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Director: Norton Virgien
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: March 19, 1994
Rating: ★★½

Still from 'Gripes of Wrath' featuring Cornfed and Duckman wandering through the perfect world

After the first two great Duckman episodes, ‘Gripes of Wrath’ feels as an enormous letdown. Compared to the earlier two entries, this story is surprisingly disjointed.

The episode starts with Duckman wanting to go to mud wrestling, but ending up taking his sons to a science exhibition instead. There they meet a giant supercomputer, and before soon this machine has taken over the world and turned it into a perfect one. But this perfection can’t last and as easily the same world disintegrates into one worse than before.

These series of events are clearly modeled on ‘Back to the Future Part II’ (1989), with a bit of ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’ thrown in.

Unfortunately, the story is told rather confusingly and quite hard to follow, and the underlying discourse about the use of technology never really takes off properly.

Watch ‘Gripes of Wrath’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 3
To the previous Duckman episode: T.V. or Not to Be
To the next Duckman episode: Psyche

‘Gripes of Wrath’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Director: Raymie Muzquiz
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: March 12, 1994
Rating: ★★★★½

T.V. or Not to Be © Klasky Csupo

Already in its second episode the Duckman series mocks the medium on which it appears itself: The episode starts with Duckman zapping through countless channels, one even more stupid than the other.

When he finally finds a show he likes, he gets overruled by the rest of the family, who all want to watch ‘Mother Mirabelle’s Home Miracle Network’.

This show clearly lampoons pseudo-religious shows on television, but not too easily. Strikingly, Duckman almost dies and has a near-death experience, which makes him a believer.

The scenes in heaven form the highlight of the episode, but it’s also great to watch Duckman being disguised as Vincent van Gogh or on a hopeless mission to convert the public as a hare krishna at one airport.

The episode also lampoons the art world, with the villain clearly being a caricature of Andy Warhol, assisted by a gift wrapping Christo.

Watch an excerpt from ‘T.V. or Not to Be’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Duckman episode no. 2
To the first Duckman episode: I, Duckman
To the next Duckman episode: Gripes of Wrath

‘T.V. or Not to Be’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Directors: Marv Newland, Robin Steele, Drew Takahaki & Andy Knight
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: March 5, 1994
Rating: ★★★★½

One of the great things of the animation renaissance that started at the end of the 1980s was the return of animated series for adults.

I, Duckman © Klasky Csupo

The first and most prominent of these was, of course, The Simpsons, which started at the end of the 1989, but in the slipstream of their success the nineties saw the emergence of other series, like The Critic (1994-1995), Dr. Katz – Professional Therapist (1995-2002), and The Maxx (1995).

The greatest among these early shows arguably was ‘Duckman’ (or officially, Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man), which ran from 1994 to 1997. The series was made by the Klasky Csupo studio, which also had been responsible for the first three seasons of The Simpsons. But where the Simpsons were clearly in the style of Matt Groening, ‘Duckman’ much more evidently saw the typical Klasky-Csupo style, which was also visible in their Nickelodeon series Rugrats (1991-2004) and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (1994-1997).

More than the Simpsons Duckman had a genuine independent design style, much influenced by independent greats like Bill Plympton and Igor Kovalyov. Indeed, this first episode was storyboarded and directed by American-Canadian indie veteran Marv Newland, while Kovalyov himself directed the ninth episode.

Thus, the designs and animation of this first episode are an absolute delight to watch. Despite the episode relying heavily on (very witty) dialogue, there remains a lot to look at.

Duckman is a private detective, assisted by two all too cute teddybears called Fluffy and Uranus, whom Duckman tortures and kills in almost each episode, and by a pig called Cornfed (greatly voiced by Gregg Berger). But he’s also a single father of a dimwitted son called Ajax, and a much more intelligent two-headed son called Charles and Mambo (could this Siamese twin be inspired by Daffy Duck’s photo album in ‘The Stupid Cupid’ from 1944?). To complicate matters Duckman lives with his fitness-loving sister-in-law Bernice and his flatulent mother-in-law.

