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'The Flintstones' - The TV Series

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Flintstones, meet the Flintstones...

A whole generation of children grew up enjoying the antics of a cartoon Stone Age family and their friendly next-door neighbours. The Flintstones was created by animation legends William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, and the characters have since become some of the most well-known in popular culture.

Taking its inspiration from popular sitcoms (notably The Honeymooners, one of the biggest sitcoms on American TV at that time), The Flintstones was one of the first cartoons to be shown during prime-time television. For many years it held the record for being the longest-running cartoon series in American TV history, running for six years (or 166 episodes) between 1960 and 1966.

The action was set in the year 1 million BC. Despite being set in the Stone Age, The Flintstones characters live a modern American 1950s lifestyle, doing all the things that modern Americans would find familiar, and that is the main joke of the show. In the ultra-modern town of Bedrock, Cobblestone County, two families - the Flintstones and the Rubbles - live in neighbouring houses, which are fashioned out of rock. The husbands are best friends and keen ten-pin bowlers, and both are members of the Water Buffalo Lodge, a secret society similar to the Odd Fellows or the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes.

Each episode was broadcast in glorious colour (though many homes still had black-and-white television sets, colour TVs were becoming increasingly common in the US). With its parodies of modern life, appealing lead characters and frequent celebrity guest appearances (with the famous voices combined with the distinctive caricatured bodies in the Hanna-Barbera style), it proved to be a popular format.

Fred Flintstone

Fred is a Stone Age everyman. He is so bored with his job as a Bronto operator with a gravel company, owned by George Nate Slate, that when the bird siren sounds for the end of his shift, he jumps up and yells Yabba Dabba Doo at the top of his voice, before inserting his stone clock-in card into a dinosaur's mouth to be punched.

He is always trying to skip work and avoid his mother-in-law. He loves to spend time with his best friend and next-door neighbour, Barney Rubble, who he frequently ropes in to aid and abet in his scams. Fred is a keen ten-pin bowler and his distinctive bowling style earned him the nickname 'Twinkletoes Flintstone'. Fred likes to play pool as well as poker, reading Bedrock's newspaper, the Daily Slate, and lounging about the house. He is also partial to the occasional game of golf.

Fred owns a car, a Flintmobile and his bare feet can be seen running underneath in order to start it. The scenery in the background fairly flies past. Passengers often lend their own feet to the cause in moments when the car requires a little extra speed. Fred usually wears an orange and black animal skin with a blue tie, although he does dress up on special occasions.

Fred is a closet romantic and penned this love poem for Wilma:

I love thee Wilma, with hair like silk,
Lips like cherries, skin like milk,
Your shell-like ears, your dainty hands,
And eyes so black, like frying pans,
And when you in my arms are in,
My love how can you doubt?
I quiver just like gelatin,
And sometimes even break out.
You're a perfect peach, my love,
Together we're a pear (pair),
You're sweet, you're nice, you're paradise,
And all kinda stuff like that there.

Wilma Flintstone

Wilma is house-proud, with all the latest gadgets at her disposal, like her baby woolly mammoth vacuum cleaner and the pigasaurus garbage disposal. Her best friend is her next-door neighbour, Betty Rubble. Wilma and Betty have been known to disguise themselves as men in order to join their husbands' Water Buffalo lodge.

Wilma adored her errant husband, and no matter how many times Fred lets her down, she always forgives him. She's affectionate and has an infectious giggle. Wilma wears her red hair piled high on her head, while her string of pearls sets off her white fur dress splendidly. She's a fabulous cook, (her Gravelberry pies are legendary), and, though she has a slight build, she's strong enough to carry Brontosaurus fricassée (Fred's favourite meal) to the dining table.

Wilma likes to keep herself looking nice and she has a bird perfume dispenser as well as a stone-age equivalent of an Avon Lady, a representative of the Cave-In Cosmetics Company. She wore a mud face pack when Fred brought Stony Curtis home for a meal. Wilma's mother, Pearl Slaghoople, likes to visit as often as possible; her unannounced arrival guarantees one of Fred's famous scowls.

Pebbles Flintstone

Pebbles arrived, weighing six pounds 12 ounces, in the show's third series. The cute red-haired little girl could melt a heart of stone and she's the apple of her daddy's eye. Her favourite things are riding on Dino (see below) and playing with dolls. Her first words were Abba Gabba Goo. Pebbles and Dino get into all sorts of trouble, as Dino is often left in charge.

