Saturday Morning Supplies

Watching Saturday Morning Cartoons as a Dad

Television Videos
Saturday Morning Supplies
Photo: Simone Fried

My son calls for me from his crib at 6 am. It’s Saturday, so he slept in. His mom stays comfortable and warm in bed while the two of us quietly make our way down the stairs. He gets a juice, I get a coffee, and we sit on the sofa together to watch a morning of cartoons.

When my wife and I decided to rely on over-the-air broadcasts and Internet streams and cut the cable, I had no idea how difficult it would be to repeat the experiences of my youth for my son. With the rise of specialty cable channels dedicated to cartoons, Saturday morning cartoons have disappeared from basic cable. Instead, we have fishing shows, infomercials and political commentary. There is still some educational programming but little oriented towards toddlers. Frankly, educational is not what we’re looking for on a weekend.

One of the most important parts as a child myself when watching cartoons was the effort of filling up my morning. A half-hour gap between Ewoks ending and the start of Dungeons & Dragons may have to be filled with a Rocket Robin Hood episode I’ve seen countless times. If I dared to venture up from the basement to tell my mom that I was bored for the next 29 minutes, she’d find something for me to do and my morning of sugary cereal in front of the TV would be at an end. With Netflix at our hands, we can binge watch a half-dozen episodes of Clone Wars before second breakfast.

Ewoks cartoon series
“When I was your age, Star Wars cartoons didn’t have 3D animation.”

So, I try to mix it up. I’m not sure binge-watching for adults is the best thing for creative thought, so I try to refrain from doing the same with my son. It’s not easy arguing with a two-year-old why Bubble Guppies is over now, and that we’re going to watch The Wild Kratts instead. It’s difficult to do because I know that choosing what I get to watch and when I want to watch it was only a dream for me as a child. Now, I get to bring that world to my son.

We watch another episode of Bubble Guppies.

After a time, the absent commercials become noticeable. When Netflix added the binge-watching “Play Next Episode” feature, one becomes bored of the monotony. Many cartoons are obvious 22 minute sales pitches for the toys, but without the tension-filled commercial breaks, the pacing of any show can be lost.

How is my son to learn what toys to put on his birthday wish list? That could be why this generation seems to ask for a variety of gift cards rather than a variety of slime-powered toys. As a father that might be for the best; I didn’t want to clean that stuff up as a kid and I sure don’t want to now.

His mom comes downstairs and we take a break to eat like a family. Between fistfuls of pancake, my son recounts an episode we just watched of Ultimate Spider-Man in toddler-gibberish. After the day’s activities are planned we return to the sofa for one more episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars before changing out of our pajamas and getting out of the house. The details of Saturday Morning Cartoons in 2015 may have changed, but it’s still an important part of the week for me and my son.

How do you fill your Saturday mornings? How does it compare to your childhood? Let us know in the comments.

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9 thoughts on “Watching Saturday Morning Cartoons as a Dad

  1. During the week my kids soak up all of the Aquanauts, Mickey’s club house and Jake & the Neverland pirates off the DVR, so on Saturdays, I try to have them watch the actual disney channel lineup so they see that it’s not always at your fingertips. Don’t want to watch Doc McStuffins? Too bad, that’s what is on.. dont like it? wait 30 minutes.

    Really I do this because they wake me up way earlier than I want to, so I relocate to the couch (to keep an ear on the 3 kids) and try to go back to sleep) and don’t have to worry about having to start a new show every 23 minutes.

  2. My boys (age 7 and 4) will watch Gravity Falls episodes over and over until I scream “Enough!” I love the show, too, but they’ll watch their favorites over and over and over. My 7 year old grew out of an interest in Power Rangers but the 4 year old has now developed an interest. Have you SEEN how many Power Rangers shows are on Netflix? It’s mind boggling.

  3. I am so much in the same boat and I love it!
    I let the kids each pick a show and watch one or three episodes and then we swap to something else. We don’t watch much TV in our house so Sat mornings are still something special. It’s just that now I don’t have the child anxiety of missing an episode and not knowing what is going on. We have all the shows in the season of whatever and can keep track of where we left off. It also lets me bring my boys up on the true oldies; Loony Toons and Warner Bros, Tom & Jerry and let us not forget things like Thundar and the Herculoids, Transformers, Gummy Bears. Then there are the fantastic new offerings like Mystery Inc and Gravity Falls.