Duckman himself is an utterly cynical, misanthropic and selfish character, but already in his very first entry he gets a considerable amount of depth, when he realizes nobody cares about him. When he’s the victim of bomb attacks this prompts him to dive into his own memories (which features a great scene with Duckman playing old 8mm films to his deputy Cornfed, in a scene lampooning A Clockwork Orange, Steamboat Willie, Popeye, Yogi Bear and The Simpsons in one go. We learn about Duckman’s love for his deceased wife Beatrice, and almost feel for him, despite the wisecracking and sarcasm that surround him.

Cornfed is a great partner to Duckman: stoic where Duckman is explosive, and acting as Duckman’s conscience, whether the latter likes it or not.

Besides the wild animation, bold designs, surprisingly interesting characters and outlandish stories the first season could also boast to be able to use snippets of Frank Zappa’s music in its score, and the previously unknown voice talent of Zappa’s son Dweezil (as Ajax).

In all, ‘I, Duckman’ is a great start of a great series.

Watch an excerpt from ‘I, Duckman’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the first Duckman episode
To the next Duckman episode: T.V. or Not to Be

‘I, Duckman’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: April 7, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

Fred Flinstone Before and After © Hanna-Barbera‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ starts with a television studio in search of a ‘before man’ for their commercial for ‘Fat Off Reducing Method’.

B.J., the president of the company picks Fred from the street. An outrageously proud Fred invites all his friends to watch him on television, only to realize afterwards he was the ‘fat guy’, not the muscular after guy…

In a very unlikely follow up scene the studio offers Fred $1000 if he can reduce his weight with 25 pounds. It remains completely mysterious what the studio would gain with this bet. In any case, Fred sets out to eat less, only to discover that it’s much, much harder than he thought. So, he seeks help from ‘Food Anonymous’….

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ suffers from a rather weak and implausible story, and rather repetitive scenes of Fred not dieting at all. For a while it seems that the $1000 reward doesn’t play any role, at all. Nevertheless, Fred’s wild looks when begging for a burger are priceless and belong to the best pieces of character animation on the whole show.  However, the episode’s highlight is in the beginning, when Fred thinks he’s on camera, and goes berzerk.

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ rounds up the first season of The Flintstones. Five seasons would follow, lasting until 1966. In the first season the series had shown to be an original mix of sitcom, slapstick comedy, sight gags and cartoon humor. Moreover, the series proved that cartoons could be prime time material, although that lesson would only get a real follow up when The Simpsons started airing in 1989.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 26th and final episode of Flintstones Season One
To the previous Flintstones episode: Rooms for Rent

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 31, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★

Rooms for Rent © Hanna-Barbera‘Rooms for Rent’ starts with Fred calculating his and Wilma’s expenses.

Because the couple is overspending, Wilma decides to take in some boarders. Promptly she and Betty (who has the same financial problems) are visited by two music students. Unfortunately, the two jazz cats don’t have any money, so Wilma and Betty let the two youngsters stay for two weeks in exchange of help with their own act they want to perform at the Loyal Order of Dinosaurs. Despite Fred and Barney wanting some boarders, too, these prove two very long weeks for the husbands, as the two students practice their modern jazz at home, and eat the lion’s share of their meals.

‘Rooms for Rent’ is a rather weak entry within the Flintstones series, offering inconsistent designs, mediocre animation and few laughs. The episode also is one of those Flintstones entries showing the inequality of man and woman in the early 1960s: when contemplating how to earn some money, Betty and Wilma never contemplate working themselves, as “the boys won’t let us go out and get a job” (Betty) and “A woman’s place is in the home” (as Wilma quotes Fred). This episode is typical for its many shots of people addressing the camera. Also featured is a prehistoric subway, the working of which is never explained…

Watch the subway scene from ‘Rooms for Rent’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 25
To the previous Flintstones episode: In the Dough
To the next Flintstones episode: Fred Flintstone: Before and After

‘Rooms for Rent’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 24, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

The Good Scout © Hanna-BarberaIn this episode Fred takes on a job as scout leader of the Sabre-Toothed Tiger Patrol, consisting of three little boys.

