Some of you may remember with the same fondness that I do the plethora of weekend programming available to bored children and teens. For many reasons, it defined who I was, for I was a homebody as an adolescent, rearing myself on books and classic shows like MST3k. I won’t define those times as being a television addict, but there was a certain draw to what was available. Cartoon Network, still in its relative infancy as a network, played around a lot with its programming format*.
One of the interesting features, as you might have guessed, was the Super Chunk. 3 raw hours of whatever show they decided could stand on its own for 3 hours. That kind of thing probably wouldn’t happen today, and it’d be a huge risk, though I’m no executive**, so I might be wrong.
But what I DO know is that this was my first experience with Binge Watching. Sure, there were eventually DVD’s, and I watched a lot of anime and sci fi, which naturally lend themselves to binge watching, but in those days box sets were rare and expensive. The end result was that rentals were the way to go, and most shows were portioned out in the “normal” way.
The Super Chunk was special, and satisfied my need for animation. Tom and Jerry, Two Stupid Dogs, Swat Kats, whatever they gave me, I consumed. I’ve found that cartoon lovers are a special breed, in that they really want to digest animation to glean some perspective or nuance. Whatever it is, this je ne se quoi desire to internalize these cartoons led me to watch the Super Chunk whenever I could. There was an odd cartoon that might turn me off of it***, but for the most part I was tuned in.
I think now to our “netflix culture” and how it has informed out watching experience; we now have shows released in bursts, and backlogs are available for convenient consumption. I’m all for this, as we have wound our collective lives into such a frenetic coil that it is hard to imagine doing it any other way. I think also to my youth, and what it would have been to have all of Chuck Jones or Steven Spielberg**** to watch ad nauseum.
Now, I am the shepherd and curator of these cartoons, hedging them towards our children in hopes that they will take interest. The other day, my youngest son decried the use of CG in animation, expressing that he wants more “normal, good cartoons”. I think I’ve done a good job.
*This is still evident when you consider anything at all to do with Adult Swim. I’m looking at you, “Perfect Hair Forever”!
***I wasn’t a big fan of the Godzilla cartoon, for instance.
**** I refer of course to Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Freakazoid, Land Before Time, American Tail, and whatever else he managed to make happen.