Saturday, July 23, 2011

Remembering the Saturday Morning Public Service Announcements

Back in the 1970s and 1980s (maybe parts of the 1990s too) networks were required to put on material to educate kids on certain matters. On ABC in particular this manifested as a series of cartoon shorts, and I’ll get to those in a moment. NBC dabbled with cartoon shorts with the Metric Marvels, superheroes whose mission was to educate kids on the new Metric system. They may have helped us Canucks but they failed in their mission with their main target: American kids. They haven’t been seen in years; I like to imagine they died heroically battled Imperial forces.

But, again, ABC was the main source of these cartoon Public Service Announcements (PSAs). The most polished of these were the Schoolhouse Rock series (by the same people whop created the Metric Marvels), covering a wide range of topics including numbers, words, and even politics. I was only lukewarm about these growing up; though as an adult I have a lot more affection for them. They’re all out on DVD.

But I confess that my favourite of the ones shown on ABC were not the Schoolhouse Rock ones but the more oddball stuff produced by others. Yuck Mouth was a horror story of bad eating, Will E. Survive had an undeniable energy, and then there was the Chopper. Of all the PSAs, the Chopper short was the one that really warped my mind as a kid, because it didn’t make much sense. The Chopper was a greaser (i.e. like the Fonz) who advocated teeth exercising. He was very obsessed on this topic, to the point of passing on other forms of exercise like running laps in favour of eating his celery stick among other hard food. Here’s a few YouTube links; the odds are that at least will still be around a few years from now:

One last thing about the PSAs: they aired among other commercials and there was no discernable rhyme or reason as to when they’d air, so it was not unknown for a PSA on nutrition to be immediately followed by a candy or McDonald’s commercial. An amazing era in TV history.

No comments: