Judge Paul Corupe wonders if The Great Gazoo has the power to make himself disappear.
Our reviews of The Flintstones: The Complete First Season (published April 27th, 2004), 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), and The Flintstones: Prime-Time Specials Collection, Volume 1 (published November 1st, 2012) are also available.
Animation? In prime-time? It's hard to believe there was a time when this very concept was considered radical. A time before The Simpsons, King of the Hill and The Family Guy made cartoons not only acceptable, but also highly successful, weeknight rituals. Without The Flintstones, none of these shows would have been possible. In 1960, Hanna-Barbera's flagship show 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. It was an innovative cartoon show that changed the face of the industry in a groundbreaking six-year run.
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 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. 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. If they're too busy taking care of the kids, the always adorable Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, the prehistoric pals can always turn for help to The Great Gazoo (Harvey Korman, Blazing Saddles), a bright green, temperamental alien who can grant wishes.
All 26 half-hour episodes from The Flintstones sixth and final season are here in broadcast order, spread over four discs-three single-sided, and one flipper. Here's what you get:
• "The House That Fred Built"
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. 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 milk-and-cereal set.
After constantly tinkering with its formula throughout its five seasons, The Flintstones finally jumped the Sharkasaurus in 1965. With the third season birth of Fred and Wilma's daughter Pebbles, the fourth season addition of the Rubble's son Bamm-Bamm, and the introduction of those kooky next-door monsters the Gruesomes the previous year, the writers found they had painted themselves into a stone-age corner. They were forced to come up with a memorable gimmick to keep the show alive and viewers interested. Arriving in the seventh episode, the green-skinned, exiled, alien scientist The Great Gazoo was sent to the rescue. He was assigned to serve Fred and Barney by snapping his fingers and giving them anything they want—most of the time, anyway. A controversial addition to the show to say the least, Gazoo did effectively mix up the dynamics of the plots in an astounding 10 out of 26 episodes on the set—but rarely for the better. With limitless powers, he was often invoked just to throw a wrench into Fred and Barney's plans, and the season six writers rely far too heavily on the character to spice up the frequently flagging plots. Though I won't go so far as to say that Gazoo precipitated the show's end, his presence certainly didn't help matters much.
Gazoo aside, the reliance on classic sitcom plots continued in season six, though they are nicely balanced by some truly off-the-wall cartoons that had been began to play a bigger part in the show since the fourth season. We get another round of left-field storytelling on such episodes as "Rip Van Flintstone," in which Fred wakes up in the future to discover Barney is a millionaire, or "Seeing Doubles," a show that has Gazoo create doppelgangers of the caveman pals so they can go bowling while still entertaining their wives. Likewise, popular culture, movies and television were still prehistorically parodied in episodes like "The Treasure of Sierra Madrock," "My Fair Freddy," and "The Stonefinger Caper," a James Bond spoof. One of the strangest episodes the show ever ran also popped up this season: "Samantha" was a crossover episode with Bewitched that featured Bedrock versions of Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York promoting their new show.
Despite the addition of Gazoo and the increasing redundancy that had crept into the show in its last few years, the sixth season still features some series highlights. "No Biz Like Show Biz" is the well-loved episode in which Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm become big recording stars, and "The Return of Stony Curtis" has one of the show's most famous (faked) guest stars return. Also of note are "The Masquerade Party," where Fred's space alien costume is mistaken for the real thing, and the always hilarious dance-craze-skewering "Shinrock-A-Go-Go."
The shows presented on this DVD look about as good as they do on other Hanna-Barbera releases: good, but not great. 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 Brothers has at least presented them clearly, with minimal distortion. Those that have the earlier sets of The Flintstones will find Season Sixr much on par with the earlier releases.
We've seen an evolution in the quality of the extras presented on these Hanna-Barbera box sets since they first started coming out, from throwaway bits meant for kids to commentaries and documentaries on more recent releases. The stone-age extras presented on The Flintstones: Season Six, however, are the most inconsequential yet. "The Great Gazoo-From A to Zetox" is a brief piece hosted by animation expert Earl Kress that explains everything you want to know about magical green aliens, while "The Flintstones Meet Pop Culture" has Stephen Baldwin (Stephen Baldwin?!!) explaining how the show was, like, totally influential. It's an extremely fluffy doc that touches on lots of things already covered in the features on the previous Flintstones releases, and it has little value for anybody with even a passing knowledge of the show-a big disappointment.
Despite a handful of solid episodes, season six of The Flintstones is probably one of the weakest years overall for Fred and the gang, but that's not going to stop any DVD collectors who have already splurged on the first five volumes—even if Warner Brothers did drop the boulder on the special features…
As always, this set is definitely a dabba-do time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• The Great Gazoo-From A to Zetox
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