Whatever happened to Saturday morning kids TV?

There’s one thing I miss from television: the thrills and spills offered by frivolous shows where you would see your favourite celebrities covered in copious amounts of gunge.

There’s one thing I miss from television: the thrills and spills offered by frivolous shows where you would see your favourite celebrities covered in copious amounts of gunge.

It was never a chore getting up at the weekends growing up because there was a non-stop ride of entertainment for all ages from 9 till 12 every week.

Evolution of Saturday morning kids TV

Saturday mornings in the 1950s and 60s saw hundreds of children rushing to spend their pocket money on cinema tickets to watch the latest Tom & Jerry, western or tailor-made specials from the Children’s Film Foundation. This changed in the 1970s when television captured the affection of UK youngsters.

TISWAS, presented by Chris Tarrant, kicked off a multitude of successive shows that chaotically blended together jokes, custard pies and buckets of water. Following it’s success, the BBC introduced the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop with Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin and John Craven.

Since the 70’s, Saturday morning kid’s television evolved from Swap Shop to Saturday Superstore, Going Live and then Live & Kicking for the BBC and from TISWAS to The Saturday Show, SM:TV/CD:UK and Ministry of Mayhem for ITV.

These shows created an institution for Saturday morning television made up of a three-hour marathon of pop videos, phone-ins, games, puppets and celebrities mingled with popular shows and cartoons. These mammoth programmes were held together by the spontaneity of its presenters, who most of the time worked without scripts.

Ever-growing in popularity

The shows provided family entertainment for all ages and it was this available audience that allowed them to become so popular. Production had no problem finding all kinds of guests to join in the mayhem; record labels were begging for their pop acts to appear because of the boost these shows gave to record sales at the weekend before the all important chart reveal on Sunday.

They also made overnight stars of their young presenters, who still feature on television screens today, including Philip Scholfield, Andi Peters, Holly Willoughby, Ant and Dec, and Cat Deeley just to name a few.

Times have changed

However, with the growth of multi-channel broadcasting bringing channels like Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel into the fold it left terrestrial channels battling for young audiences. The educational elements of these ‘magazine’ shows, which featured interviews with Margaret Thatcher and author Roald Dahl couldn’t cut it against the appeal of characters like SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.

Children’s habits also changed. Today there’s more choice available for youngsters including weekend clubs and game consoles. Whilst households with multiple television sets allows for children to watch kids shows in one room whilst there parents are watching their programmes in another.

The fragmentation of the music industry also placed a nail in the coffin of Saturday morning kid’s TV. The 90’s introduced dance acts and Britpop bands, such as Oasis and Blur, that replaced child-friendly stars and weren’t deemed appropriate for Saturday morning viewing.

ITV skirted this issue by separating their musical content on CD:UK. However, despite the reappearance of ‘squeaky clean’ pop acts in the early noughties like Blue, Girls Aloud and S Club 7, the shows that once brought the whole family together and attracted millions of viewers struggles to justify high budgets with low audience viewing figures.

So, could the traditional Saturday show ever make a comeback?

With the ever expanding social network options that offer new methods of connection between youngsters today and the success and influence they are having on radio shows, like Nick Grimshaw’s Radio 1 Breakfast Show. It’s a surprise that there hasn’t been a show that’s tried to cash in on this advancement.

Although this year did see the departure of teenager’s favourite, T4 from Channel 4 that became overrun with repeats of popular shows from its digital channel, E4. So it saddens me to say: the future of Saturday morning live kids TV is well and truly doomed!