Prehistoric Week: 10 Things You Might Not Know About THE FLINTSTONES

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Yabba Dabba Dave...

1. Hanna-Barbera had previously achieved success with an animated show appealing to both children and adults in the form of their theatrical cartoon series Tom and Jerry. Having followed this up with the likes of The Huckleberry Hound Show and The Quick Draw McGraw Show, which although successful primarily appealed to the younger audience, the duo were keen to develop another series with "wide audience appeal".

Barbera and Hanna proposed they recapture the adult audience with an animated situation comedy featuring two neighbouring couples, which resembled the average primetime sitcom premise of the era. The show would feature the usual family issues, all resolved with a laugh at the end of each episode, and the series would also benefit from the inclusion of a laugh track. After experimenting with hillbillies, Romans, pilgrims, and Indians as the settings for the two families they decided on setting the series in the Stone Age. According to Joseph Barbera they chose that because,
"You could take anything that was current, and convert it to stone-age."
Under the working title The Flagstones, the family originally consisted of Fred, Wilma, and their son, Fred Jr. A brief demonstration film was created to sell the idea of a "modern stone age family" to sponsors and the network...

Barbera explained that selling the show to a network and sponsors was not an easy task.
"I pitched it for eight straight weeks and nobody bought it. So after sitting in New York just wearing out, you know really wearing out. Pitch, pitch, pitch, sometimes five a day. So finally on the very last day I pitched it to ABC, which was a young daring network willing to try new things, and bought the show in 15 minutes. Thank goodness, because this was the very last day and if they hadn't bought it I would have taken everything down, put it in the archives and never pitched it again. Sometimes I wake up in a cold-sweat thinking this is how close you get to disaster."
2. When the series went into production the working title The Flagstones was changed (possibly to avoid confusion with the Flagstons, characters in the comic strip Hi and Lois). After spending a brief period in development as The Gladstones (Gladstone being a Los Angeles telephone exchange at the time), Hanna-Barbera settled upon The Flintstones, and the idea of the Flintstones having a child from the start was discarded, with Fred and Wilma starting out as a childless couple. However some early Flintstones merchandise, such as a 1961 Little Golden Book, included Fred Jr., before it was decided on his removal.

3. The Flintstones premiered on Friday September 30th 1960, at 8:30pm to luke-warm reviews. The next day Variety called it "A pen and ink disaster", however, the negative reviews were short-lived and The Flintstones soon became one of the most popular and well-loved shows of all time, and in 1961 it became the first animated series to be nominated for an Outstanding Comedy Series Primetime Emmy Award (losing out to The Jack Benny Show).

4. William Hanna admitted that,
"At that time, The Honeymooners was the most popular show on the air, and for my bill, it was the funniest show on the air. The characters, I thought, were terrific. Now, that influenced greatly what we did with The Flintstones ... The Honeymooners was there, and we used that as a kind of basis for the concept."
Jackie Gleason, creator of The Honeymooners, considered suing Hanna-Barbera Productions, but decided that he did not want to be known as "the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air"

5. The Flintstones was the first American animated series to depict two people of the opposite sex (Fred and Wilma; Barney and Betty) sleeping together in one bed.

6. The first two seasons of The Flintstones did not feature the famous "Meet The Flintstones" theme, instead an instrumental tune called "Rise and Shine" was used.

7. The first two seasons were also co-sponsored by Winston cigarettes and the characters appeared in several black and white television commercials for Winston, as was the custom of that time, that the star(s) of a TV series often "pitched" their sponsor's product in an "integrated commercial" at the end of the episode...

8. During the third season Hanna and Barbera decided that little Fred Jr. should finally make his debut in the series and decided to include a story-arc surrounding Wilma's pregnancy. After the episode "The Surprise" was written, which featured Wilma telling Fred she was expecting, the head of the marketing department convinced them to change the baby to a girl since "girl dolls sell a lot better than boy dolls". Pebbles arrived on February 22nd 1963 in the episode "Dress Rehearsal".

9. In the fourth season The Flintstones became the first animated series to address the issue of infertility when we discover that the Rubbles are depressed over being unable to have children of their own. Betty and Barney eventually adopted Bamm-Bamm in the 100th episode made (but the 90th to air).

10. After the Flintstones and the Rubbles became parents, the tone and writing became more juvenile and ratings from the adult demographic began to decline, and the last original episode was broadcast on April 1st 1966. By the time of its cancellation, The Flintstones had become the first primetime animated series to last more than two seasons, running for six years and 166 episodes. A record not surpassed by another primetime animated television series until the seventh season of The Simpsons in 1995/1996.

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