The Hunt for the Saturday Morning Cartoon

When we were kids, we loved Saturday mornings, because we didn’t have to go to school, any religious activities probably wait until Sunday, we just get a day where we sleep in, grab a bowl of cereal for breakfast, and watch some fun cartoons before the parents wake up and start making us do chores or something. So, we get some shows that are fun, engaging, and short for our little attention spans. We all have our favorites, and we know just what vibe we like.

Now, a little peak into my life, my wife and I still love Saturday morning cartoons. We have a pretty consistent weekend ritual, where we sleep in until about 10am, mosey out of bed where I’ll make a nice hot breakfast, we’ll watch about two episodes of some Saturday morning cartoon, we’ll play local multiplayer video games for a few hours (usually Fortnite or Mario Kart), then it’s 2 in the afternoon, and we’ll move on to whatever we have going on that day.

As you can imagine, we have watched quite a few shows that way over the 3 years since we’ve started that tradition. Some have been great, like Phineas and Ferb, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Gravity Falls, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, unfortunately, sometimes we just can’t seem to find a good show that really fits what we want. It’s tough, though, to really describe what we are looking for, because it’s such a vibe that you can’t just say “a cartoon that aired on Saturday mornings.” So I’m going to take a moment, here, and see if I can nail down what we like in our Saturday Morning Cartoons, and see if you have any suggestions for us.

Adult Friendly Kids Show

The biggest aspect of this is that these are kids shows, that two twenty-something adults without children can enjoy. We tried watching more mature shows in the morning, whether it’s Big Mouth or Daredevil, and while we love those shows, they just aren’t good to wake up to. When you first wake up, and you want to find a way to wake up your brain that isn’t on your phone, you need those small bits of entertainment to enjoy while drinking your coffee and eating some toast.

However, we don’t want a show that is really just background noise, because then again, we will just revert to our phones, and especially not a full kids show like Paw Patrol, because again, we are adults. We want something that someone put some effort into.

I should say, it seems like the heyday of Saturday morning cartoons were the ’80s, where you had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, The Real Ghostbusters, and a ton more. However, we are on the tail end of Millennials, practically Zoomers, so those shows don’t hold up just from nostalgia for us. They really need to stand up with modern audiences, with no previous knowledge. Some of your favorite shows when you were younger, certainly didn’t earn any praise, but you just didn’t know better. Now you’ve seen what a good show can be, so your standards on what is worth watching has raised.

22-Minute Serialized Arcs

Kind of a continuation on the idea, we only watch one or two per morning, so two to four episodes a week. We need a show where the episodes are self-contained arcs, each arc is unique, not one where you really have to binge the whole thing because it’s “a ten hour movie” broken up into parts. We want to be able to watch a single episode, and be satisfied, narratively. However, as adults watching these shows intentionally, we don’t want something that is completely “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” like a Scooby-Doo, because that gets boring, quick. So the individual episodes should feel like they are building up to something. Gravity Falls almost lost us after five episodes, because it really felt like, while unique, the same thing every week. It wasn’t until our friends, who had finished the show, told us that the second season really tied things together in a way that made watching the whole first season really feel important.

Streamable

Finally, and this is the step that loses so many options, is that these shows need to be available on one of the streaming services, that are worth having outside of this show. We don’t have every streaming service, but we aren’t against any of them in particular. While we currently have Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and Prime, we have had others in the past, and are willing to get them again. It is tough, because if you watch everything that seems interesting on a service that’s smaller than Netflix, it feels like a waste of money. In fact, we are probably going to be cancelling our Hulu here soon to trade it out with something else. But there are too many streaming services to have them all, because then you’re paying just as much as my parents do for cable, and that’s the opposite of the whole point streaming became so popular in the first place.

One show I really think would be a great Saturday Morning Cartoon would be Teen Titans, which I saw is on Amazon Prime, but you have to buy the show, for $10/season, so $50 in total, for a show we’d watch once, IF my wife likes it as much as I do, which isn’t guaranteed.

So if you have ideas for a good Saturday Morning Cartoon that checks our boxes, please let us know. I should mention, nothing on this list actually specifies that it has to be an actual cartoon to fit this vibe. Suite Life of Zack and Cody was a definitely a Saturday Morning Cartoon, even if it was live action.

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