Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 15, 2004)
For me, 2004 stacks up as the best year ever for television on DVD. The studios really began to exploit TV shows on DVD a couple of years back, and lots of great stuff emerged since then. However, not until 2004 did we get releases for two of my three favorite series: SCTV and The Flintstones. (We’ve already gotten a few releases for the final member of my top three, The Simpsons, and I’m sure we’ll get more in 2004.)
Like many others, I grew up with The Flintstones. I wasn’t around when it first aired in the Sixties, but it showed up constantly in syndication and always amused me.
My enjoyment of it continued through and past childhood. Indeed, I came to appreciate the series even more as an adult. While it seemed like just one of the animated crowd during my childhood, its sophistication and incisive humor became clearer as I got older. The Flintstones wasn’t aimed at a kiddie crowd, and the rich parodies and insight work better for older audiences.
Without further ado, let’s check out the 28 episodes from Season One of The Flintstones. I’ll examine each of these programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which also corresponds to their airdates. Sometimes these vary, as the shows first aired over a variety of dates. The “P#” after the title relates the episode’s place in the production order; for example, “P2” was the second program completed. The synopses come from a site called “The Flintstones and Hanna-Barbera“ (http://www.topthat.net/webrock) - thanks to them for their permission to use the recaps.
The Flintstone Flyer (P2): "Barney Rubble (voiced by Mel Blanc) builds "The Barney Copter," which Fred Flintstone (Alan Reed) renames "The Flintstone Flyer," and which the boys use to go bowling instead of to the opera with their wives."
It’s no wonder that The Flintstones caught on, as its first episode aired offered a solid piece of work. The program establishes the characters clearly and provides more than a few funny bits. Highlight: the cheesy disguises Fred and Barney use to evade the girls, and the bad German accents they adopt.
Hot Lips Hannigan (P9): "Fred makes Betty Rubble (Bea Benaderet) and Wilma Flintstone (Jean Vander Pyl) disappear (he thinks) in a magic cabinet, and he and Barney join in a hep jam session at the Rockland."
While “Flyer” is good, “Hannigan” soars even higher. Hot Lips himself offers a hilarious parody of hipsters, and Fred’s version of “When the Saints Come Marching In” truly swings. Highlight: Barney’s reading of “could be, Fred – cou-a-hould be”, a phrase that I still use in my own day-to-day speech. (I also loved Fred’s gag in which he uses a trampoline to bounce up to greet Wilma at the second floor dress shop; it’s a hoot to watch as his reactions shift from glee to shock to despair.)
The Swimming Pool (P1): "Fred and Barney build a joint swimming pool
in their backyards, leading to a series of fights prior to a surprise
birthday party for Fred."
As the first episode of The Flintstones produced, “Swimming Pool” merits a place in history. Without that status, would it seem memorable? Yeah, though it doesn’t present a great episode. It provides more than a few funny bits, but it falls short of true greatness. Highlight: the “Do It Yourself Pool Kit”, otherwise known as a shovel.
Footnote: it’s very odd to watch how radically the character designs jumped around during these early episodes. Fred from “Hannigan” looks quite different from Fred from “Pool”, for example. They’d eventually nail down the character models, but it took them a while, as evidenced here. It might be interesting to watch the shows in production order to study their visual evolution.
No Help Wanted (P6): "Fred causes Barney to lose his job, so he helps
him get a new one--as a furniture repossessor. Fred's TV set is first on
A very solid episode, “Wanted” winds up with one of the series’ best sight gags. It doesn’t get much funnier than the vision of Barney running around town inside a TV. Actually, maybe it does get funnier – I love the bit when Fred charges into the store and demands a TV set with human legs. Overall, the program works very well and consistently scores.
Oddities: “Wanted” comes without a laugh track, which offers a pleasant surprise; I wish we could choose to view all of the programs sans canned yuks. “Wanted” also depicts Dino for the first time outside of the credits. The strange part stems from DVD Three’s “The Snorkasaurus Hunter”, the episode that formally introduces our favorite pet dinosaur. (“Hunter” is an odd show in any case, but I’ll discuss that more fully when we get to it.)
