There are certain things I expected as a parent. The diapers, the late nights, the constant, inexplicable stickiness - all part of the territory. But I also had certain expectations regarding the small, simple pleasures of parenting. The first smile, those big gummy kisses, and perhaps most importantly, the distant but vivid promise of weekend sleep, granted by the blissful tranquility that only four straight hours of animated programming can provide. I have waited three years for Saturday morning cartoons and now that we can actually make use of them, I've made a startling discovery. Saturday morning cartoons suck.
The first problem is that none of the major networks, at least in Memphis, airs cartoons before 10 am. How, exactly, does that help me? Do they think my pre-schooler is going to sit quietly through a rebroadcast of last night's news or the championship round of Knowledge Bowl? The only hope of finding a "baby show," as Miss M calls them, is to flip on Fox or the CW or the church channel. Giving us the unsettling choice between Power Rangers or low-rent Muppet knock-offs spouting Bible verses.
By the time the big guys start showing cartoons, we're all up and nearly ready for the day, but if we bother to turn something on, odds are good that it will be something ridiculous like "Horseland" or "Trollz" (actual title of the Trollz theme song: "It's A Hair Thing!"). With enough scanning, it's possible to find a couple acceptable options - The Replacements on ABC is decent, but it's sandwiched between a bunch of live action tween fluff.
Maybe the networks have given up trying to compete with the increasing number of all-cartoon or kid-directed cable channels, but as a family that had to bail cable so we could afford to feed our recovering Noggin addict, free TV is our only hope. If we're lucky, we might hit the Babar/Dragon double-header while we're trying to shower or do laundry, but that's really not what I need. I need wall-to-wall, small-child-friendly entertainment from 7-9 am. I need shows that don't make my daughter think that femininity requires a credit card and equine companion. I need the ever-lovin' Smurfs!