ABC Saturday – 1978

With the ugliness of CBS behind us, let’s look at the channels that really mattered. ABC & NBC were in a fight for my morning viewership. I would often flip back and forth between them for hours.

Starting on ABC at 8 am, we had Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? These were the same forty-one episodes we had been seeing since 1969. They aired on CBS originally and then would pop back up on ABC whenever they needed to fill in a time slot for cancelled or rescheduled programming. It was a great standby that had built-in familiarity.

At 8:30, we saw the premiere of Fangface. Imagine Scooby-Doo without Scoobs. Four teens solve mysteries, except the Shaggy character just happens to turn into a werewolf on a regular basis.

This team had to be super busy, though. The series only lasted 32 episodes from September of 1978 to September of 1980. If a full moon occurs around once per month, that would give them 24 full moons. That means they had to have solved a few of the mysteries over the course of one evening. Busy indeed!

Challenge of the Superfriends was on next at 9:00. The DC Superheroes were on the air pretty regularly from the early 70’s to the mid 80’s in some form or another. They had multiple shows that basically repeated the same formula, with just a few tweaks.

This followed the exploits of the main five Justice League members (Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman & Robin) as they battled the evil Legion of Doom, led by Lex Luthor. They also brought back the Wonder Twins, Zan & Jana, and their pet monkey, Gleek.

The way these shows were licensed at the time was outrageous and would never hold up today. Because you had the New Batman on CBS at the same time being produced by Filmation, some characters were reserved for that show and others were used here. For example, Batman baddies The Joker, The Penguin & Catwoman could not be shown on ABC, so they made much bigger stars out of middling villains like Solomon Grundy and Gorilla Grodd.

This was also the first show to address the lack of cultural diversity on the Justice League by adding Black Vulcan, Apache Chief, and Samurai to the lineup. Not quite sure that helped, though, as these characters were little more than blatant stereotypes in superhero outfits.

Between the licensing of characters and the new regulations regarding violence on cartoons, the adventures were kept very simple. They often resorted to the basic premise of traveling through time to stop the heroes from gaining their powers in the first place. Most adventures ended with a massive battle between good end evil. Can you guess who usually won?

ABC moved from superheroes to superstars at 10:00 am with Scooby’s All-Stars. This was a smorgasbord of randomness from Hanna Barbera. The two-hour block included five segments:

Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels: Saturday morning attempt to cash in on the “Jiggle TV” wave sweeping Prime Time TV. Take Charlie’s Angels and add one hairy, scary cave-dude with a magic club capable of just about anything. Guess what they did together? Yup – they solved mysteries.

The Scooby Doo Show: Further adventures of everyone’s favorite crime solving Great Dane. This was the first time Scooby-Dum was added to the mix.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?: As I mentioned, these episodes were used to fill in anywhere the network wanted. Even just two hours after they previously aired.

Blue Falcon & Dynomutt. Dynomutt, Blue Falcon’s bumbling cybernetic mutt had been already introduced in 1977, but was brought back for more fun.

Finally, the best part of the show by far – The Laff-A-Lympics: Basically, a cartoon version of Battle of the Network Stars. This featured a slew of Hanna Barbera characters competing against each other in random sporting events.

They essentially raided the vaults for every character ever created by Hanna Barbera and just put them all on one show. They were broken down to three teams:

The Yogi Yahooeys: These were all of the characters from the 1950’s & 1960’s. It was also the only team to have no human characters at all. Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Wally Gator & Grape Ape were regulars.

The Scooby Doobies: This team consisted of the 1970’s characters, primarily those that solved mysteries in the vein of Scooby-Doo. Here you’d find the likes of Hong Kong Phooey, Jabberjaw, Blue Falcon or Captain Caveman.

The Really Rottens were the necessary team of villains.

This was very telling of the Hanna Barbera universe – there were so few villains, they had to create almost all of them from scratch. They initially wanted Muttley & Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races as the team captains, but those rights were no longer owned by Hanna Barbera, so they did the next best thing.

They took an existing character, named Mumbly, who was already a clone of Muttley and created a new partner for him. Thus, the Dread Baron was born.

The three teams would travel across the globe to participate in various challenges like a raft race down the Amazon, a climb up the Great Pyramid or a leprechaun hunt in Ireland. The first season always ended with good vanquishing evil, but by the second season, they began to let The Really Rottens win, despite their propensity for cheating.

After that, at 11:30 am, came the All New Pink Panther Show. This was one of those weird shows to me that always seemed to be “old fashioned”. Even when they were making brand new cartoons for this version, it still felt like something left over from the mid-60’s. Tom & Jerry fell into that same category.

This new series was the first created for ABC (having previously aired on NBC for nine years). The cartoons pretty much followed the same formula as the others and the style was the same. The main way to distinguish this series from the others was by its opening/closing credits. This was the late-70’s, after all. Disco was King!

Much like with CBS, the post-noon time slots would vary from region to region. Some would follow Panther with the ABC Weekend Special while others went straight into American Bandstand.

By that time, I had to get away from the TV anyway, so the rest of the programming didn’t matter as much.

So far, ABC is the clear winner of this Saturday morning battle. But we still have to see what NBC has to offer.

UP NEXT: NBC Saturday!


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