Unpopular Opinions: The Jetsons
Usually I like to start these segments with a clever little intro that segue ways into the main point, but this time I can’t think of any way to sugar-coat this particular thesis, so I’m just going to come right out and say it…
The Jetsons is boring.
There, I said it.
I know that it’s considered a classic cartoon. I know that it’s a staple of Hanna-Barbera. I know that many people regard it as iconic. But it’s still as dull as dishwater. The stories are dull. The characters are dull. The jokes are dull. And the depiction of the World of Tomorrow (TM) is really, really dull. The latter is particularly puzzling, since distant future settings are usually cool. We here at Twinsanity love the Utopian future setting (as referenced in “The Future Rocks!”) but on The Jetsons there’s absolutely nothing you’d find fun to watch.
Where are the cool aliens?
Where are the hoverboards?
Where’s the cool future tech?
Where’s the mind-boggling science fiction stuff? The only remotely cool thing on The Jetsons is the flying cars. That’s it. You can’t even fall back on the appeal of the show’s main cast, since the titular characters are likewise as dull as a plain dry piece of toast. Sure, Elroy’s smart and Judy’s nice to look at, but the show didn’t even mine those elements for all they could.
Yeah, when HB brought the show back in syndication in the 80’s, they added a new character, Orbitty…
…And what did he add to the show? I’ll tell you:
-It should probably be mentioned that like it’s predecessor The Flintstones, which was basically just The Honeymooners in animated form, cross-pollinated with the Tex Avery MGM short The First Bad Man, The Jetsons is similarly based on an existing fictional staple, Blondie.
More accurately, the Blondie radio show and theatrical films starring Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake (Fun Fact: Singleton was the original voice of Jane Jetson).
So the show was basically Blondie in the future. Fair enough, but here’s the thing…
I thought Blondie was like watching paint dry as well! Who at HB thought that would be a good franchise to co-opt? You know your show is boring when even putting it in the Space Age can’t make it interesting.
How can you have a show set in the distant future without anything fun in it? Other shows and movies have done cool stuff with that setting:
We only got brief glimpses of the future society in Meet the Robinsons (in fact the book the movie was loosely based on, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, didn’t even involve the future or time travel), but what we saw of it, with its’ colorful architecture (including Insta-Buildings), transportation bubbles and flying time machines, was more interesting than anything we saw on The Jetsons.
A lot of the things depicted on Futurama didn’t make sense (and the show’s writers have openly admitted that a lot of it didn’t make sense), but Futurama was still cool, fun and interesting.
Heck, even the late CBS Saturday morning cartoon Project G.eeK.eR. was more interesting than The Jetsons, and that show only lasted a single season. Project G.eeK.eR. gave us a really odd, wild, wacky and cool future setting with a dazzlingly quirky mix of human, alien, animal and robotic worlds: THAT show had a future city straight out of Blade Runner. It had artificially created super men with amazing powers. It had cyborgs. It had cool aliens. It had genetically modified humanoid dragon gangsters. It had mutated monsters. It had a space station. It had evolved talking dinosaurs who lived in a hidden dinosaur city (it turns out the dinos didn’t go extinct, they were merely hiding). It had a sentient super-intelligent strain of the common cold. It had a mad scientist mastodon voiced by Charlie Adler who floated around via an anti-gravity belt! Now THAT is interesting!
Even The Partridge Family: 2200 A.D. had a couple of alien characters with quirky shticks and the family’s dog was a robot, which was kind of interesting.
Speaking of, did you know that The Partridge Family: 2200 A.D. was originally going to be a Jetsons sequel series? T’is true. It was originally planned by HB as a follow-up to the original Jetsons series a la Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, featuring Elroy as a teenager and Judy as an adult reporter, but when the idea was pitched to then CBS president Fred Silverman, he opted to swap out the Jestons for animated versions of the Partridge Family instead. Why?
-Personally, I’m guessing Silvy found The Jetsons as boring as I do!