Children's programming on NBC
Children's programming has played a part in NBC's programming since its initial roots in television. This article outlines the history of children's television programming on NBC including the various blocks and notable programs that have aired throughout the television network's history.
In 1947, NBC's first major children's program was Howdy Doody, one of the era's first breakthrough television programs. The series, which ran for 13 years until it ended in 1960, featured a myriad of characters led by a frecklefaced marionette voiced by the show's host, "Buffalo" Bob Smith. Howdy Doody spent the first nine years of its run airing on weekday afternoons.
In 1956, NBC stopped airing children's programming within its weekday afternoon schedule, relegating the network's children's shows to Saturdays only with Howdy Doody serving as its marquee franchise for the remaining four years of that series' run. From the mid-1960s until 1992, the bulk of the children's programs broadcast by NBC were derived from theatrical shorts like The Pink Panther Show and classic Woody Woodpecker and Looney Tunes shorts; reruns of popular television series such as The Flintstones and The Jetsons; and foreign acquisitions such as Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion.
During this period, the network also aired original animated series – most notably, the 1980s series The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks. It also carried animated series adapted from certain live-action NBC series such as It's Punky Brewster (based on the sitcom Punky Brewster), ALF: The Animated Series (based on the sitcom ALF) and Star Trek: The Animated Series (based on the science fiction drama Star Trek), as well as animated series vehicles for certain NBC prime time stars including Gary Coleman (The Gary Coleman Show) and Mr. T (Mister T), and original live-action series including the Sid & Marty Krofft-produced The Banana Splits, The Bugaloos and H.R. Pufnstuf.
The Metric Marvels, a short-form series produced by the creators of rival ABC's Schoolhouse Rock! as part of a failed attempt to encourage metrication in the United States, aired on NBC during the late 1970s.
The "One to Grow On" era (1983–1989)
From 1983 to 1989, NBC aired a series of public service announcements called One to Grow On, which aired after the end credits of every program or every other children's program. The One to Grow On PSAs focused on ethical and personal safety dilemmas, and attempts to instruct viewers on how to solve the particular problem depicted. The segments were hosted by stars from various NBC prime time series, including Family Ties stars Michael J. Fox and Justine Bateman; The A-Team stars Mr. T and Dwight Schultz; Punky Brewster star Soleil Moon Frye; Knight Rider star David Hasselhoff; The Facts of Life stars Kim Fields, Nancy McKeon, Lisa Whelchel and Charlotte Rae; Night Court star Richard Moll; The Cosby Show stars Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Tempestt Bledsoe; Riptide star Perry King; Silver Spoons stars Joel Higgins and Ricky Schroder; A Different World star Kadeem Hardison; and The Golden Girls star Betty White. In an unusual move, René Enríquez from the adult-oriented prime time drama Hill Street Blues also hosted a segment.
Each of the PSAs began with an animated sequence that leads into an animated television set on which the actor presenting the specific PSA appeared, and introduces themself. This was followed by a live-action sequence in which a child faces a particular ethical dilemma, which then cuts back to the actor explaining how to viewers on how solve the problem should they encounter the situation previously depicted, before the child in the PSA rectifies the situation through said instructions. The individual PSAs typically ended with the actor closing the segment with the line, "And that's One to Grow On." NBC discontinued One to Grow On in September 1989, replacing that campaign with The More You Know series of PSAs that continue to air on the network as of 2015[update].
Final years with animated programming (1989–1992)
In September 1989, NBC premiered Saved by the Bell, a sitcom centered on the fictional Bayside High School in Pacific Palisades, California, which originated on The Disney Channel the year prior as Good Morning, Miss Bliss (the predecessor series, set in an Indianapolis, Indiana middle school, served as a starring vehicle for Hayley Mills, who did not return for the retooled series; four cast members from that show – Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dennis Haskins, Lark Voorhies and Dustin Diamond – were cast in Saved by the Bell as their Miss Bliss characters). Despite receiving harsh reviews from television critics, Saved by the Bell would become one of the most popular teen-oriented series in television history as well as the highest-rated series on Saturday mornings, dethroning ABC's The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show in its first season.
As a result of the continued success of Saved by the Bell, NBC restructured its Saturday morning lineup in September 1992, removing the animated series (ending the entirety of conventional children's programming – animated or otherwise – airing on NBC itself for the next ten years) in favor of additional live-action – mostly scripted – series aimed at teenagers as part of a new three-hour block under the brand TNBC (the network also launched an hour-long Saturday edition of Today that debuted simultaneously with the TNBC lineup).
