Where I’m Coming From – Part 3

Family Channel – Launched September 1, 1988
Out of the three main channels here that offer child’s programming and animation, the two of which were already covered, the Family Channel was the one that remained the utmost mystery to me and I knew next to nothing about this network compared to the others. It was only until researching the station for this post I found it premiered the same date as YTV did, and that it was the only English language children’s network in Canada to have off-air hours up until July 2007 when they switched over to a 24/7 broadcast schedule. While I said before YTV was the first channel of its kind here in Canada (since Family Channel debuted the same day), it still is because while Family Channel is a children’s network, it was a larger mix of live-action shows and other adult fare rather than animated programming. That, and it was a “pay extra” channel in a premium cable package that way back then we never got. YTV on the other hand you received on basic cable.

So let’s roll back the clock here. My earliest memories of the channel are fuzzy – literally. I recall flipping through the channels as a kid, and when I’d reach the ones that were blocked out and found Family Channel I can remember hearing the music to some classic Disney shows, and sometimes you could even make out the picture for about five seconds until it got all distorted and scrambled again. As I said, it was part of an extra channels package, and long before Teletoon was around I whined to my mom to get the extra channels so I could watch Family Channel. She always said no but eventually with the free preview we received we all got hooked like druggies, and after it was taken away from us we all wanted more. I can faintly remember old bumpers when Family Channel had their really old logo running (the painted “F” with the sun in it). Like the two aforementioned channels the network played various cartoons and kids shows, but unlike them the Family Channel did and still does air programming with no commercials. That’s right! You can watch an entire television show or movie in its complete length, and the promos are only their other programs being advertised, airing between shows for a brief period. This is especially handy if anyone out there is into taping and archiving shows, a subject I’ll touch on at a later date.

I can’t really shine a lot of light on the programming offered on the network in its early days, as I stated I never received it. It also biases my opinion of the network because out of the 20 years it’s been on the air, I’ve only been viewing for about ten and remember even less than that. Like most networks of this nature tend to do when they first start out – Family Channel aired imported cartoons from other networks. Back then they really offered a mixed bag of animation, not only airing Disney cartoons but Nicktoons, shows from Hanna-Barbera, and various English dubbed Japanese animes and French productions as well. I have to thank one Youtube user for posting some very old bumpers from the network (here and here) which helped me out with this post – I knew of a 90’s Spirou animated series, but never knew it was dubbed in English let alone aired here over a decade ago. It’s also interesting to note that while YTV and Teletoon are known for many original and co-produced animated shows, Family Channel to my knowledge only has one original cartoon to its credit – the little known show Hoze Houndz which despite never getting that popular still managed to get 78 half hour episodes under its belt. Programming these days is divided into four blocks: Jetix (a block no one is ever awake to see), Playhouse (which airs mid morning for preschoolers), Mad Dash (which airs in the early morning then resumes at noon running till the evening for preteens), and Non Stop (which airs live action sitcoms which on weekends air all day long). I couldn’t tell you what blocks, if any, they had before – the only thing I remember are oldschool bumpers they had before and after they changed their logo and their name to just Family in 1999.

Family (as it’s now called) has aired many cartoons from many difference places for as long as YTV has, all commercial free. This Wikipedia article here has a list of past and present shows that aired on the network, although it’s largely incomplete and doesn’t list any of the older programming they used to offer in the late 80’s to mid 90’s. As I’ve continued to state the animated shows in that list will get covered here in time. Along with airing imported cartoons from around the globe, Family has been Disney’s Canadian outlet for its television cartoons and full length movies since its inception. Almost every one of Disney’s animated productions has aired here at one point, some having a far longer run than others. I have no proof though that The Wuzzles ever aired on the network, nor did Disney’s version of the Doug series or Nightmare Ned. I couldn’t tell you the longest it ever took for a Disney show to reach here because Family picks up new shows quickly after they premiere in the US, so the biggest gaps in time are perhaps six months to a year. I can tell you one of the longest Disney shows to air consecutively was Goof Troop, which ran in various time spots sometimes twice a day for nine years from 1996-2005. A recent runner up to this would be The Weekenders series which began airing in 2001 and has been airing three times a day since April 2006. Check out more on Family from its Wikipedia article here, unfortunately I couldn’t find any webpages out there with Family related banter. Youtube doesn’t really have a lot of Family related stuff so you’ll have to search it out; this user in particular has many promos and old advertisements so give his account a look. I have to give a quick thanks to this user. You know when you’re a kid and you see certain cartoons and live-action shows and years later can never remember what they were called? And once in a while you’ll remember blurry images of it in your head and sometimes wonder if it even truly existed? Well this user brought to memory a show I could never place but did remember – one of the last obscure television memories I had as a kid is finally solved. Do you…remember Kidstreet?

Has Family jumped the shark with its viewing audience and current programming? I’d have to say yes, but it’s not as big as a jump as YTV, and it only happened in recent years. The channel in its earliest days had a better variety of shows (many sitcoms) and showcased classic black and white films. They also had documentaries and music specials and concerts. Strictly animation wise I think its best years were set between the late 90’s to mid 2000’s. The main reason for watching the network, and I’m sure others will agree, was to watch all the popular Disney cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s. Like its US equivalent The Disney Channel, those older shows started to get phased out of the schedule starting in 2004 in favor of newer programming – the beginning of the end was when Goof Troop after nine years of airing was finally taken off the network in September 2005. It was the oldest cartoon airing at the time (13 years old) from Disney’s prime days in television animation, and that for me was the jumping factor because most of what they are airing today just doesn’t make the grade from what quality shows Disney used to put out. The Weekenders is now the oldest (Disney) cartoon airing on the network, dating back to 2000 (man does time fly). What I dislike about the network these days is that it’s become too much like The Disney Channel. This started in early 2007 when they started to show commercial style breaks from The Disney Channel and airing its (horrible teeny pop) music videos. I think once The Weekenders go, which will more than likely signal another change in the tide, I won’t be changing my television to channel 51 all that often anymore.

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