Attention! Look at the picture on the right. It’s Fred Flintstone!
Actually, it’s not. It’s an incidental character in The Jetsons episode “G.I. Jetson.” But Hanna-Barbera was borrowing an awful lot from itself by the time this cartoon was made in 1962 (it aired early the following year). There’s a character who sounds like Huckleberry Hound. We get the gag where George Jetson presses the wrong button and dresses as Jane to the amusement of the laugh track. And writer Barry Blitzer re-uses much of his own plot from the earlier Uniblab cartoon.
Uniblab, if you’ve forgotten, was a humanoid computer brain hired by Cosmo Spacely (over Jetson) to be the manager his office. In this cartoon, Spacely hires him (over Jetson) to be the Sergeant of the Space Guard Reserve which he and Jetson are in. Once again, Uniblab conducts some shady, illegal gambling (marked playing cards of the future give off a hi-fi signal). George again mouths off to him about Spacely as Uniblab captures it on a microphone (the difference is there’s a camera broadcasting it to Spacely). Again, Henry comes to the rescue by screwing with Uniblab’s innards (a wrong battery this time instead of high-alcohol oil). And, one more time, Uniblab’s out of control when Spacely has the robot/computer show off for the higher-ups. The original Uniblab cartoon is pretty funny. This is just a stale carbon copy—or whatever they have in the future instead of carbon copies.
Just to back up a bit, Blitzer’s story opens with George having a nightmare about Spacely being Satan. After being woken up, the Western Universe boy comes flying to the Jetsons’ apartment with a Tele-Tape (in a 1960s reel of tape). George thinks it may be something telling him he won the Venus Sweepstakes. Nope. It’s a World War Two-like “Greetings” announcement that he has to report for two weeks of training (“Your number came up, but it isn’t the sweepstakes,” observes Elroy). The Visi-phone rings and it turns out to be Spacely in uniform on the other end, telling him he’ll be Jetson’s commanding officer in the reserve. About half-way through the cartoon, Spacely introduces Uniblab and the plot carries on.
You might be wondering why Spacely would bring in the robot, considering how that caused a disaster in the climax of the previous cartoon, and why Jetson would be so loose-lipped about Spacely around Uniblab, as the mechanical man snitched on him to his boss last time. Wonder all you like. I can’t answer those questions, any more than why Hades is “up there” instead of down below.
The people making this episode would have been pretty familiar with radio comedies on the air during World War Two that burst forth with military gags, comments about K.P., dense commanding officers, lousy food, ill-fitting uniforms and so on. We get a sequence of them here, with future-age sight gags added. A guy who can’t read the chart for the Eye Test is declared rejected by a computer voice (Mel Blanc), ejected into a rocket and sent away. A dope who can’t pass the I.Q. test—he pounds a round peg into a square hole—is deemed officer material. The “uniform” gag is on Henry; the clothing machine doesn’t dress him properly (none of them ever seem to work on The Jetsons). Add an army hair-cut gag, popularised after Elvis Presley’s induction into the U.S. military in 1958.
As for the K.P. gags, basically they’re a switch on some standard Jetsons futuristic routines. Robots or machines do everything; all humans do is press a button and complain about how it’s too much work. And potatoes aren’t peeled. They’re pills, so they’re smashed.
The reserve training takes place at Camp Nebula. Naturally, it’s not on the ground; it floats in the atmosphere. Here’s the background drawing cobbled together from various frames.
I have no idea who the background artist or the layout man were in this cartoon, thanks to credits that were removed 30 years ago for syndication. Here are an interior and the design of the Space Guard transport ship. Red is an unusual colour for the show (note the mobile hanging), though it’s quite appropriate in George’s Hell/dream sequence. Some affiliates broadcast the series in colour.
The regular voice cast is augmented by Don Messick as Astro, Uniblab and Colonel Countdown, and Mel Blanc as Spacely and a bunch of other voices. Blanc may have the best line in the cartoon as General McMissile complains that Uniblab “cost the government millions, enough for two officers clubs.” Blanc shows why he was the best in the business. He plays Spacely and the general. Both are authoritative characters who yell a lot, but he found two different voices for them (the general has a slight accent as well). Janet Waldo gets to play a Visi-phone operator and I detect Howard Morris in two lines as the Visi-phone voice in the kitchen patrol building.
Besides a play on Western Union, there’s one other pop culture reference in this cartoon. George screams for help from Elliot Nesteroid, a spoof on the main character on The Untouchables which, coincidentally, was airing on Tuesday nights on ABC at the time The Jetsons were in prime-time on the same network.