Time to “Toon In With Me” – MeTV adds classic animated shows

One hour weekday block to launch with Bill Leff, plus three hours on Saturday mornings

On the same day Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Peanuts gang packed up their bags and headed to Apple TV’s streaming service packed up their bags and headed to Apple TV’s streaming service, there was another announcement – one returning classic Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons back to broadcast television. 

Weigel Broadcasting’s MeTV announced Monday it is launching an hour-long strip of cartoon fare weekday mornings in a yet-to-determined time slot titled Toon In with Me beginning in January. The block is being hosted by Chicago radio veteran Bill Leff, who worked at WGN-AM, WLUP-FM, and other radio stations and is also a stand-up comic, with experience at Second City.  He’ll be joined by Kevin Fleming, whose credits include writer of several animated shows on Cartoon Network, and Lelia Gorstein, who co-wrote and appeared in the film Love Dump. 

In addition, MeTV is also adding a three-hour Saturday morning block of cartoons  also starting in early 2021, but will not have hosts. 

“Toon In With Me will evoke the hosted children’s shows of decades past, blending nostalgia, fun, charm, comedy and cartoons, reimagined with new, original, live-action characters,” said vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting Neal Sabin. “It all adds up to a new program for viewers of all ages, ready to share the fun and positive energy together weekday mornings.” Original live-action sketches featuring Leff, Fleming, Gorstein, and others are being planned for the show to serve as interstitials. 

In fact, Leff said he watched those children’s shows of years past growing up in Chicago as he told Robert Feder, citing Chicago hosts Bill Jackson and Ray Rayner as influences, the latter doing a similar show for WGN-TV from 1962 until his retirement on January 23, 1981.  

Bill Leff (and Wendy Snyder, from their WGN Radio days

The return of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies marks the first time any Warner Bros. cartoon material has aired on broadcast network television since The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show left ABC in 2000, a long time Saturday morning staple on the network and CBS. In addition, the MGM shorts featuring Tom & Jerry, Droopy Dog, and the Tex Avery catalog will also appear on Toon In. These were a part of the Tom & Jerry Show, which ran on CBS from 1965 to 1972 (in edited form), and subsequently in syndication for about two decades.

In September 2019, MeTV brought The Flintstones back to broadcast after a 25-year hiatus and has been a major success. 

Children’s cartoons and animated fare were a big business for independent stations and syndicators, practically printing money for them as late as the early 1990s when The Disney Afternoon and Fox Kids had afternoon kids blocks. But changes came in the mid-1990s when The WB (Kids’ WB) and UPN formed and had their own blocks, practically eliminating the kids’ syndication business. With more kids shifting away to cable amid other alternatives, by 1999 local Fox affiliate execs were asking the network to drop Fox Kids because it was no longer profitable for them, finally doing so in 2001 while Kids’ WB weekday block ended in 2006.

Saturday mornings were also a huge profit center for the three major networks from the 1960s through the 1980s with Fox Kids joining the race in 1990, later joined by Kids WB.  But the arrival of the FCC’s mandatory three-hour E/I rules and a shifting children’s TV landscape decimated the business as the major networks and local stations found running news shows and paid programming became more profitable. The shift started in the late 1980s, when a few NBC affiliates started pre-empting the network’s Saturday morning block for local news, a key in forcing the network out of the Saturday morning cartoon business in 1992 by expanding Today, although some teen-oriented shows remained. CBS followed suit in 1997 and ABC in 2011, though by that time, was airing mainly live-action repeats of Disney Channel sitcoms. 

Even the long-running and cherished Bozo Show succumbed to these changes, becoming a Sunday-only show in 1994 and was revamped three years later to make it more educational-friendly in a move criticized by viewers. WGN pulled the plug in 2001.   

It’ll be interesting to see if Toon In works. While not really targeted only to kids per se – basically Boomers and Gen Xers who grew up watching this fare wanting to relieve their youth, it is a nice respite from the depressing news of the day and infomercials on other channels, even if it’s only an hour every weekday. 

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16 thoughts on “Time to “Toon In With Me” – MeTV adds classic animated shows

    • All I know is that Neal Sabin is a programming genius! Whether it’s with MeTV or WCIU, the man knows his stuff and presents interest schedules for viewers much like the past glory days of WGN-TV and WFLD-TV when I was growing up. Why hasn’t another TV station in Chicago thought about the good old classiic cartoons, whether on a daily basis or weekends. I’ll never understand how stations like WGN and WFLD stopped attracting kids and allowing those kids to grow to become adult fans of the stations. I grew up on WGN and back then there was so much program variety, as with WFLD. Now, it’s just more repetitive news and very little entertainment. I’m glad I grew up when I did!

    • yes, it would be great to bring back all those famous cartoons from my childhood. they mentioned a 7 am timeslot est will that would be to early for me to watch as I live in mst which would mean 5 am. a better time would be 9 am est then it would be more manageable for me to watch at 7 am.

    • Bugs and Friends was watched every Saturday a.m. Unforgettable. I have lots of Merrie Melodies characters on my screensaver. I like how you mentioned Charlie Brown went to Apple. Can’t even see them old classics. You don’t see many Rankiin Bass holiday specials either. lYep, baby boomer here. Welcome “Toon In With Me”.

    • About freakin’ time that there will be Saturday morning cartoons on TV. This will be good for the new “generation” of kiddies.

      Hee hee

    • It’s about time,now I can watch with my kids and regain the Saturday morning family time.

    • (suggests changing the texts of, “Lelia” in the article and directly below the article to some texts of, “Leila” for the sake of accuracy)

    • This is Great

    • This is fabulous news! I miss the good old toons! Im hopeful to maybe see tales from the crypt sometimes too, i love love love metv!! Thank you!

    • Thank. God. Me TV. Is. Doing
      The. Smart. Thing. After. I wrote
      To. Them. About. Getting. Those
      Classic. Cartoons. Back. On. The
      Air. Saturday. Mornings. Hasn’t
      Been the. Same. When. We. Was
      Kids. In. The. 50s. 60s. 70s 80s
      Just. Boring. Shit. And. News. Shows
      It. Would be. Cool if. They. Would
      Include. Those. Classic. Saturday
      Morning. Commercials nothing
      Else. Let. It. All. Be. Devoted
      To. The. Kids. Of. Today. And
      The. Kids. Of. Yesterday.
      No. Adult commercials. At. All
      It. Would. Be. Great. If. They
      Would. Rotate. Cartoons.
      Weekdays. At. 6 pm. With a
      Different. Cartoon
      The. Flintstones. Are. Okay
      But. Give. The. Other. Cartoons
      A. Fair. Chance. Also.
      Yes. My. Letter. Did. This. Along
      With. No. More. 10 pm. News

      • They should bring back magilla gorilla and Wally gator and pumpkin puss and friends cause bugs n friends and Tom n Jerry and Scooby Doo are on other stations looks at them to much bring back the really old ones. Thank You.

    • I am a Baby Boomer and I can’t wait!

    • This is a crap show. The cartoons are cropped, and for every 6 or 7 minutes of cartoons, there are 10 minutes of unfunny bumpers, ads, & commercials. Not worth the effort.

    • Check out the archives of “The Wallace and Ladmo Show (60’s, 70’s & 80’s) Phoenix Arizona. Best between the cartoons entertainment for kids and adults EVER!
      (My opinion).

    • This is so corny the girl and roomy needs to go it’s wasted money it’s so embarrassing no good for children they don’t know what the heck your doing
      Bill is tolerable at best you need more cartoons on after another not fluff junk!

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