The era of the Saturday Morning cartoon is over. Sure, a few cartoons air on Saturday mornings, but these are few and far between — it hardly compare to the ’70s and and ’80-s, when all three major networks had ‘toons on from 6am until football or wrestling. Hell, there were so many animated shows that networks were always desperate for new series, and were willing to air anything — anything — just as long as it filled 22 minutes of airtime. It didn’t matter how stupid the concept sounded, hell, it didn’t matter if kids even liked it as long as they watched it… which is how so many incredibly stupid cartoons made it on TV, only to thankfully disappear one season later. Here are eight of the worst.
8) I Am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali
The life of a great athlete apparently does not make for interesting Saturday Morning cartoon fare in 1977. So, you know, to spice up what must be a terribly boring life, this cartoon decided to feature Muhammad Ali going around the world fighting evil. I mean, apparently Muhammad Ali has to fight criminals because the fascinating story of Muhammad Ali alone isn’t interesting enough? In fact, that premise is apparently so uninteresting that they have him fighting space aliens in the above clip only to have it be a movie that Muhammad Ali is in who is not the real Muhammad Ali at all and…my head hurts.
7) Turbo Teen
Okay, well, the silliness of this 1984 show has been brought up many times before, and will be again because it’s a show about a teen who turns into a car when he is exposed to heat, and turns back into a teen when exposed to cold. I mean, how could anyone seriously sit in some network meeting and pitch this idea with a straight face? “Hey, it’s like a Transformer, but he doesn’t jus transform, he needs to get really hot or cold first! Where are you people going? LISTEN TO ME FOR ONCE OR I’LL KILL YOUR CHILDREN! Ah good, you’re back. Now. Let us get this thing animated!”
6) Lazer Tag Academy
Before there was online gaming, way back in 1986, children actually had to go outside with guns with infra-red beams and sensors to play a game of “deathmatch.” Though sometimes that would become literal when a cop would accidentally shoot one of the kids. Turns out that neither of those things made for a good Saturday Morning cartoon — nor would turning the Lazer Tag gun into a magic wand that would manipulate matter and the star sensor into a time machine. Or having Jamie Jaren, a girl from the future, chase a stereotypical bad guy and his creepy associates through time. Oh, also, there’s this paradox in which Jamie meets her ancestors and has to protect them so one of them can invent the Starlyte and make the future awesome… or something.
5) Rick Moranis in Gravedale High
Rick Moranis rose to the pinnacle of stardom in the 1980s, unable to walk into a Denny’s without being crushed by a crowd of fans. So, of course, when the big chance to voice a Saturday Morning cartoon came along in 1990, he jumped at the chance! With a stellar concept of being the only human teacher in a school full of teenage movie monsters, nothing could go wrong! Tim Curry even lent his voice to the show as a role model for children everywhere! Unfortunately something called “reality” came calling and ruined the 20-year run of this solid gold television concept of dung.
4) The Partridge Family 2200 A.D.
There was one big problem with The Partridge Family 2200 A.D. in that Hanna Barbera had already made The Jetsons. In case you can’t clearly tell from the design of, er, everything in the above video, 1974’s The Partridge Family 2200 A.D. is clearly The Jetsons but with the Partridge Family slapped in there. Since The Jetsons were already a pale copy of The Flintstones, this made The Partridge Family 2200 A.D. a copy of a copy, and one with Danny Bonaduce in it. Bleagh.
3) Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space
Apparently the all-girl cartoon rock band wasn’t zany enough, so Josie and her Pussycats were shot into space in 1972. First off, what government spends billions of dollars on a spaceship and then says “Let’s not have this crewed by skilled astronauts or anything, let’s just have this girl band do it!” Of course, the mission immediately gets screwed up because this idea is retarded, but instead of what you would expect to happen in a space disaster — in which everyone is burnt to a cinder or suffocates in the vacuum — the Pussycats instead go off and have wacky adventures. And play music.
2) Rubik, the Amazing Cube
Let us say that there’s a hit movie about a friendly alien and some kids. Now, let us say that there’s a hit three-dimensional puzzle on toy shelves around the same time. Why not just mash those two utterly separate concepts together and hope for the best? Well, mostly because it would make a really, really shitty cartoon, as Rubik, the Amazing Cube so ably proved in 1983. Oddly, the kids in the cartoon are all Latino –not that there’s anything wrong with that, and it’s certainly good to have some representation of Latino kids on television. It just seems kind of random, especially for a cartoon from the early ’80s. It’s like the producers spun a wheel of ethnic groups and it landed on Latino.
1) Gilligan’s Planet
Do you know how Gilligan and his pals actually escaped their island? They built a goddamn spaceship. Now, you might be wondering how they built a spaceship with materials found on a deserted island. We think a better question is why they decided to make a spaceship instead of a plane or boat or anything else that would keep them in Earth’s gravitational pull. Regardless, the Professor’s coconut-based warp drive took them to a strange planet without the necessary palm frond that would allow them to make a second spaceship. Most of the cast of the original show did the voices of their characters in this 1982 cartoon, and hopefully felt really, really ashamed about it.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.