Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Flintstones (1962)


By the year 1962, the once-fresh prime-time cartoon The Flintstones had settled into a comfortable routine of rehashed plots chronicling the misadventures of boorish Fred Flintstone that borrowed heavily from other TV programs, movies, and pop culture fads. The only new thing on the program that year was a different, now iconic opening sequence in which Fred drives the family to a drive-in restaurant and movie instead of showing him clocking out at work, picking up the dry cleaning, and parking in the garage before settling in front of the TV with a plate of food. The series also began using a few additional voice actors such as Herschel Bernardi and Howard Morris to voice a number of incidental characters.

When they weren't attempting to lampoon other TV shows and movies, such as poking fun at Gunsmoke and westerns in general in "A Star Is Almost Born" (January 12, 1962), homemaker programs in "The Happy Household" (February 23, 1962), game shows in "Divided We Sail" (April 6, 1962), swarthy Latin movie stars in "Latin Lover" (April 20, 1962), Lassie in "Dino Goes Hollyrock" (September 14, 1962), crime caper movies in "Here's Snow in Your Eyes" (October 19, 1962), TV crime dramas such as Hawaiian Eye in "Hawaiian Escapade" (November 16, 1962), and Hitchcock suspense films in "Dial S for Suspicion" (December 14, 1962), they were recycling their own already shopworn plots. For example, "The Gambler" (January 5, 1962) revolves around Fred's gambling addiction for which he once visited a psychiatrist and swore to Wilma that he would never engage in again. When skin-flint Fred tries to avoid settling his bill with newsboy Arnold, he falls off the wagon by offering to bet double or nothing on his bill over a game of marbles. Predictably, Fred loses but keeps doubling down and losing again until he has run up a tab of $88 that he can't possibly repay because Wilma has used the money he hid from her to pay off another debt he has been trying to avoid on their TV set. In the end, after Wilma has figured out what Fred has been up to and has to borrow money from Betty to replace the furniture that Fred gave Arnold to settle his debt, Fred swears off ever gambling again. But in "The Rock Vegas Story" (March 30, 1962) Fred decides to take Wilma and the Rubbles to Rock Vegas for their vacation after running into old friend Sherman Cobblehead who now owns a casino and invites Fred to come see him. Within minutes of their arrival at the casino, when the wives go to "freshen up," Fred loses all their money in a slot machine, and the two families have to spend the rest of their vacation working at the casino to afford their stay. Fred's failure to keep his promises is glossed over at the end of the episode when Cobblehead tells the husbands how lucky they are to have such devoted wives, whereas he is forced to live out his drab existence running a casino surrounded by beautiful show girls.

Fred's repeated attempts at deception are also recycled in two attempts to duck out of work to go see a day baseball game in "Operation Barney" (February 16, 1962) in which he calls in sick to skip work but when he forces Barney to do the same, Barney's boss requires him to submit to a medical examination that lands him in the hospital and almost has him undergo a serious operation. After Wilma and Betty discover the ruse, Fred promises never to play hooky from work again. Wilma is skeptical he will stick to it, and for good reason, because we see that Fred has his fingers crossed behind his back. And sure enough, he tries the same trick again in "Ladies' Day" (November 23, 1962), only this time he dresses in drag using clothes Wilma gave him to drop off at a rummage sale so that he can get into the ballgame for free on Ladies Day. Again predictably he doesn't get away with it and once exposed he again promises never to play hooky from work again. This time there are no crossed fingers, but who in their right mind would ever believe any promises made by Fred Flintstone? And who would want to watch him go through the same routine on episode after episode?

We could go over the multiple episodes about Fred's failed get-rich quick schemes or his cruelty to Barney, but perhaps more salient is the program's blatant chauvinism in its depiction of the roles of husbands and wives. This topic has been discussed on various web sites and in various forums with opinion generally falling into two camps--those who are shocked that a show they loved as children could be so misogynistic, and those who brush such criticism aside by saying the program only reflected the prevalent attitudes of the era, was set in the Stone Age so of course the male characters behave like "cave men," or was only a cartoon and therefore should not be taken so seriously. The episode most often cited for the program's chauvinism is the aforementioned "The Happy Household" in which Wilma is recruited to host a TV homemaker program but Fred eventually intervenes to get her show canceled so that she can be home to cook his dinners, not to tell other housewives how to please their husbands. Fred not only says that a woman's place is in the home, but ends the episode by admonishing any housewife viewers to take note of this week's lesson. While it is certainly true that The Flintstones was not the only TV program of its time to reinforce the stereotype of women being ideally and only suited to being homemakers--even the supposedly proto-feminist Donna Reed Show had her proving she could handle other jobs outside the home but always choosing to return to domestic contentment--what makes The Flintstones stand out is that its chauvinism can be disingenuously defended as being only a cartoon set in Stone Age times while also appealing to children who are less able to resist its reactionary message. Sure, it was a prime-time "adult" cartoon, but children are naturally drawn to cartoons due to their simplicity, bright colors, fantastical events, and general mood of fun and humor. Children even enjoy clearly adult-oriented cartoons such as The Bullwinkle Show, whose political and social satire is beyond their understanding, because the show depicts talking animals involved in outlandish adventures. In the TV age, cartoons are also a key component in the socialization of children and can have profound effects on their development, depending what kind of cartoons they are exposed to. The number of adults who are shocked when they revisit childhood favorites such as The Flintstones only reinforces the fact that children cannot discriminate like adults and recognize when a theme is being depicted only for humorous effect. That's why the messages disseminated by The Flintstones--that women can and should be satisfied only as housewives or that you can be cruel to your friends and suffer no real consequences--are not good, clean fun, even for adults.

