Growing up, I cherished my Saturday morning cartoons like no other. This was the high point of the week where I could totally pretend that I didn’t have to do a million homework assignments and that I had not kicked my backpack to some obscure part of my bedroom to remain unzipped until 9:45pm on Sunday night. Saturday mornings were my jam. I would wake up early (8am or so) and go into the living room to read the newspaper that my Dad had scattered the castoffs all around his armchair. My breakfast would usually be a peeled orange or a bowl of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch (that I may or may not have had co-dependency issues with). My little brother Earl would come join me in the living room as we clicked on the TV to the wonders of Saturday morning cartoons.
So many options to choose from! So much mindless vegging out to do for the next 3+ hours! So many extra bowls of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch to continue to eat! Our zombie-like trance with these cartoons was respectful and religious in that we observed the almighty Saturday morning for many, many years, well past the point where we probably should have stopped actually but by then I had two more little brothers and you can’t deny them, can you?
One thing we didn’t like? Cartoons where it seemed like everyone was always exercising. Stretching. Running around the neighborhood. Playing baseball with the kids next door. Where did these kids and this kind of world exist? We loved the cartoons but hated the underlying message included: watching these kids playing makes you want to get up off of the couch and do something with your life, don’t it? No Saturday morning cartoons, no. I come to you, seeking solace from a full school week workload. I had to grow a crystal on a sponge, recite all of the books of the Bible to my teacher, take a spelling test, read a couple chapters of Walk Two Moons, practice my recorder, get even more homework for the evening, and go to an after school French lesson in the span of one day of my week. ONE DAY. There aren’t enough Lunchables in the world that can make that better so Saturday morning cartoons I’d appreciate you not making me feel like I’m lazy right now, on this the holiest of all days of the week.
They did it anyway though. These kids of the ‘90s…
By far and away the best example, this is a show about a group of kids who pretty much hated the great AC indoors and thrived on being outside for recess. Except for Gretchen who didn’t mind reading and being inside. That’s my girl! In defense of my laziness, I’d like to point out that the playground was probably about a day away from getting the lockdown on a state inspection. You’ve got a huge armchair where King Bob resided that has no place being in a playground, a metal slide that looks like it was only a few screws from falling apart, and a clubhouse for the Ashleys that was made up completely of tires. I repeat, there is a great big pile of tires on a grade school property and nobody is attempting to get rid of them! Plus everyone seemed to take recess at the same time – how did that work? How was there enough room to accommodate the entire school? And how did Mikey get away with making a sandwich and eating it during recess? I saw you doing it in the theme song, pal.
A show about a group of kids who live for the weekend shouldn’t have made me feel as lazy to the degree that it did, but this one and its strangely named children (Carver? Tish?) had too many overly productive weekends in it. These kids were always out at the mall and/or an amusement park. How did they get to these places all the time? Did nobody have a parent that didn’t want to drive them everywhere in the city first thing on a Saturday morning? I used to have to beg for a ride to the bookstore for days leading up to the weekend as a kid. Also, the theme song lies. They don’t play nearly as many video games as they claim to.
Nothing made my brother and I with our communal bowl of Cheetos feel like the palest kids in town than this TV series right here. Rocket Power takes place in California right along an oceanfront which was awesome for kids watching who lived in SoCal and not so much for a girl growing up in the Midwest with two inches of ice underneath several feet of snow outside. How could I surf or skateboard with no ocean or a paved surface to do it in?
One time during the summer, my brother and I decided to go outside and be like the Rocket Power kids. We were going to go to the park and hang out on the swings and maybe climb a tree or two. We went to the park. It was hot and humid outside, like 98 degrees hot. Too hot to sit on a swing and hold its metal sides. The tree we wanted to climb had a beehive in it. My skin started turning pink. We missed the AC and our Gameboys too much and went home. Our best summer days were always on the overcast/early fall ones. This would later be true to my life when I moved to California. The beach is great but I’m really not into running around during the summer and getting sweaty and worked up and whatnot.
The Wild Thornberrys
Summer family vacations for me were nothing like what the Thornberry family would take, going around the world and hanging out with chimps. Seems cool but I have a strong feeling I’d evolve into Debbie fast, ready to get back to wherever a Starbucks is – civilization. A standard family vacation was a road trip to go visit a relative’s house. Since none of my family members were particularly enthralled with the idea of spending the better part of a day locked in a van together visiting relatives we weren’t even close to, our trips began with everyone getting sick and passing the germs around. And I mean sick, like almost to the point of having the flu where not only do you stop for a bathroom break but for a being sick break in a field somewhere in Iowa too.
The silver lining to these trips was the journey home after 2 or 3 mercilessly long days of very polite behavior. Now that was where the fun started! Stopping for a burrito in Texas, visiting a pawn shop in Arkansas, cranking up the radio together and singing along, this was what family time was all about. The Thornberry family can attest to this. Discovering Komodo dragons and riding elephants brings families together more than pretending to smile at grandma’s Hummel collection ever will.
I adored this show to no end, but all I can say is… kids, how did you get away with wandering all over your potentially dangerous looking neighborhood at hours of the night where it was dark out? Cartoons that do this kill me. Hey, it’s pitch black outside – let’s all leave the stoop and look for a way to make a lonely old man feel like he’s got some company! Maybe it’s because I grew up a city that is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous ones in the country but I know this wouldn’t fly with my parents. There is literally a point when you’re outside and it’s dark and you are alone and you think to yourself, “This does not feel right anymore. I think I would like to go home and lock all my doors now and hang out on Tumblr for a few hours.”
Also in Hey Arnold! world, everyone seemed to live within a block their best friends. I love how that always works out for the grade school set in cartoons. The only kids who lived far were the rich kids because they had bigger properties. In the real world, people who live far away are not necessarily rich or poor, same goes for the ones who live close by. My high school was across the street from my house, a sickening reminder on the weekends of what lie before me in less than 2 days. My only means of denial involved me closing the blinds and reverting back to childhood: turning on the TV for Saturday morning cartoons and digging through the Cap’n Crunch bowl. This was less effective by then since many of my favorite shows had ended, but I did find a hot guy on an episode of Power Rangers Dino Thunder. Devin Del Valle played by Tom Hern. You’re welcome in advance.