Friday, May 6

TV Month 2016 - The Programming Block.

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There isn't a streaming service on the planet that can replicate the Programming Block. Whether this matters to you is irrelevant.

Yeah, we've got user-created and curated playlists. We've got gapless season binge-watching. But for a child of the 80's and 90's, the Programming Block was a chance to put the remote down and settle in for an evening of entertainment wrapped in a nice, demographically-branded package. A time to change into your pajamas, gather a couch full of snacks and settle in with the only friend that will never betray you and force you to stab them to death behind the pet food store on Christmas Eve, Television.

Related shows, custom bumpers and theme music, sometimes a guest host; really a TV network within a TV network for those 2-3 hours a week. It was comforting in a way, especially if you were a fan of every show in the block. And if you weren't? Well...that was the point of the block. Put enough popular, similar shows around a struggling one and pray that the rising tide will float every boat equally.

Here were a few.

The Disney Afternoon (Syndicated) - 1990-1994

This was the first block that I really became a part of. Every day after school, I'd run down my driveway as fast as I could to see as much of The Disney Afternoon as possible. Due to me living in the middle of nowhere, I was typically the last one off of the bus, making it impossible to ever see the first show of the block. Luckily, Disney did something neat by adding a new series every season and pushing all of the older shows up a half-hour.

Shows Included:
Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
Darkwing Duck
Goof Troop

Shows like Darkwing Duck and DuckTales were legitimately great, boasting animation awards, feature films and theme songs that most of us know by heart. Even though it wasn't on Saturday morning, The Disney Afternoon was a children's programming staple for millions of kids in my generation. And hey, speaking of Saturday morning...

CBS Kids (CBS) - 1988-1994

What an eclectic mix of programming in the late 80's/early 90's CBS Saturday Block. Saturday mornings in the early 90's were jam-packed with goodness on all three major networks, so having the schedule down was an absolute must in order to catch all of the best stuff. Getting up at 5am didn't hurt, either.

Shows Included:
Garfield and Friends
Hey Vern, It's Ernest!
Muppet Babies
Pee-Wee's Playhouse
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

First, you had Garfield and Friends, which was two shows in one (remember U.S. Acres?). Hey Vern, It's Ernest! was one of those shows that adults seemed to understand a bit more than their kids did (even if in hindsight, it was annoying as hell). Muppet Babies was, looking back, fairly surreal (with one of the best theme songs ever). Pee-Wee's Playhouse was nothing short of revolutionary, and TMNT was (and is again) possibly the most popular children's cartoon of my generation.

Must-See TV (NBC) - 1984-2004

Moving out of animation-based programming and into primetime network stuff, we have the long-running 'Must-See Thursday' block on NBC. Even though it technically existed into 2014 with shows like The Office, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation at the helm, the block 'officially' ended in 2004 and was scrapped outright last year.

Shows Included:
Will and Grace
Mad About You

Top of the Rock is an excellent oral history of the 'Must-See TV' block from its origins to evolution to NBC's eventual tanking and rebirth. Definitely something you should check out if you're a weirdo that reads books about TV like I do.

TGIF (ABC) - 1986-2000

This is as good of a definition of 'Programming Block' as I can think of. Two hours, every Friday night, nothing but comedy, hosted bumpers, a theme song specifically for the block, and some really classic television programs to boot. It may have waned in the later years, and a lot of these shows certainly don't hold up to save their fictional lives, but that's not really the point, is it?

Shows Included:
Full House
Perfect Strangers
Step By Step
Family Matters
Boy Meets World

What I remember most about this block was that it was a 'family' block, which meant that the whole house got together and sat in front of the television, which I was quite fond of. I unapologetically loved Full House, and you may recall I loved Fuller House quite a bit as well.

SNICK (NICK) - 1992-1999

SNICK had it all. The big orange couch. The Saturday night timeslot. The feeling that you were in on something really special; something that was made just for you. The '166 hours' closing always bummed me out, as it reminded me that Sunday was tomorrow and I'd have to prepare for another week of school, but for those few hours, SNICK made everything better.

Shows Included:
Clarissa Explains It All
Ren and Stimpy
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
The Adventures of Pete and Pete
All That

The Ren and Stimpy phenomenon was completely justified, The Adventures of Pete and Pete makes me warm like a shot of whiskey, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? was legitimately scary at times; even more so than Tales From The Crypt on its best nights. It's a shame I never got the chance to start up that Midnight Society like I wanted to. If I did it now, I'd probably get arrested.

Toonami (Adult Swim) - 1997-2008, 2012-Present

I wasn't on board for the original iteration of Toonami, but when it returned in 2012, I couldn't have been happier. Then (and still) the only Anime block on American television, Toonami continues a long tradition of first-run Japanese shows, along with turning US audiences on to Anime classics of the generation prior.

Shows Include:
Dragon Ball Z
Cowboy Bebop
Ghost In The Shell
Attack On Titan

If you happen to be up at midnight/11pm Central this Saturday, come livetweet Toonami with me. It'll be fun.



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