The Actors

For the biographies of Alan Reed, Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl, and Bea Benaderet, see the 1960 post for The Flintstones. For the biography of Hal Smith, see the 1961 post for The Andy Griffith Show. For the biographies of John Stephenson and Don Messick, see the 1961 post for The Flintstones.

Notable Guest Stars

Because it was an animated series, The Flintstones did not have many guest stars known from other shows, except those listed below.

Season 1, Episode 17, "A Star Is Almost Born": Frank Nelson (shown on the left, see the biography section for the 1960 post on The Jack Benny Program) plays TV producer Norman Rockbind.

Season 1, Episode 18, "The Entertainer": Paula Winslowe (Martha Conklin on Our Miss Brooks) plays Mr. Slate's client Greta Gravel.

Season 1, Episode 19, "Wilma's Vanishing Money": Frank Nelson (see "A Star Is Almost Born" above) plays a sporting goods store clerk. Herschel Bernardi (see the biography section of the 1960 post on Peter Gunn) plays stick-up man Silky.

Season 1, Episode 22, "Operation Barney": Herschel Bernardi (see "Wilma's Vanishing Money" above) plays an operating room doctor. Paula Winslowe (see "The Entertainer" above) plays the operating room nurse.

Season 1, Episode 23, "The Happy Household": Paul Frees (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1960 post on Rocky and His Friends) plays TV producer Mr. Rockenschpeel and TV station owner Sam Bedrock. B.J. Baker (Miss Alabama at age 17, background singer and member of the Anita Kerr Singers, wife of Mickey Rooney and later jazz guitarist Barney Kessel) provides Wilma's singing voice.

Season 1, Episode 25, "This Is Your Life Saver": Walker Edmiston (shown on the left, played Enik on Land of the Lost and voiced Dr. Blinkey and Orson Vulture on H.R. Pufnstuf, Admiral Scuttlebutt, Bela, and Big Chief Sitting Duck on Lidsville, Sebastian on Dumbo's Circus, and Sir Thornberry on Adventures of the Gummi Bears) plays con man J. Montague Gypsum.

Season 1, Episode 26, "Trouble-in-Law": Verna Felton (shown on the right, played Mrs. Day on The Dennis Day Show and The Jack Benny Program and Hilda Crocker on December Bride and Pete and Gladys) plays Wilma's mother Pearl Slaghoople.

Season 1, Episode 27, "The Mailman Cometh": Herb Vigran (Judge Brooker on Gunsmoke) plays policeman Officer Riley.

Season 1, Episode 30, "Kleptomaniac Caper": Herb Vigran (see "The Mailman Cometh" above) plays policeman Officer O'Rockery. Herschel Bernardi (see "Wilma's Vanishing Money" above) plays a department store detective.

Season 1, Episode 31, "Latin Lover": Jerry Mann (shown on the far left, appeared in The Sky Divers, Shutter Bug, and The Maltese Bippy, also wrote several shorts and 3 episodes of Tom and Jerry as well as voicing Tom the cat) plays Italian movie star Roberto Rockelini. Paula Winslowe (see "The Entertainer" above) plays a cosmetics saleswoman.

Season 3, Episode 1, "Dino Goes Hollyrock": Herschel Bernardi (see "Wilma's Vanishing Money" above) plays talent agent Sam.

Season 3, Episode 3, "Barney the Invisible": Howard McNear (shown on the right, see the biography section for the 1961 post on The Andy Griffith Show) plays physician Dr. Quartz.

Season 3, Episode 5, "The Twitch": Ginny Tyler (shown on the left, voiced characters in Son of Flubber, The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, and Doctor Doolittle and voiced Sally Hansen and Elaine Hansen on Davey and Goliath, Wendy on The New Casper Cartoon Show, Jan and Black Widow on Space Ghost, Flirtacia on The Adventures of Gulliver, Aunt Martha and Polly on Devlin, and Sue Richards and The Invisible Girl on The Fantastic Four) plays a talentless singer for agent Sam Stone.

Season 3, Episode 6, "Here's Snow in Your Eyes": Doug Young (shown on the right, voiced Doggie Daddy on Quick Draw McGraw, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, and The Huckleberry Hound Show, Ding a Ling on The Huckleberry Hound Show, Yippee on The Peter Potamus Show and Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey, and later the Grand Poobah on The Flintstones) plays stolen goods fence Chip Marble.

Season 3, Episode 8, "The Little Stranger": Verna Felton (see "Trouble-in-Law" above) returns as Wilma's mother Pearl Slaghoople.

Season 3, Episode 12, "Nuttin' But the Tooth": Howard Morris (shown on the left, appeared in Boys' Night Out, The Nutty Professor, and High Anxiety, played Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show, and voiced Beetle Bailey, Gen. Halftrack, Otto, and Rocky on Beetle Bailey, Breezly Bruin on The Peter Potamus Show, Mr. Peebles on The Magilla Gorilla Show, Atom Ant on The Atom Ant Show, Jughead Jones, Big Moose, and Dilton Doiley on The Archie Show and Archie's Funhouse, Frankie, Wolfie, and Dr. Jekyll on Sabrina and the Groovie Goulies, Cousin Ambrose on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and The Hamburglar on McDonaldland) plays dentist Dr. Smiley Molar.

Season 3, Episode 13, "High School Fred": Howard Morris (see "Nuttin' But the Tooth" above) plays efficiency expert Mr. Rockhard.

Season 3, Episode 14, "Dial S for Suspicion": Howard Morris (see "Nuttin' But the Tooth" above) plays circus knife thrower Rodney Whetstone and physician Dr. Pilldown.

Season 3, Episode 15, "Flash Gun Freddie": Howard Morris (see "Nuttin' But the Tooth" above) plays the drug store clerk and comic-buying kid.