Now Available To Own On DVD
Meet the Jetsons
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Long before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Styx released "Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto," and technology offered us convenient devices such as smart phones, roombas, the segway scooter, and professional home theatre installations-- Flintstones masterminds Hanna-Barbera made one giant leap for animated-kind.
Taking the same central idea of their hit prehistoric animated sitcom, they partnered The Flinstones with the new John F. Kennedy inspired space race era of the early 1960s with the debut of The Jetsons.
Essentially presenting viewers with a different spin on the classic family comedy set-up a la an animated and hipper version of Leave it to Beaver or The Dick Van Dyke Show, the premiere season of The Jetsons-- which kicked off in 1962-- offered twenty-one episodes geared towards adult viewers.
And by cleverly setting the action in a twenty-first century environment, Hanna-Barbera dealt far less with the "science-fiction" aspects of the show, instead viewing their work as another variation of a traditional sitcom by keeping the main audience-friendly dynamic of an All-American roughly middle class Caucasian husband and wife who have two children and a loyal dog at the forefront of the action.
Despite the fact that it only lasted one season on ABC in primetime, the first season was so beloved that the episodes aired continuously for more than twenty years as a staple of Saturday morning (and especially Hanna-Barbera) cartoons until it was finally re-imagined and resuscitated in 1985.
In another bold giant leap for animated kind to honor just how significant the show was to those working on it in the '80s-- the producers and casting directors decided to bring back all of the main cast-mates whose voice-work as the characters had become ingrained in the minds of viewers.
Thus, in addition to staying true to the original color palette and overall look of the show so that one can view the episodes in syndication in any order and be unable to tell-- at least initially-- which decade we were watching, the producers ensured it would be a very subtle and seamless change.
While, of course-- aside from some obvious tonal changes as the actors had all aged over two decades and sadly George O'Hanlon (George Jetson himself) had lost a portion of his vision due to illness that he recorded his performance separately repeating the dialogue back in character as he was unable to read-- it was a largely successful transition that kept in spirit with the original conception of the series.
However, luckily those in charge realized that-- given its success of two decades drawing in youthful audiences as a Saturday morning classic-- the same approach to skewer towards the middle aged demographic of the '62 primetime intended work would be inappropriate.
Thus, the show's second season adjusted the more domestic based humor of the first twenty-one episodes by finally acknowledging that it was always more successful as a show for children to watch on lazy weekends.
And similarly, the characters of boy crazy teenager Judy Jetson, child prodigy Elroy, Astro the dog (which may have been a precursor to voice actor Don Messick's most famous late '60s Hanna-Barbera canine Scooby Doo), and Rosie the unintentionally hilarious robotic maid were brought to the forefront with storylines centering largely on their misadventures.
Systematically, while aiming for a younger crowd, they upped the cute factor considerably as well as replaced some of the now outdated space ideas with a greater involvement of computerized gadgets (since this was, of course, the era of the personal computer and Apple vs. Microsoft in a new version of the "space race").
Both of these decisions can be evidenced in the opening episode of season 2 which aired more than twenty years after the previous season had ended as the writers introduced a new addition to the family when Elroy brings home an adorable alien named Orbity which hatches out of an egg discovered on a school field trip.
Including the first twenty-one season two episodes that play over the course of three DVDs in this Warner Brothers collectible Hanna-Barbera release-- that boasts a mini-documentary (just eight and a half minutes long) about the "Evolution of the Series" and switch from the '60s to the '80s when this season picked up the thread of the first one-- it's a fun trip down memory lane.
Unfortunately despite the beautiful design of the slim-packaged set, the animation on display in the episodes mostly appear grainy, muddied, and visually soft even on an upconvert Blu-ray player, which made me wish that in order to have truly made it a must-own collectible, the Saturday morning cartoon classic would've been-- if not restored-- then at least touched up.
While of course, it's still entertaining and will delight '70s and '80s babies who remember the episodes very well-- the show itself hasn't exactly aged successfully. For, overall the humor fails to hold our interest the way that other '90s and more recent animated series have accomplished with stronger writing or more complex plots than Rosie worrying that she's such an ancient robot she's going to be replaced with a newer, sleeker, and younger robot (so in essence making her-- instead of Debra Messing's Starter Wife, "The Starter Maid").
And to this end, I'm not sure how The Jetsons will compete with even faster attention spans in the next generation as children are much more accustomed to breathlessly-paced CGI in Pixar and DreamWorks features or even just the more simplistically drawn yet incredibly sharp wit served up on Nickelodeon.
As ultimately-- by comparison-- this show feels more like a time capsule than one of the cool time machines or new gadgets dreamed up by the writing staff. So aside from my reverence for it as a cartoon classic from my youth, when I think about similar works for guidance, admittedly, I have to confess that I'd still rather sit down hunt for clues with Scooby Doo than go shopping with Jane Jetson any day of the week.