Most of the programs on the TNBC lineup were sitcoms produced by Saved by the Bell executive producer Peter Engel such as City Guys, Hang Time, California Dreams, One World and the Saved by the Bell spinoff, Saved by the Bell: The New Class. From the start, the lineup was designed to meet the earliest form of the Federal Communications Commission's educational programming guidelines under the Children's Television Act, with many of the scripted series incorporating social issues such as underage drinking, drug use and sexual harassment. By 2001, the block had begun suffering from declining viewership; in addition, although the block was aimed at adolescents, TNBC's programs ironically registered a median viewer age of 41.
NBA Inside Stuff, an analysis and interview program aimed at teens that was hosted for most of its run by Ahmad Rashād (who also served as a commentator and pre-game host for the network's NBA coverage during much of Inside Stuff's NBC run), also aired alongside the TNBC lineup during the NBA season until 2002, with the program moving to ABC the following season as a result of that network taking the NBA rights from NBC.
Discovery Kids on NBC (2002–2006)
On January 6, 2002, NBC entered into an agreement with Discovery Communications, in which it would produce a new Saturday morning block for the network featuring original programs from the Discovery Kids cable channel under a time-lease agreement to provide programming compliant with the FCC's educational programming guidelines to NBC's affiliates, rather than having any network input or production. The new block, branded "Discovery Kids on NBC", premiered on September 14, 2002. Originally, the lineup consisted of only live-action series featuring a mix of new series and existing Discovery Kids programs including Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls (a spin-off of the TLC home renovation reality show Trading Spaces) and the reality game show Endurance (a Survivor-style series created and executive produced by host J. D. Roth, who later produced The Biggest Loser for NBC in 2003).
In September 2004, the block expanded to include some animated series under the banner "Real Toons" such as Kenny the Shark, Tutenstein and Time Warp Trio. In March 2006, Discovery Communications announced it would not renew its contract with NBC, citing a desire to focus exclusively on the Discovery Kids cable channel. Discovery Kids on NBC ended its run on September 2, 2006.
Qubo on NBC (2006–2012)
In May 2006, NBC Universal and Ion Media Networks announced plans to form Qubo, a joint venture in conjunction with Scholastic Corporation, Classic Media and Corus Entertainment subsidiary Nelvana. The multi-platform programming endeavor, aimed at children between 4 and 8 years of age, would comprise children's program blocks airing on NBC, Spanish-language sister network Telemundo and Ion Media's i: Independent Television (now Ion Television), as well as a 24-hour digital multicast channel on i's owned-and-operated stations, video on demand services and a branded website. The reasoning why the name "qubo" was chosen for the endeavor, or why its logo is a cube, has never been publicly explained by any of the partners, although general manager Rick Rodriguez stated in an interview with Multichannel News that the name was intended to be something that sounded fun, and be a brand that could easily be uniformally used in English and Spanish.
The new "Qubo on NBC" block premiered on September 9, 2006, featuring seven programs in its initial season: VeggieTales, 3-2-1 Penguins!, Dragon, Babar, Jane and the Dragon, Jacob Two-Two and Postman Pat. Initially, VeggieTales episodes aired on the block excised religious content originally incorporated before and after the main feature in the home video releases. This drew criticism for the block and NBC in particular from the conservative watchdog group Parents Television Council, as well as VeggieTales co-creator Phil Vischer, who claimed that he was unaware of the intent to edit out the religious material when Qubo acquired the program distribution rights.
NBC Kids (2012–2016; 2012–2017 on Telemundo)
On March 28, 2012, NBC announced that the three-hour children's programming time period allocated by the network on Saturday mornings would be taken over by Sprout (which had become a sister television property to NBC following parent company NBC Universal's 2010 majority purchase by Comcast; NBC later took full ownership of the network, whose owners previously included Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment) and launch a new Saturday morning block called NBC Kids, which is aimed at preschoolers and grade school-aged children ages 2 to 9. Sprout also produced a Spanish-language sister block for Telemundo known as MiTelemundo.
NBC Kids debuted on July 7, 2012, one week after the Qubo block ended its run on both NBC and Telemundo on June 30 (leaving Ion Television as the only network to retain a Qubo-branded children's block, as Ion Media Networks is now sole owner of the Qubo properties including the flagship Qubo Channel television service).