Barney Rubble

Barney has had several careers including quarry worker, furniture repossessor, travel agent, geological engineer, co-owner (with Fred) of 'The Drive-In' and (also with Fred) Private Investigator. In one episode he was even made Fred's boss at the quarry, which went down (with Fred) like a lead balloon.

Barney likes ten-pin bowling and loves jazz. Together with Fred, (usually his idea), Barney enjoys an after-work cactus juice drinking session with the boys at the Water Buffalo lodge. Later in the series Barney, along with Fred, becomes a part-time officers in Bedrock's police force.

Barney always has a smile on his face, a memorable chuckle and a cheery word for everyone, except when the court case involving the adoption of his son Bamm-Bamm (see below) wasn't going well and he became depressed and suicidal. Barney is most likely to say:

Uh, okay Fred.

Betty Rubble

Betty (née McBricker1) liked to go shopping with her best friend Wilma and enjoyed playing bridge at the Bridge Club. Betty had an infectious giggle just like Wilma's, and the girls often shared a joke, usually about their men.

Betty and Barney wished on a falling star that they would have a child, and Bamm-Bamm was left on their doorstep. The Rubble family endured an unpleasant custody battle in court before they were allowed to adopt him.

Betty Rubble is an official 'babe'. In an Internet poll for Sexiest Cartoon Babes, Betty finished in second place to overall winner Jessica Rabbit. Despite Betty's obvious charms, it was another cast-member that the crew of Red Dwarf fantasised about:

[well] I would go with Betty...but I'd be thinkin' of Wilma.
- The Cat to Lister.

Bamm-Bamm Rubble

White-haired Bamm-Bamm amazes everyone with his super-strength abilities. He likes to bash the ground with his club, while yelling his own name, and helping his mother Betty clean the house by lifting furniture out of the way. His favourite hobby is riding his cave buggy (a prehistoric version of a dune buggy), and he also likes Dino-rides, taking turns with Pebbles.

Dino

Dino, a dogasaurus, is the Flintstone family's pet dinosaur, who acts, barks and thinks like a dog, and provides 'Dino-rides' for the children. Dino likes to bowl Fred over when he returns from work, taking a good long run-up, then licking his face. Fred always protests loudly but there are times when Fred kisses Dino in greeting or departing, instead of Wilma.

Dino's favourite foods are Dino-Gro and Shlump; he loves to sleep in Fred's favourite chair and his favourite hobby is fighting with Baby Puss. Dino and Fred swap minds, mannerisms and voices in one episode, ('Monster Fred'), courtesy of Len Frankenstone's personality-switching machine.

Other Characters

Baby Puss

Baby Puss is the family's pet sabre-toothed tiger. Although seen in the opening and closing credits (when Fred 'puts the cat out'), Baby Puss doesn't feature in many episodes.

Hoppy

Hoppy the Hopperoo was introduced in series five as the Rubbles's pet. Barney bought the green kangaroo-like creature for Bamm-Bamm but Fred disliked him, until the families were in danger and Hoppy went for help (parodying Skippy the Bush Kangaroo). Hoppy enjoys carrying the children around in his pouch.

The Gruesomes

The Gruesome family first appeared in series five, episode number 123, moving into Tombstone Manor. They are a ghoulish clan who think they are 'normal' and the rest of the world is weird, and are based upon the monster sitcoms The Munsters and The Addams Family. The Gruesomes consist of green-skinned, vertically-challenged father Weirdly, voiced by Howard Morris sounding like Peter Lorre; his wife, the tall, slim, pink-haired Creepella (voiced by Naomi Stevens); and their son, purple-haired 'Gobby' Goblin, who rarely spoke.

Look how he ignores us.
- Mrs Gruesome's proud boast about her son.

The family vehicle is a prehistoric hearse and the family pet is an enormous blue spider.

The Great Gazoo

The Great Gazoo first appeared in the last series. He's an alien from the planet Zetox, exiled to Earth as punishment for having invented a weapon that could destroy the universe. He's green, he floats, and he appears at the most inappropriate moments. He tries to help Fred and Barney, usually against their will, and often makes the situation worse. Only Fred, Barney, the children and animals can see him - apart from his leader, the Great Gazam.

