Remember the Gary Coleman Show cartoon? Yeah, neither do I.
My updates happen to fall on Saturday, the day that I lived for as a kid. I might have been raised in an Irish Catholic home, but Saturday was my true day of worship. The television that blessed me with cartoons was my altar, and Cocoa Pebbles were my communion. I guess the leftover milk in the bowl was the blood of my chocolate-filled Jesus Christ, but I'm not really a theological expert so don't quote me on that. Every Saturday I would plop down in front of the tv and be presented with four solid hours of great cartoons. It was the best of times in my sad little life and I took it for granted that the Saturday morning ritual would always be there. But things change.
In 1990 the U.S. congress passed the Children's Television Act, which forced the networks to run a predetermined amount of educational programming. This, in turn, meant that existing cartoons had to be cut to make room. After the Children's Television Act, congress went on to pass a bill which forced networks to air the educational special "Congress Is Not Overstepping Its Boundaries, And Is In Fact Totally Awesome And Deserves The Pay Raise It Votes To Give Itself Every Year". There was more than just congress at work, though. Parent groups were claiming that cartoons were too violent, and that the characters and vehicles on display were little more than advertisements for toys. On top of this, cable television and video games were coming into their own, and in time the internet came along. Instead of three networks with a relatively small block of programming that everyone watched, there were now a myriad of entertainment sources for kids to choose from. Soon Saturday mornings as I had known them went the way of the dinosaur and Courtney Love's grip on reality.
I'll have to check to be certain, but I'm pretty sure this is the coolest image I've ever accidentally stumbled upon while writing an update.
Looking back, I'm not so sure the cartoons I loved would make it to the airwaves if they were made in today's softer, more politically correct America. Our culture has changed in many ways over the past decade, so the cartoons would be drastically different. Take the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for example. Adhering to equal opportunity laws, two of the turtles would have to be replaced with non-mutant minority turtle breeds (box, snapper) with no martial arts skills or even combat experience of any kind. How about the Transformers? They would be deemed far too fuel inefficient by today's standards, and would have to run on environment-friendly electric motors instead of gasoline. After a full charge, the Decepticons and Autobots would have just enough energy to fall forward in the vague direction of one another, or to beep their horns sternly for about half an hour. Having the unfortunate luck of being the only Transformer born as an SUV, Hummer Prime would go screaming into a furnace and then get recycled into a shelter for San Francisco's homeless mice.
Like many others from my generation, my favorite cartoon of all was G.I. Joe. I can't bear to imagine how different this show would be today, but as it turns out I don't have to imagine. Last week one of my long forgotten cartoon-script-seeking droids hovered into my bedroom window clutching a script from the top secret new G.I. Joe series, then hovered out through my other window without slowing down. It came back several days later, though, and then I was finally able to read the following:
Location: United Nations Headquarters. Flint, Lady Jaye, and Sergeant Slaughter sit at a table with a placard that reads "USA". The room they are in is immense and circular, and packed within it are representatives from nearly every nation in the world; all sitting at tables identical to the one we see the Joes behind.
Flint: (whispering to Sgt. Slaughter as a Pakistani diplomat addresses the room in the background) ...and after we dropped the payload I realized the smell was still there. So I turned to the pilot and said, "Hey buddy, is this a cockpit or a cocksh-
Suddenly, a familiar high-pitched fills the air, laughing diabolically. In the center of the room, a large panel of monitors and speakers hangs from the ceiling. On it, we see the source of the laughter...
Cobra Commander: Sorry to interrupt your girl scout meeting, but there's some breaking news you might be interested in! Mere moments ago, I unleashed my genetically engineered strain of sentient peanut plants! They follow my every order, and are immune to everything but the big shiny Remote Detonate button which rests at my side. Within the hour, all of Spain will be under my control! Within the week, the world!
Sergeant Slaughter: (tossing his chair aside and slamming his hands on the desk) That does it! Let's go kick some Cobra butt and save the world!
Flint: Woah woah woah, big guy! Slow down and think this through. We can't just rush into this unilaterally!
UN Secretary Kofi Annan: Yes, you must get the approval of each and every country in the world before you can even consider military action. Even Antarctica, and they don't have a government yet so you'll have to wait for one to be established.
Lady Jaye : Besides, think of our popularity polls! Protestors have already gathered in Seattle in response to your insensitive and warmongering comment!
Cut to the streets of Seattle, where a throng of protestors angrily chants "No blood for peanuts! No blood for peanuts!" Scattered throughout the crowd are signs reading "Hasbroburton is the REAL enemy", "Peace Is Good, War Is Bad!", and "Meat Is Murder".
One protestor runs in front of the camera and claws at his face with both hands, screaming in horror "Someone stop that monster Slaughter! Think of the children! Oh God, won't someone think of the children?!?!"
Sergeant Slaughter: This is insane! Don't any of you see what's going on? We have to take action immediately!
Kofi Annan: He's right, you know. We can't stand by and do nothing while a madman's peanuts overtake us all! (turning to Cobra Commander's visage on the screen) I am going to pass a resolution on you so freaking hard!
Cobra Commander: Oh no, anything but that! Haha, go right ahead and add it to the pile you've already filed against me. Oops, I just realized that I mistakenly gave my troops the day off today. It seems that I left my base completely unguarded and vulnerable to attack!
Sergeant Slaughter: Look! He's begging for it! We've got to hit him now, and not with your meaningless little resolutions!
Flint: (a look of realization dawning on his face, he stands shoulder to shoulder with Sergeant Slaughter as the heroic theme music swells) Sarge is right! The only way to stop Cobra is with a really BIG resolution! Kofi, do you have any large resolution forms? Printed on paper about twice as long and wide as the standard ones?
Cut to a shot of Earth being overrun with peanut plants as Cobra laughs and laughs. Roll credits, then begin the "Now you know..." segment. A young man is sitting in front of a computer alone.
Corin Tucker's Stalker: Furries are sooo damn weird. I already know this, yet I can't... stop... looking!
Destro bursts through the wall in a blaze of laser fire, then grabs the young man by the neck.
Destro: Incorrect, fleshface! It's wrong to hold an opinion of any sort about other people. Everyone should be able to do whatever they want -even pee when they aren't in the shower- and no matter how completely wrong it is you're a bigot if you disagree!
Corin Tucker's Stalker: Wow, thanks mister! I never thought of it that way. I guess I was narrow-minded. Now I know...
Destro: ...and knowing is half the nonviolent and meaningful (but not religious) experience!
Did I mention that each episode will only be five minutes long?