Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yabba Dabba Doo

September 30, 1960 was a groundbreaking day in animated television history.

On this day, the Flinstones premiered on ABC and in many ways, revamped the television landscape. Yeah those were the good old days when networks didn't have to resort to gimmicky ad campaigns (I am looking at you "The Event" with a misplaced E!) or outrageous plot devices ("Lost").

Flintstones was created by legendary creative duo William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the wizards behind such beloved and memorable characters like Tom & Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Johnny Quest, Smurfs, Jetsons, Yogi Bear and so on and on and on.

The show made history right from the beginning. It was the first TV show ever to show a married couple (Fred and Wilma) in bed together. It was also the first animated series to be nominated for a primetime comedy Emmy. Not until 2009 (when Family Guy was nominated for a comedy Emmy) was another animated show nominated in a non-animation category.

The tremendous success of Flintstones inspired Hanna-Barbera to create the Jetsons. Whereas Flintstones was set in the stone age, the Jetsons was set in a highly futuristic age, an era replete with fashionable personalized space-cars, robotic maids and escalator-equipped houses.

The formula employed by the Flintstones was hardly unique. It was your typical suburban family tale with its typical suburban problems. What made it unique was its clever incorporation of themes that made it appealing to viewers of all ages. On the one hand, you have these episodes where Fred is forced to make difficult choices, his obligatory personal angel and demon goading him in opposite directions. Clearly, these scenarios were written to appeal to kids- to make them more moral and principled. On the other hand, the show touched upon issues like jealousy and workplace blues, which appealed to the adult crowd as well. Betty and Barney are often jealous of Fred and Wilma, and Fred often has to swallow the proverbial bitter pill when ordered to something unsavory by his boss at the Bedrock Quarry. Of course, it was always a pleasure to see Bam-Bam. And those feet-propelled cars. Great stuff. And who can forget poor Fred, locked out of his own house by his devilish cat (BTW, yet another proof that cats are devious engines of mischief).

Happily, Flintstones' charm still lingers on. I mean here I am, writing about a TV show I grew up watching on the Cartoon Network. Despite being a product of the 60's, it still resonates with us. Shows like Full House, Modern Family and Everybody Loves Raymond took many elements from the Flintstones. Walk into your neighborhood grocery store and you will find Pebbles cereal. The show even led to a full-fledged movie starring oft-married Elizabeth Taylor among others.

It's nice to see Google paying a homage to this wonderful wonderful show via its doodle .

So on September 30, wherever you are, whatever you happen to be drinking (wine, beer, champagne, rye, water, kool-aid, blood - just kidding about the last part), take time to raise your glass, chalice, cup, bottle, jar, pitcher or skull in honor of a show that truly exemplifies the concept of genius.

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