The Split Personality (P10): "Knocked on the head by a bottle, Fred
becomes ‘Frederick,’ an irritating fop."
”Frederick, Frederick – I hate Frederick!” Fred’s character was already well established enough for the series to have fun with it, and that creates a lot of laughs during “Personality”. The sight of a snooty, pretentious Fred delights and helps make this a lively, clever and amusing piece. Reed’s condescending tone as Frederick certainly assists in this endeavor. (By the way, Frederick correctly predicts the existence of metrosexuals.)
Today’s bizarre inconsistency: at one point, Betty states, “I can’t even spank our dog.” What dog? As far as I recall, this is the first and only reference to such a critter, and I’m pretty sure we never see a Rubble pet until Hoppy during a later season.
The Monster From the Tar Pits (P14): "Fred is the stunt double in
Gary Granite's latest picture."
The Flintstones sets its sights on the movie business and does so with charming and entertaining results. It mocks all sorts of Hollywood sorts and gives us a wicked look at the absurdity of the film shoot. “Monster” also aptly slams folks with a desperate need to gain fame well before the modern reality TV craze, so it stands as another prescient episode. Highlights: all the hilarious ways the film crew abuse Fred while in character.
The Baby Sitters (P4): "Fred and Barney baby-sit little Egbert and
bring the child to Joe Rockhead's house so they can watch the fights. Joe's
runtosaurus (and all hell) breaks loose."
DVD One’s weakest episode, “Sitters” offers some mild amusement but not much more. All the components for a good show appear, but it simply fails to connect in any real way. It’s a decent program but nothing more than that. Highlight: seeing Alice Blue Jean and Her Magic Banjo pre-empt the big fight on TV.
At the Races (P7): "In order to buy Boulder Dan's billiard parlor,
Fred and Barney turn to gambling. 'Come on, Sabre Tooth!' they plead.
'DOOON'T bet on the races!' advises a fellow spectator."
Any show that opens with a surreal moment like Fred’s impossible pool shot – one in which the ball rolls up his arm and through his cranium – must be a good one. Indeed, “Races” provides a lot of fun. It follows a fairly predictable path, but it infuses the story with a lot of quirky touches and becomes a fine show.
The Engagement Ring (P5): "Barney buys a ring for Betty, Fred hides
it, and Wilma finds it--and thinks it's meant for her. Now Barney has to fight the champ to raise $500."
Sometimes the romantic relationships in The Flintstones seem awfully strained; just look at Wilma’s cynicism in “At the Races” for proof of that. As such, when we see the various participants demonstrate their underlying affection here, it comes across as refreshing and charming. The show doesn’t skimp on good gags too, such as when Fred takes silly measures to find the ring.
Hollyrock, Here I Come (P12): "Wilma and Betty win a slogan contest,
leading to a trip to Hollyrock and (indirectly) to a new TV show called 'The
”Hollyrock” easily qualifies as one of the great episodes. Even if the rest of it stunk, the wussy-voiced actor originally cast as the Frogmouth would make the show wonderful. “Hollyrock” includes much more than that, though, as it tosses out a non-stop level of hilarity. Heck, even Wilma’s idea for an advertising slogan – “Mother Maguire’s Meatballs don’t bounce” – is a winner. “Hollyrock” may well be the best show in this set.
The Golf Champion (P15): "Barney won't let Fred keep his golf trophy
because he hasn't paid his lodge dues."
Not surprisingly, “Champion” fails to match up with the marvelous “Hollyrock”, but it has its moments. The feud between Barney and Fred presents many opportunities for funny bits. The show seems a little too much like the third act of “No Help Wanted” at times, but it’s still a good program.
The Sweepstakes Ticket (P16): "Fred and Barney buy a lottery ticket
and hide it in an old coat; Wilma and Betty buy one and hide it in a coffee
pot. Confusion ensues."
