“I’ll get right to the point, lady,” growls the mysterious stranger, as ominous music plays in the background. “We traced the guy in this picture to this address...Well, ya see, we did a little shootin’ today...and this guy accidentally got into the picture...We wanna give him what’s comin’ to him. We’ve got ways of takin’ care of these things...The big boss wants me to take care of him, so I’ll be back. Get it?”
Six-year-old me heard those words on “The Jetsons” episode “TV or Not TV” and wondered “Why doesn’t he just tell Jane he wants George to sign something so he can be on TV?” Well, non-six-year-old me knows the answer. The cartoon would end right then and there with about 15 minutes to go. That wouldn’t work too well. So writer Tony Benedict had to use some contrived dialogue to keep the misunderstanding going for the appropriate length.
Misunderstandings have been a comedy staple for who knows how many centuries and, in this cartoon, George Jetson mistakes a TV shoot for an actual robbery and the above-mentioned TV production flunkey Nimbley (played wonderfully by guest voice Shep Menken) as a representative of the underworld. After a failed attempt to hiding in Cosmo Spacely’s old fishing cabin (would Mr. Spacely really give George a key to it?), George and Astro disguise themselves to return home, where they run into the flunkey, who sorts everything out while a newly-installed anti-burglar system pounds them (with lots of swirl animation).
One thing I like about “The Jetsons” is the variation in plots. “The Jetsons,” for the most part, revolved about the tribulations of George Jetson, similar to George O’Hanlon’s “Behind the Eight Ball” series of short films at Warner Bros. This one doesn’t include Spacely firing George or doing anything else to him. There’s no workplace element in this cartoon. It’s strictly the family and the “crooks” (and a couple of characters to service the plot). And Janet Waldo got to rest her voice through the whole first half as Judy doesn’t appear until late in the story.
The first few minutes of the cartoon have nothing to do with the plot. It’s an extended sequence solely designed to wring comedy out of Astro, who’s forced to have a bath, followed by Elroy. I love Astro. He reacts emotionally in different ways and he’s not too over-the-top. Don Messick always puts in a great performance as his voice.
Here’s the Dog Bath-a-Mat.
Let’s go through some of the other Conveniences of the Future™.
E-mail doesn’t exist in the future. There’ll be hand-written mail delivered by a stylised drone (left). Something similar to the picture on the right pretty much exists today, except without the paper (that Astro swallowed). A friend of mine has something in his SUV where he dictates text into a computer on his dashboard, it reads back the message and asks if he wants to send it.
Flat screen TVs, big and small (note the tanning beds in the scene to the right).
Two different Foodarackacycles. The one on the right dispenses one of my favourite puns in any Jetsons episode: Venus-schnitzel.
The Magno-Manicure (designed for three fingers and a thumb).
A visi-phone (it doesn’t have a name in this episode) to the left and part of the anti-burglar device on the right. Nimbley looks to be a not-too-distant relative of Cogswell.
Ken Muse animates a good portion of this cartoon. I always enjoy looking at dry brushwork and outline multiples. Here are a couple.
Bick Bickenbach is responsible for some of the layouts and Art Lozzi did at least some of the backgrounds (at least, those are educated guesses on my part judging by incidental character design and the blue hues and humps in the backgrounds). Here are some exteriors. Screen Gems distributed Hanna-Barbera cartoons to television; the company making the TV show in the plot of this cartoon is a pun.
And some interiors. I wish I had a full version of the last one from the Spacely cabin.
Jane spends a lot of time with her hands on her hips. And look! Married people sleeping in one bed!!
T.C.J. notes in the comments they’re not sharing a bed, just a headboard. Early 1960s public morals have been saved.
More of Tony Benedict’s puns: the armoured car company is “Blinks,” the heroic TV dog Jane and the kids are watching is “Rinky Tink Tink,” the TV producers are responsible for “The Naked Planet” (“The Naked City” was co-produced by Screen Gems). And best of all is the appearance at the end of Soapy Sam.
This may have been television’s first Soupy Sales parody. Like Soupy, Soapy has a huge bow tie and throws pies. Soupy, like The Jetsons, was on ABC, but walked out on the network in late 1962 because, according to Variety, it wouldn’t syndicate his reruns. Just imagine the ratings they could have brought if the network had moved them to Saturday mornings with The Jetsons the following year.
A yowp of thanks to Howard Fein for fixing the voice credits on this.