I think the 1980s were truly the peak era for Saturday mornings.
The process of developing kids' shows had been refined by that point, and we were well ahead of the days of streaming or DVRs — if you wanted to watch those shows, your only chance was to wake up way before the sun even came out, grab yourself a bowl of cereal, and get the TV warming up for 30 minutes or so.
There were some HUGE hit shows from that time period, the ones that everyone knows and recalls fondly. Those have been written about plenty of times — today we're here to talk about the shows that only those who were the most dedicated Saturday morning warriors will remember.
Unless you were an actual child growing up in the actual '80s (or maybe the rare parent willing to forego a few hours of sleep), you probably won't recognize any of these shows. Filling up our weekends (or the occasional sick day at home), these have become the stuff of myth and legend.
Here are seven television shows that only kids from the 1980s are likely to remember.
Today's Special (1981-87)
A clever title for a TV show no matter what it's about, I find it highly unlikely many adults paid much attention when this Canada-produced children's program came on.
Originally broadcast on TVOntario, it was also picked up by Nickelodeon and PBS affiliates. Meaning plenty of kids had the opportunity to learn about things as simple as hats, or as complicated as alcoholism.
And it all centered around the characters inhabiting a department store (if I have to explain what that is, you probably won't know ANY of the shows in this article) — namely, at night, when magic can be afoot.
Jeff is a mannequin that comes to life when the store is closed, but only with a special hat on and when someone says "hocus pocus alimagocus!"
There were also lots of puppets, guest stars, and the blending of fantasy and technology (the TXL Series 4 store computer) that the '80s did so well.
As a parent now, I sure as hell wouldn't sit through this, but as a kid, it was pure magic.
Kids Incorporated (1984-94)
If you asked me what this show was about, I'd honestly have no damn clue, other than "kids singing '80s songs." And turns out, I pretty much nailed it.
Kids Incorporated (or Kids Inc.) was a show that rose to prominence on The Disney Channel in the mid-80s about a bunch of kids who form a band and sing a bunch of songs.
The songs are usually intertwined with the plot somehow, and like many tweeny/kids shows of the time, sometimes tried to tackle serious issues. But it was a lot more fun when they were doing stuff like talking to robots and saving princesses, all out of their rehearsal/performance space, The P*lace.
Kids Inc. also helped launch a few careers: Mario Lopez appeared as a dancer and musician throughout the show; Jeniffer Love Hewitt was credited as simply "Love Hewitt"; Martika would go on to reach international fame in the late '80s; and the longest-tenured cast member, Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson, joined the Black Eyed Peas.
You Can't Do That on Television (1981-90)
Another import from our neighbors up north, You Can't Do That on Television hit American airwaves in 1981, becoming a mainstay on the burgeoning Nickelodeon channel.
The kid-friendly sketch show perhaps most notably introduced the green slime that is now irrevocably tied to the Nickelodeon brand, dumping on anyone who said the phrase, "I don't know."
But that wasn't the only gag where a magic word would get someone messy on YCDTOTV — saying anything relating to water would also get a bucket of water dumped on you.
You may recall Barth, the disgusting burger restaurateur with a cigarette perpetually hanging out of his mouth, or the "opposite" skits, where the screen would flip upside down and something totes opposite from real life would happen.
And just to confirm that this was a show that could have only been produced in the '80s, it also featured the recurring firing squad skit, in which one of the child actors is tied up by a dictator and set to be executed — only to have the kids trick the squad into killing the dictator instead. Our parents didn't even care.
It's not that puppets hadn't been around before, but the '80s truly was the decade of puppetry in popular culture. From The Muppets to Yoda, these damn things were everywhere (including several of the other shows on this list).
But unless you were a kid actually watching TV on Saturday mornings, you probably totally missed Terrahawks, which was born from the same minds that created the '60s sci-fi marionette-driven series, Thunderbirds.
In the far-flung future of 2020, The Terrahawks, aka the Earth Defence Squadron, are an elite force that may be the only hope against the invading aliens and robots led by the evil Zelda.
For those with sharp eyes, you'll notice how producers Gerry Anderson and Christopher Burr switched from using Supermarionation to Supermacromation for Terrahawks; you'll also notice those are definitely words they just made up. In essence, it meant they eschewed the electronic-assisted marionettes of Thunderbirds for a more hand-driven Muppet style — that also meant you didn't see strings anymore.
The show introduced a slew of cool-sounding characters, vehicles, and monsters, including the Zeroids. How '80s does that just sound to say out loud?
An animated reboot has been in the works for a few years.
The tale of a teddy bear brought to life by an alien and given magical superpowers by Mother Nature is obviously a cartoon that could have only been made in the '80s.
But Ted wouldn't just bust out his superpowers willy-nilly — only when they were needed would he utter his "secret word" and transform into SupetTed. Why a live teddy bear walking around with an alien needed to hide his superhero identity is up for debate.
One of my favorite characters from this show was the main villain, Texas Pete. What a fantastic villain name.
Weirdly walking that line of sci-fi and fantasy, SuperTed was produced in Wales and became the first British show to be aired on The Disney Channel. A reboot has been rumored to be in the works for some time and seems to have a legit shot of sticking the landing at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Mr. Wizard's World (1983-89)
Look, we love Bill Nye as much as anyone else, but we all know his path was paved with gold by Don Herbert, aka Mr. Wizard.
In fairness, this is the one show that not just kids from the '80s will remember — Watch Mr. Wizard first hit the airwaves in 1951 and ran into the mid-60s. At its peak, it reached millions of viewers and inspired thousands of Mr. Wizard science clubs that saw membership of over 100,000.
After leaving the airwaves for some years and getting a brief reboot in Canada in the early '70s, Herbert brought an updated version of the show to Nickelodeon, where it became one of the channel's top-rated shows throughout the '80s.
This dude truly lived up to his moniker, turning science into damn magic. If you find yourself every now and then providing a scientific explanation for something because you remember a segment from this show, just know that you're not alone.
Inside Story (1980)
This sounds like an investigative news show, but nope, it's the one with that dude wearing the one-piece leotard that shows you what the inside of a human body looks like.
John Burstein first started coming up with skits and song ideas that educated kids on the human body while working at a hospital, eventually growing that into the character of Slim Goodbody.
Apparently watching someone sing while seeing where their intestines are really vibed for children growing up in the late Cold War era, as the character quickly gained notoriety and gained a recurring spot on Captain Kangaroo. Eventually, Slim proved so popular they decided to give the Superhero of Health his own show on PBS.
The character has continued to pop up in video shorts, books, and random appearances, including the Super Bowl ad for RadioShack in 2014.