Another great show, “Ticket” presents many great bits. We hear Barney’s recitation of his absurdly long lucky number and see a lot of other fine pieces. Overall, it’s another classic.
The Drive-In (P8): "The boys buy a diner without telling the wives,
but have difficulty keeping their secret when the 'burger on a bun' girls
show up at Fred's house."
The laughs keep on coming with this excellent show. The forceful “Charlie and Irving” are a riot; I challenge anyone to watch this episode and not sing their jingle for days afterward. In addition, I love a program that talks about the fiscal issues of restaurants and how the owners have to buy tons of parsley no one will use to get a deal. It’s a lot of fun.
The Prowler (P3): "Betty and Wilma want to take Judo lessons to
defend themselves against a neighborhood burglar."
Some may slam this episode for its not-too-PC depiction of the Asian judo teacher, but this works innocently enough. Still, it’s a little embarrassing to see, and the rest of “Prowler” seems somewhat lackluster. The show tosses out some mildly amusing moments but falls flat in general; it’s the weakest program on DVD Two.
The Girls' Night Out (P13): "Fred cuts a record at an amusement park
and becomes teen singing idol Hi-Fye."
Though it seems a little too reminiscent of Fred’s brief popularity as a singer in the “Hannigan” episode, “Out” remains a fine show. I love Fred’s rendition of “Listen to the Rocking Bird”, and the parody of Elvis and Colonel Tom offers a lot of solid moments. It’s another great program.
Series oddity of the day: Wilma and Betty act like they never go anywhere or do anything. Huh? Just a few episodes ago, they went out for a fancy dinner, and they spent a week in Hollyrock too!
Arthur Quarry's Dance Class (P20): "Fred and Barney take dance
lessons, using Joe Rockhead's Volunteer Fire Department as a front."
You have to love a series willing to make fun of its own inconsistencies, something that happens here. The program acknowledges the absurdity of a fire department in a town made of stone. It also reminds us of the affection the guys have for the wives, as they work to learn to dance so they can make the women happy. The dancing pieces provide the laughs in this good episode.
The Big Bank Robbery (P19): "Fred and Barney intercept $86,000 in
stolen loot, and are soon wanted by both the police and the real robbers."
”Robbery” stands as a genial and generally amusing show but not one that stands out from the crowd. It seems a little “high concept” at times, though it does include some great moments like Barney’s experience in the pterodactyl nest. The show seems fun but not special.
The Snorkasaurus Hunter (P11): "On a hunting trip, the gang encounter
a fast-moving, fast-talking snorkasaurus. Fred and Barney try to catch him
”Hunter” goes down as a weird episode for a number of reasons. For one, it introduces Dino even though we saw him in earlier shows. In addition, Dino talks here, though he’d never speak again. Nonetheless, “Hunter” provides a very entertaining show. I’m glad Dino didn’t yak in later episodes – that conceit would have gotten old – but it’s fun to see here, and the program milks those opportunities for all they’re worth.
The Hot Piano (P18): "Fred buys a piano from 88 Fingers Louie as an
anniversary present for Wilma."
Another excellent show, “Piano” once again demonstrates Fred’s attempts to show his affection for Wilma. As usual, things go wrong, but the program remains warm and charming. Fred’s interactions with the haughty piano store salesman are priceless, as is his duet with Barney. Heck, even the name “88 Fingers Louie” is cool and clever.
The Hypnotist (P17): "Inspired by the Great Mesmo, Fred accidentally
hypnotizes Barney into thinking he's a dog. Barney runs off and winds up in
Chalk this one up as another classic. If nothing else, the show would be memorable for Fred’s confused explanation of various scientific conceits and Wilma’s vicious put-down: “Fred couldn’t explain a can opener”. (I still use that one myself.) Barney’s transformation into a dog also works well and helps make this a terrific show.
Unusual occurrence: at one point Wilma refers to Fred and Barney as “Einstein and company”. What’s weird about that? It’s weird to hear a person referred to without as change of name into something rock related – especially when the name could be so easily altered, since “Einstein” would become “Einstone”.
