Watching Saturday Morning Cartoons as a Dad

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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