Loud, brash, fast-talking P.R. people didn’t really exist, did they?
Apparently, they did. At least that’s the impression I get reading about Arnie Carr, whose hyperbole pushing Hanna-Barbera cartoons on television writers seems to have amused columnist Hal Humphrey of the Associated Press.
Arnie was born August 9, 1931 in Chicago and after graduating from the University of Missouri, got a job conducting tours for the U.S. State Department. Evidently, Arnie was looking for more glamour. In the ‘50s, he came west and landed a gig handling publicity for KABC-TV in Los Angeles. He moved over to Screen Gems and that’s how Hanna-Barbera inherited him. He’s the short guy in this drawing by H-B writer Tony Benedict. Arnie started his own company in 1962 but kept the cartoon studio as a client. He died on February 11, 2001.
Hal had some words to say about Arnie in THIS column and couldn’t resist ribbing him in another piece dated December 11, 1964. It also gave Humphrey a chance to comment on the latest fad in TV at the time—what we now call “the high-concept show.” Beautiful genies in bottles, housewives who are witches, antique cars that are the reincarnation of Ann Sothern, and two gothic comedies that battled each other for ratings—one having a far-too-close connection with a certain animated sitcom.
Stark Cartoon Drama Too Realistic For TV
By HAL HUMPHREY
For years now the press agent for “The Flintstones” has pestered me to write something about his cartoon series, and I’ve brushed him off on the grounds that I prefer to write about shows with real people in them.
“I suppose you are going to tell me now those geeks in ‘The Addams Family’ and ‘The Munsters’ are real people,” shouted Arnie Carr, the press agent in question. Particularly galling to Arnie is the fact “The Munsters” is in the same Thursday night time slot as “The Flintstones” and presently beating them to death in the Nielsen rating poll.
THE FINAL INSULT is the fact that the Hanna-Barbera Co., creator of “The Flintstones” and Arnie’s bosses, tried several years ago to sell another animated TV series called “The Gruesomes” and were told by the networks it was “too frightening” and the humor “too gruesome.”
In an episode of “The Flintstones” last month Hanna-Barbera brought “The Gruesomes” (Creepella, Weirdly and son Gobby) on as guests, and the ABC censorship department apparently okayed it as good clean fun.
But Arnie knows it is too late to outmonster “The Munsters,” so he is taking the tack that Fred and Wilma Flintstone are just plain folks (“My kind of folk” is the way he puts it).
“YOU CAN IDENTIFY with the Flintstones because they have the same problems as you or I,” adds Arnie, warming to his subject. “And think of future generations. Don’t tell me you want your grandchildren to watch reruns of ‘The Munsters.’ It’s un-American. Where is the empathy? The feeling of belonging?”
A session like this with Arnie may not convince the trapped listener that a cartoon family is something to identify with, but it does start a person thinking about one of Madison Avenue’s cardinal commandments, which up to now has been emblazoned on the wall of every TV producer: “Thou shall create only characters with whom everyone can identify.”
As Arnie heatedly points out —and admittedly with some validity— how does one identify with a character whose head is attached through his neck (Human Munster)?
FOR THAT MATTER, who ever has lived next door to a family where the mail is delivered by a hand called “Thing” or there is a beautiful witch named Samantha who does dishes without an advertised cleaner?
As recently as a year ago anyone submitting such characters to the men running TV would have been read out of the league, but now the further into fantasy you go, the better your chances of winding up on TV next season. A comedy starring a car which talks is already under serious consideration for 1965-66.
It isn’t easy to analyze the motivation for this radical switch in the thinking along Madison Avenue. Maybe it is simply the ultimate rejection of reality by the men wearing the oxford gray flannel suits. Either their analysts or Sen. Thomas Dodd’s juvenile delinquency investigating committee have scared them into this fantasyland.
ANOTHER SEASON of this sort of thing and “The Flintstones” will look to the Madison Avenue crowd like a Paddy Chayefsky drama about tenement life in Brooklyn with Ernie Borgnine and Thelma Ritter.
Arnie the press agent believes we need TV shows like “The Flintstones,” but I am not sure any more that he is right. Look at what happened to “Playhouse 90.” People don’t want problem shows.
If Arnie and the Hanna-Barbera Co. are smart, they’ll turn Fred and Wilma Flintstone into Martians with butterfly wings.
Nostalgia may have coloured people’s memories, but I never liked the Gruesomes. Hanna-Barbera simply took the ugly-is-beautiful schtick overused in The Addams Family, cartoonised it, and ran it into the ground even more. If there’s a storm out, it’s a “lovely night.” If there’s a growling gila monster, it’s a “cute pet.” Hey, Bill, Joe! We got the joke already.
Hal Humphrey may have been a little psychic. Hanna-Barbera didn’t turn Fred Flintstone into an alien. They merely imported one from the planet Ziltox. Methinks if Arnie Carr couldn’t sell Pebbles and the Gruesomes to the sceptical press, he’d have an even tougher time with Gazoo. And, probably to his chagrin, grandkids of TV viewers in 1964 are enjoying Al Lewis as a hammy vampire. People don’t want “belonging” in comedy. They want laughs. The copycat Gruesomes never had them.