It can be argued the stars of “The Jetsons” weren’t the Jetsons at all, but all those gadgets designed to make Life In The Future so much less of a burden. They were beautifully conceived by the designers and layout artists at the studio.
Ah, the gadgets weren’t enough. Nor was the comic relief of Astro or the corporate suck-up Uniblab. The show didn’t resonate with enough parents. It lasted one season in prime time. When it was moved to Saturday mornings in fall 1963, it settled in for seeming endless reruns (the first season, it ran opposite “Mighty Mouse” and “Fireball XL-5,” at least in New York; “Mighty Mouse” and “Fury”, in the Pacific Northwest).
The show debuted 52 years ago today. Here’s what Daily Variety out of Los Angeles wrote about the season opener in its edition of September 25, 1962. Virtually all the reviews I’ve read are optimistic and positive. This one is by “Helm” and I believe I’ve clipped together the full review.
Filmed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera; producers, directors, Hanna and Barbera; associate producer, Alex Lovy; teleplay, Larry Markes; animators, Irv Spence, Don Lusk, Grant Simmons, Ray Patterson; film editor, Joe Ruby.
Cast: Voices of George O'Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Don Messick, Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl.
It's one of the rarities of television that a producing studio, using the same formula, can follow one hit with another. More to the credit of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera that it's a cartoon. Many tried to capitalize on the popularity of H&B's "Flintstones" but none achieved its high estate. By the simple device of looking ahead with The Jetsons, whereas "Flinty" looks back into the Stone Age, they achieved a new delight for the young 'uns and plenty of [parents] looking over their shoulders in this early evening fun show for the tyke monopoly on the home sets.
Into the Space Age a few hundred years hence are propelled the Jetsons, whose family life is so simplified that the press of a button can do a thousand chores. When the whatchamacallit goes on the blink a maid is hired and Rosey the Robot directs traffic when the boss is invited to dinner. Every gimmick to imply speed and the easy life is employed with hilarious effect. For a color cast on ABC-TV for its own and other equipped stations, it was a huge success. The tint was clear and inviting and a big plus or sales of color sets.
Voices of the characters, many doubling from "Flintstones," were perfectly matched and the animation finely drawn. Helm.
Oh, an unoptimistic and negative review? The following day, Weekly Variety had these words (mind you, it sourly spoke about the other shows it reviewed on the same page, too):
THE JETSONS PARTICIPATING ABC-TV (film, color)
Producers-Directors: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera; Writer: Larry Markes; 30 Mins.; Sun., 7: 30 p. m.
With George O'Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Jean Vander Pyl, Mel Blanc, Don Messick.
The cartoon cycle, which took off with the click of "The Flintstones" a couple of years ago, is still rolling fitfully. Although a couple of such series proved to be disappointments last season, ABC-TV is trying again this fall with "The Jetsons," another Hanna-Barbera pen-and-ink creation which is being used for the first ABC color telecasting on the web's o& o's on a limited number of affiliates.
Even more important than the absence of a fresh point of view is this cartoon's lack of style. The artistic approach was not ruffled by originality. Among the characters, the Jetson family was as standardized as a cereal box. Only the robot maid, "Rosey," had a glimmer of interest due to the thinly disguised takeoff on "Hazel." At 7: 30 p. m. Sunday nights, this series may succeed in attracting the less critical moppet audiences."
The artwork of the Skypad Apartments you see above is not from the debut; it’s the opening shot (panned up) of “Uniblab,” a tremendous cartoon where we learn that hypocritical, back-stabbing, corporate ladder-climbers in the future won’t be restricted to humankind. Hoyt Curtin came up with some spunky ‘60s electronica over the pan shot. The original credits were ripped off all of the episodes (but one) years ago, so I can’t say who was responsible for the lovely Skypad setting or who did the animation (if I had to guess, I’d say a tamed Carlo Vinci does some work on it). We have some experts reading here who probably can spot the animators
Writer Barry Blitzer beautifully sets up the plot through some memorable office scenes, only to hearken back to them in Uniblab’s alcohol-soaked fall from grace. And if you’re not a fan of Don Messick, listen to his performance as the drunken Uniblab. It’s priceless and couldn’t have been done better by anyone.