Saturday mornings in 2019 are a far cry from the Saturday mornings of 1985. Hell, it’s been that way since the late 1990’s when the networks started phasing out their cartoon lineups in favor of other programming on Saturdays. I’m not sure what caused the change unless it was the fact that cable television was a staple in most homes by that time. But one thing I do know, Saturday mornings in the ’80s and early ’90s were the bomb for kids. All three of the big networks stuffed their Saturday morning lineups with some of the best cartoons ever produced, and we ate them up!
We all had our favorites, and we all had the ones we weren’t fond of. Channel hopping was commonplace for us kids on Saturday mornings as our favorites were usually spread across all three networks. And back then, that took a little effort. I had to keep getting up to change the channel between shows because I don’t remember having a television with a remote control until the late ’80s. Not that it really mattered though because it was worth the effort to get to the cartoon I really wanted to watch.
Let’s take a look at the Saturday morning cartoon lineups from 1985 and talk about what our favorite offerings were!
NBC unleashed a pretty swank lineup in 1985 with a lot of cartoons that are still enjoyed to this day. It may not have been evident at the time, but The Smurfs would go on to become a powerhouse for the next 34 years, and will probably continue to be one for still a long time to come. Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears debuted in 1985 and was one of the slickest looking shows on any of the networks. Alvin and the Chipmunks went on to be another powerhouse in the pop culture world, and Mr. T was near his zenith, so his Mister T cartoon was flying high at this point as well. It’s Punky Brewster was piggy-backing off the success of the live action prime time show on NBC, and The Snorks was a Smurfs clone that went on to moderate success of its own. Kidd Video and One to Grow On were minor hits in their own right, and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends helped to capture the young comic books fans to round out the block.
Watch this short commercial where NBC is pimping some of their shows for the coming Saturday Morning: 1985 NBC Saturday Morning Cartoons Promo. Commercials like that used to get me pumped up for the coming Saturday morning.
CBS countered with a decent lineup of their own. They were banking on the mega-popularity of the World Wrestling Federation and Hulk Hogan in 1985 and made Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling the cornerstone of their 1985 lineup. Much like NBC and the Smurfs, CBS had a powerhouse in their midst with Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies cartoon, and the Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show featured iconic characters that had been bankable for years. The Berenstain Bears were well known to kids everywhere since most kids had read, or at least heard, a lot of their stories from the popular books, so this looked like it could have been a big hit for them. Dungeons and Dragons was on the tongue of most kids in this time frame due to the popularity/taboo of the game. The Wuzzles, CBS Story Break, and The Young Astronauts rounded out the lineup.
A staple of 1980’s cartoons was the preview shows the networks would run to advertise their new Saturday morning lineup for the fall. These would usually air in primetime on the Friday night before the new lineup and new episodes debuted the following morning. One of my all-time favorites of these was the one CBS did in 1985. It was called the All-Star Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Saturday Spectacular, and it aired on Friday night 9/13/85 to get kids ready for the following morning’s cartoons. As I said, CBS was really banking on Hulk Hogan and wrestling for their cartoon lineup, and their preview show really hammers it home. You can watch the whole thing below.
ABC rolled out a lineup in 1985 that was full of bankable properties. Star Wars was still a mega-hit in all walks of pop culture, so ABC had a pair of Star Wars themed cartoon in their lineup with Star Wars: Droids, and Ewoks. They had all the stars of the always popular Looney Tunes with their Bugs Bunny Show and doubled down on the Scooby-Doo franchise with The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo and Scooby’s Mystery Funhouse. While NBC featured Marvel’s Spider-Man, ABC rolled out DC’s Super Friends in Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. The Super Friends had already proven to be popular through years past, so milking them a little more was a smart move. The fun but short-lived The Littles, ABC Weekend Special, and American Bandstand rounded out their lineup.
So that’s everything that the three networks were offering us kids back in 1985. But the problem with 1985, is that we didn’t yet have Tivo or any other time-shifting technologies that would allow us to watch multiple cartoons from the same time slot. So us kids were forced to pick and choose what we watched. I’m going to run through what I watched and the channel surfing I had to do. Here is how everything lined up on Saturday mornings in 1985.
Several of the best shows ended up being on opposite of each other which really sucked. Some of the cartoons that I ended up loving, I never got to see in its original run. I had to catch them later in syndication or part of something like USA’s Cartoon Express. But here’s how MY Saturday mornings in 1985 shook out…
The network’s programming schedule didn’t start until 8 AM, but at 6 AM I was already settled into the recliner in the living room (that’s where the big TV was) with a bowl of cereal in my lap and ready to start the day. But my Saturday mornings didn’t start with cartoons. Nope, it started with classic television. My local CBS affiliate would run re-runs of The Honeymooners at 6, and I Love Lucy at 6:30. This is the era when I fell in love with those shows, and I watched them every Saturday morning.
