Saturday 13 August 2016

The Jetsons – Elroy’s TV Show

TV is a vast wasteland, Newton Minow said. TV is too violent and tasteless, said numerous bluenose special interest groups. Well, in the future, that’s all changed.

Warren Foster’s story for Elroy’s TV Show is highlighted by a wonderful satire of what things would be like if Minow and the other do-gooders got their way, and television broadcast nothing but classical music concerts, live drama and nature documentaries.

Mr Transistor: I’ve just read these scripts you guys turned in as ideas for a new show. There’s not one of them worth doing. TV Geometry lessons! Chemistry course! Animals of the World! What are you trying to do to me?
Writer 2: Ah, but chief, those shows are all educational.
Transistor: Educational! Whatever happened to entertainment?
Writer 2: Well, we’ve been writing educational programmes for so long...
Writer 3: We’ve forgotten entertainment.
Writer 1: Our mission has been to educate people.
Transistor: You’ve educated them so much, they’re too smart to watch TV.
Writer 2: How about a cowboy series?
Writer 1: Or a doctor programme?
Transistor: Hmmm. It’s tempting, but we don’t dare start that stuff again. That’s what brought on educational programmes.
Later, at the Jetsons’ apartment:
Transistor: I’m Mr Transistor, president of Asteroid TV Productions.
Jane: Oh, I don’t watch TV any more. It’s over my head. Why don’t you bring back doctor and cowboy shows?
The plot’s easy to sum up. Transistor and his lazy writers see Elroy and Astro and picture a Lassie-type show. (“But, boss, it’s got to be educational.” “It is, it is! It teaches a lesson—be nice to your dog and he won’t bite you.”) Astro’s non-plussed about the whole idea but signs anyway. George decides to become Elroy’s manager and is such a pest, Transitor puts him in Elroy’s show, where he’s attacked by a robot. George quits and Elroy decides he’d rather go home and watch TV. Meanwhile, Spacely’s wife (Jean Vander Pyl does a great job with her snooty voice) demands that he get a TV show for their son, Arthur (Dick Beals in a very good outing). Arthur ends up taking over the show, pest Spacely gets put in the show and attacked by the robot. But he won’t quit. (“What? And give up show biz? Never.”). The robot attack continues off camera to end the cartoon.

Besides Foster’s great satire, I really enjoy the artwork in this cartoon. Art Lozzi painted some of the backgrounds from Dick Bickenbach’s layouts. The blue trees are pretty much a Lozzi trademark. And, yes, they showed the ground in part of the cartoon.

These two frames are the beginning and ending of a long background pan. Notice how the road is empty. Why is a road there anyway? In all the Jetsons cartoons, people drive in the atmosphere.

The same here. Lozzi uses a bit of yellow to break up the monotony of the blue colours.

More exteriors.

The last third of the cartoon takes place on Jupiter. I don’t know who did the backgrounds here but they’re great. Wonderfully bleak. Browns and purples. Here’s the start of another pan.

And here’s part of the rest of the pan snipped together. I couldn’t do all of it and make the colours match.

And more of Jupiter. Elroy’s dressing room is on an overlay, as is the slab of stone on the right side of the cave, as well as the big rock in the foreground of the last painting.

Inventions. There’s the televisor system to spy on workers, a nuclear-powered drone that carries drinks to your table, a radio communicator to speak to your child away from home (no need to dial a cell phone number), a masking film across a door that allows you to see the silhouette of a person to help you decide whether you want to let them in.

An electric train set is, naturally, in the air. Secretaries are robots (but still take coffee breaks). People travel from office to office in a pneumatic tube. And windows are automatically washed and squeegeed clean by pushing a button.

Some character designs. Arthur Spacely and his dog Zero.

The evil robot.

And Mrs. Spacely. Her diamond ring appears only when needed for a scene; it disappears the rest of the time.

I couldn’t tell you who animated this cartoon. My wild guess is whoever it was, they did the whole show. I didn’t see any variation in character drawings.

George doesn’t meet up with a traffic cop in this cartoon, but he does have trouble getting onto the freeway. I like how pieces of his car break off as he tries to shove his way into traffic.

