Saturday, June 28, 2008

“The Replacements”: A Brief Chronicle of Saturday Morning Cartoons

I still like Saturday morning cartoons and some other generally-kid-centric-shows that air during that time, but the selection of really good cartoons, especially on all of the four broadcast channels I receive via airwaves, has been reduced significantly since the late 80s, early 90s when I used to get up at the crack of dawn. My family used to go skiing every Saturday morning at
Stevens Pass so my friends would usually stay over and we’d get up early so that we could catch whatever was on ABC at 6:30 in the morning before hitting the slopes.

Two of the highlights were "Land of the Lost" (the remake) and "Bump in the Night," a program filmed using claymation from the mid 90s. If you have not seen either, especially the latter, you must check them out. "Bump in the Night" aired in short segments between the more popular cartoons in 1994 and 1995. Upon revisiting this vivid childhood memory via YouTube, I have come to the conclusion that it is probably one of the more interesting/disturbing aspects of American youth culture over the last two decades.

In this particular episode, Mr. Squishington consumes a troubling item in the bedroom where the show takes place.

I seriously doubt that ABC or any other station would air this program today! I remember having a similar reaction to re-watching "Pee-Wee's Playhouse"-albeit more on the disturbing-definitely-not-child-friendly end of things-a couple years ago. I do wish they would release "Bump in the Night" on DVD, because it would make for great background programming at a party. That being said, television today is not without its kid and adult-friendly Saturday morning shows. My favorite of the moment is one that I began watching when my Saturday work schedule involved not having to be at work until 11:00AM or even Noon. I give you the opening segment of The Disney Channel's "The Replacements."

Building on a very simple plot device-the kids are able to call Fleemco at any time in order to solve problems or make their life more interesting by the replacement of any individual that they come across-the show is virtually limitless in its narrative possibilities (Joss Whedon's upcoming television series, "Dollhouse" anyone?). All in all, “The Replacements” is a very clever show that appropriates from a variety of sources. The design of C.A.R. is styled after the Mach 5 of the “Speed Racer” franchise, but obviously the character is also a direct reference to K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider” as it speaks and performs a number of tricks with a multitude of cool devices. The writing is sharp and witty and of the two main characters, the siblings Todd and Riley, Todd is actually voiced by Nancy Cartwright, who has been doing the voice of Bart Simpson and a number of other characters on “The Simpsons” for who knows how many years. "The Replacements" is one of those shows that successfully caters to multiple audiences; on the surface, it aims for the 8-14 demographic but manages to engage any adults that might be in the room while the show is on. I imagine this is a way for the staff of these shows to entertain and continually challenge themselves as well.

My continued interest in this show is one that I share with my dear co-worker and fellow visual culture enthusiast KJ. The more I see the show, the more I see its merits and think to myself that were I ever involved in a kid's show, this would be the kind of show I’d love to do.

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