Children of the 1990s were the last to truly experience the network TV phenomenon that was Saturday Morning before cable and eventually streaming took over kidvid. Anyone younger will just have to take our word for it: it was both glorious and strange. Those two words might also sum up Saturday Morning All-Star Hits!, the upcoming parody show from Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney.
You see, there was once this time when broadcast stations completely dominated TV viewing, and TV was the only thing you could view — no mobile phones, no gaming handhelds…the TV was the only thing in your house that lit up and showed pictures. So everyone had to share the same few stations, and children were given the hours in which grown-ups were least likely to be watching: 6 to 11:30 AM on Saturdays.
You often didn’t see what was cool, you saw what a stuffy network executive BELIEVED you would think was cool. Saturday Morning All-Star Hits! is a brutal spoof of this kind of TV, with flashy colors and garish synth music illuminating a bunch of dopey concepts (like what’s obviously a parody of Denver The Last Dinosaur). Period-accurate advertising for products like the “Mega Mitten” complement the experience.
By the 90s the future of the Saturday Morning formula was already in question, though. The quality of shows in syndication was improving with stuff like Tiny Toons and The Disney Afternoon. Cable channels like Nickelodeon were entering more homes and becoming real competition. The heat was on the networks to stay relevant — and they would eventually give up, though those last few years were wild.
Bento Box does a decent job recreating the limited and outsourced animation that would be used by cheap studios like DIC to fill up airtime. At a glance, I could have believed that these WERE scenes from Denver, were it not for the dinosaur being so self-aware of his status as the last of his kind that he steps in front of a train.
All eight episodes of Saturday Morning All-Star Hits! will appear on Netflix December 10.