Love Letters on the Rocks (P21): "Fred finds a love letter to Wilma and hires Perry Gunite, a private eye."
Due to this episode, to this day, I occasionally refer to girlfriends’ “eye so black like frying pans”. (This may be why I’m still single.) It’s fun to hear of Fred’s mushier days and see his jealous side, especially since this puts Wilma in the unusual position of being the one with something to hide. “Rocks” isn’t one of the best shows, but it’s generally positive.
The Tycoon (P22): "Fred trades places with J. L. Gotrocks, his rich double."
The Flintstones tends to remake the same plot many times, and we’ll see more shows in future years with Flintstone doppelgangers. None of them live up to the original, which presents some great moments. I love the way it simplifies the business process, and it also demonstrates an unusual – for the series, at least – flashback structure. It’s a terrific show.
The Astra' Nuts (P23): "The boys accidentally enlist in the Army and are recruited for a top-secret moon launch."
The Flintstones always liked to place then-modern concepts back in the Stone Age, so despite the extreme implausibility of space flight in the prehistoric times, that program was too prominent at the time for the series to ignore. Overall, however, this is a pretty ordinary show. The concept of Fred and Barney in the Army offers a mix of possibilities, but the program doesn’t exploit them terribly well. It’s not a bad episode, though, just an average one.
The Long, Long Weekend (P24): "The Flintstones and Rubbles visit the hotel owned by Fred's old friend Gus "Smoothie" Gravel and end up as the only members of the hotel staff just as the Water Buffalo convention rolls into town."
Another episode in which Betty and Wilma complain that they never go anywhere? Geez, they really do whine a lot! “Weekend” suffers from the lack of much plot. Mostly it meanders as the gang do vacation activities, all while we wait for Gus to lower the boom.
In the Dough (P25): "Wilma and Betty's Flint Rubble Double Bubble Cake makes them finalists in a bake-off, but Fred and Barney must assume their identities when the wives get the measles."
This show presents our first look at Fred and Barney in drag, and it’s a darned fine program. The “Gookie Cookies” ad parodies are hilarious, and the climax in which the boys try to bake the cake offers many funny bits. Chalk this one up as a solid show.
The Good Scout (P26): "Fred and Barney lead a Boy Scout troop into danger."
At its best, The Flintstones displayed a nasty insouciance and a certain tone of cynicism. Those elements fail to appear in “Scout”, which suffers from a serious case of the cutesies. Granted, it’s not as adorable as some episodes from later seasons once Pebbles comes into the picture, but it’s nonetheless a lackluster program.
Rooms for Rent (P27): "Wilma and Betty take in music students as lodgers."
”Rent” rebounds from the bland “Scout”, but not to an enormous degree. The lodgers present provocative enough characters to cause friction with Fred and Barney, and that lends the show some fun moments. Otherwise, it offers a fairly unspectacular program.
Bizarre mess-up: at one point, we hear Betty read a line, but Wilma’s lips move!
Fred Flintstone: Before and After (P28): "Fred's appearance in a Fat Off Reducing Method commercial leads to his joining Food Anonymous."
Never in the annals of TV have we found another character as annoying as the leader of Food Anonymous. With his whiny voice and self-righteous demeanor, he really gets on my nerves. However, that works for the show, and it helps make the program delightfully entertaining. It’s simply fun to watch Fred’s stages of fat denial and attempts to lose weight.
Since I’ve loved The Flintstones most of my life, I didn’t need to be sold on these shows. It was pretty much a given that I’d enjoy them. However, I was somewhat surprised just how much I liked them. I figured that we’d get a mix of good, average, and flat shows, but the truth is that the good overwhelm the set and only a few moderate duds appear. Actually, I can’t name a single genuine clunker here, as even the weakest episodes still have their moments. For the series’ first season, The Flintstones maintained an almost shockingly high level of quality across its 28 shows.