Guest Stars

As already mentioned, the series often featured guest appearances by celebrities of the day (or at least sound-alikes), transported back in time to play Stone-age equivalents. Such guests included:

  • Ann-Margrock - Ann-Margret
  • Stony Curtis - Tony Curtis
  • Lou Granite (the editor of the Daily Slate) - Lou Grant. Lou was a character from another popular sitcom of the time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Cary Granite - Cary Grant
  • Perry Masonry - Perry Mason aka Raymond Burr
  • Samantha and Darrin Stephens appeared as 'themselves' - they were the witch and her human husband from the popular sitcom Bewitched.

  • Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo steal a picnic basket in one episode.

Flintstones Animal Appliances

The families own modern home appliances which are represented by talking animals. When Wilma steps on the foot of the pelican he opens the top of his beak to accept rubbish. It then complains to the viewing audience about what a hard life it's led.

Many animals were utilised in the course of the series, some more than once. For example, Wilma finds a few uses for a turtle: rubbing the heated shell on cloth makes a great iron, and a basket attached to the back of a turtle makes a superb shopping trolley. The tip of the pointed beak of a bending bird plays a record which, spun on the back of a turtle (resembling an old gramophone), Fred and Barney use the turtle's back as a draughts board, and when cranked, the turtle's tail raises, which lifts the car, making it a perfect jack.

Who wouldn't love an octopus dishwasher? The octopus uses his many legs to wash, rinse and dry the dishes. Then there's the triceratops juicer, its nose horn squeezing the juice out of oranges and grapefruits, alongside the stegosaurus food processor, which chews vegetables and fruits to mush. A penguin in the freezer passes a character an ice cube, and a dragon acts as a coffee-maker.

Then there are the bathroom facilities. A mastodon sucks up water from a bucket and then sticks its trunk through a hole in the bathroom wall and blows, enabling the character to have a shower. Fred once caught a bee, put it inside a clam shell and then buzzed off his stubble.

There are modern conveniences at work too, like Mr Slate's talking bird intercom. As it relays messages, it also voices its own sarcastic comments to the audience.

Fancy a trip to Rockapulco? Book a ticket with Pteradactyl Airways and travel in style, strapped to the back of a flying dinosaur - although anything approaching from the rear of the 'plane' may think the passengers are food.

Bug Music

One episode,The Hatrocks and The Gruesomes stars a group similar to The Beatles - well they had very shaggy hair, which is probably just about where the similarity ends. The Hatrocks (a parody of The Beverly Hillbillies) are scared by 'Bug Music' on the television; they end up blasting the TV to smithereens with their shotguns. The Gruesomes pipe 'Bug Music' into the Hatrocks' fridge and telephone, and Fred had an idea to get rid of the Hatrocks by dressing up as a member of the band and singing:

He said Yeah, yeah, yeah; She said Yeah, yeah, yeah; I said yeah, yeah, yeah; We said yeah, yeah, yeah; They said yeah, yeah, yeah... (Repeat.)

As the Hatrocks flee Bedrock to go to the World's Fair, they pass a billboard showing the same four Beatles-like band members advertising 'Bug Music' at the World's Fair.

Don Byron, an eclectic New York jazz clarinet player, has an album, entitled Bug Music. The album, released in 1996, has the following quotes in the sleeve notes:

The Beatles' music, though now thought of as mainstream and accessible, was portrayed (in the guise of 'Bug Music') as horrible. [...] 'Bug Music' has lived on for me as a fable of the public's subjectivity.

Flintstones Cast (Voices)

  • Alan Reed (1907 - 77) as Fred Flintstone. Alan created the catchphrase Yabba dabba doo! for his most famous incarnation Fred Flintstone and also supplied the voice of 'Boris' in Disney's Lady and the Tramp. His distinctive voice is still being used as archive sound for video long after his passing.
  • Jean Vander Pyl (1919 - 99) as Wilma and Pebbles Flintstone. Jean also voiced 'Goldie' in Top Cat and the 'Winsome Witch' in The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show and was a regular guest star in Petticoat Junction and Leave It To Beaver in the 1960s.

  • Mel Blanc (1908 - 89) as Barney Rubble2 and Dino. Mel was a multi-talented voice artist who gave life to popular cartoon characters such as Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Pie, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, and Pepe Le Pew.

