Clearly, Judge Dennis Prince had to go all the way back to the Stone Age to find reasonably mannered teenagers. What sort of sad statement on our society is that?
If the 1960s proved to be the decade of imaginative and innovative television programming, then the 1970s emerged to effectively "leverage" from what had been tried and true before. This was the dawn of the spin-off and producers were actively seeking to extend the life and longevity of what they had succeeded in prior. For the young audiences, they were served up a multitude of programs that merely parlayed recognizable characters from the past (most exposure coming by way of syndicated reruns) to cash in on the sugared-cereal generation. The Flintstones needed little introduction in 1971 since youngsters were eagerly watching repeat episodes as part of daily after-school fare. Recognizing an easy win, Hanna-Barbera astutely plucked the toddlers of the original show, Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble, from their playpens and brought them forward about fifteen years to enable teenaged endeavors amid their barely evolving Stone Age setting.
Very much like The Flinstones itself, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show was built upon the foundation of hair-brained schemes and half-witted hi-jinks. Pebbles (voiced by All in the Family's Sally Struthers) is an energetic young girl who's long on ideas but a bit short on good reasoning. Whether she's looking to seize money-making opportunities, aid an unwilling friend, or just assure the Bedrock High football team will win the big game, Pebbles typically bungles the situation despite her generally altruistic intent and excited outbursts of "Yabba-dabba doozie!" She enjoys a platonic relationship with still-neighbor Bamm-Bamm (voiced by Jay North, television's original Dennis the Menace). Although he used to be the strongest baby in the world, Bamm-Bamm appears to have completely lost his remarkable strength, perhaps a temporary situation that may have been reversed when his gonads descended (either naturally or via surgical intervention). There's no explanation for his loss of strength just as there's none offered for his apparent loss of self-assertion. Routinely, Bamm-Bamm bemoans the schemes of Pebbles but never finds a way to divert her sensibilities nor extract himself from her meddlesome miscues. This, of course, sets the stage for the hilarity that will ultimately ensue. The two are flanked by a group of bubbly teen friends including the supportive Penny (Mitzi McCall, Match Game '74, astrologically inclined Wiggy (Gay Hartwig), and scientifically astute Moonrock (Lennie Weinrib). Inter-social complications arise at the hands of a bike gang, the Bronto Bunch, led by the fair-haired Bronto (Weinrib again), snobbish socialite Cindy (Hartwig again), and dour and unwittingly destructive Bad Luck Schleprock (Don Messick, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?).
As for its entertainment value, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show is actually one of the better shows to come out of the 1970s Saturday morning lineup. Although it heavily leverages its predecessor, including the regular featuring of Fred, Barney, Wilma, and Betty, it managed to entertain the pre-teens of the day with silly adventures that can still be enjoyed by youngsters today. As it was produced and aired before the irreparable impositions of the Action for Children's Television (ACT) group, it managed to deliver a final dose of fun without the prescribed preaching that would condemn violence and assert values of ecology. While the ACT group had begun its self-righteous crusade several years earlier, somehow The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm show evaded tampering. Mind you, the show was hardly offensive or off-color, a situation that likely helped it avoid the obnoxious impact of ACT.
A single season of P&B-B was produced, delivering 16 original episodes, each running about 21 minutes in length (allowing for commercials and the CBS-sponsored In the News segments within a thirty-minute broadcast slot).
All in all, it's a fun nostalgic romp with the emerging Bedrock generation that parlays some of the better aspects from the original Flinstones series while astutely angling the antics to the up-and-comers of the 1970s.
Unfortunately, not all uncovered artifacts can be resurrected without discovering some level of decay and The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show certainly shows its age on this two-DVD set. As with previous Hanna-Barbera TV releases, there has been little effort expended to clean up the image presentation, so be prepared to see significant evidence of the imperfect cell animation process. You'll see plenty of specks and smudges and other visual inconsistencies inherent to the acetate overlay process. Some will argue this is desirable, though, as it captures the actual state of the animation art of the day; that's an acceptable argument and certainly welcome among purists of vintage cartoon productions. Problematic, though, is the level of artificial detail enhancement that has been utilized in preparing these transfers, so bad that the image is severely afflicted by a sharpening mask that introduces unnatural texture within the painted areas, highlighting every macro-blocking artifact that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. This is a shame, really, because the colors are quite vibrant. Edges also have a severe halo effect such that you'll be inclined to believe you're viewing the shows via an ancient pair of rabbit ears. Audio is delivered via a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono track, which is suitable for the content, although the fidelity wavers quite frequently (especially the noticeable audio drop within the opening titles). As for extras, you'll find four additional Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm episodes culled from 1972's The Flinstone Comedy Hour. These suffer the same video and audio shortcomings as described above and, sadly, are taken out of context of the show in which they appeared (a better idea would have been to present the entire content of the hour-long show rather than merely extract the P&B-B content). Notice, also, that Sally Struthers and Jay North did not stay on to voice their characters in this subsequent programming, replaced by Russi Taylor and Michael Sheehan, respectively.
In the end, it's great to see Hanna-Barbera continue in its efforts to reunite yesterday's youth with the cartoon programming of its day and The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show is a welcome addition to the growing selection of vintage Saturday morning entertainment. Although it's disappointing to see the mishandling of the material as noted, it's certainly better to have this program on DVD than not.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Four bonus episodes from The Flintstones Comedy Hour
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