It's Saturday morning and the kids are watching "Garfield," "Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Captain Planet" and the new "Hammerman," a weekly animated series hosted by the rapper M. C. Hammer. What these shows have in common, beside third-rate animation and dreadful stories, is that they appeal to boys more than girls. In fact, the entire Saturday morning television lineup has no girl heroes and no show, with the possible exception of the insipid "Muppet Babies," directed at girls.
Television executives have been congratulating themselves in recent seasons for their depictions of forceful, rounded women such as "Murphy Brown," the "Designing Women" and "Roseanne." But while pleasing the feminists, television is ignoring their daughters. A (female) network vice president explained at an industry-sponsored conference on children's television that boys won't watch girl-dominated programs, and that maybe when there is a woman in the White House, television will respond with girl heroes.
It had better respond sooner than that. Saturday-morning ratings are declining, and some networks reportedly have considered dropping children's programming altogether. The dozens of cable channels lure away some of the small viewers. Others find interactive technologies like Nintendo and computer games more challenging than passively staring at "Dragon Warriors" or a deracinated "Winnie the Pooh."