Is Cartoon Network’s current Saturday morning lineup boring? A Rebuttal

Today, a colleague of ours (the same guy from BCDB who made all that noise about Witch Lezah in “Why Y’all Hatin’ on Witch Lezah?”) posted the following nugget on Toon Zone’s Cartoon Network forum:

“I apologize for doing a thread like this, but I must say, I think the worst programming block on Cartoon Network is on Saturday mornings, 7 AM to 12 PM. It’s now all anime and action cartoons, many of them based on toy lines, including “Ben 10 Omniverse,” “Young Justice,” “Beyblade: Metal Fury,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” “Green Lantern,” and “NINJAGO.”

I actually saw some of “Ben 10” morning because nothing else was on TV, and I was bored out of my mind (just to see how bad they were!) Nothing really happened, it was just constant talking and some of the usual action sequences!

Sorry, but I have to agree with other people online on how Saturday morning cartoons have drastically changed. I still remember 10 years ago, Cartoon Network would have a two or three-hour Looney Tunes block on Saturday mornings, but not anymore. I feel sorry for kids that, instead of growing up eating sugary cereals watching funny, semi-educational or even remotely entertaining cartoons, children will just be having bacon and sausage and fatty pork products for breakfast while nothing plays on TV but droning talking and stereotypical action sequences on animation that is secretly plugging the toy lines they are based off of, as well as forced edutainment and news in terms of live-action.”

Now my response is kind of long and wordy (surprise, surprise!), so if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to address and rebut these statements here on Twinsanity as opposed to cluttering up Toon Zone with it:

These shows are only boring TO YOU, because as I know from your posts on BCDB, you’ve never liked action cartoons. (BTW, not all anime are action cartoons. There are plenty on non-action oriented anime, it’s just that the action anime are by and large the only anime that gets imported here.) The substantial fanbases that Ben 10, Pokemon, NinjaGo, Beybalde and Clone Wars have accrued, not to mention the hundreds of people complaining about Green Lantern: TAS and Young Justice going away and the dozens more setting up petitions and campaigns to get these shows revived clearly don’t share your views. You may not like these shows, but the action cartoons with high toy and merchandising tie-ins earn CN big ratings and routinely put butts into seats. Action’s got to air somewhere, and the current Big Brass at CN don’t seem willing to run it anywhere else besides SatAM right now (but we’ve covered that in greater depth in “Bringing Action Back”). Anyway, your personal feelings about these shows is moot, since you’re not a kid and therefore not part of the audience that CN is trying to attract with these shows.

Even so, let’s indulge you for a minute and ask: what else is CN supposed to run on Saturday mornings?  They could run encores of their original comedies, but they already do that throughout the week. CN may not want to run the TV-PG rated comedies like Adventure Time and Regular Show on SatAM, and kids would likely see more encores of Johnny Test and The Amazing World of Gumball, say “Been there, seen this!” and switch to something else. They could possibly air premiere comedies during those hours, but I’m guessing that CN would rather air their comedy premieres during prime time, where they’d stand a much greater chance of earning strong ratings. In fact, if you see a first-run comedy cartoon airing its’ premiere first-run eps on weekend mornings on CN, chances are it’s because the bigwigs in charge of the network don’t have a lot of faith in it and/or just want to burn through the episodes quickly to fulfill their contractual obligation. Should CN air Retro, like the 2 to 3-hour Looney Tunes block you mentioned? A single hour works (LT has always performed well on SatAM, and indeed, CN currently airs LT for an hour at 6 AM on Saturdays), but a 3-hour block of Looney Tunes across the board is not gonna happen. As much as I love Looney Tunes, a 2 to 3-hour LT block would get trounced in the ratings by the competing blocks of new and original comedies airing on Nick, Disney and The Hub. You can’t counter-program new hotness with oldies-but-goodies; fresh new programming is needed to keep bringing the viewers back. CN knows this all too well. Do you recall Thanksgiving of 1994 or 1995, when CN ran the “Great American Toon-In” to counter Nick’s “Nonstop Nicktoons Weekend”? CN was basically the Hanna-Barbera Reruns Channel back then, and their programming consisted solely of older toons like Yogi Bear, The Flintstones and Looney Tunes shorts. Well, the ratings came in the following Monday, and it wasn’t even close: CN got completely, utterly and hilariously trounced by Nickelodeon. The “Nonstop Nicktoons Weekend” earned roughly thrice the ratings that the “Great American Toon-In” did. Nostalgia is fine and all, but it doesn’t earn the big ratings, at least not the kids’ channel ratings that CN wants. Again, one could try to aim Retro Saturday morning programming towards adults, but there’s no big money to be made from that. A SatAM block can’t thrive on Retro alone. At the very most, there could be a SatAM block which mixes some retro hits along with first-run premieres.

Which brings me to my next point: let’s stop thinking small. Go macro with me for a second and look at the big picture. The harsh reality (one baby boomers don’t like to face) is that the industry has changed a lot since when we were kids. Reality check time: Saturday morning just isn’t the big deal that it once was. Sure, SatAM was a big deal for us back when all we had to look forward to cartoon-wise was SatAM toons (aside from weekday syndication and the occasional prime time special), but nowadays kids have cable channels which air cartoons 24/7 as well as internet services like Hulu and Netflix. Why should kids clamor to watch 2 to 3 hours of cartoons one day a week when they can get their animation fix anytime they want? Networks can’t compete with that. The reason you see more news and infotainment on the broadcast channels than cartoons nowadays is the same reason why any networks do anything: MONEY. The Alphabet Networks make more money running news and infomercials on Saturday mornings than they would trying to counteract the kids’ cable networks with their own children’s programming, so they run news and infomercials.

Do I feel sorry for today’s kids for missing out on our childhood SatAM experience? Not in the slightest. For one thing, they’re watching what they like, and that’s all that matters, even if what they enjoy doesn’t appeal to us. Quality is subjective and relative, and often what kids view as great entertainment can drive adults mad (I know my parents didn’t understand my fondness for The Super Globetrotters back in 1979). We can’t force our childhood memories on today’s kids; they can’t and shouldn’t be forced to like the same shows that we like(d). For another, today’s kids have 24-hour cartoon and kids’ entertainment channels. They have DVDs. They have the internet. they have tons of ways to get tooned in. All we had was the Alphabet Networks’ offerings. I’d have beaten up an old lady in front of her grandchildren for an all-cartoon network back then. So no, I don’t feel the least bit sorry for today’s kids. If anything, they should feel sorry for us, ‘cause we had to get our fix the hard way.

Anyways, I don’t see what the big deal is, as you’re not being forced to watch any of these shows. If what CN offers on Saturday morning isn’t to your liking, then you always have the option of watching something else, doing something else or just plain sleeping in.

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