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September 21, 2012 5:10 PM   Subscribe

50 years of The Jestons and Why the show still matters. It was September 23, 1962 when ABC aired the first episode of The Jetsons. This was ABC's first color program and while it only lasted a single season, its impact, influence, and popularity is still felt today. Many of the predictions portrayed in the series are coming true.
posted by 2manyusernames (60 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
http://twitter.com/MikeDrucker/status/248565544721195009
It's been 50 years since The Jetsons showed us a wacky science-fiction world where you could afford two kids and a house with just one job.
posted by mulligan at 5:21 PM on September 21, 2012 [38 favorites]


I wish I only had to work three hours a day.
posted by Redfield at 5:24 PM on September 21, 2012


Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is all three hour work days up there in the clouds, but on the surface life is hell.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:26 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I knew they were going to do the Rosie/Roomba comparison, and I've got to say not even close.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like how the title sequence establishes ths 60s view of how family life works, what with the wallet and all.
posted by Artw at 5:29 PM on September 21, 2012


I notice that often my life parallel's George Jetson, in that "my button pushing finger is tired and throbbing."

It was hyperbole, and now it is true!
posted by Invoke at 5:29 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


It is true that we are still trying to turn off this crazy thing....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:29 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I knew they were going to do the Rosie/Roomba comparison, and I've got to say not even close."

Yeah, you could never get a cat to ride around on top of Rosie.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:33 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Jestons sounds funnier.
posted by pbump at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Roomba doesn't give you any goddamn back-sass after a three hour hard day of work.
posted by Redfield at 5:42 PM on September 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Many of the predictions portrayed in the series are coming true.

*cough* - flying cars - *cough*
posted by pyramid termite at 5:50 PM on September 21, 2012


The housekeeper is sentient, so we enslave a new race of beings. Onward and upward!
posted by Brocktoon at 5:50 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not even close. I have to press 101 buttons!
posted by double block and bleed at 6:00 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You could make an argument that it is the Jetsons who are enslaved by their machines. Endlessly reenacting domestic dramas, engaging in pointless consumerism and slaving away at useless makework in the sprocket factory, all so they can provide their machines with the tactile feedback and household dirt that justify the machinery's existence. Humanity may have long ago slipped through the Singularity into some unknown posthuman future if it wasn't for the robot maids, jet cars, stilt houses and other paraphernalia that have trapped them in place with the illusion of convenience.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:02 PM on September 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Orbitty, a pet alien, is essentially the Jar-Jar Binks of the Jetsons’ world"

That's hardly a fair comparison.

I'd say he's more The Great Gazoo than anything else. A touch less annoying though.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:14 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Jetsons ever mattered? It seemed like exactly the same kind of cultural product as The Flinstones, okay and somewhat funny if you caught a good episode, but fluff. It was Hanna-Barbera element.
posted by JHarris at 6:20 PM on September 21, 2012


The Jetsons didn't predict this stuff. SF from the 40s-50s did and the Jetsons just took those tropes and animated them.
posted by DU at 6:21 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


I started research on an article about the Jetsons' 50th anniversary a few months ago, and realized the only honest approach was to point out how pathetically off-target almost ALL of them were. Of course, I couldn't find any interest in an article with that approach.

But one of the most striking concepts I found (in a Cracked listicle from a year ago... #5):
The Jetsons live high above the clouds in their Skypad apartment. In fact, all of the important places in their lives are above the clouds, including George's workplace, the schools and the shopping centers.
...The surface of the Earth is never shown, and the Jetson family never visits it. We only have a few stray clues that point to the state of the Earth's surface: In Jetsons: The Movie, Rosie pushes a button to have the Jetsons' apartment rise above the planetary smog.
...Nothing grows on the surface of the planet. It is so polluted, irradiated or burned that no life exists there.
Now THAT we have a chance of achieving in the next 50 years, but flying cars? Nah.

