Free nation-wide advertising. You can’t beat it. And that’s what Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were handed by United Press International just before “The Jetsons” debuted in 1962. But there was a little bit more than that.
A guest column with Hanna’s and Barbera’s byline published August 24, 1962 outlined some of the space-age-of-the-future gadgets that would be seen on the coming show. That would have been the most interesting thing to readers back then. But to those of us who have seen “The Jetsons” countless times, the column reveals something else.
Bill and Joe decided “Top Cat” was a failure.
Of course, they didn’t come out directly and say so in the story. After all, “Top Cat” was moving to Saturday mornings and would be sponsored by Marx, so they weren’t about to bash their own cartoon. But the revelation they “learned” something in the previous season can only refer to T.C. All the studio’s other shows had been roaring successes.
Television in Review
Family of Future Is New Creation By Originators of ‘The Flintstones’
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Rick Du Brow is on vacation. Today, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, creators of “The Flintstones” and other notable animated characters on television, tell about their new series — “The Jetsons.”)
By BILL HANNA and JOE BARBERA
HOLLYWOOD (UPI) —This year, when World War II comes charging onto your television tubes during a season which will also find more unemployed actors suddenly working as M.J.’s, a quiet but significant milestone will turn over at Hanna-Barbera studios.
No private eye, no Anzio landing, no brain surgery, no, none of that. Instead, as a sequel to our animated series about a stone-age family, “The Flintstones,” we will modestly present the first family of the future, ABC-TV’s “The Jetsons.” In ultra-dynamic, spectoramic, ever-lovin’ living color, yet.
We learned some important lessons last season: 1) Clever and witty dialogue cannot alone carry a show. There has to be action, and 2) There have to be strong points of identification between the audience and the characters in the show.
“The Jetsons" is the product of over 16 months of extensive research and planning by our talented staff of artists and writers. The feeling around our shop was that the public was intensely interested in what the future held for them in terms of space exploration, better things for better living, etc.
Voila! The birth of the family of the future.
“The Jetsons” live in the sky pads apartment (high-level adjustable living). George Jetson is a hard-working, honest, lovable husband who is devoted to his family, which consists of wife Jane, teen-age daughter Judy, 9-year-old son Elroy and their dog Astro.
George works for Spacely Sprockets Co., which supplies materials to such futuristic corporations as General Rotors. He is the digital control operator — a sort of 21st century office foreman of the completely automated factory.
Jane Jetson, his attractive and spirited wife, solves the every-day problems of cooking and cleaning with a variety of time-saving appliances.
These include a seeing eye vacuum cleaner, a machine with two electronic eyes which seeks out dust, dirt and debris, and consumes it.
Many times, however, when Jane isn’t looking, the vacuum will lift up the rug and sweep it under same.
There is also the foodarackacycle, a dandy gadget to end all dandy gadgets; it stores, processes, prepares and serves food to the Jetson household. Just insert the meal ticket into the machine and out comes your desired meal. Beef Venus, sauteed with onions and mushrooms, cherries galaxy for dessert.
We hope that viewers will join us as we take a peek into the future. We promise them no two headed monsters, no violence, just an honest glimpse of what lies ahead mixed with humor and fantasy.
It turned out “The Jetsons” was as much of a prime-time failure as “Top Cat.” It lasted only one season, easily bested in the ratings by Walt Disney on NBC.
Modern-day commentators keep comparing “The Jetsons” to “Blondie.” Perhaps it’s because of the presence of Penny Singleton on both. But the two don’t have an awful lot in common besides some generalities, as anyone who watched Singleton’s Blondie movies of the ‘40s can probably attest. Not a single newspaper column at the time the show was first aired made the comparison. But many of them do point out the inescapable fact “The Jetsons” had an awful lot in common with “The Flintstones,” one even referring to the show as a “sequel.” Instead of going into the past, it went into the future. Creative inventions worked on the one show, so they were tried on the other. The credits rolled over Fred yelling for his wife because of a pet-caused dilemma outdoors. George did the same. Perhaps viewers felt they had seen it all before, just like they did when Hanna-Barbera attempted to foist “The Roman Holidays” on them.
So George and Jane followed T.C. to Saturday mornings, where kids never tired of the space age fun, and where Bill and Joe decided their true market was. Saturday mornings were slowly taken over by cartoons, many of them made by Hanna-Barbera. Business boomed. The prime time failure wasn’t such a failure after all.