I’m counting down the days until the Fall 2012 television season gets underway the only way I know how — by bringing you network promos for TV seasons long gone. Today’s preview is for NBC’s 1985 Saturday Morning lineup of children’s shows. NBC ran a yearly special previewing their upcoming season of Saturday morning shows from 1973 to 1991. The ’85 special was called Back to Next Saturday — cashing in on the popularity of Back to the Future — and it starred the likes of Keshia Knight Pulliam (The Cosby Show) and Lisa Whelchel (The Facts of Life), as well as the casts of It’s Punky Brewster and Kidd Video.
Unlike the prime time previews, Back to Next Saturday went to the trouble of concocting a storyline. Pulliam enters the Dream Zone, otherwise known as your typical tropical island. She meets the real-life cast members from one of the new Saturday morning series, and they all must find a way to get back to the cartoon. Or something like that. Look, it was the ’80s, it was a confusing time for all of us.
So let’s head to the Dream Zone and travel back… to next Saturday! (* denotes a new series.)
The 1985-86 NBC Saturday Morning Schedule
8am — Snorks (1984 – 1989)
8:30am* — Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1985 – 1991)
9am — The Smurfs (1981 – 1989)
10:30am* — It’s Punky Brewster (1985 – 1986)
11am — Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983 – 1990)
11:30am — Kidd Video (1984 – 1985)
12pm — Mr. T (1983 – 1986)
12:30pm — Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981 – 1986)
It’s Punky Brewster
As you can probably guess, this is the cartoon spinoff of the live-action Punky Brewster show. Soleil Moon Frye plays Punky again, and they even went retro and added a small magical creature (a leprechaun gopher named Glomer). It lasted for just two seasons and 26 episodes, while the real deal made it to 1988.
Snorks returned for its second season in 1985. If you’ve never seen it, imagine the Smurfs living in the ocean. Yeah, that’s about as exciting as that got. Shockingly, NBC churned out 65 episodes of this thing over four seasons.
I can admit freely that I was huge into The Smurfs. I had Smurf toys, Smurf bedding, and all kinds of Smurfy shit. But that was before I discovered Transformers and GI Joe, and those little blue goblins were smashed to bits. Still, the Smurfs were the little kings of NBC Saturday mornings in 1985, and the Peacock aired them in a 90-minute block. They basically owned the rest of the decade as well, airing from 1981 to 1989.
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Since I’m already confessing one love, I’ll add this one too. Man, I loved these little pitch-corrected rodents. Of course I hate them now, and rightly so.
Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears
I was aware that this show existed, and I might have even watched an episode or two. But I remember very little about it, other than the bit about Gummiberry Juice. Maybe I watched more than I think after all.
This may be the most quintessentially ’80s thing ever. Oh and don’t miss Whiz, played by Robbie Rist (aka Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch).
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
I find it fascinating that a network devoted time on a preview special to a show that wasn’t even producing new episodes anymore. You see, this edition of Spider-Man aired its last original episode in 1983. But NBC kept it on the Saturday morning schedule for three more years. Fascinating.
Hmm, maybe I was a bit premature in declaring Kidd Video the most ’80s thing ever.