Saturday, 10 September 2016

Jane’s Driving Lesson

Writer Joanna Lee tries to have it both ways in her story for Jane’s Driving Lesson. On one hand, she’s tearing apart the chauvinism of the immediate post-war era that men are better drivers than women. But to get there, she gets her laughs by showing what a menace on the roads a woman is (two of them, if you want to consider an incidental character holding up George Jetson in traffic). “Har, har, look at the lousy woman driver” is the punch-line over and over. True, Lee ends the cartoon with a woman driving a bus that George is forced to take, but the woman isn’t exactly an example of femininity.

What’s bothersome about this cartoon is how Jane Jetson’s character is bent for the sake of a plot. Jane has always struck me as the most level-headed of the adults on The Jetsons (tired comedy clichés of shopping and jealousy notwithstanding). But in this cartoon she’s completely oblivious to the fact she’s doing anything wrong by bashing into cars and signs. However it suits the story as we’re all supposed to laugh at the stereotype of the inept woman behind the wheel.



Jane’s incompetency proves to be a boon, as it helps capture that hold-up man of the future, Knuckles Nuclear (who is out of prison since his last appearance in The Space Car episode). Yes, that means there are cops in this cartoon. The story even re-uses the gag of a traffic cop turning on a TV set, where a live judge passes sentence on George, who rants about women drivers but is a careless one himself. I haven’t stopped to count them, but there seem to have been an awful lot of Jetsons cartoons featuring police of some kind.



Lee takes a little while to get to the plot. The first few minutes are taken up with a sequence in a barber shop. There was a Jetsons episode where Jane tried out a number of hairstyles concocted by a dome over her head. In this cartoon, it’s George’s turn.



Let’s turn our attentions to some of the background art. Sorry, I don’t know who the artist is.



Some inventions of the future:



George anticipates googling for answers to crossword puzzles by using his computer. No one in the ‘60s realised tape machines would become obsolete.



Shaving machines.



Computer selector for various barbering functions. Considering how it worked, would a real barber have done any better?



A fire hose that zones in on a fire. Almost.



The Menulator. Very handy.



The good old Visiphone.



Generic drugs. Did Big Pharma die in the future?

This is yet another Hanna-Barbera cartoon with Instant Watch Syndrome. A character wears a watch for the part of the scene where it’s needed, and it disappears forever. You saw it on The Flintstones; it happened in the old Warner Bros. cartoons, too.

Ken Muse animates a good portion of the cartoon. I won’t attempt any guesses beyond that.

Howie Morris supplies a few voices in this one, including the nervous Mr. Tweeter and the non-barber. Janet Waldo gets a chance to try out a couple of voices. She’s the ditzy driver, with a voice in the style of Barbara Jo Allen’s Vera Vague (whether the two worked together in radio, I don’t know). She’s also the butch bus driver.

23 comments:

  1. I bought the pencil drawing of the Lady Student Driver Beware cel years ago at SDCC because as a kid the surprise of that sign reveal just cracked me up. (What can I say, it was a less enlightened time.)

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  2. I saw this episode recently in Boomerang (Brazil).
    This episode was written by Joanna Lee (who also wrote episodes from the following series: Bewitched, Gilligan's Island, Julia, Mod Squad and The Waltons; as also she wrote episodes from other Hanna-Barbera series, as The Flintstones, Top Cat and Jonny Quest).


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    1. And she was one of the aliens in Ed Wood's "Plan 9 from Outer Space."

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    2. If we are going to start listing Joanna Lee's acting credits, we should mention her guest appearance as Connie on ''The Donna Reed'' episode "Donna Plays Cupid".

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    3. She appeared on both YOU BET YOUR LIFE and WHAT'S MY LINE

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  3. Seeing Mr. Tweeter (the nervous instructor) on this episode, makes looking like a foresight of Zilly, the frightened member from Vulture Squadron in Dastardly & Muttley on Their Flying Machines (Hanna-Barbera, 1969), one of the spin-offs from Wacky Races (Hanna-Barbera, 1968).

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  4. Jerry Hathcock is the other animator in the episode; he animated in every other JETSON episode Muse animated in, except "Jetson's Night Out". The first two vidcaps in your post, of Mr. Tweeter, are Hathcock.

    Befuddled/domineering cops were also frequently seen in THE FLINTSTONES, and on any H-B short through the mid-1960s whenever a regular character sped or did anything strange- which was quite often. This trope goes back to silent comedies.

    Mr. Tweeter would return in a cameo as a school bus driver in a 1985 episode, just as nervous.

    This is the only JETSON episode written by Joanna Lee, who probably wrote more FLINTSONE episodes than anyone other than Warren Foster. The credits indicate Dalton Sandifer- who wrote for seemingly every comedic H-B series (as well as Walter Lantz)- from 1962 through the 1970s.

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  5. The barbershop sequence summed up in one phrase - 21st century, Vaudeville humor.

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  6. This episode has one of my all time favorite Jetson's scenes, when Mr. Tweeter loses it after Jane
    runs into the stop sign for the second time - a nervous breakdown to the tune of "Did you ever see a lassie" - the circus style music absolutely makes the scene!

