Obvious joke alert: Will Judge Paul Corupe say this set is a yabba-dabba-do, or a yabba-dabba-don't?
Our reviews of The Flintstones: The Complete First Season (published April 27th, 2004), 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 modern stone-age family!
Animation? In prime-time? It's hard to believe there was a period when this very concept was considered radical, a time before The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Family Guy made cartoons not only acceptable, but also highly successful weeknight rituals. Without The Flintstones, however, none of these shows would have been possible. In 1960, Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones became the first cartoon to break free from the Saturday morning ghetto, proof positive to skeptical network executives that animated programs were indeed capable of drawing an adult audience.
Hanna-Barbera frequently borrowed the personalities of famous comedians for their cartoons, from Doggie Daddy's obvious resemblance to Jimmy Durante to the Phil Silvers-inspired Top Cat, but The Flintstones ambitiously mimicked an entire show, the popular Jackie Gleason sitcom The Honeymooners. Combining familiar sitcom conventions with slapstick antics and goofy caveman gags for the kids, The Flintstones became a huge success—an innovative cartoon show that changed the face of the industry.
Facts of the Case
With a heart almost as big as his mouth, stone-age construction worker Fred Flintstone (Alan Reed, Breakfast at Tiffany's) lives in the town of Bedrock with his patient, understanding wife Wilma (Jean Vander Pyl, The Jetsons). They spend much of their time with their next door neighbors, Fred's best friend, the affable Barney Rubble (Mel Blanc, The Jack Benny Program, and Daws Butler, The Yogi Bear Show, who handles six episodes voiced after Blanc was in a car accident this season) and his demure wife Betty (Bea Benaderet, The Beverly Hillbillies). Fred and Barney's schemes to make a little extra money on the side or to sneak out for an extra game of bowling invariably go wrong, often through comic misunderstandings, and when the boys are up to their stubble in deep dinosaur doo-doo, it's usually up to Wilma and Betty to scoop them out.
All 32 episodes from The Flintstones' second season are here in broadcast order, spread over four discs—three single-sided, and one flipper. Here's what you get:
• The Hit Song Writers
• Droop Along Flintstone
• The Missing Bus
• Alvin Brickrock Presents
• Fred Flintstone Woos Again
• The Rock Quarry Story
• The Soft Touchables
• Flintstone of Prinstone
• The Little White Lie
• Social Climbers
• The Beauty Contest
• The Masquerade Ball
• The Picnic
• The House Guest
• The X-Ray Story
• The Gambler
• A Star is Almost Born
• The Entertainer
• Wilma's Vanishing Money
• Fuedin' and Fussin'
• Impractical Joker
• Operation Barney
• The Happy Household
• Fred Strikes Out
• This is Your Lifesaver
• The Mailman Cometh
• The Rock Vegas Story
• Divided We Sail
• Kleptomaniac Caper
• Latin Lover
• Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Even after the first successful season of The Flintstones, few figured that the prime-time animation trend would last. Of course, it didn't—following up their groundbreaking show proved to be impossible for Hanna-Barbera, and subsequent attempts to create another "adult" hit—Top Cat, Jonny Quest, and even the The Jetsons—made bigger splashes when they were scaled back to Saturday morning for the Sugar Smacks set. When Fred, Barney, Wilma, and Betty returned for a second season in 1961, however, Hanna-Barbera was riding high on The Flintstones' trailblazing first season, and they began to expand the show past its Honeymooners roots to become a pop culture phenomenon in its own right.
The collision of modern convenience with prehistoric practicality had always produced some of the best gags in the show, and The Flintstones' clever dinosaur/appliance amalgams were fan favorites. Knowing this, Hanna-Barbera began to tailor some of the show's stories as crude, caveman parodies of then-popular films and TV programs. While almost all of the plots in the second season are time-tested, classic sitcom fare—overplayed misunderstandings, embarrassing turns of fate, and pratfalls—a few episodes like "Alvin Brickrock Presents" and "The Soft Touchables" broke with the conventions relied upon so heavily in the first season to herald a more satirical future for the show.
