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Jetsons, The

Entry updated 10 November 2023. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (1962-1963) for the ABC network. Hanna-Barbera Productions. Produced and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Writers include Tony Benedict, Barry E Blitzer, Harvey Bullock, Warren Foster, Michael Maltese, Larry Markes, more. Animation director: Charles Nichols. Animators include Hugh Fraser, Dick Lundy, Carlo Vinci, more. Voices include George O'Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Jean VanderPyl, Mel Blanc, Don Messick, more. First series 24 25-minute episodes. Colour. 51 additional episodes for syndication (1984-1987) by Hanna-Barbera Productions. Produced by William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Bob Hathcock. Directed by Arthur Davis, Oscar Dufau, Ray Patterson, Carl Urbano, Rudy Zamora, Alan Zaslove. Animation directors include Frank Andrina, Oliver Callahan, Joan Drake, Bob Goe, Rick Leon, Don Patterson, Joanna Romersa, Jay Sarbry, James T Walker. Voices include original cast members, Frank Welker, more. Colour.

Following the 1960 success of its first prime-time animated comedy series, The Flintstones (1960-1966) – which featured standard situation-comedy plots in a comically Prehistoric setting – Hanna-Barbera Productions created a mirror image for its third (following Top Cat). It features the twenty-first-century Jetson family in a push-button world where transparent pneumatic tubes convey commuters, Robots clean house, and everyone communicates by videophone. Bubble-topped aircars flit between lofty buildings apparently inspired by the Space Needle of Seattle's 1962 World's Fair; the ground is rarely seen. The modernist look of the show is notable, with Googie-style architecture utterly pervasive.

Characters include husband George Jetson, wife Jane, teenage daughter Judy, son Elroy, Robot maid Rosie, articulate dog Astro, and tyrannical boss Mr. Spacely. As with its prehistoric predecessor, The Jetsons' humour springs from the juxtaposition of mundane situations with a novel setting; only occasionally do stories arise from an sf premise.

Unlike The Flintstones, which ran for six seasons in evening prime-time, The Jetsons was cancelled after a single ABC season. The show enjoyed a robust afterlife when rerun in Saturday-morning time slots, principally viewed by children. During twelve of the next 20 years, its 24 episodes were repeated on Saturdays, eventually by all three US broadcast networks. A second series of 51 additional episodes for syndication (1984-1987) continued the family's adventures, adding an annoyingly cute Alien pet, Orbity. Elroy's invention of a Time Machine enables the made-for-television movie The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones (1987). Rockin' with Judy Jetson (1988) followed, as did a feature film, The Jetsons Movie (1990).

"Jetsons" has become a popular metonym for "the future". While satirizing Space Age notions of a better tomorrow, the series seems also to have visually codified expectations of the future to a great many viewers: when the twenty-first century arrived, complaints that flying cars and jet packs were missing often mentioned The Jetsons. The more cynical turn-of-the-millennium series Futurama (1999-2003; 2010-2013; 2023-current) often harks back to tropes of The Jetsons, and in tribute recycles some of its sound effects. [WSH]

see also: Food Pills.


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