On February 24, 2016 and March 1, 2016, NBC and Telemundo announced that NBC Kids would shut down and succeeded on October 8, 2016 and January 6, 2018 by The More You Know, a block produced by Litton Entertainment that would feature live-action documentary and lifestyle programs aimed at pre-teens and teenagers, similarly to a block also introduced by Litton for NBC co-owner CW the previous 2 years. The move came as part of a shift by broadcast television networks towards using their Saturday morning lineup solely to comply with the educational programming requirements and when Sprout changed its name to Universal Kids on September 9, 2017. NBC Kids quietly went to the Noodle and Doodle end credits shortly before NBC Sports on September 25, 2016 on NBC and December 31, 2017 on Telemundo, with no on-air notice.
The More You Know (2016–present; 2018–present on Telemundo)
On February 24, 2016 and March 1, 2016, NBC and Telemundo announced that it would lease its Saturday morning lineup to Litton Entertainment, The More You Know beginning October 2016 on NBC and January 2018 on Telemundo. Named after NBC's series of public service campaigns, the three-hour Saturday morning block is programmed by Litton Entertainment, and features live-action programming aimed at teens.
Not all shows within NBC's Saturday morning block are seen on all of the network's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates. Occasionally, some or all programs featured within the block are subject to delay or pre-emption due to local or syndicated programs scheduled by local NBC stations, or may be delayed by the network due to sporting events such as the Summer Olympic Games, the French Open, the USGA-sanctioned U.S. Open and Presidents Cup tournaments, or English Premier League soccer.
Due to regulations defined by the Children's Television Act that require stations to carry E/I compliant programming for three hours each week at any time between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. local time, some NBC stations may defer certain programs aired within its Saturday morning block to Sunday daytime or earlier Saturday morning slots, or (in the case of affiliates in the Western United States) Saturday afternoons as makegoods to comply with the CTA regulations.
List of notable programs
- Note: Shows listed in bold are in-house productions from NBC, most of which now have their distribution rights held by NBCUniversal Television Distribution.
- 3-2-1 Penguins! (2006-2009, 2010)
- The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990–1991)
- ALF: The Animated Series (1987–1989)
- Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983–1991)
- Astro Boy (1963–1978)
- Babar (2006-2007, 2008-2010)
- Beany and Cecil (1968–1988; 1988–1992)
- Big John, Little John (1976–1977)
- Birdman and The Galaxy Trio (1967-1968)
- The Bugaloos (1970–1972)
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids (1973–74)
- Camp Candy (1989–1990)
- Captain N: The Game Master (1989–1992)
- Chip and Pepper's Cartoon Madness (1991–1992)
- Down and Out with Donald Duck (1987)
- Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series (1987–1988)
- The Gary Coleman Show (1982–1983)
- The Godzilla/Dynomutt Hour with the Funky Phantom (1980)
- Godzilla (1978–1981)
- Gravedale High (1990–1991)
- The Gummi Bears (1985–1989)
- Hoppity Hooper (1963–1966, 1983–1984)
- H.R. Pufnstuf (1969–1970)
- I'm Telling! (1987–1988)
- It's Punky Brewster (1985–1987, 1988-1989)
- Jacob Two-Two (2006-2008, 2009)
- Jane and the Dragon (2006-2008, 2009-2010)
- The Karate Kid (1989–1990)
- Kid 'n Play (1990–1991)
- Kidd Video (1984–1987)
- Kimba the White Lion (1965–1980)
- Kissyfur (1986–1990)
- Land of the Lost (1974–1977)
- LarryBoy Adventures (2006-2009)
- LazyTown (2012-2016)
- The Magic School Bus (2010-2012)
- Mister T (1983–1986)
- The New Adventures of Flash Gordon (1979–1980, 1982–1983)
- The New Archie and Sabrina Hour (1977)
- Pearlie (2010-2012)
- The Pink Panther Show (1969–1978)
- ProStars (1991)
- Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975–1976)
- The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (1961–1964, 1973–1982)
- The Roman Holidays (1972)
- The Ruff and Reddy Show (1957–1958)
- Saved by the Bell (1989–1993; produced by NBC Productions)
- Sealab 2020 (1972–73)
- Shelldon (2009-2012)
- Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (1973–1975)
- The Smurfs (1981–1989)
- Snorks (1984–1990)
- Space Cats (1991–1992)
- Space Kidettes (1966–1967)
- Space Sentinels (1977–1978)
- Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981–1986)
- Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973–1975)
- Super Mario World (1991–1992)
- Turbo Dogs (2008-2009, 2010-2012)
- VeggieTales (2006-2009)
- VeggieTales Presents: 3-2-1 Penguins! and LarryBoy Adventures (2006-2008)
- Willa's Wild Life (2009-2012)
- Wish Kid (1991)
- Yo Yogi! (1991–1992)
- The Zula Patrol (2008-2010)
Saturday morning preview specials
- 1973 – Starship Rescue (hosted by Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth from Emergency!)