After that, at 7:00 am, they ran old episodes of Tennessee Tuxedo and His Pals, followed by The Dudley Do-Right Show at 7:30. Tennessee Tuxedo was my favorite cartoon of that anthology genre, so I never missed an episode when it was airing in those years. Along with the Tennessee Tuxedo shorts, there was also Commander McBragg, Aesop & Son, and Peabody’s Improbable History. While I’d love to say I loved them all equally, Commander McBragg was the bee’s knees back then.
Well enough with the pre-show stuff, let’s get down to the actual network schedules that got off to a roaring start at 8:00 am. While I loved Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes in general, I remember watching the Berenstain Bears and The Snorks in the early mornings on Saturdays. I’m not quite sure which one I was watching during this season because I seem to recall the whole of both series. In another season, one of them may have been at another time slot. I know I watched Bugs Bunny at one point around 10 or 11 am on Saturdays, so maybe it moved in another season as well.
At 8:30, I was all in Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears! I must have seen some hype commercials for it at some point because I was super stoked to see it. It never disappointed either. I love the fantasy/medieval themes in stuff like that, and the colors were so rich that I was hooked instantly. My favorite episodes were the ones featuring Cubby as The Crimson Avenger, and the one where Tummy and Gruffy went and found Gusto on his island. I don’t believe I’ve ever watched an episode of The Wuzzles, and have no plans to watch any of it here in later life either.
I wasn’t in on Star Wars yet, so Droids and Ewoks escaped me at that time. At 9 am it was all about The Smurfs at my house. I’ve always loved them and introduced my kids to the classic episodes when they were younger. That helped carry on a tradition too as way back when my Mom would take a break from doing housework and watch some of the Smurfs with me. It was a cartoon that she kind of enjoyed too.
I would watch the Smurfs for the first hour, but I had to cut and run before the last half hour because at 10 am it was time for Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling! Pro Wrestling was my biggest hobby and attraction back in those days, so there was no way I was going to miss it each and every week. The show had Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Tito Santana, Hillbilly Jim Junkyard Dog, Jimmy Snuka, Captain Lou Albano, and Wendi Richter on the good guy side of things, and featured Roddy Piper, Iron Shiek, Nikolai Volkoff, Mr. Fuji, and The Fabulous Moolah rounding out the bad guys side. And let’s not forget “Mean” Gene Okerlund was in there as well. Along with the cartoon shorts, it had the live-action sequences which were a lot of fun for a wrestling fan. And who can forget the legendary music video shown on the show multiple times featuring all of the WWF stars performing Land of 1000 Dances. It’s still epic today.
Watching “Mr. Woderful” Paul Orndorff kiss his biceps never gets old.
So that was on for an hour, and then it was time for Alvin and the Chipmunks at 11 am. I believe I watched each and every season of Alvin, and in 1985 it didn’t have any competition that would hold my attention. Well, Scooby might have, but I never like any subsequent version of Scooby acter the Where Are You run.
For my tastes, the 11:30 am slot is the weakest. I never watched Kidd Video, and only occasionally watched Dungeons & Dragons. Which is a shame now, because these days my kids are big into D&D and I’m their dungeon master. If I had known how life was going to turn out, I probably would have watched it back then. But I dug The Littles when they were on, and it was a passable series, even if it was on the short-lived side.
It’s funny, but my mind always seems to remember cartoons ending at 12. But looking at these lineups, that didn’t appear to be the case in 1985. I was a huge fan of The A-Team, and Mister T was another hit in my mind. He was in one of my favorite prime time shows and had been an integral part of the WWF scene all year, so I was on board for his cartoon. Like Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, it had live-action features mixed in with the animation that I really liked. Side story: Once during this era, we had Saturday school. I gave my Mom a list of the shows I wanted to be recorded, along with detailing the times and channels. Mister T was one of those episodes. I would play that homemade VHS so many times through the years that it finally fell apart. Can you imagine how cool it would be today to still have that? A tape full of Saturday morning cartoons and commercials from 1985? What a gem that would be.
And then wrapping up my cartoon viewing was Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. I absolutely adored Spidey, Firestar, and Iceman, and tuned in every week. I just wish the show could have run longer than it did.
Even though there were still a couple of cartoons left in the day, at 1:00 my cartoon viewing ended because it was time for NWA Mid- Atlantic Wrestling on my local NBC affiliate, followed by WWF wrestling at 2. Once wrestling was off the air, it was time to play with my He-Man and G.I. Joe toys before getting dressed to head out to eat at the family. Which was usually somewhere like Pizza Hut. You know, Back in the Glory Days of Pizza Hut.
So what about you? I want to hear your tale of what YOU watched on Saturday mornings in 1985. I’m always fascinated by other’s cartoon viewing habits. Drop me a line in the comments below and share and we’ll go back and forth arguing over what 1985 cartoons were better.
In the meantime, if you want to relive my 1985 Saturday mornings with me, pour yourself a big bowl of Morning Funnies cereal or make a bowl of Oatmeal Swirlers oatmeal, settle in, and watch through the playlist below in order. Enjoy!