Specifically so you don’t have to, I have mined YouTube and assembled almost 60 clips of theme songs, intros, bumpers and random nostalgic bliss from the past 25 years of television in honor of the almighty Programming Block. You remember the joy of the Programming Block: those 2-3 hours of weekly television that had a specific theme, intro/outros and hosted bumpers that tied everything into one nice, neat 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, the Television.
We’re focusing on six Programming Blocks in particular, as they were the ones that I grew up with. The years next to the titles represent the amount of time I made them a part of my weekly routine. If I got to decide how you read this post, I’d ask that you stay up late with it, checking out all of the links and allowing yourself to slip back in time a little bit, and hopefully feel a little warm and fuzzy in the process. Let’s go.
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 like Darkwing Duck and DuckTales were legitamately wonderful, 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.
First, you had Garfield & 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, a truly bizarre and surreal show (with one of the best theme songs ever). Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was nothing short of revolutionarily awesome, and TMNT was possibly the most popular children’s cartoon of my generation. Seriously, the hype and merchandise sales were unbelievable during those years.
Must-See TV (NBC) – 1984-1991
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 still exists with shows like The Office, 30 Rock and My Name Is Earl at the helm, I wanted to focus more on the roots of the block in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
‘It Must Be Thursday’ 1984 Intro
Gimme A Break!
The Cosby Show
A Different World
Wings – (For some reason, I couldn’t track down the Wings opening theme, so I put this NBC Thursday night promo up. I think it’s better anyways, and look at the Seinfeld episode that was on that night!)
I didn’t remember that Mama’s Family was part of this otherwise-solid string of sitcoms until I went back to study it. I also remember that during the closing credits of Night Court, there was a guy laughing in the background of the theme song that always bothered me for whatever reason. Don’t forget the ‘Sit Ubu, sit‘ production company bumper to close out Cheers, as well as the fact that Lisa Bonet was hand-picked for A Different World because Bill Cosby wanted her off of his show as fast as humanly possible.
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?
TGIF Intro Video
TGIF Closing Video
‘Things That Make You Go ‘Hmmm…” Intro
Step By Step
Boy Meets World – (This isn’t the opening to Boy Meets World, but I liked this clip better. So will you.)
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, Dinosaurs was…man…just unreal, and the guy that did the Full House theme song also did the Family Matters theme (really, listen to them).
And Topanga. Sweet, weird, curvy Topanga. I love you and want you to come back home now.
By the early 90’s, I was entering adolescence and was fortunate enough to get cable television. As it turned out, this turned me on to what was probably the most well-remembered programming block of my generation..
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.
The Ren & Stimpy phenomenon was completely justified, The Adventures of Pete & Pete makes me warm like a shot of whiskey, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? was legitamately terrifying at times; even more so than Tales From The Crypt. 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.
Another thing I want to mention. Amanda Bynes was on All That when she was exceedingly young, and I have to say that I found her to be absolutely hilarious, then and still. I don’t know what has been happening with her career since then, but she was really funny, spastic kid.
MTV Animation/Liquid Television (MTV) – 1991-2000
The mid-90’s couldn’t have been better for music. The rise of Alternative made MTV a must-watch network, and it was inarguably at its best for these few years. Eventually, reality shows took over, but before that, we had Liquid Television and the rise of MTV Animation; not necessarily a block in and of itself, but worth mentioning due to their popularity and nostalgic appeal.
To this day, I could watch Beavis & Butthead tearing apart music videos until the end of time. The genius of Mike Judge’s satire was that a lot of fans didn’t realize that he was squarely making fun of them, anything but encouraging slacker and near-retarded behavior. Daria showed up a little later, but boasted a great soundtrack and a pitch-perfect Generation X outlook on High School life and society in general.
Man, we’re done already? But I don’t want to leave this world of nostalgic TV wonderment! Well, for those that have stuck it out this far, here are a few more great clips that I could’t help but toss onto the pile. Enjoy.
My Favorite Show Openings/Misc. Awesomeness
Six Million Dollar Man
The Greatest American Hero
Seinfeld – Greatest American Hero
Play It Safe Around Electricity
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (Joel)
Mac Tonight Commercial
Thanks for going back in time with me. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. And hey, don’t forget that the Programming Block that has been CDP TV WEEK isn’t over just yet.
TOMORROW: TV Week Concludes With The 4th Annual CDP FALL TV PREVIEW!