Saturday, May 16, 2020

RetroFan magazine looks at Saturday morning!

I give my strongest recommendation to RetroFan magazine, now a bi-monthly publication that offers a great blast of nostalgia in a visually appealing package.  Originally I wanted to spotlight the latest issue's cover story this week, but since it's Saturday morning, let me highlight a different piece: Part 1 of a look at network Saturday morning preview shows!

Andy Mangels is a prolific writer, producer, and historian whose Retro Saturday Morning column appears in each issue. This time, he covers those half-hour or hour specials the networks used to spotlight the new and returning programs kids would see on the Fall network Saturday schedule. Often airing on Friday nights, these extravaganzas might combine animation with live action, Saturday stars with special guest stars, music with comedy--in short, all kinds of goofy stuff might happen, as Mangels shows in his article.

(Remember that Mike looked in depth at one of these specials right here on the website!)

The only frustrating thing about reading the story is how little of the subject matter is readily available, or even available, period. Mangels states at the beginning most of these programs are rare and that they are licensing nightmares that will never see legit home video release. Therefore we have to rely on clips for most of these (some are intact online), and Mangels' excellent research uncovers a lot of cool details.

I won't give away those details here, but I think my biggest takeaway is the awesomeness of the year 1977. Not only did ABC, CBS, and NBC all have preview specials. but Darth Vader appeared in two of them.  On ABC he apparently introduces some clips from shows like Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. On CBS, however, he force-strangles Jim Backus!

Not to be outdone, NBC's C'mon, Saturday! features the gimmick of a kid (the then-star of Annie on Broadway) programming the network's weekend mornings. Her special advisor is Mister Wister, played by Leonard Nimoy, who, Mangels reports, sings "Turn, turn, turn your dial, right to NBC," to the tune of Row Your Boat!

There are tons of fun tidbits like that in this lengthy story, and it's illustrated with vintage ads, screenshots, and promo pics. So if you want to go back in time and see how the networks promoted their Saturday morning lineups--and why wouldn't you--and want to revisit Kaptain Kool and the Kongs, Jimmy Osmond, and the Banana Splits, pick up this issue of RetroFan.

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