On the Friday After Thanksgiving: Enchanting Chances, And Cosmic Dances

AmericasBestComics COMPBy James H. Burns: There was a special television treat for youngsters, at Thanksgiving weekends during the 1960s and, if memory serves, some time beyond.

To be sure, many families began their holiday Thursday with the Macy’s Parade from Manhattan (and broadcasts of the processions from other cities).  I’ve written about some other fun traditions before, such as WOR-TV’s annual King Kong festivals, and WPIX’ long-time broadcasts of Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers (aka Babes in Toyland), which began many years earlier.

But almost forgotten today is the fun the ABC network fostered nationwide, on the Fridays after Thanksgiving.

For years, ABC would run an extra edition of their Saturday morning schedule!

Those were great days for fantasy fans, and particularly the youngest of that set.

The super hero boom of 1966 inspired many animated renditions across the airwaves.

In 1967, for example, ABC’s lineup included The New Casper Cartoons Show (this was the terrific series, also often overlooked, that had stories featuring many of the great Harvey Comics fairy-take like characters, in “The Enchanted Forest,” and not simply the theatrical shorts that seemed to recycle the same plot, continually!); Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man (the first from Hanna-Barbera, the second from Grantray-Lawrence Animation and Krantz Films,  the same studio that produced the previous season’s syndicated, daily Marvel Super Heroes Show);Journey to the Center of the Earth (one of Filmation Associates’ (Lou Scheimer, Norm Prescott and Hal Sutherland) first major network sales; King Kong (from Rankin-Bass, set in the same fictional universe as their live action King Kong Escapes! theatrical feature film); and another season of The Beatles cartoon!

As others have noted, Saturday mornings, on television, seemed to belong to us, when we were children. Our parents, and grandparents, may have had a day at the movie theatre, featuring cartoons, shorts, serial chapters, and a couple of feature films….  But with the flip of a switch, we could watch all these great comedies, and adventures, with ease (and often in our pajamas)!

After a day filled with turkey and family festivities, there was something delightful about several hours of entertainment designed specifically for us…  (Indeed, an extra Saturday!) There was disappointment when the episodes were sometimes repeats of segments we had already seen.

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One particular treat was one Thanksgiving–or perhaps another holiday week afternoon–when ABC ran a special daytime screening of their hit Batman television series. There was an extra pleasure in having the dates of one of our family friends sitting and watching with me, particularly as she resembled Wende Wagner, the female lead on the contemporary Green Hornet TV series!  The young lady kindly helped me spell out the fight-scenes’ sound effects “words.” (I wonder if it’s generally realized that the 1960s Batman TV show helped a bunch of us toddlers learn how to spell?)

Video cassettes and DVDs and now downloadable media have substituted for this special kind of fun. Kids and their families, of course, can watch whatever they want to see, virtually whenever they want to view it. (The phenomenon of kids wanting to watch the same movie or TV show over-and-over still strikes me as a mystery. When I was a child, my friends and I were annoyed by endless repeats!)

There was some kind of unique fun in knowing — even if one didn’t consciously realize it — that you were united with millions of other youngsters around the nation.  Once upon a time, we sat together in the greatest matinée theatre in the world — living rooms and bedrooms and dens, separated only by walls, and neighborhoods, but not by the smiles and laughter that endure in memory….

Or even when one pops in a disc, or scans the titles on You Tube!

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10 thoughts on “On the Friday After Thanksgiving: Enchanting Chances, And Cosmic Dances

  1. Repeats are annoying when they are inflicted upon you.

    But it’s a whole different world when it’s your own choice what to watch when.

  2. I also don’t think that “kids today” can appreciate how tied to the clock/schedule television viewing was back then: you could not record the shows on tape, DVD or DVR (unless you worked for NASA and even then…); there would not be re-runs later in the week, or catch-up marathons at the end of a season; no 3rd tier broadcasters running re-runs.
    If you missed a popular show – you missed it. Gone forever. And your “friends” were likely to tease you about it. They’d make stuff up about what happened, or refuse to tell you what happened.
    Bowling league, cub scouts, dinner schedules, day trips on the holidays were often conflicted by television schedules (“but if we leave for grandma’s at 8, I’ll miss my cartoons!”). Getting school detention (which interefered with many a student’s watching of afternoon Star Trek re-runs) or grounded with no TV privileges was a major punishment as a consequence of that hard-and-fast, one-time-only schedule.
    There’s no way to recapture that urgency and import. One MUST be in front of the television at the appointed time, or be doomed to ignorance forever.

  3. How can that be the Fantastic Four animated series without Herbie the Robot? (Yeah, I loved the 70s version more than the 60s version).

  4. I completely forgot about the cartoons on the Friday after thanksgiving. (maybe they were done by the mid and late 70’s?) I remember the “serialized” movies of the era, where a movie or a series was shown around Thanksgiving and then around Christmas. Appointment viewing, and if you missed the appointment…

  5. Wasn’t the (cough) quality of the Beatles cartoon part of the reason why the Beatles *almost* had nothing to do with the “Yellow Submarine” movie?

  6. I wonder if it’s generally realized that the 1960s Batman TV show helped a bunch of us toddlers learn how to spell?

    I have a colleague at work with the last name Balaam. I always wan’t to call him KPOW!

  7. As a small tot I learned to recognize the differences between the introductory music to Popeye cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s and the introductory music from the made-for-TV series of the 1960s.

    If I heard the 1960s music I would turn the TV off. Even at the age of five I had learned that nothing connected with that music was ever worth watching, no matter what label it had on it.

  8. One MUST be in front of the television at the appointed time, or be doomed to ignorance forever.

    Or you could grow up on a farm that had one B&W television, three channels and the only shows watched were mainly news, variety and sports. Books, magazines, radio and the occasional trip to the movies were the primary entertainment medias for children and adults. City kids with fewer responsibilities watched cartoons.

  9. I KNOW I heard “King Kong, you know the name of/King Kong, you know the fame of/King Kong–ten times as big as a man!” back in the day but I haven’t heard that particular ear worm in over 40 years, so thanks for bringing it back!”

  10. I remember what was probably the very last vestige of this network, Thanksgiving/day-after-Thanksgiving practice; CBS (I think it was CBS) ran a block of Sid & Marty Krofft shows, in the late-80s/very early-90s… so you’d get a 2-or-3-hour sampler block of H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville, The Bugaloos, Land of the Lost, Sigmund & The Sea Monsters. The opening card and commercial bumpers were a color still drawing of a Thanksgiving cornucopia with some sort of Krofft logo incorporated into it. I remember taping a few episodes, for nostalgia purposes, as the various series had largely dropped out of general circulation by that time (and hadn’t been picked-up by cable networks, yet).

    I also recall that, during the 1970s, Thanksgiving (and/or the day after), during the morning/mid-day, was a time for the animated “Famous Classic Tales” specials… abridged, half-hour versions of Charles Dickens stories, etc. I recall one was Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (in this case, not the ’60s Filmation series), and had a sequence with luminescent cave monsters threatening the explorers, well before they got to the subterranean sea.

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