Once upon a time, Saturday mornings were for more than just sleeping in. The 70s were filled with classic programs like Wonder Woman, The Brady Bunch, and M*A*S*H that aired during prime time, but what about those Saturday morning shows?
Before streaming platforms made it irrelevant to know what time your favorite show was airing, people dedicated time out of their weekend plans to settle around the TV and watch their favorite shows.
Do you remember tuning into these classic Saturday morning shows in the 1970s?
Do you remember these 25 classic Saturday morning shows from the 1970s?
Saturday morning cartoons were a rite of passage for children starting in the mid-1960s up until their unofficial end in the 1990s. During the 1970s some of the best cartoons aired during this time slot and they remain as some of the most beloved and often watched shows today.
The Tom and Jerry Show
The Tom and Jerry Show aired in 1975 as part of “The Tom and Jerry/Grape Ape/Mumbly Show.” The show, which was created by Hanna-Barbera Productions, began as a theatrical cartoon series that ran before movies in theatres.
ABC’s ban on violence meant the series lacked the slapstick violence that people had become used to in the theatrical shorts. It only ran for sixteen episodes in its first iteration, but remains one of the most beloved cartoons from the era.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
In the 1960s, The Action for Children's Television began boycotting the gratuitous violence that they perceived to be in the cartoons of the era. Because of this, Hanna-Barbera quickly developed a new series that lacked the “excessive violence” that led to a number of cancellations in 1969. This led to the birth of Mystery, INC.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! First premiered on CBS in 1969 and the series ran until 1976 on the network. That year, the series was moved to ABC where it ran until 1991. The franchise spawned a number of subsequent revivals, spin-offs, crossover episodes, and live-action and animated movies.
Sylvester & Tweety Show
The “Golden Age of Cartoons” didn’t just stop when the 1960s ended, they lived on in syndication on Saturday morning. One of these common reruns that could be found on TV was The Sylvester & Tweety Show which aired every Saturday morning on CBS.
Sylvester has been around since 1939, while Tweety first arrived on screen in 1941. Their legacy continues today with The Looney Tunes.
The Bugs Bunny Show
The Bugs Bunny Show is another series that made the jump between networks in the middle of its run. It originally aired on ABC in 1960 and remained there until 1973 when it switched to CBS.
In its early days, it was actually a prime-time cartoon that aired on Tuesday nights, but in 1962 it began running Saturday mornings, where it remained until the 80s. The original fifty-two episodes of the series aired in black-and-white.
The Woody Woodpecker Show
Woody Woodpecker is yet another member of The Looney Tunes. Woody first appeared in Knock Knock in 1940 and went through several iterations before he became the Wood we’re all familiar with. His own series, The Woody Woodpecker Show, aired during the Saturday morning cartoon lineup.
Interestingly enough, Woody has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
The Pink Panther Show
The Pink Panther Show aired on Saturday mornings on two different networks during the 70s. NBC from 1969 to 1978 and ABC from 1978 to 1980. When it moved to ABC it was retitled as The All New Pink Panther Show and Pink Panther Encore, where it lasted only two seasons after nine years on NBC.
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle was an animated adaptation of the classic novel by the same name and it was the first animated version of the story, predating Disney’s Tarzan film by two decades. Robert Ridgely voiced Tarzan, who was a far more well-spoken version of the character. In this cartoon, Tarzan’s sidekick was a monkey named N'kima.
From 1977 to 1978 CBS aired The New Adventures of Batman and Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle during the same hour, creating “The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour.”
Jana of the Jungle
Jana was essentially the female version of Tarzan and had been abandoned in the rain forests of South America after a boating accident where she was separated from her father as a child. Like Tarzan, her sidekicks in the series are animals, including Ghost the white jaguar, Croco the crocodile, and Tico the water opossum. Jana’s weapon of choice bore a striking to the chakram that would later be used in Xena: Warrior Princess.
Jana of the Jungle was part of “The Godzilla Power Hour” on NBC from 1978 to 1979.