  • Bea Benaderet (1906 - 68) as Betty Rubble (1960 - 1964). Bea was a regular guest on The Jack Benny Programme from 1952 - 55 and provided the voice for the old woman in the Sylvester and Tweety Pie cartoons.

  • Gerry Johnson as Betty Rubble (1964 - 1966). Gerry is a Special Effects Co-ordinator (Zardoz; My Left Foot) and also played Mrs Johnson in the TV series Bewitched.

  • Don Messick (1926 - 97) as Bamm-Bamm Rubble, Arnold the Newsboy and Hoppy the Hopperoo (1963 - 1966). Don's contribution to the world of animation is legendary, providing the voices for Scooby Doo, Boo-Boo and Ranger Smith from the TV series The Yogi Bear Show, Muttley, Professor Pat Pending, Sawtooth, Ring-A-Ding, Little Gruesome and Gravel Slag from the TV series Wacky Races. Pixie in The Pixie and Dixie Show, Astro (the dog in The Jetsons), 'Touché Turtle', 'Sebastian the Cat' from the TV series Josie and the Pussycats and he also voiced the Narrator in the animated cartoon The House of Tomorrow (1949).

  • John Stephenson as George Nate Slate (AKA Mr Slate, Fred's boss) (1963 - 1966). John also voiced Mr Slate in the subsequent made-for-TV movies (see below), and in the TV series Wacky Races he provided the voices for Luke and Blubber Bear.

  • Verna Felton (1890 - 1966) as Pearl Slaghoople (Wilma's mother) (1963 - 1966). Verna also provided the voices for Flora in Sleeping Beauty, Winifred in The Jungle Book, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, and Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp.

The Theme Tune(s)

The first two series' music was an instrumental tune called 'Rise and Shine'. The opening credits show Fred driving home from work, eventually passing a sign saying 'Welcome To Bedrock: POP 2500'. A policeman blows his whistle and signalled for Fred to stop. A red stegosaurus, covered in firemen, runs through the intersection. Fred then parks at a tailor's shop, walks up the back of a blue dinosaur which acts as stairs, and collects his dry-cleaning. He continues his journey and pulls up beside a street vendor, buying a Daily Slate from him. He parks his car in the garage, enters the house and takes a tray of sandwiches out of Wilma's hands before returning to kiss Wilma.

Dino, sat in Fred's chair, leaps out and lies down beside it. Fred sits in the pre-warmed seat and turns on the television. What's on the box? Fred - advertising the products of the programme's sponsors. Fred and Barney both advertised things such as cigarettes; in those days, cigarettes were considered to be cool. The first closing sequence shows Fred turning off the TV set and covering the bird cage, enclosing it with a zipper. Fred puts out two empty milk bottles, turns out the light, turns the light back on, picks up the cat to put it out for the night, but gets locked out of the house by the cat, causing him to bang on the door.

Wilma! Come on, Wilma, open this door! Willllll-ma!

The Better-Known Theme

Flintstones...meet the Flintstones, they're a modern stone-age family,
From the town of Bedrock, they're a page right out of history.
Let's ride with the family down the street, thru' the courtesy of Fred's two feet.
When you're with the Flintstones, have a yabba dabba doo time, a dabba doo time,
You'll have a gay old time.

The most familiar opening sequence, with the 'Meet the Flintstones' theme song, was introduced in the third series. It opens with Fred sliding down the tail of his dino-crane as soon as the whistle signalling the end of the shift sounds, inserting his dinosaur clock-in card, collecting Wilma and the pets, and taking them to the drive-in, where the film 'The Monster' is showing. In the closing sequence they order giant ribs which the waitress props on the side of the car, tipping it over. Then, at home, Fred picks up the cat to put it out for the night, but gets locked out of the house by the cat instead.

'WILLLLLL-MA!'

Fred bashes on the locked door and wakes up the entire neighbourhood, as depicted by all the windows lighting up. Later credits included Barney and Betty Rubble and the children.

The closing credits had one line different from the opening song:

Flintstones...meet the Flintstones, they're a modern stone-age family,
From the town of Bedrock, they're a page right out of history.
Some day, maybe Fred will win the fight, and that, cat will stay out for the night.
When you're with the Flintstones, have a yabba dabba doo time, a dabba doo time,
You'll have a gay old time.