There was one thing they did get right... that "teen idols" would not change over the next century. Jet Screamer IS Justin Beiber.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:27 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


God, I loved the Jetsons. And, please, when you speak of the Jetsons, understand that only that original run counts. The later 1980's shows are marketing-driven abominations unto all that is good and beautiful.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:28 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jonny Quest was better and more accurate.
posted by philip-random at 6:34 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey! 3D-TV! And Jane isn't watching it in 3D, either!
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:39 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Jetsons live high above the clouds in their Skypad apartment. In fact, all of the important places in their lives are above the clouds, including George's workplace, the schools and the shopping centers.
...The surface of the Earth is never shown, and the Jetson family never visits it. We only have a few stray clues that point to the state of the Earth's surface: In Jetsons: The Movie, Rosie pushes a button to have the Jetsons' apartment rise above the planetary smog.
...Nothing grows on the surface of the planet. It is so polluted, irradiated or burned that no life exists there.


Holy shit is that ever a gritty reboot waiting to happen.
posted by passerby at 6:39 PM on September 21, 2012 [24 favorites]


*cough* - flying cars - *cough*

... he said to an audience of tens of millions, with the global reach of the supercomputer he took from his pocket.
posted by mhoye at 6:51 PM on September 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


...Nothing grows on the surface of the planet. It is so polluted, irradiated or burned that no life exists there.

Or perhaps there is life, even human life, but it has reverted to a state of barbaric primitive savagery?
posted by chaff at 6:51 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Or perhaps there is life, even human life, but it has reverted to a state of barbaric primitive savagery?

Twist ending: thanks to stealth technology THE JETSONS IS NOW.
posted by mhoye at 6:57 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


he said to an audience of tens of millions

an audience of tens of millions? - i don't know whether to be nervous or depressed
posted by pyramid termite at 7:06 PM on September 21, 2012


Hey, what about the meal-in-a-pill they predicted?

I'm waiting, science.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:19 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't wait until we're all driving electric vehicles that are so quiet we end up dubbing in engine sounds to increase awareness.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:42 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I knew they were going to do the Rosie/Roomba comparison, and I've got to say not even close."
Yeah, you could never get a cat to ride around on top of Rosie.


Also, Rule 34 is less predictable with a roomba, though both have been, uh, pulled off...
posted by jake at 7:43 PM on September 21, 2012


The 1975 and the Changes to Come book (1962) mentioned therein is pretty rad on its own.
posted by Mezentian at 8:26 PM on September 21, 2012


A for effort. There's really not so much there there, though.
posted by Miko at 8:46 PM on September 21, 2012


Did you click the Flickr link? You to can see how easy the Housewife Of Tomorrow will have it.
What with her atomic foods and all.
posted by Mezentian at 8:48 PM on September 21, 2012


Looking at the first episode, I love how no-bullshit it is about reskinning then-contemporary society in future-style. With a lot of science fiction you have to at least dig around a bit to get to the present-day issues being projected into robotland, but with this, no, really, it's just early 60s middle class distillate with appropriately subservient robot help. For fucks sake, the teenage daughter is even going to protests in the future. It is a testament to the restraint of the Mad Men team that they didn't have this playing in the background at some point.
posted by passerby at 8:55 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few months ago I had a thought. If the Jetsons had never existed, and I was trying to come up with a show that fit the same niche of "an animated all-audiences sitcom set in THE FUTURE", here in 2012, what would I come up with?

I posed this question on my LJ and got some interesting answers.
posted by egypturnash at 9:06 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something that should be mentioned is how insanely difficult The Jetsons theme song is to actually play. It's one of the most complicated, difficult pieces of music I've ever heard.

Also, it's insane to me that it was only on for one season. Did I seriously watch all those over and over again as a kid and never understand that they were being repeated? Or did they always repeat them out of order, so it was more difficult for me to catch on?

Also.. The Jetsons Movie never happened. Ever. They talked about making it, like they talked about making sequels to The Matrix or a set of Star Wars prequels, but yeah, never happened.
posted by hippybear at 9:56 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Jetsons suffered from the same safe-for-all-audiences conservatism that infected all tv comedy of the time, along with Hanna-Barbera's traits on top. It did manage some memorable moments, however. Perhaps the theme song most of all.

Reboot The Jetsons with today's standards and quality, and you basically get Futurama.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:59 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Martian Blackjack *click*
Martian Blackjack *click*
Everybody wins! *click*
Everybody wins! *click*


and Spacely's a stupe! *click* a stupe! *click*
posted by Herodios at 10:05 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


FUN FACT: According to Wikipedia, Jane was just EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD when she had Judy

OTHER FUN FACT: According to Wikipedia, there was an '80s Jetsons episode titled "Space Bong."
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:06 PM on September 21, 2012


ANOTHER FUN FACT: I recently ran the math, and while its easy to get a day's vitamins in pill form, to get a full day's food energy (assuming 2,000kcal) in the densest form possible would require roughly a baseball-sized "pill" made of oil or fat of some sort.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:09 PM on September 21, 2012


Something that should be mentioned is how insanely difficult The Jetsons theme song is to actually play. It's one of the most complicated, difficult pieces of music I've ever heard.

Clark Terry, the jazz trumpeter, came to our high school once and during a talk with the band students said that the Jetsons theme song was one of the swingingest compositions he's ever heard. Years later he actually put out a big band recording of The Flintstones theme by the same composer, Hoyt Curtin.
posted by memewit at 10:17 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


the opinions expressed are my own...
posted by b1tr0t at 10:33 PM on September 21, 2012


On the subject of cartoon robot servants.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:40 PM on September 21, 2012


I'd say he's more The Great Gazoo than anything else.

Orbitty is a cross between Cousin Oliver and Scrappy-Doo, and is deserving of a similar degree of contempt.

It's hard to beat the cognitive dissonance of growing up watching The Jetsons, having it be basically your favorite Saturday Morning Cartoon ever, then seeing George O'Hanlon in a bit part on some random rerun only to hear George Jetson's voice coming out of a random real-life guy who looks disturbingly like the character.
posted by Lazlo at 10:55 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great article. My handle telstar is also meant to conjure up paleofuture 1962.

Very interesting about the Jetsons being broadcast in color but mostly received in B&W. And Disney's Wonderful world of Color was my family's real church in the mid 1960's. Every Sunday night, without question.
posted by telstar at 11:14 PM on September 21, 2012


I had the same feeling that passerby had. Everything happened on the platforms, not on the ground.
I can remember reading Heavy Metal - specifically Angus McKie's "So Beautiful and So Dangerous" and there's a scene where the protagonists fly by "paradise" and there's a scene in which there are hundreds of thousands of people dragging "paradise" across a plain. One of the residents says, and this is a half-remembered paraphrase, "How could paradise exist, except on the backs of the enslaved millions?"
Someone could really remake this into an appropriate allegory of today's global situation of the few supplied/catered to by the many. Tim Burton would make it too wacky. Terry Gilliam would make it with a bullet.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:37 PM on September 21, 2012


2N2222: "
Reboot The Jetsons with today's standards and quality, and you basically get Futurama.
"

Nibbler would kick Orbitty's springy legged ass.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:31 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


a baseball-sized "pill" made of oil or fat of some sort.

Domino's Chicken Carbonara Breadbowl Pasta
posted by theredpen at 3:46 AM on September 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Looking at the first episode, I love how no-bullshit it is about reskinning then-contemporary society in future-style.

That's crediting it with a lot more forethought than went into it, when it was basically, oh hey, setting the Honeymooners in the Stone Age worked really well, now let's bring them to the future. Slap up some worn out sci-fi furniture corny even then , long since popularised by Time and Life and not that different from the 1930ties Things to Come and badda bing, badda boom, you got another hit. Get enough episodes made for syndication and rerun that sucker forever.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:58 AM on September 22, 2012


Looking at the first episode, I love how no-bullshit it is about reskinning then-contemporary society in future-style.

I click on the first episode and dad's reaction to his wife's telling him she won a weekend cruise at a galactic tv show is "Oh no, you're not! Who's gonna fix my dinner when I get home?". My desire to watch a couple of eps just withered.

Still like the theme though.
posted by ersatz at 4:35 AM on September 22, 2012


As much as I was a fiendish futurist in the seventies with a stack of old yard-sale Popular Mechanics magazines that glowingly explained the world of the near future with its glass houses, space travel, and flying cars, something always troubled me about The Jetsons. I think it was a visceral response from a kid who grew up DIY, with DIY parents, in a DIY house where we fed ourselves off our own garden plot and camped all the time—the world of The Jetsons was the Monsanto, WESAYSO, gung-ho, trample-the-Lorax sort of future, where we were going to receive everything great from on-high, like a cargo cult.