There were a lot of popular live-action series that ran during the week and during the 1970s networks had the ingenious idea to blend together their live-action series and their weekend cartoons, which resulted in the advent of “Filmation” and animated spin-offs. Most of these series were created by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Star Trek: The Animated Series
Star Trek: The Animated Series was an animated spin-off based on Gene Roddenberry's that was launched after Star Trek’s cancellation in 1969. The production was able to bring in most of the original cast to voice their characters, except for Walter Koenig who played Chekov. Initially, Nimoy refused to voice Spock, unless they brought on Nichelle Nichols and George Takei to voice Uhura and Sulu, respectively.
The series served as the fourth season of Star Trek before the storylines were revisited in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Lassie's Rescue Rangers
Lassie's Rescue Rangers aired from 1973 to 1975 on ABC and its hour-long pilot Lassie and the Spirit of Thunder Mountain are as part of the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie.
In the series, the beloved collie Lassie lived near Thunder Mountain with Ranger Ben Turner and his family. Ranger Turner works at Thunder Mountain National Park where Lassie is the leader of the Rescue Rangers, a group of wild animals that work alongside the Turners to help protect the park and its visitors.
Return to the Planet of the Apes
Pierre Boulle's novel Planet of the Apes was adapted into a Saturday morning cartoon series for 20th Century Fox Television. It ran for only a season from 1975 to 1976. It aired during the same era that Boulle's novel was adapted into a comic book series by Marvel Comics from 1974 to 1977.
Return to the Planet of the Apes differed from its live-action adaptations, featuring a completely advanced society with automobiles, films, and technological advancements, which bore more of a resemblance to Boulle's original novels where the apes were far more advanced.
The Brady Kids
At the start of the fourth season of The Brady Bunch showrunner, Sherwood Schwartz, reached out to Filmation to create an animated spin-off for the series. The Brady Kids only ran for two seasons on ABC and was fraught with drama, including a near-lawsuit when the children declined to return to voice more episodes during the second season.
Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick, who voice Greg and Marcia Brady, did not return for the second season of The Brady Kids and were replaced by the children of one of the producers.
Partridge Family 2200 A.D.
It should come as no surprise that The Patridge Family had an animated spin-off of their own. The science fiction mash-up, Partridge Family 2200 A.D. was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and aired Saturday mornings on CBS.
Danny Bonaduce, Suzanne Crough, and Brian Forster voiced their own characters, while Susan Dey, David Cassidy, Shirley Jones, and Dave Madden’s characters were replaced by other voice actors.
The series centered around the Patridge Family living in space, just like the Jetsons. It was never explained how or why the family was living in 2200 A.D. Up until this point, the Partridge Family had been recurring characters on Goober and the Ghost Chasers, though the series were unconnected.
The New Adventures of Gilligan
The New Adventures of Gilligan was an animated spin-off based on CBS’s hit series Gilligan’s Island. Most of the original cast returned to voice their characters, except for Tina Louise and Dawn Wells. The story basically followed that of the original series, with some key differences including Stubby, the anthropomorphic monkey.
The cartoon ran for two seasons from 1974 to 1975 and even received a sequel, Gilligan’s Planet, in the 1980s.
The New Adventures of Gilligan did not receive the rights to “The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle” and it lacked the iconic theme song from the live-action.
Back in the 70s, live-action series were not just reserved for primetime entertainment and Saturdays weren’t just for cartoons. You may think there are a lot of DC Comics on television today, but back in the 1970s, there were three DC Comic series listed in TV Guides everywhere. Two of which aired on Saturday mornings.
Shazam! was a half-hour live-action series that aired Saturday mornings on CBS. The series centered around the superhero Shazam (aka Captain Marvel), played by Jackson Bostwick and later by John Davey. The intriguing part of the character is that when he’s not a superhero, he’s a teenage boy named Billy Batson, who was played by Michael Gray.
The series ran for three seasons and after its first season it aired during the same hour as The Secrets of Isis, creating what was known as “The Shazam!/Isis Hour.”