    Also, I want an um-ba-rella cut, Its the latest thing!

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    1. The background score is my favorite element of THE JETSONS. And yes, the cue you're referring to is often used whenever a 1963-66 H-B character is having a nervous breakdown or performing a ridiculous stunt. This episode also effectively uses a vintage-1961 'organ chase' when Jane is driving the car back and forth through the police station.

      Howard Morris gives a marvelous performance as Mr. Tweeter on the perpetual edge of a nervous breakdown. And Jerry Hathcock brilliantly animates him.

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  7. Oh! And the way the shaver puts a band-aid on George!

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  8. This is a fun episode though it's one of the examples where I can't tell Penny Singleton's voice from that of Janet Waldo's, in addition to which as is one of the main points of this review, Jane doesn't act that bright compared to her persona even for those timnes, given how bright she usually seems, and thus this does seem more of a
    Judy" episode that got rewritten for Jane. As for the Vera Vague like voice, Barbara Jo ALlen surprisingly made (as far as I know) a rare animation appearance following year in Disney's "Sword in the stone" as the scullery maid..


    Joanna Lee's many achievmkents would include Yowp's least favourite Flintstones, at least without Gazoo or the celeb
    appearfances, the Sunshine singing babies, Season 6's opener No Biz like ShowBiz, the Beatles-spoofing episode.SC

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  9. Interesting to note that several Jetsons and Flintstones episodes were written by live-action comedy writers. H-B were treating them like "real" sitcoms.

    Penny Singleton could play the character of Jane Jetson with enough range to incorporate some ditziness as well as common-sense intelligence without seeming like a contradiction. She had shown a similar range as Blondie, who usually saved the day at the end but in the course of the story often had to act like the stereotypical comedy housewife. That the actress could give some dimension to these characters is a tribute to her acting skill. If I remember correctly, she was a champion of women's rights in real life.

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  10. Yes, SC33. She was no pushover. And she proved in her leadership in AGVA she wanted things done her way.
    You can add Top Cat to the list. Barry Blitzer says he was hired by H-B because he had written Bilko.

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    1. Barry Blitzer also scripted various episodes from Bewitched.

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  11. This episode justifiably takes a lot of heat for the dumbing-down of Jane, who readily believes that there would a change of driving instructor in the middle of the lesson. The gag with the woman driver George encounters doesn't make much sense, either. (Since when can one driver talk to another through an intercom?)

    But there's a nice sense of irony to many of the gags: instead of the charming, smooth-talking gent with Hokey Wolf's voice, Jane gets the totally unqualified Mr. Tweeter as a driving instructor. And the judge is willing to be lenient with George until he learns it was HIS car that George hit.

    The female bus driver might be 'butch', but Henry must have seen something in her. It would have been fun to see her helping him park cars at the apartment building in future episodes.

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  12. I might get killed for saying this here, but I have to admit that I have a hard time not rolling my eyes and reaching to change channels whenever I see a vintage TV episode that plays on antiquated stereotypes like the one presented here -- that a car driven by a woman is a threat to anyone else on the road. I remind myself that these shows were made a long time ago and that much has changed since then. Still, they just go down the wrong way.

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    1. Nobody's gonna kill you. There are a ton of great things about vintage TV shows, but there are also those stereotypes. Unfortunately, some of them have simply been swapped for new stereotypes. Women drivers on ''The Jetsons'' = Asian drives on ''Family Guy''.

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  13. TANNA FROM PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE BECAME A TV WRITER!? How in the HELL did I NOT already know this!? The funny thing is, her role in Plan 9 is pretty progressive for a woman in a 50's sci-fi movie! She gets slapped down for talking out of turn -but the scene kind of shows the bad guys being anti-female ! Ed Wood was pretty liberal in his scripts.(Not that being liberal is always a good thing but it was an oddity in the 50's! He was ahead of his time!) He was a genius in many ways. I forget who said it but someone once described him as being "Genius without talent."

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  14. Though...now that I think of it, the bad guys in Plan 9 were also the ones who are delivering this weird message of peace. So the same guys that were slapping the woman down were the ones who were supposed to be delivering this great anti-war message! So, yeah, Ed Wood is just a terrible writer! ( FAR from the "worst" director of all time though! There are MANY worse than he ever was!)

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  15. Though...now that I think of it, the bad guys in Plan 9 were also the ones who are delivering this weird message of peace. So the same guys that were slapping the woman down were the ones who were supposed to be delivering this great anti-war message! So, yeah, Ed Wood is just a terrible writer! ( FAR from the "worst" director of all time though! There are MANY worse than he ever was!)

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  16. TANNA FROM PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE BECAME A TV WRITER!? How in the HELL did I NOT already know this!? The funny thing is, her role in Plan 9 is pretty progressive for a woman in a 50's sci-fi movie! She gets slapped down for talking out of turn -but the scene kind of shows the bad guys being anti-female ! Ed Wood was pretty liberal in his scripts.(Not that being liberal is always a good thing but it was an oddity in the 50's! He was ahead of his time!) He was a genius in many ways. I forget who said it but someone once described him as being "Genius without talent."

    ReplyDelete