To this end, the second season also saw the introduction of guest stars into the fold, starting with famed songwriter Hoagy Carmichael (who amazingly gets to keep his own name). Carmichael was followed in subsequent seasons by luminaries including Ann Margrock (Ann Margaret) and Stony Curtis (Tony Curtis). Fans of the show will also be pleased to find several recurring secondary personalities were added this season, including paperboy Arnold and Fred's nosy mother-in-law. Other characters are locked into their final incarnations, including Dino, Fred's boss Mr. Slate, and Fred and Barney's ubiquitous second choice for best friend, Joe Rockhead.
The episodes presented on this DVD look about as good as they do on other Hanna-Barbera releases: good, but not great. By this time, it's starting to become obvious that this is probably as clean as these old animated shows are going to look on DVD, so get used to the noticeable layer of grain, as well as dirt, scratches, and other source artifacts that frequently show up throughout the set. Color, though, is excellent. Much like the picture quality, the sound is unremarkable but reliable. As a mono TV soundtrack from the 1960s, there are no dynamics to speak of and the music and dialogue occasionally seem a little flat, but Warner Bros. has at least presented them clearly, with minimal distortion. Those that have the first set of The Flintstones will find Season Two much on par with the earlier release.
We've seen an evolution in the quality of the extras presented on these Hanna-Barbera box sets since they first started coming out about a year ago, from throwaway bits meant for kids to commentaries and documentaries on more recent releases. The stone-age extras presented on The Flintstones: Season Two are a distinct improvement over the Season One set, but I can't help feeling they still have a little work to do to push these sets to the very top of the slag heap. Warner Bros. seems to have finally figured out the appropriate types of extras that fans want to see here, but the quality just isn't consistent.
Headlining this set is "Carved in Stone: The Flintstones Phenomena," a twenty-minute documentary about the series, with a little extra focus given to the second season. Featuring interviews with artists like Jerry Eisenberg and Iwao Takamoto along with bona fide historians Earl Kress and Scott Shaw, it's quite simply the informative documentary that was glaringly omitted from the first season set. "The Hit Songwriter," "The Beauty Contest," and "The Happy Household" episodes also feature commentary tracks with Eisenberg, Kress, and Shaw, but they're kind of a mixed bag. Unlike with the documentary, the guys initially seem unsure of what to talk about, but eventually they settle down, sharing a wealth of anecdotes.
"Songs of the Flintstones" presents a vintage 1960s novelty album of skits and songs, featuring the original voice actors. This probably won't get too many spins in your DVD player, but it's a nice addition that helps illustrate how big The Flintstones phenomenon really was. As with the first season, this set features another batch of old black and white TV commercials that have the Flintstones and the Rubbles shilling One-A-Day Vitamins, Welch's Grape Jelly, Kitchen Rich Cookies, and Carnation Evaporated Milk. The most inconsequential piece here is "How to Draw Fred Flintstone," an absurd featurette leftover from Hanna-Barbera's VHS release days that's supposed to teach kids how to emulate their favorite cartoon artists. Likewise, the unessential "Flintstones Art" shows off a few heavily notated test drawings and production sketches that are worth one look, but nothing more.
Season Two of The Flintstones manages to maintain the sitcom dynamics that made the show popular in the first place while expanding the prehistoric humor into new territory. In the show's subsequent four seasons, The Flintstones imitated its sitcom forefathers perhaps a little too much by introducing character and story arcs—wholly unnecessary changes that went against the main advantage of animated prime time shows, that characters aren't required to age or grow in any visible way. Thankfully, these episodes are definitely vintage Flintstones material, long before the addition of increasingly silly characters had Fred and Wilma finally jump the snorkasaurus. Warner Brothers has put together another well-packaged set here, and they've made a much better effort in offering special features that will actually appeal to fans of the show.
Not guilty, but Wilma is hereby ordered to leave a house key outside for Fred for when he puts the cat out each night.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
Review content copyright © 2005 Paul Corupe; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.