The Secrets of Isis
The Secrets of Isis was the companion series to Shazam! and because of this, the two characters appeared in both series. Isis was portrayed by Joanna Cameron. In this series, Isis is the superhero-style alter ego to the schoolteacher Andrea Thomas. She can transform into an Egyptian goddess when presented with crises that no mere mortal could resolve. The character was later adopted into modern DC comics.
One of the most memorable parts of the series was the way that Isis would often “break the fourth wall” and speak directly to the audience.
There were a lot of other live-action series that aired on Saturday mornings as well.
While Monster Squad only lasted for one thirteen-episode season, plenty of people tuned in on Saturday mornings because of Fred Grandy, who had starred in Love Boat. Grundy played Walt, a criminology student who worked nights at a wax museum. One night, the computer he created caused all of the wax figures to come to life.
Think Night at the Museum, but with Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s monster who decided to become superhero crime fighters.
Jason of Star Command
The live-action series Jason of Star Command was actually inspired by another popular live-action series from the time, Space Academy. The series aired on CBS and was designed a little bit differently from TV series today.
The first season was written as sixteen chapters that were only fifteen-minute episodes and styled like movie serials that told one overarching story. The second season was a stand-alone comprised of half-hour episodes.
Space Academy was set in the year 3732 on an asteroid that housed the Space Academy. Academy brought together the best young minds of the time to explore the mysteries of space. Jonathan Harris starred as Commander Isaac Gampu, the head of the Space Academy. Harris was best known as Dr. Zachary Smith from the popular sci-fi series Lost in Space.
Space Academy only had fifteen episodes, but reruns kept it alive in the minds of Saturday morning viewers.
Ark II was another short-lived live-action series that aired on Saturday mornings. Also set in the future, the series was set in the 25th century following the fall of civilization. The series was loosely based on the story of Noah’s Ark, which is why all of the characters are named from figures in the Hebrew Bible.
Like most of the Saturday morning series, Ark II was filled with moral lessons to teach the kids who watched it each weekend.
Big John, Little John
Big John, Little John was a Saturday morning sitcom that only ran for one season. The show’s main character was a forty-year-old middle school science played by Herbert Edelman. He drinks from the legendary Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Florida and discovers that he can now spontaneously change into a twelve-year-old boy and back again.
It first aired on NBC in 1976 and also aired in England on BBC One.
McDuff, The Talking Dog
McDuff, The Talking Dog was part of the three-hour block of live-action shows that aired Saturday mornings on NBC from 1976 to 1977. This television block included Land of the Lost and Big John, Little John, Monster Squad among other series.
None of these series survived their first season and McDuff was the first cancellation, airing only eleven of the thirteen episodes that had been filmed.
Land of the Lost
During its original run from 1974 to 1976, Land of the Lost aired on CBS on Saturday mornings. The series blended stop-motion animated dinosaurs with its live-action cast to create a unique experience for audiences in the 70s.
The series ran for three seasons, amassing forty-three episodes that were eventually syndicated as part of the Krofft Superstars package.
The Krofft Supershow
The Krofft Supershow was a variety show composed of several live-action segments. It originally aired on ABC in 1976 for two seasons, before returning as a completely revamped series for its third season after its move to NBC. The new series featured the Bay City Rollers who replaced the “Kaptain Kool and the Kongs” segment, which featured a rock band that had been created for the show.
The series was produced by Sid and Marty Krofft productions which also produced these popular variety shows Donny & Marie, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, and The Krofft Komedy Hour.
The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine
Another extremely popular variety show was The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine that featured the players of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team singing, dancing, and performing comedy sketches.
Their initial animated series, The Globetrotters was a hit for the network, which prompted the invention of “the Popcorn Machine” variety show. These twenty-five-minute episodes aired on Saturday mornings on CBS for a year. Despite the series only having one season, the Globetrotters went on to have other series on CBS.
This was just twenty-five of the many classic Saturday morning shows from the 1970s that made the weekend a little extra special for kids and families everywhere.
What was your favorite Saturday morning series?