Juxtaposing "The Jetsons" with "The Flintstones"
or, Now That's Entertainment, Hanna-Barbera Style — ramblings of an
entertainment industry guy on why we won't see the likes of cartoons like this
in my lifetime.
Our home food dispenser broke and I had to wait 20 seconds
at the check out counter, such inefficiency.
— Jane Jetson
We're almost there! We're closing in on the Jetsons. A company called
"Peapod" (a division of the giant U.S. Stop & Shop chain) delivers our groceries
('cause our precious time is worth more than the measly delivery fee they
charge). But when we must (God forbid) pick up that odd loaf of bread or gallon
of milk (or 10-pack of DVD-Rs), there's an automated check-out line that has us
in and out in nearly Jane Jetson's 20 seconds (if one is armed with a
Now remember all the critters that did stuff for Wilma Flintstone? When I
was a kid the rich folks up the street had a garbage "Dispos-All." I thought it
was so neat to just dump food scraps... all manner of food scraps (including
pork chop bones)... down the sink and flip a switch and *poof*! No messy sink
(and less garbage to have to take out). Well, Wilma Flintstone had that big bird
sitting under the sink who did the same thing. Ate it all up; even the
The same rich folks up the street had a push-button garage door opener (so
did Fred Flintstone — only Fred's wasn't electric — it was animal kingdom).
Darned if our house didn't even have a garage!
WHERE'S THIS GOING?
Flintstones, meet the Flintstones,
They're the modern Stone-Age family,
From the Town of Bedrock,
They're a page right out of history...
— lyrics, "Theme from The Flintstones"
Catchy, delightful pop-sounding theme music with fine-tuned harmonic singing
evoking the vocal antics of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Strings singing up
and down the scale at a whirlwind tempo, suggesting motion and excitement. And a
finale filled with bebop-influenced trombones and blaring trumpets.
Exactly what was modern yet sanitized enough for a television situation comedy
theme-song from 1960. Even though it was about a pre-historic family. (I mean,
what the heck does pre-historic music sound like anyway?!) But it
told a story about what the viewer was about to see. And it lured previous
viewers back to the tube for another episode, with its hummable melody, like
cats to a fishwagon.
The guy who wrote the music was a very talented fellow named Hoyt S.
Curtin* who rubbed elbows with the likes of other TV music titans like Hugo
Montenegro, Neal Hefti, Nelson Riddle and Ross Bagdasarian. Producers
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera took credit for the lyrics. (But who cares;
Curtin was Hanna-Barbera's music director for three decades, so let's hazard a
guess he made out alright).
Now, wait a couple of days. Same network (ABC), same prime-time slot:
The music starts with a futuristic string sweep that creates a mood. Then,
strings singing up and down the scale at a whirlwind tempo, suggesting motion
and excitement. Fine-tuned harmonic singing, this time balanced more on the
higher feminine range. An early synth-type keyboard plays a staccato to add to
the futurism. And a pure bebop solo on trumpet heralds (with a wailin' sound,
daddy-o) the arrival of each character:
Meet George Jetson...
Jane; his wife!
His boy Elroy!
— lyrics, "Theme from The Jetsons"
Same songwriter. Same producers (duh!). But what's even more interesting is
that during each theme-song the characters and setting are different but the
visual timeline is nearly exactly the same. Wifey (and obviously stay-at-home
mom) has dutifully fixed lunch for hubby and tidies hubby up a bit before
handing him the leash to the family pet. Mom kisses daughter, pat's little son's
head, sending them off to school. Hubby's occupation is spotlighted briefly,
then the focus is back on hubby and the family pet, running about senselessly
and causing hubby to yell wifey's name at the top of hubby's lungs, in a
pleading "help me" sort of way. George Jetson actually articulates his plight:
"Jane, stop this crazy thing!" He's talking about their electric, conveyor-belt
outdoor dog walker. Hubby's screaming is over the orchestral finale underscoring
the first few hummable, memorable notes of each theme song.
SO WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
Lest the television network pull the plug the producers had to keep
churning out plots for our perfect, all-American family to act out, hopefully
with a "moral" or at least a theme to adhere to (thus making it "great viewing
for the whole family!" Being animated needed a raison d'etre: both
shows were definitively science-fiction comedy. The brilliance behind the
Flintstones/Jetsons phenomenon was that everything was almost exactly the
same but for the fact that they were set in different millenia.
Programming like this was the golden age of television I Love Lucy, The
Honeymooners, and on a more serious note Playhouse 90 but by 1960 the gold
was starting to tarnish a bit. By the time The Jetsons attempted to
emulate or even eclipse the immense popularity of The Flintstones, there was a
little less brilliance to the humor; but it was there. Parents and children
alike could enjoy these shows on their own level - and it was all really clean
stuff. No toilet humor or (Gott im Himmel!) double entendre utilized here. Now,
that's a hard thing to do.
Fred Flintstone: How can you be so stupid?
Barney Rubble: Hey, that's not very nice. Say you're sorry.
Fred Flintstone: I'm sorry you're stupid.
George Jetson: The real George Jetson finally stood up.
Mr. Spacely: Well, would the real George Jetson care to sit down?
Betty Rubble: Sometimes I just don't know what's the matter with men.
Barney Rubble: That's easy — you women!
George Jetson: What a doll. She's got everything. Too bad all
girls aren't like her, oh well, somebody's got to be in the PTA.
* Curtin was also responsible for theme music for the following favorites
(and much, much more): GoBots: War of the Rock Lords, SuperFriends: The
Legendary Super Powers Show, The Smurfs' Adventures, Dynomutt: Dog Wonder, CB
Bears, (the outlandishly racist, stereotypical Hong Kong Phooey — in
1974, no less), Josie and the Pussycats, the adult-themed Love,
American Style (1969), The Magilla Gorilla Show, The Yogi Bear Show, now included due to popular demand: Jonny Quest a crazy sci-fi cartoon that started in prime time and ended up on Saturday mornings educating the youth of America about inter-generational homosexual affections between our star, the studly Johnny and Dr. Quest, his mentor, elder and, er, well... and as if that wasn't enough, so help me, 1953's Lost Women of Zarpa.
Jazz pianist Warren Byrd affectionately refers to this writer as "Tralfaz."
That's what got me started on this whole trip.
submitted for scifiquest 2106
- The writer's familiarity with both subject television programs.
- IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055683/,
- The Frank Welker Homepage: "Tribute to Hoyt Curtin" by Doreen Mulman
(with credit to TV Guide 1/13/2001):
- Soundtrack Collector: