The “Elroy’s Mob” episode of The Jetsons may be best known for one scene—when Kenny Countdown is watching “the billionth rerun of the Flintstones.” It’s a throwaway gag but it’s probably the most subtle commentary on TV cartoon programming.
When this cartoon first aired in 1963, there weren’t a billion reruns of The Flintstones. Not even hundreds. Episodes had been repeated during the season they aired exactly once to fill up the summer prime time schedule. But other cartoons, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and many of the other old theatricals, had been repeated endlessly on morning and afternoon kids shows. That’s where the money was. Hanna-Barbera knew that; the company built itself on syndicating Huckleberry Hound in 1958. So it was The Flintstones ended up in syndication in 1966. Today, in the Jetsons’ 21st Century, it seems like there have been a billion reruns of Fred, Barney, Dino and the rest. When this cartoon was made, that was nowhere near the case.
The cartoon may be set in the future but there are still ‘60s reference-puns that those of us around then got. The crooks in this one are pretending to be a crew shooting “The Unspaceables” (“The Untouchables”). And the TV news reporter who just happens to be in the Jetsons’ neighbourhood to interview them is “Chet Sprinkley” (NBC’s anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley). No disrespect meant to writer Barry Blitzer, but these are weak. The Flintstones was ever worse for this; trying to make a comedic name by adding “stone” or “rock” or something like that. That doesn’t take any creativity, any more than adding arbitrarily adding “space” or “moon” to a name on The Jetsons.
It seems as if Blitzer had the Flintstones on his mind when he wrote this cartoon. When Jane tells George to have fun with Astro, he responds: “Fun? I could have more fun with a sabre-tooth tiger.” A what? Doesn’t that joke belong on the other series?
A quick plot summary: Elroy brings home Kenny’s weekly magna-proofed (unerasable) report tape from school after Kenny switches them (four Ds, an F and an H) but his parents won’t believe it’s a mistake. When Kenny confesses via visiphone, George and Jane go to apologise but found Elroy and Astro have run away. The boy and dog get conned into helping Muggsy Megaton rob a jewelry store. Muggsy and his gang hide out at the Jetsons’. Astro gnaws through the rope tying him up and fetches the police who make the arrest. Astro histrionically explains to a TV interviewer how he helped catch the criminals. I like how Astro’s the hero here. Hmm. Cumbersome heroic dog that pronounces every word starting with an “r.” It appears that idea got filed away at Hanna-Barbera for future use.
Fernando Montealegre, Rene Garcia and Fernando Arce painted the backgrounds.
Sorry Elroy’s in the way, but you can still see the architecture in the background.
The animators of this cartoon are Carlo Vinci and Hugh Fraser. I can’t pick out all of Carlo’s work here, but it’s safe to say the side-to-side wagging heads and the walk cycles with the swinging butts are his (he animated the Flintstones scene in this one). Fraser is always tough for me, but the drawing below is definitely his. He drew a weird take where the eyes would stretch up. He doesn’t go as overboard here as he did in some of the TV Popeyes he animated in 1960.
And here’s a neat vibrating bash take.
This rubbery-nosed head shake ends with George’s little eyes.
A shock take. It reminds me a bit of those fuzzy-hair takes that Jim Tyer drew at Terrytoons.
Camera error! Look at the kids’ eyes. This was part of a cycle so it shows up at least twice in the cartoon.
Laughs? Well, I still like the gag where Astro describes the criminal to a sketch artist, who ultimately draws a picture of the desk sergeant. Old, obvious? Yeah. But I laughed anyway.
Shep Menken guest stars as the voice of Muggsy Megaton. He’s one of those H-B bad guys with his hand in his pocket. Menken also plays the court sketch artist and Chet Sprinkly. Don Messick also guests as Astro, the giggling gorilla and various other characters. Janet Waldo gets to do an extra voice and appears as Miss Brainmocker, the robot teacher.
Hoyt Curtin’s score includes “Rise and Shine,” the original Flintstones theme, when Kenny is watching Fred land on Barney in the swimming pool.
Animation Director – Charles Nichols.
Layout – Irv Spector, Willie Ito, Jacques Rupp.
Camera – Frank Paiker, Norm Stainback, Roy Wade, Chuck Flekal.
Film Editor – Greg Watson, Joe Ruby.
Story Supervision – Arthur Pierson.
Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Willie Ito and Joe Ruby are still with us.