The Jetsons

TV classics: The Jetsons

USA 1962-63 and 1985-87, three seasons, 75 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, ABC and syndication, color. Produced by Hanna-Barbera. Voice talents: George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Mel Blanc, Don Messick and Jean Vander Pyl.

Plot summary: In the year 2062, the Jetson family lives a normal life in Orbit City with their house-robot Rosey and George’s best friend, Astro the dog.

The JetsonsReview: In 2062, life for the Jetsons is full of conveniences: the household is organized by computers and Rosey the Robot, an outdated housekeeper model whose homey attitude and cheeky remarks fit right in with her human family. George is the soft patriarch and Jane his dutiful wife who both love to push buttons to make their lives as easy as possible. Together, they are raising their two children, fifteen-year-old Judy and little Elroy who’s already six-and-a-half. The world they live in is Utopian and futuristic, their apartment elevated above the ground. In their everyday lives, the Jetson children attend school like children from all decades while father George works with his friend RUDI, a Referential Universal Digital Indexer (aka his work computer), whose personality is as human as Rosey’s or Astro’s. Jane Jetson is primarily a housewife whose favorite pastime is shopping as well as delighting her family with new gadgets and fashion. In 75 episodes, they were supported by many recurring characters including George Jetson’s boss Mr. Spacely and an alien called Orbitty.

Produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, The Jetsons were created in color as a Flintstone family in space. Referring to contemporary trends and styles of the early 60s, the show was targeting a grownup audience in its first 24 episodes, a strategy that was changed in the mid 80s when Hanna-Barbera relaunched the program for another two seasons with decent success. Using all the original characters, the sci-fi cartoon family conquered the hearts of many children between 1985 and 87, a hey day for re-imagining TV classics from Leave it to Beaver to Perry Mason.

For anyone who grew up loving Orbit City and the funny mishaps the Jetson family had with their everyday technology, the show is now available on DVD with only the third season not yet announced for release. If you’re like me, you’ll discover your inner child again by watching this lighthearted show from a bygone time when computers did not yet dictate so much of our daily routine. For those who can’t wait to get the complete boxsets, selected episodes are also available on Youtube, including my favorite Rosey the Robot (a character so fondly based on Hazel, another fantastic 60s show and a favorite of mine only recently presented on this blog by yours truly).

Bugs Bunny

TV classics: The Bugs Bunny Show

USA 1960-2000, forty seasons, 1040 episodes, approximately 25 to 65 minutes each, ABC / CBS, color. Voices: Mel Blanc, June Foray, Arthur Q. Bryan, Daws Butler, Bea Benaderet, Paul Frees, Marvin Miller, Hal Smith, Larry Storch, Barbara Cameron, Julie Bennett, Sara Berner, Robert C. Bruce II, Paul Julian, Dick Beals, Stan Freberg

Plot summary: What’s up, Doc?

Screen shot 2012-03-31 at 7.46.03 AMReview: Who doesn’t know the Oscar-winning hare and his illustrious friends: Tweety Bird, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig from The Looney Tunes, Sylvester, Roadrunner, Coyote, Pepe’ Le Pew, Granny or Elmer Fudd?!

Originally created for a theatrical series presented by Warner Bros, Bugs Bunny tickled the risible muscles of a worldwide audience as early as in the 1930s. Three decades later, he was an instant hit on TV, first in black and white but soon in color. As the star of his own show, he was cocky, adroit and always perky, a favorite of adults as well as children. In his forty years on television, he shared his stardom with Roadrunner and Tweety, but never outgrew his famous “What’s up, doc” attitude. A Saturday morning treat for many years, The Bugs Bunny Show was finally canceled in the year 2000 but has been rerun since in several countries.

As one of those infamous classics, the show inspired spin-offs, homages and a new generation of Looneys, the Tiny Toons, in the early 90s. Available in parts on DVD, the show is still fresh, wacky and a lot of fun – a true gem for anyone who’s still a kooky little kid at heart.

