Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Jetsons: TV or Not TV

“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.


  1. "And now, boys and gals, repeat with me the magic word: KER-SPLASH!"

  2. I can't tell you how much these analysis mean to me. The Jetsons was and is a big part of my life, along with the 60s world of Hanna-Barbera.

  3. 11/15/15 Wrote:
    I'm from the Detroit area, where Soupy Sales was once popular in the 1950's, and had a local TV show "Lunch With Soupy Sales", later "Breakfast With Soupy Sales" on local ABC affiliate of Detroit, Channel 7 of Detroit, (WXYZ-VHF.) Soupy left Detroit and Channel 7 in 1960, and headed out to New York for his TV series on Metromedia Television for two years. Like you said, Soupy had a dispute with Metromedia for refusal to syndicate the show outside of New York, and soon he hooked up with another TV station in New York, WNEW Channel 5. This time he managed to strike a deal with a TV company who agreed to syndicate his show worldwide headed by (guess who?) John Mitchell of Screen Gems Television! That's how Soupy got a parody of himself on "The Jetsons" as "Soapy Sam". Soupy never said "Ker-Splat" as a catchphrase, though. Instead, he said corny catch phrases like "You're Brains'll Fall Out!" or corny jokes with puns when he did his "Words Of Wisdom" segments. Screen Gems not only agreed to distribute his show from 1963-66, but he also appeared in the "Route 66" episode from 1964 titled "This Is Going To Hurt Me Than It's Going To Hurt You" in Season Four. unfortunately, a lot of Soupy's episodes are lost forever by way of erasing the tapes. Not only did Metromedia TV erase the tapes if they weren't recorded live on the spot, but so did WNEW-TV 5 of the 1963-65 episodes! (including the New Year's Day "Little Green Pieces of Paper" episode.) When Soupy went to locate his output of episodes in the early 1990's, he sadly found out that only 72 episodes from September 1965-September 1966 were all that remained out of thousands of episodes from 1960-65! These 72 remaining episodes still do turn up on VHS, DVD, and YouTube at times, and are notable for having a still version of The "S From Hell/Film Reel" logo of Screen Gems (The parellagrams don't move around the dot in this version of the logo. I still wonder to this day if the erased episodes of Soupy's 1962-65 episodes had the SG "Torch Lady" logo or the "Dancing Sticks" logo on their programs, but I guess I'll never know because, according to Soupy before his 2009 death, they're gone forever. H-B's sly reference to Screen Gems as "Space Gems" is funny. On "The Flintstone's" episode of "Sassy" (ironically, not a SG Production), Screen Gems was referred to as "Screen Rocks" Productions.

  4. Look again, Yowp - Those are twin beds; they're sharing the same headboard. (In the future, ess-ee-ex is performed telepathically).

  5. This post is one of my favorite yowpyowps. Nice job

  6. Great job indeed, YOWP. Whatever rest Janet Waldo got in the beginning was worth towards the end of the cartoon, where she screamed.

    BTW, if you watch ''Top Cat'', ''The Flintstones'' and ''The Jetsons'' long enough you will begin to figure out Hanna and Barbera's favorite TV shows: ''The Jack Benny Program'', ''Naked City'', ''Gunsmoke'', ''The Beverly Hillbillies'', ''What's my Line?'' and of course many more. (They never made a ''Dick Van Dyke Show'' reference, though).

  7. This is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite episode of the series. Astro steals the show in this one. Sometimes he’s just a nuisance, but here he’s truly hilarious. BTW, Spacely’s cabin reminds me of the house over Mount Rushmore in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”

  8. Very good review Yowp, even though it meant waiting till Monday even though you wrote it in the evening last night, and you didn't disappoint..!

  9. Hey, speaking of Janet Waldo's screaming, isn';t this the one where Jane has to gewt to get Judy and Elroy out by taking the bed away from them (mechanically, of course(), and when JUDY's (note caps!) awakened..:HONESTLY. MOTHER LOL!!!!

    1. It's the episode: "Dude Planet," the one where Jane and Helen (a friend of hers) go to a dude ranch because she has "button-itis" and George stays at home with Judy & Elroy and he gets stuck in the "food-o-matic" and they have a cat in that episode instead of Astro who keeps getting stuck in the vacuum which becomes a running gag.

  10. THE ADVENTURES OF RIN-TIN-TIN was also a Screen Gems production (by this point, it was in reruns on CBS Saturday mornings, so it still had the old Torch Lady logo at the end). So the episode's references were, literally, all in the family.

  11. By the way, not that it applies to this episode, but HAZEL, the real-life template for Rosie, was also a Screen Gems show.

  12. I think that was Shep Menken, not Herschel Bernardi, who played Nimbley and Soapy Sam.

  13. 10/3/21
    RobGems68 wrote:
    Regarding the earlier post from November 2015, a long-lost episode of "The Soupy Sales Show" from WNEW-5, New York was finally spotted on You Tube from August 1965, using the Screen Gems "Dancing Sticks" logo. It seems to be the only one posted on You Tube so far(all of the other post-September 1965 episodes have the "S From Hell"/Film Sprocket logo closing out each episode.) The infamous episode of the series with the "little green pieces of paper" skit remains lost to this day, now believed to be erased on purpose by Channel 5/WNEW's management during Soupy's 2-week suspension. Most of the 1965-1967 episodes except for the earlier episodes from 1964-1965 have been discovered in an abandoned warehouse once believed to be owned by a former Los Angeles TV studio. That should answer my long-asked question whether Screen Gems used the Dancing Sticks logo on any Soupy Sales episode. This one lone episode on You Tube proves it.

    1. There’s a story behind the one on YouTube. I actually re-edited that August 1965 episode and added the Channel 5 and Screen Gems logo. I got a hold of the swing music track used under the credits and it was like a flash came to me.