This past weekend was the first in over 50 years without Saturday morning cartoons on nationwide broadcast TV in America. But that doesn't mean the sugary-cereal-soaked childhood ritual of settling in for a block of animated entertainment is dead. Hell no. In 2014, it's always cartoon o'clock.
The death of the Saturday morning cartoon block isn't the death of a tradition; it's just indicative of how instant streaming, DVR, and VOD changed the way we watch TV. There's no longer the 8 AM urgency to make sure you're up in time for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been unleashed from its weekend morning and syndication confines. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is now ready to be enjoyed at any moment. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is infinite and turtle power is no longer contained by the programming whims of network executives.
Appointment TV itself isn't dead; it's not like people are content to DVR a live football game and watch it later, given the option of watching it live. Die-hard Mad Men fans (myself included) will sit through plenty of crappy AMC commercials to see Don Draper's melodrama unfold as it airs. But what counts as appointment TV is shrinking; there is no reason that children would feel an urge to wake up early on the weekend (other than a boundless source of youthful energy) when they can see their favorite shows whenever they want.
This is annoying for networks, sure, but convenient for anyone who watches cartoons, and while nostalgia makes us want to eulogize the Saturday morning block, there's no reason to actually be sad. My dad would've killed for a way to delay my favorite shows by an hour when I was younger, since I insisted he watch every episode of Pee Wee's Playhouse with me.
Besides letting parents get a little more sleep, our more flexible approach to TV means kids won't necessarily get inundated with toy commercials as they watch Spongebob Squarepants via Amazon Prime on an iPad. Netflix, too, has an entire Kids section full of cartoon goodies sans commercials. The Saturday morning cartoon block is dead, but now it's easier than ever for a kid to turn into a cartoon superfan.
So there's no need to lament the death of Saturday morning cartoons. Kids can still have lazy, cartoon-filled Saturday mornings. The only change is that they can now also have lazy, cartoon-filled whenevers.