In reality, I am constantly amazed at how futuristic the actual future is becoming, largely because it's borrowing less from The Jetsons and more from Ecotopia. Where 1978 me read through old Popular Mechanics and Popular Science and Mechanics Illustrated, 2012 me has Make magazine, where actual humans not far removed from my own skills and aptitudes are building DIY CNC machines, and experimenting playfully with Arduinos, and making rich, amazing music with twenty dollar thrift store computers running Pd.

Fuck the flying cars. People can't even drive properly. Last thing I want overhead is a near-constant rain of broken lucite domes and body parts.

Just this morning, after reading through the first wave in this post, I was in the bathroom with a tablet, chillin', as it were, and while flipping through a magazine with content I've selected myself according to my own tastes, I found a video of something amazing that solves a problem that's been on my mind for a while. I watched this video and suddenly felt like I was living square in the middle of the most amazing future of all, which was odd, seeing as where I was sitting.

There's no flying cars, but an immense resource of open source information on how to solve a tricky fuel line problem on my motorcycle. There's no food in a pill, but, finding myself with an unexpected giant bag of potatoes, I was able to tap a resource of shared human knowledge and assemble a kickass recipe for a potato, cheese, spinach, and ale soup that's fed me all week. Fifteen years ago, problem solving involved frustrating research that still often failed to produce solutions, but today—it's all out there. My apartment is as dull and dumpy as it's been for the entire twenty-four years I've lived here, and a mish-mash of heirlooms, thrift store finds, and Ikea, but there's more computing power in here than the entire world had at the end of WWII.

The old future belonged to the big boys, the old guard, and the power brokers. Poor George had his button, but not a sliver of control over his life, and was caught in the General Motors future life lie where leisure was supposed to be the payoff for surrendering to the machine. In the future, we'd all just play all the time, and never get bored, or curious, or interested in things. It was the perfect dream for an age where the booming pharmaceuticals industry was forever working on new flavors of valium to turn Donna Reeds into zombies (before they turned into Carrie Snodgress instead and freaked the fucking fuck out).

This future belongs to us, more and more every day.
posted by sonascope at 5:25 AM on September 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


but there's more computing power in here than the entire world had at the end of WWII.

That's a pretty low bar. Assuming a likely mix of devices, you certainly have more computing power than the entire world had in 1970. And it's very possible you have more than the entire world had in 1980. Your tablet is more powerful than the world's most powerful supercomputer was in 1985.

Of course, back when those computers cost millions of dollars nobody was using them to browse funny cat pictures.
posted by localroger at 6:23 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eep Opp Ork AH-AH
posted by P.o.B. at 7:39 AM on September 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


passerby: Holy shit is that ever a gritty reboot waiting to happen.

The Fallout series of video games is actually a portrayal of ground-level life in the Jetsons universe. If you were middle-class, you bought space in a Vault-Tec vault. If you were in the 1%, you bought a condo in the stratosphere.
posted by gilrain at 7:49 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So You Want to be a Detective looks like a way better show than The Jetsons.
posted by Miko at 8:11 AM on September 22, 2012


Oh, it's a set of one-off comedy reels? Interesting. There goes my Saturday morning.
posted by Miko at 8:13 AM on September 22, 2012


Joe McDoakes is a proto-Mr.Bean! But bummer, not viewable online, most of them. If they were, it'd be worth an FPP of its own.
posted by Miko at 8:29 AM on September 22, 2012


Something that should be mentioned is how insanely difficult The Jetsons theme song is to actually play. It's one of the most complicated, difficult pieces of music I've ever heard.

The music in Tom & Jerry is worth a close listen...
posted by Wolfdog at 8:29 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Animation veteran Mark Evanier on how 10-year-old him loved the original and why he turned down an offer to work on the '80s reboot.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


My deep love for this show comes in part from my ability to mimic the engine sound. We already live in a Jetsonian future, ahem, GOOGIE.

Also, re Orbitty: Fuck no, period. The soulless, spring-loaded carcass of every cute-character bad decision made incarnate is your cue to change the channel.
posted by djrock3k at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The writer Matt Novak continues to update the series of recaps.
posted by cgc373 at 1:43 AM on October 15, 2012


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