George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Daws Butler and Janet Waldo are here, along with Don Messick in a pile of roles, the forementioned Vander Pyl and, of course, Mel Blanc as Spacely. There’s a screw-up in one scene where the wrong writer’s voice comes out of the wrong mouth.

Hoyt Curtin’s score perks along in the usual fashion.


  1. One of the few episodes where Spacely takes his lumps at the end of the episode and George doesn't end up paying the price before the fade to black.

    Minnow (the head of the FCC under President Kennedy who's still alive today and living in Chicago) was part of those in the 1950s and '60s who not only decried the state of television, but were part of the 'Responsible Children's Entertainment' crowd that fell in love with the gentler UPA cartoons of the previous decade while decrying the mindless cartoon violence in stuff like the Warner Bros. shorts, first in the theaters and then on TV. No surprise the writer of many of those shorts would take the opportunity to fire back when he had the chance.

    1. Sherwood Schwartz always said that the boat on Gilligan's Island was named the Minnow after C. Newton Minnow.

    2. It was named afterr him! I also remember Judy being very jealous of lroy for haivng his own show (who wouldn;t..) they had a little sibling rivalry there..! THe Jetsons was passed off as rducational TV, and so were some of the 1990s WB cartoons and a few otghers.SC

    3. Is it wrong that I still kinda have a crush on Judy Jetson after all these years? To be fair, I was born in 1983, so my love of Judy comes from watching reruns on the original Cartoon Network in the 90's but-to this day, I still wish I was Jet Screamer!! Probably cuz Janet Waldo's cute voice mixed with the perfect HB design, just making her into the ultimate cute cartoon girl! If I ever find a cute girl in real life with gray hair and an enormous collar, I will SOOO date the Hell out of her!!

    4. One of the few episodes where Spacely takes his lumps at the end of the episode and George doesn't end up paying the price before the fade to black.

      There are times when George is cut some slack here.

  2. I believe "The Jetsons" itself was passed off as educational TV back in the 90's.

    1. Yes, it was (or the 80's). The show certainly doesn't live up to E/I standards.

  3. The social satire is one of the greatest reasons why The Jetsons remains funny and relevant through the decades. There is still a strong push from some quarters for television to be "more educational" so the humor is still timely today.

    1. I still dig the "Pay TV" joke in another episode!

  4. This episode was animated by Don Lusk, Ray Patterson (brother of Don), Grant Simmons and Don Lusk, the same quartet who animated "Rosie The Robot" and "Las Venus". Except for Spence, none seemed to have done much animation for H-B in the early 60s. Spence's is the only one whose animation seems recognizable, due to much exposure to it in theatrical MGM product. It's similar to Ed Love's, but looser. I think he does the scene in which George gleefully quits by spinning Spacely around, and then swooping his hands over him while shouting the show's title. ("Spaceboy, ZOOM- and it his dog, As-TRO!")

    This is the only JETSON episode written by Warren Foster, who took similar satirical swipes at TV and the entertainment industry in general, in several FLINTSTONES and Warner Brothers shorts.

    1. As Patterson and Simmons had their own company, I wouldn't be surprised if the episode was contracted out to Grantray-Lawrence, just like Preston Blair ended up doing a Flintstones.
      Other than maybe Astro, these characters aren't really flexible enough for Spence to really have a lot of fun with them like he did with Tom at MGM.

  5. I was just about to ask, "Where's Howard Fein when you need him?" And here he is! :)

  6. I remember of a scene from this episode, where George makes the role of the mad scientist (with a fake moustache), which makes looking like a foresight of Dick Dastardly.

  7. What Newton Minow said was simply wrong. TV was good back then. Or, the very least, it was better than it is now. If he would have made that speech in the early 2000's, when Trump had his own TV show, then the vast wasteland thing would have made more sense. Now , Trump has his own COUNTRY!! ( talk about a vast wasteland!!)

    1. Well, it wasn't better. It was different. There was an awful lot of crap on it. The problem with Minow and the rest is they thought TV should solely uplift and educate. They must have lived boring, snooty lives. People need laughs, even silliness, in their lives, too, for the sake of their mental health. Dr. Yowp has spoken.