years ago. Haha
LaZeric Freeman from Hammond on May 02, 2014:
Funny ... I watched every last one of these shows. Though somehow I missed out on the Mork and Mindy adaption. It was a pretty fun time for cartoons ... Though Robotic Stooges and the Globetrotters were kind of weird even then.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on August 12, 2013:
Thankx markmic -- glad I could bring back some cool memories for ya...
Mick Smith from Warwick, RI on August 12, 2013:
Ah yes the memories. Even though some of the cartoons were cheesy it was still a special time. I mean you looked forward to Sat. morning. Yeah now being able to access anything at anytime is cool but also sad at the same time. I remember when my family first got cable. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I remember watching horror movies for a whole weekend straight (movie channels were free back then). But cartoons on 24/7 I was in heaven. Awesome hub brings back memories.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 19, 2013:
Cool, glad you enjoyed!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 19, 2013:
i sure missed those old cartoons. There were sweet memories for me when i was young. I remembered coming home from school, head to the tv and switch it on without removing my shoes. Voted up
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 07, 2013:
Thanx Beth - I have a weakness for obscure crap, what can I tell ya? :)
Beth37 on June 07, 2013:
Hahaha, these are the most obscure cartoons ever. I remember JabberJaws, of course... I even have the faint memory of the happy days one, but Laverne and Shirley join the army... no memory whatsoever. You are too funny.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on May 09, 2013:
Cool, writinglover. You have great taste in classic 'toons!!
Jennifer from Lost...In Video Games and Stories on May 09, 2013:
I definitely remember Jabberjaw when they did late night reruns of old cartoons. I used to like it but when I reflect on it, I have to agree that it WAS downright awful. Like you, I stick with Tom and Jerry and Looney Toons (even at 23, almost 24, I still watch them). Great hub!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 10, 2013:
Thanks for the comment Steven -- I remember "Popeye and Son," I also vaguely remember a Popeye cartoon where he was trapped in the caveman era (does that ring any bells with anyone?)... and also a Flintstones toon where their new next door neighbors were monsters... Saturday Mornings were packed with stupid back in the 70s and 80s, haha.
Steven Escareno on April 09, 2013:
Pretty interesting hub. Thankfully, I've only seen "Jabberjaw" on this list, and completely missed out on the other ones you've mentioned. Although I remember watching a bit of the pac man one as a kid, but it's been years since i saw it, so i vaguely even remember it.
Another couple of stupid shows i remember back when I was growing up was "Popeye and Son" and one where it featured the Pink Panther having a kid too...sorry i forget the name of it.
However, this was an interesting hub to read, and funny too. Be sure to keep up the good work and all that.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 09, 2013:
Hi sweetie1 - If you check out any of the video clips I posted, I think you'll see that India didn't miss out on much by not getting any of these cartoons... haha.
Thanks for stopping by.
sweetie1 from India on April 09, 2013:
When i was growing up in late 1990s cartoon channel started in India and we then started getting cartoons and as Tom and Jerry, Johny Bravo, Popeye and many others. And as a 8 year girl I used to love them a lot. The cartoon you mentioned here were not aired in India when I was growing up.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 05, 2013:
Hi Cantuhearmescream - glad I could bring back such fond memories for you! Thanks for stopping by.
Cat from New York on April 05, 2013:
This was just too awesome; boy do I know what you're talking about. I grew up with a turn knob for channels and volume; remember when you actually had to get up? 13 channels and probably half of them were showing black and white shows. I'm constantly subjecting my kids to the "when I was a kid...up hills both way" kinds of talks. I remember laying on the floor on my belly with my head propped up in my hands all kinds of excited when Popeye or Heathcliff or Flinstones were coming on. Being that I was a kid from the early 80's and on, I did have the luxury of a few more toons at my disposal. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid the only time I saw a Disney program was when we got a free promotional weekend. I think we put on our Sunday's finest and gazed at the TV in awe until the weekend was over. I force all the old cartoons on my kids. I used to scoop up the DVDs as I'd find them at WalMart, but now they have 15 channels to choose from, but I still tend to pull some of them up on YouTube. Some of them still stand the test of time, but others, I'm not sure how I found them entertaining; simply aweful.
Lastly, if you figure out how to teach your kids to not sound like elephants in the morning... kindly let me know. :-)
Voted up, awesome and funny!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 05, 2013:
You're welcome, Carly... though now that they've been unlocked, you'll probably wish that the memories of these godawful 'toons had stayed repressed!!
Carly Sullens from St. Louis, Missouri on April 05, 2013:
This takes me back to my childhood. Thank you for unlocking all these memories that I had suppressed all these years.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 01, 2013:
Hi Kevina -- the theme song is probably the best thing about that show! Haha
Kevina Oyatedor on April 01, 2013:
I actually used to watch 'Jabber Jaw' when I was a kid in the 90s. I liked the theme song.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 27, 2013:
That Tarzan/Lone Ranger combo platter rings a bell, Manny... perhaps it was an ill fated attempt to tie into the terrible "Legend of the Lone Ranger" theatrical film of 1981 which was a massive bomb....
mannyalice on March 27, 2013:
Holy Hell!!! I remember all these cartoons, most of them from ABC I believe and most of them where horrid!!!!!
I doubt most of these sad shows lasted beyond one season, I also remember vaguely a Tarzan/Lone Ranger power hour.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 27, 2013:
Glad you enjoyed, Mike and Geekdom. Mike, I will check out your hub, sounds like something I would dig. Thanks for stopping by.
Mike Marks on March 27, 2013:
I was around for the first superhero boom in saturday morning cartoons on the heels of the Adam West Batman show saturday mornings took off with Superman/Superboy and Space Ghost cartoons, soon followed by Birdman and Spiderman and the Fantastic Four, while local stations were airing five other marvel superheroes with a host, I was superhero crazy, even knitted my own superman and batman costumes, and had a reel to reel tape recorder I'd record the saturday morning cartoons and listen to the recordings during the week. Of course the Bugs Bunny Show was also hot, and the Flintstones were prime time at 7pm on ABC friday nights. Saturday afternoons we went to a movie theater and they'd start off with five cartoons then a monster movie. Don't want to be rude and post a link to my own hub, but you might actually like one of mine with similar memories, hit my name and check Beyond the Beatles Part 4, where I talk about local NYC kids TV early 60's
Geekdom on March 26, 2013:
I used to watch Pac-Man as a kid. Love the inclusion of videos. Great Hub!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 26, 2013:
Oh hell yeah, "Star Blazers" was awesome!! There's a show I haven't thought of in a long time!!
FreedomMetal from Somewhere In Time on March 26, 2013:
I remember most of those shows...... but didn't watch most of them - I was more into Speed Racer reruns and Star Blazers
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 25, 2013:
Glad you dug it NateB. Thanks for joining me aboard the Way-Bac Machine to the 70s Weird Zone!!
Nathan Bernardo from California, United States of America on March 25, 2013:
Reading your Hubs is like a blast from the past for me. I'm pretty sure we're about the same age. I remember those days when you could only get a few channels, there was no Internet, and kids' shows were only on Saturday morning. I also had a crush on Laverne DiFazio and Joanie Cunningham. Yep. Really some weird cartoons back in the 70s and 80s, no doubt about that. Of course, these days we also have Fairly Odd Parents, Sponge Bob, and Ren and Stimpy, among others. I'm pretty sure those are the creations of minds altered too. Thanks for sharing, brought back the memories, and funny stuff too.