The Flintstones

TV classics: The Flintstones

USA 1960-66, six seasons, 166 episodes, approximately 30 minutes each, ABC, color. Cast: Alan Reed, Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl, Bea Benaderet, Gerry Johnson, Don Messick, John Stephenson

Plot summary: Yabba dabba doo!

Review: Meet Fred and Wilma, last name Flintstone, a couple of modern Stone Age Honeymooners whose next-door neighbors are the Rubbles. Betty and Barney are best friends with Wilma and Fred and together, they live through everyday adventures in Bedrock, including household mishaps and dinosaur malfunctions. Although things get rocky from time to time and their friendship is tested on occasion, the Flintstones and Rubbles are like Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel – nothing can separate them for long. Two married couples in the beginning of the show, they grow even closer at the arrival of baby Pebbles and Bam-Bam soon after.

With their endless references to pop culture and contemporary topics, the show is now available on DVD and offers a great look back at small-town America of the 1960s. What was hilarious then is still amusing now – from dinosaur-operated cranes, over foot-powered cars to mammoth trunks as garden hoses. Show creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera reinvented and redesigned modern-day amenities to translate the roaring 60s into a rocking Stone Age that appealed to children and their parents. Although declining in popularity after rejuvenating the plotlines with the inclusion of Pebbles and Bam-Bam, The Flintstones were the first animated show in TV history that lasted more than two seasons and has an ongoing impact on popular culture today.

Originally inspired by The Honeymooners, the show has stood the test of time with generations of families and is still a treat for anyone who enjoys imaginative storytelling and loves to chuckle about names like Gary Granite, Rock Hudstone or Perry Masonry.

Enjoy a sample episode here.

The Jack Benny Program

TV classics: The Jack Benny Program

USA 1950-65, 15 seasons,  343 episodes, approximately 30 minutes each, CBS & NBC, black & white. Sponsors: Lucky Strike, Lux, Lipton Tea, Jell-O and others, Cast: Jack Benny, Eddie Anderson, Don Wilson, Dennis Day, Mary Livingstone, Mel Blanc, Frank Nelson and various recurring guest stars

Plot summary: As one of America’s most beloved comedians, Jack Benny entertained his audience on radio before he found fame in fifteen consecutive TV seasons on CBS and NBC.

Review: Like many of his contemporaries, Jack Benny originally started out on radio before he took television by storm with a show based on his continued radio success. Reliable as a source of hilarity and entertainment, the comedian created one of those early hit shows the majority of America refrained from missing back in the days. Welcoming many stars of his time, including Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Burr, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, Irene Dunne, Bob Hope, Jane Mansfield, Groucho Marx, Marilyn Monroe, James and Gloria Stewart or Danny Thomas, the show guaranteed diversion and relaxation and succeeded for remarkable fifteen consecutive seasons.

With some episodes now in public domain and the rest eagerly awaited by Jack Benny fans to be released on DVD, today, the comedian is still regarded as one of America’s greatest performers and one of Hollywood’s generous stars. His show, though not easy to categorize, offered previously recorded, as well as live broadcasts and aimed at entertaining the audience often on his own behalf. Judged as easy formula entertainment by some, The Jack Benny Program did a wonderful job diverting an entire generation and their children from their daily hardships in a time that was less cushioned than many people imagine today. Never dwelling on cynicism, Jack Benny offered a good half hour of gags and laughs, while always trying to deliver the best material for the audience to enjoy. Supported by a decent cast and beloved recurring characters, the comedian managed to leave a mark on his audience despite his irregular television appearances in the early 50s. After ending his radio commitment, The Jack Benny Program was broadcast more frequently until his farewell, at the height of his popularity, in 1965 on NBC.

For old fans and new ones alike, selected episodes are available on DVD. Selected radio episodes are available on the Internet Archive.

The Jack Benny Program sample episode with guest star Bob Hope