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Robo-James Time Machine: Saturday Cartoons With Weird Al

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First of all, my apologies for the quality of this video clip, which is not great. The content, however, is awesome.

Nowadays, TV networks have all manner of media and devices by which to imprint their fall shows on your consciousness before they debut. Advance video downloads. Cross-media promotions. Webisodes. Stealth advertising. Online interactive mysteries. But time was, the only mass medium on which TV networks could promote their new shows was on their own air. And so evolved a phenomenon known as the preview special, in which networks would dedicate a special block of programming to sneak-peeking their own fall shows. As a kid, one of the highlights of summer was awaiting the preview specials for the fall’s Saturday morning cartoons.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a 1984 ABC Saturday-morning preview starring Scooby-Doo. And Scrappy Doo. And Weird Al Yankovic. I can’t pretend to organize my reactions coherently, so just a few thoughts:

* In 1984, you might recall (or not) Weird Al had released his Grammy-winning hit Michael Jackson parody, “Eat It.” In other words, Weird Al was a huge, huge get for ABC.

* Scrappy Doo. Oh, dear Lord, Scrappy Doo. My family has suffered the curse of two children who have, at one time or another, been fans of Scooby-Doo, and the franchise has explored all sorts of levels of badness, but Scrappy Doo may well be the nadir.

* It may be hard to remember, but in the ancient days of the ’80s, ABC was not owned by Disney. Which means that the special is being hosted at a theme park—Knotts Berry Farm—not as corporate synergy but just for the hell of it. How quaint!

* And how do we know it’s the ’80s? Four words, friends: Cartoons based on toys.

* Yes, Wolfman Jack did indeed have his own cartoon musical variety show.

* Turbo Teen—”The boy who turns into a car”—may well be the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on television.

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