- 1974 – Preview Revue (hosted by Jimmy Osmond; featuring Johnny Whitaker)
- 1975 – Preview Revue (hosted by The Lockers; featuring Michael Landon, and Billy Barty and Johnny Whitaker from Sigmund and the Sea Monsters)
- 1976 – Smilin' Saturday Morning Parade (hosted by Freddie Prinze)
- 1977 – C'Mon Saturday (hosted by Andrea McArdle from Annie; featuring Arte Johnson, Leonard Nimoy, Muhammad Ali and Ruth Buzzi)
- 1978 – Saturday Superstars (hosted by Bay City Rollers; featuring Erik Estrada, Joe Namath and Scott Baio)
- 1983 – Yummy Awards (hosted by Ricky Schroder; special appearance by a live-action Spider-Man to promote his animated show)
- 1984 – Laugh Busters (featuring Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Kidd Video, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Snorks, Pink Panther and Sons, Mr. T and The Smurfs)
- 1985 – Back to Next Saturday (hosted by Keshia Knight Pulliam and Lisa Whelchel)
- 1986 – Alvin Goes Back to School
- 1987 – ALF Loves a Mystery (hosted by Benji Gregory from ALF)
- 1989 – Who Shrunk Saturday Morning? (hosted by the cast of Saved by the Bell; featuring ALF, John Candy and Marsha Warfield)
- Lists of United States network television schedules – includes articles on Saturday morning children's programming schedules among the major networks
- Children's programming on the American Broadcasting Company
- Children's programming on CBS
- Holz, Jo (2017). Kids' TV Grows Up: The Path from Howdy Doody to SpongeBob. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-6874-1.
- Paula Bernstein (December 4, 2001). "Discovery set to kid around with Peacock". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
- "Adults 'Discover' kiddie programs". Variety. Reed Business Information. 2003. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- Lily Oei (April 2, 2002). "Discovery Kids sets NBC sked". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- Umstead, Thomas (December 7, 2001). "Discovery Gets NBC Kids' Block". Multichannel News. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- Lily Oei; Pamela McClintock (November 6, 2003). "Kids mixed on new skeds". Variety. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- Lily Oei (August 24, 2003). "Nets face back to school blues". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- Robert Riddell (March 19, 2006). "Discovery Kids parts with NBC". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- Anthony Crupi (March 16, 2006). "Discovery, NBC to End Sat. Kids Block". Mediaweek. Archived from the original on February 7, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2008.
- Andrew Hampp (August 24, 2006). "NBC Debuts Kids Programming Brand Qubo". Advertising Age. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- Luis Clemens (February 16, 2008). "Qubo's Rodriguez: Offering a 'Building Block' to Kids". Multichannel News. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- "God references quashed; 'VeggieTales creator steamed". CNN. Associated Press. September 22, 2006. Archived from the original on October 4, 2006. Retrieved June 22, 2009.
- Jon Weisman (March 28, 2012). "NBC to launch Saturday kids block". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Lindsay Rubino (March 28, 2012). "NBC, With Assist From Sprout, to Launch Saturday Morning Preschool Block". Multichannel News. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- "NBC Will Launch NBC Kids, a New Saturday Morning Preschool Block Programmed by Sprout®, Saturday, July 7". MarketWatch. March 28, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- "NBC AND LITTON ENTERTAINMENT EXPAND ICONIC 'THE MORE YOU KNOW' PLATFORM INTO NEW THREE-HOUR SATURDAY MORNING PROGRAMMING BLOCK" (Press release). Retrieved February 24, 2016.
- "NBC, Litton Partner on 'The More You Know' Block". Broadcasting & Cable. NewBay Media. Retrieved February 24, 2016.