During television's infancy, it didn't take much to keep viewers entertained—especially if those viewers were children themselves. The four-disc DVD set Hiya, Kids!!: A '50s Saturday Morning collects episodes from 22 different '50s TV series, from legendary shows like Time For Beany and Sky King to long-forgotten regional hits like Ding Dong School and The Magic Clown. The episodes are between 15 and 30 minutes long, in kinescoped black and white, and about as thrilling to watch as a test pattern.
But even test patterns can hold some fascination when viewed from the right angle. Fans of vintage TV personalities will enjoy seeing scandal-plagued game-show icon Jack Barry hosting the "kids say the darndest things" forum Juvenile Jury, and Price Is Right announcer Johnny Olson hosting Kids And Company. Those who like picking through old TV shows for quaint racism should pay special attention to The Pinky Lee Show segment featuring a tap-dancing black marionette. Mostly, Hiya, Kids!! is worthwhile for the way it records the distant fog of the early '50s, when product pitches were more earnest, broadcasters weren't as slick, and studio audiences stood stock still, as though afraid all this newfangled machinery was going to turn them into ghosts. All concerned seemed to be figuring out the medium on the fly, and building the framework for something genuinely amusing and enjoyable, while not yet providing the actual content.
In the decades that followed, television's rhythms became so familiar that Saturday-morning cartoons learned to ape them precisely—while again offering little that any reasonable person would confuse with entertainment. The 32 half-hour episodes on the Sabrina The Teenage Witch: The Complete Animated Series DVD set come from the late-'60s/early-'70s era when cartoons were stiff, packed with weak gags, and dressed up with laugh tracks that sounded like actual human laughter about as much as banana-flavored Now & Laters taste like actual bananas. The 1971 Sabrina series takes its cues from Bewitched as well as from the Archie comics that spawned it. The titular heroine pals around with the gang from Riverdale and surreptitiously does magic in order to thwart catastrophe, while ultimately causing even bigger problems. Slapstick ensues—though that slapstick loses much of its comic potential when performed by characters who barely move. The passing of time has added value to the clunky shows on Hiya, Kids!!, but even 40 more years wouldn't be enough to make Sabrina interesting.
Key features: Keeping your lousy kids quiet for a few minutes. Otherwise, none.