Insert juvenile joke about Judge Bill Treadway having a "gay old time" here.
Our reviews of The Flintstones: The Complete Second Season (published February 16th, 2005), The Flintstones: The Complete Third Season (published May 19th, 2005), The Flintstones: The Complete Fourth Season (published December 14th, 2005), The Flintstones: The Complete Fifth Season (published May 17th, 2006), The Flintstones: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 11th, 2006), and The Flintstones: Prime-Time Specials Collection, Volume 1 (published November 1st, 2012) are also available.
They're a page right out of history!
Yabba dabba doo! At long last, after many years in the planning, The Flintstones are finally available on DVD! Does the classic series still stand the test of time? Or will it remain in the stone age forever?
Facts of the Case
Everyone knows the basic story, but for the uninitiated, here goes:
In the small town of Bedrock lives Fred Flintstone. He is an obnoxious loudmouth with a heart of gold. He lives with his wife Wilma. Living next door are their best friends the Rubbles. Barney is a sweet guy who tries hard to please Fred but often infuriates him. Betty is a chatterbox who often schemes with Wilma to shop till they drop or trick the boys into taking them out or buying some baubles.
A Light Backstory
The year was 1958. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera had produced their final Tom and Jerry short for MGM. The strain of producing enough CinemaScope shorts (which made the animation process twice as long as normal) to meet the high demand had taken its on the creative duo. They decided to leave theatrical animation altogether and try their hand with television. After a moderate success with the Ruff N' Ready Show, the duo was ready to try their hand at a prime time series. They made a deal with ABC; all they needed was a program. In 1959, a Belgian animation unit (that would later make the cult classic Pinocchio in Outer Space) tried their hand with a half-hour pilot titled The Flagstones. Hanna and Barbera did not like the end product, so a new approach was taken with the next pilot. Eventually, the show we know and love today was born and became an immediate success (by 1960s standards, that is).
Many have made a point of the similarity to the classic Jackie Gleason program The Honeymooners. I will not dwell on this well-known and exploited comparison. What I will talk about is the individual quality of the animated series itself. The animation was deceptively simple and low-key. To make it elaborate and fancy would distract from the sharp wit and humor of the scripts (often penned by Michael Maltese, responsible for some of the finest Looney Tunes stories). This is a program about comedy, made by and for those of you who can appreciate a different, more subtle type of comedy.
In addition to the strong scripts, the vocal talent makes The Flintstones really shine. Alan Reed remains the definitive Fred Flintstone; his tone and delivery make the snappy dialogue and witty humor work to its best advantage. Mel Blanc, the well-renowned "Man of a Thousand Voices," is a delight as Barney Rubble; like Reed, he knows how to deliver a hilarious joke in a serious, straight manner. Jean Vander Pyl and Bea Benaderet are the perfect foils for Reed and Blanc.
What is Different about The Flintstones in the First Season:
• Fred is fatter and dumpier looking than he would be in later
All 28 episodes from the first season are presented complete and uncut on four discs. From a scale of zero to five Dinos:
"The Flintstone Flyer"
"Hot Lips Hannigan"
"The Swimming Pool"
"No Help Wanted"
"The Split Personality"
"The Monster from the Tar Pits"
"The Baby Sitters"
"At the Races"
"The Engagement Ring"
"Hollyrock, Here I Come"
"The Golf Champion"
"The Sweepstakes Ticket"
"Girls' Night Out"
"Arthur Quarry's Dance Class"
"The Big Bank Robbery"
"The Snorkasaurus Hunter"
"The Hot Piano"
"Love Letters on the Rocks"
"The Astra' Nuts"
"The Long, Long Weekend"
"In the Dough"
"The Good Scout"
"Rooms for Rent"
"Fred Flintstone: Before and After"
Warner Bros presents the show in a full frame transfer. The condition of the prints is barely better than what you catch on cable. Grain is present throughout, especially during the opening and closing credits. Scratches and specks appear throughout. Hot white lines rear their ugly heads periodically. Smudges and dark grime often appear on the characters. Warner should have given these episodes a full restoration as they did with the Looney Tunes shorts. While I concede that some of these defects are permanent, the grime and grain would have certainly been alleviated greatly from a clean-up effort. The only saving grace of the transfer is the color, bold and beautiful at all times.
The audio is a slight improvement. A simple Dolby Digital 1.0 mono mix is provided for all 28 episodes. Overall, the mix is quite pleasant. Dialogue and music are balanced quite nicely throughout. Some light crackling noises and loud pops are disorienting and prevent me from giving a higher score.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Since The Flintstones is a beloved, immortal program, you would think that Warner Bros. would come up with some worthwhile extras for this commemorative set. Wrong! They all turned out to be a series of bitter disappointments. The first featurette, entitled All About the Flintstones, is a bust. For starters, it's too brief to offer any groundbreaking information. What information they do offer has already been heard before. The second featurette, Wacky Inventions, is a cut-and-paste job. The bizarre inventions featured in the series have been assembled into a seven-minute featurette and backed with narration and music. After you have finished watching 28 episodes, you do not want to see a mere pastiche. I would have preferred a well-researched documentary instead of these two pieces of fluff.
The keystone of the package is The Flagstones, the long-lost pilot. Alas, it is not the infamous 1959 Belgian-made pilot, but three minutes of test footage. The footage is in very rough shape, with tons of test marks and scratches. I admit that it is interesting to note the minor differences, both vocally and visually. However, by claiming this footage is the lost pilot, they have committed a bait-and-switch.
Vintage television commercials and promotional spots featuring our favorite Bedrock citizens are the high point of the set. Some segments are in black-and-white (as the series itself was transmitted in 1960) and several are missing the original soundtrack. After watching them, I was left scratching my head at the omission of the infamous "Winston Cigarette Break" commercial (especially since an Entertainment Weekly review of this box set claimed it was included).
Commentary tracks on favorite episodes are becoming all the rage. Why not include a track on select episodes?
The retail price of $64.99 makes it difficult to recommend this set as a blind buy. Die-hard fans will have no problem plunking down their hard-earned dough. However, the lack of restoration and meager extras make it hard to justify spending so much money on this set. I'd definitely recommend waiting for the price to drop before making this set a part of your collection.
The series itself is found not guilty of all charges. Warner Bros. is urged to go the extra mile and finance a lengthy restoration of all Flintstones episodes. They are also sentenced to the same "Extras 101" class to which I often send the tardy studios.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• All About the Flintstones Featurette
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