Judge Patrick Bromley can't wait for the Jabberjaw Christmas special.
A Yabba-Dabba-HO-HO-HO time!
I've always been a fan of The Flintstones, even after I realized somewhat later in life that the show is just The Honeymooners with a lot of bad prehistoric puns. I don't know if it was the animation that drew me in, or if it was the characters or the writing. Maybe the laugh track. What I'm saying is that I dig The Flintstones, and that I had every hope my affection for the show would carry over to the newly-released A Flintstone Christmas Collection. It did not.
A quick glance online reveals that there's a very vocal group of people who object to these Flintstones Christmas specials because it means that there is a Christmas in Bedrock—which is to say that there's a holiday celebrating the birth of Christ in the years Before Christ. Those people are right. That's a fallacy in the Flintstones universe. There was also no Cary Grant and no Ann-Margaret. TVs weren't powered by dinosaurs. Also, there were no TVs. What I'm saying is that poking holes in the logical realism of a Flintstone Christmas special may not be the best way to spend one's time.
So, taking A Flintstone Christmas Collection on its own terms, how is it? Not all that great, to be honest. Made up of two separate programs, 1977's "A Flintstone Christmas" and "A Flintstone Family Christmas" from 1993, it's a DVD that exists only for Flintstone completists or viewers with some sort of nostalgic fondness for having seen them on TV so many years ago. Part of the problem may be that the specials were made long after the show had ended its run, making them less of a piece with the series than some sort of approximation of what made it special in the first place. Sure, the voice talents have changed, but that's not really the issue; it's that the feeling of the cartoon is off. The familiar characters are there, sure (and have even aged during the off years—the kids, at least), but the spirit isn't quite the same.
The first of the two programs, "A Flintstone Christmas," is the better of the two, in which Fred is tasked by his boss, Mr. Slate, to play Santa Claus at the Christmas Party. Trouble is, the real Santa is injured and Fred and Barney need to take over his route and deliver all the presents in time for the party (so, yes, it's just like most classic Christmas specials from animated series of the '70s and '80s in that it requires a familiar character to fill in for Saint Nick). There's some of that old Flintstones magic in the special, requiring Fred and Barney to try and pull off too many things at one time—though usually it's more along the lines of sneaking in a round of bowling without their wives knowing, but that's pretty much just like being Santa.
The second special, 1993's "A Flinstone Family Christmas," is less successful (though it was nominated for an Emmy in 1994). This time around, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are married with kids and are heading home for the holidays (on an airplane, no less; The Flintstones can have air travel but they can't have Christmas). While awaiting their arrival, Fred and Barney are mugged by a little hoodlum named Stoney, who causes the pair all kinds of trouble at Christmas. Fred and Wilma make it their mission to take the kid in and teach him how to be good. That's pretty much it. The morals and lessons are fine, but there's so much misery and '90s-inspired nonsense that "A Flintstone Family Christmas" is almost totally bereft of joy. With his earring, his backward hat and his smartass attitude, Stoney is a terrible character—the "Poochie" of the Flintstone universe. Plus, there's so much talk of foster homes and characters being arrested and spending time in jail that the special ends up mired in negativity. It's not what anyone wants to be feeling around the holidays.
A Flintstone Christmas Collection arrives on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection, which is a special manufacture-on-demand line of releases; instead of being mass produced, the title is professionally burned onto DVD as needed. This is great in theory—it means that studios can release more esoteric titles without having to shell out a bunch of money for a massive run—but not always in practice, if only because the quality isn't up to Warner Bros.' usual standards of quality. Both programs are presented in their original 1.33:1 full frame television aspect ratio, and look a lot like someone burned a copy of their taped-off-TV VHS onto DVD. Colors are drab and muted and the whole thing looks kind of fuzzy and out of focus; for fans desperate to own these specials on DVD, it's adequate, but anyone else is probably going to be disappointed. The mono audio track is serviceable, roughly in line with the quality of the video presentation. There are no bonus features included.
As a fan of both the original cartoon series and animated TV Christmas specials, I wanted nothing more than to like A Flintstone Family Christmas Collection. While it didn't hurt my affection for the show, it didn't really remind me why I liked it in the first place, either. These specials are innocuous and forgettable. They're holiday filler, meant to be included in a two-hour block of programming rather than intentionally dug out and watched every Christmas. The Flintstones did their own Christmas episodes during the original series run, anyway. Watch those instead.
Yabba Dabba don't? I'm so sorry.
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