In 1994, the B52's re-recorded the Flintstones theme tune for the feature film. Changing their name to 'The BC-52's', the band's version, '(Meet) the Flintstones' reached number three in the UK singles chart.

Flintstones v Simpsons

The Simpsons finally beat The Flintstones's record for longest-running animated series with an episode first broadcast on 9 February, 1997. The introductory montage of its 167th episode ended with the Simpsons running towards their couch only to find Fred, Wilma and Pebbles Flintstone sitting there.

Four years earlier, in the episode 'Marge vs the Monorail', Homer Simpson paid his own tribute to The Flintstones by shouting 'Yabba Dabba Doo!' before leaping into his car and singing a reworking of that famous theme tune:

Simpson... Homer Simpson... he's the greatest guy in history... from the town of Springfield... he's about to hit a chestnut tree.

Spin-offs

The Flintstones had a life beyond the original series in spin-off shows, nine made-for-TV movies (which in reality were just extended episodes), and two live-action films.

After the end of the TV series The Flintstones, the characters were kept alive in a series of specials and spin-off shows, including 'The Man Called Flintstone' (1966) and 'The New Fred and Barney Show' (1979). 'The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show' (1971 - 76) focused on the Flintstone and Rubble kids as teenagers, which of course added a lot to what we already knew about the characters.

In the 1980s sequels, Captain Caveman and his son made guest appearances. Another animated sitcom that went in the opposite direction, into the future, was The Jetsons. The Flintstones meet the Jetsons was a story about the Jetson family who use a time machine to travel back to the stone age, meeting the Flintstones. This time Henry Corden voiced Fred Flintstone. He also voiced both Ed and Edna Flintstone, Fred's parents, in The Flintstones Kids.

In the subsequent made-for-TV movies, Pebbles attended Bedrock High School and was an excellent baseball player. She eventually married the boy-next-door, Bamm-Bamm Rubble, who had become a car mechanic. After their wedding, the couple moved to prehistoric version of Hollywood, Hollyrock, so Bamm-Bamm could realise his dream of becoming a scriptwriter. The couple had twins, a blonde-haired daughter named Roxy, who was as strong as her daddy, and an auburn-haired son named Chip. After Bamm-Bamm left home, Betty started a successful catering business with, you've guessed it, Wilma Flintstone.

The characters found their way into live action with two movies. The Flintstones (1994) starred John Goodman as Fred, Rick Moranis as Barney, Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma and Rosie O'Donnell as Betty. The casting of the legendary British actress Elizabeth Taylor as Wilma's mother Pearl was inspired as she was game for a laugh and played the role of harridan to perfection. Also starring was Halle Berry as the sexpot Sharon Stone3. Harvey Korman who played the Dictabird also voiced The Great Gazoo in the original TV series, and Colonel Slaghoople in the prequel. Director Brian Levant is a genuine fan of the cartoon series, and is said to own a large collection of Flintstones memorabilia. The film won a Blimp Award (in the Kids' Choice Awards, USA), a BMI Film Music Award and a Golden Screen Award in Germany.

The prequel, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), starred British actor Mark Addy as a younger Fred and Stephen Baldwin as Barney, enjoying their last experiences of single life before marrying Wilma, played by Kristen Johnston and Betty, played by Jane Krakowski, respectively. Fred and Barney had to compete with the amorous attentions of Chip Rockefeller (for Wilma) and Mick Jagged (for Betty).

You're awfully pretty when you smile, Miss Betty O'Shale.
- Mick Jagged

Joan Collins played Wilma's mother Pearl Slaghoople, unfortunately earning her a Razzie4 nomination for Worst Supporting Actress.

And Finally

Andrew Flintoff, the Lancashire and England cricketer, is nicknamed 'Freddie' after Fred Flintstone, due to the similarity between their surnames and alleged physical comparisons. (Flintoff is 6'4" (1.93m) tall).

1The episode 'Bachelor Daze' states Betty's maiden name is McBricker, although in the second live-action movie it is given as O'Shale.2Daws Butler (who was the voice of Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear) voiced Barney Rubble while Mel Blanc recovered from a car accident.3The actress Sharon Stone was intended to voice the part of her namesake but was contractually obligated to another film at the time.4Golden Raspberry Award.

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