    Sat morning life is good and just like years ago, it’s too short!

    1. Finally! Someone else that remembers the Herculoids. I’ve yet to meet anyone that remembers that cartoon.

  4. About a year and a half ago, I got a little tired of watching the same shows with my son (then about 3 1/2) on Saturday morning that he’d watch during the week. Part of the appeal of Saturday back then was being able to watch shows that WEREN’T on during the week, or at the very least new episodes of the same shows. So now, during the week, after he gets home from school, he gets to chill and watch two episodes of whatever — something DVR’d during the day, something from PBS or Disney Jr On Demand — while he has a snack.

    On Saturdays, though, we’ve gone a little old school. I’ve started collecting DVD sets of cartoons that I remember watching when I was a kid. Duck Tales, Super Friends, Danger Mouse, Darkwing Duck, Fraggle Rock, etc. For the most part, these are also shows that, for whatever reason, I haven’t found on Netflix or Prime or any other services. We watch perhaps two hours worth of just these shows on Saturday morning; he picks the show, and I pick the episode, or vice versa. It’s made those mornings stand out as a little more special, watching shows that bring back good feelings from my childhood and seeing him really get into them and enjoy them.

  5. This. I can relate to all of this. I was telling my family this Christmas that the problem with not having cable TV is that I have no idea what my kids want for Christmas since there are no commercials for them to yell “OH! I WANT THAT!” We usually start out the weekend morning with a free episode of “Yo Gabba Gabba” on Amazon Prime for my two year old boy. Then, I let my four year old girl pick something on Netflix which usually ends up with all episodes auto-playing until one of us parents stops the insanity. They usually end up sitting there playing with the iPad, crayons, etc. and half paying attention to the TV anyways.

  6. In our house, we watch little TV during the week, leaving Saturdays for catching new episodes of our “regular” series off of the DVR. I mean, with young kids, we’re not watching a lot of new episodes of shows between dinner and bedtime Mon-Fri. So, there is a little of that Saturday morning magic, I guess.

    Like others have said, I’d gladly pay for. Streaming or on-demand service that has the older cartoons from the 70s, 80s, and 90s that I grew up with. We’ll add a package that gets us Boomerang to our satellite TV deal in the summertime, but even then it’s hit and miss… sometimes you get The New Scooby Doo Movies (great!), sometimes you get lesser Cartoon Network offerings, and you never get Thundarr, Space Kidettes, and the like.

    1. Normally I do not endorse pirating or streams, just so much available legally and free these days. But the exception is the website Nick Reboot and Cartoon Network Reboot, the first has been around for years and even mentioned in io9, Huffington, and Cnet to name a few sites the other is a recent spinoff.

      They are free, reasonable quality streams of 80s, 90s, and early 2000s shows on those channels complete with original commercials and intermissions. They do not have merchandise, ads, ect so do not turn a profit. There is no set schedule, just randomly generated schedule weighted by of episode count and viewer ratings on shows.

      They do marathons for Holidays, which current channels seem to have stopped, also occasionally movies. Mainly Space Jam and ones tied to Nick like Snow Day.

      They offer an on-demand service for those shows but lock subscriptions once they cover the server costs for doing so and thus you have to act fast if want in.

      Personally I call them the nostalgia channels and tend to get hooked about once a month. They are what Nicktoons and Boomerang used to/should be.

      nickreboot.com
      cnreboot.com

      For a more official source, Hulu+ has been building up their classic Nicktoons library of late so you got stuff like Hey Arnold.and Jimmy Neutron.

  7. All I can say is, thank God for PBS Kids. Lots of mind numbingly stupid shows out there, with Good Luck Charlie being one of the only ones we can watch as a family. With girls they’re not much into action cartoons, the 7 year old loved the old Sabrina and, strangely, h20 to go. Odd Squad is a great recent addition.

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