Grade: B+
Animated TV Series
Rated G

Crab lawn mowers, a dinner of roast pterodactyl leg, triceratops wheelbarrows, birds using their wings to cover red and green stoplights to coordinate traffic—it’s all part of an average day in Bedrock, the pre-historic community where one of TV’s most famous animated families lived from 1960-66. Fred Flintstone was a blue-collar working stiff, the operator of a dinosaur-powered crane at the Rock Head & Quarry Cave Construction Co. Like everyone else, when the end-of-day whistle blew, he hurried home in a foot-powered car so he could be with his wife, their pet “dog” that was really a small dinosaur, and later, a baby girl named Pebbles who would inspire a fruity breakfast cereal.

As the first prime-time animated TV series, The Flintstones was both beloved and wildly profitable through six seasons and two spin-off full-length movies. All six seasons, both films, and the original pilot and bonus features are included in this Complete Series set that really has a lot of visual pop because of the high-def transfer to Blu-ray. It makes all the small details even more pleasurable—like the paintings hanging in the home that are in the style of cave drawings.

Fans of the all-time most popular cartoon, The Simpsons, will recognize that the show about America’s “nuclear family” owes a debt to The Flintstones, which TV Guide named the second all-time most popular cartoon—one that earned a primetime Emmy nomination in 1961 for outstanding TV comedy. Simpsons fans will get déjà vu from the beginning as they watch a work-to-home title sequence that ends with a garage door closing and a character heading for the furniture in front of the TV. The Flintstones was also big on pop-culture allusions and celebrity guest stars—all staples of the later Matt Groening series. Instead of Cary Grant, Ann-Margret, Tony Curtis, and James Darren, audiences encountered Cary Granite, Ann-Margrock, Stony Curtis, and Jimmy Darrock. TV’s Bewitched stars make an appearance, and the Hanna-Barbera writers had fun spinning versions of shows like My Favorite Martian (with the appearance of a little spaceman called The Great Gazoo) and The Munsters and The Addams Family (with their bizarre family The Gruesomes).

The Flintstones also trailblazed the half-hour animated cartoon that took its format from TV sitcoms and would be the lifeblood of The Simpsons years later. The stone-age gadgets were fun for the kids, but adults also enjoyed seeing the Rube Goldberg contraptions that were a part of daily life for this “modern Stone Age family.” Even more fun for adults was the but even more fun was Hanna-Barbera’s riff on the classic ‘50s sitcom The Honeymooners.

The Honeymooners starred Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows as the Cramdens, a New York City couple who palled around with their neighbors, the Nortons (Art Carney and Joyce Randolph). Here we get Fred and Wilma Flintstone, whose neighbors and best friends are Barney and Betty Rubble. As with The Honeymooners, many an episode revolves around a mild battle of the sexes and mishaps that Ralph Cramden and Fred Flintstone get themselves into. Like Ralph, Fred is a bully and a loudmouth, but he’s easily put in his place. In the #MeToo era it’s probably important to mention that the beefy and blustery Ralph, a bus driver by trade, was forever shouting and often threatened to sock his wife. He never did, of course, because Alice knew, as Wilma Flintstone did, that her husband was all bark and no bite. If there’s any hitting that happens, it’s more often the wife or someone else that administers the blow, all for comic effect, of course. The Flintstones softened the gender sparring of The Honeymooners for family audiences, but the sitcom formula was still apparent in every half-hour episode.

No one knows who Alan Reed is, but they’d recognize his voice in a minute as Fred Flintstone. Same with Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma, and Mel Blanc as Barney Rubble and Bea Benaderet (Gerry Johnson in later years) as Betty Rubble.

The 1966 full-length feature The Man Called Flintstone drops Fred in the middle of the kind of spy and criminal mastermind films that were popularized during the decade by the Bond films and other imitators. It’s a solid cartoon parody of the genre. An animated film made after the live-action flops is less successful. The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown! features none of the original voice talents and production crew. More clichéd than clever, with the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon, it lacks the charm of the original series animation.

Today’s savvy youngsters might roll their eyes at the notion of dinosaurs and humans existing at the same time, or humans having small dinosaurs as pets, but anachronisms abound. They’ll quickly appreciate that it’s all in good fantastic fun. What else could you call a show that features people living in stone houses (not a caves) with stone garages and garage doors, a stone couch, and a stone TV that somehow worked without wires or technology? The newspaper was also stone, so when the paper boy tossed it, you’d better duck!

The episodes span such a wide range of topics that there really is something for everyone—including, if you order and receive your copy before Christmas, an episode titled “Christmas Flintstone” in which Fred becomes a department-store Santa so inspirational that the real Santa enlists his help. This is a fun family series to watch together, especially given that kids’ interest in dinosaurs seems to continue generation after generation. What more is there to say except, “Yabba Dabba Doo!”

Entire family: Yes
Run time: 4,217 min. (167 episodes, 2 feature films, Color)
Studio/Distributor: Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 2M (Mono)
Bonus features: C+/B-
Opening Theme Song (Season 3 and after)
Best Buy link (curbside pick-up or 8-day shipping)
Rated TV-G

Language: 0/10—Nothing here at all, unless you count things like “Holy cowasaurus”

Sex: 1/10—Some of the characters (Elizabeth Montgomery as the witch Samantha, for example) are drawn in a way that accentuates sexuality, and there’s one scene at the Water Buffalo Lodge where Fred and Barney’s eyes pop out as they watch dancing girls, but nothing else comes to mind

Violence: 3/10—Mostly comic pratfalls and Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote style cartoon violence, with Fred getting bitten, socked, crushed, or otherwise getting his just desserts for being such a loudmouth; just one episode stands out where Fred actually gets injured as the result of a beating by a robber they are trying to expose—something they do in more than a few episodes

Adult situations: 2/10—Some of the early season episodes feature a few mountain-folk characters smoking, while a later episode with a Western spin has people drinking “cactus juice”—but again, that’s about the level we’re dealing with here

Takeaway: When Hanna-Barbera tried to use the same formula for a futuristic version, The Jetsons, but the show only lasted 75 episodes; clearly, there’s something about prehistoric times that fascinates people, both then and now