Fred and Barney go camping with the three kids. This main part of the episode consists of four rather unrelated and mediocre blackout gags: Fred encountering a sabre-toothed bear, Barney and Fred clearing the camping area by removing boulders in a few rather Roadrunner-like gags, and the scouting team playing baseball. The trip abruptly ends, when their tent floats down a stream and straight to the obligatory waterfall at night.

In the opening scenes Fred has acquired a new walking cycle. The night scenes feature some beautiful and very stylish background art work. Also beautiful is the shot of the scouting team marching in silhouette. However, highlight of the episode is the late double-take on Wilma when Fred tells her he has joined the boy scouts.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Good Scout’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 24
To the previous Flintstones episode:  The Long, Long Weekend
To the next Flintstones episode: Rooms for Rent

‘The Good Scout’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 17, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

In the Dough © Hanna-BarberaWilma and Betty enter a baking contest with their recipe for an upside down bubble cake.

Fred ain’t too enthusiastic, until he hears of the prize money of $10,000. Indeed, Betty and Wilma get to the finals. But they get the measles, and cannot leave home. Enter Fred’s lunatic plan to take their place, impersonating Mrs. Rubble and Flintstone.

Following Betty’s and Wilma’s recipe, Fred and Barney even manage to win, but as Barney had used flour brand B instead of the sponsor’s Tastry Pastry flour, they never get the $10,000. Even worse, their plan only backfires on them, with the wives blackmailing them to tell their friends of their temporary womanhood.

‘In the Dough’ is a rather run of the mill episode, with the most inspired gag being a throwaway gag at the start of the show: Wilma packing Fred’s enormous lunch box. Moreover, this is another episode unwillingly revealing the plight of 1960s housewives: they pack their husbands’ lunchboxes, and only by using blackmail they can make their husbands doing the dishes…

‘In the Dough’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 10, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

The Long, Long Weekend © Hanna-BarberaThis episode starts with Fred complaining that none of his old pals ever writes him.

Promptly he gets a letter by old pal Smoothy, who runs a seaside hotel, so Fred gives old Smoothy a ring. Unfortunately, Smoothy just has had a major problem: all his staff has walked out of him, as Smoothy couldn’t pay them. So Smoothy invites Fred and his neighbors to come over and stay for free, only to make them work at his hotel with more than 200 guests coming to a convention. Of course, his plan doesn’t succeed.

‘The Long, Long Weekend’ is a rather badly scripted episode: Smoothy’s plan is laid out in advance; at no point his plan sounds feasible, and indeed it works for only a couple of minutes. A lot of screen time is wasted on Fred and Barney going swimming, fishing and skin diving – all without success. The fishing episode at least features a beautiful painting of Fred and Barney in a boat, silhouetted against an orange sky.

The episode is most important for introducing the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, the order Fred and Barney would join in the future.

Watch ‘The Long, Long Weekend’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 23
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Tycoon
To the next Flintstones episode: In the Dough

‘The Long, Long Weekend’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: March 3, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★

The Astra' Nuts © Hanna-BarberaWhen Betty gets an address wrong, Fred and Barney line up at the army recruitment office instead of the physical examination for an insurance company.

Before they realize it, the neighbors have joined the army, for three years… Inside the army Fred and Barney volunteer for a space program lead by a German-sounding professor without realizing it. After the professor has conducted some weird experiments on them, Fred and Barney are shot away in a wooden rocket by a giant slingshot, only to land some yards further, in an artillery range, which they think is the moon.

‘The Astra’ Nuts’ has one of the weakest plots of all Flintstones episodes. The whole series of events which lead to the boys joining the army for no less than three years is very unconvincing. One suspects all these plot twists are only introduced to get Fred and Barney inside a rocket.

When the four realize Fred and Barney have enlisted, we get a series of rather poorly drawn double-takes. Much better are the bizarre tests, but the best gag is when we’re set up to expect an enormous band only to see the conductor conduct just one trumpet player. This episode features a sergeant with the same voice as the Snorkasaurus had in ‘The Snorkasaurus Hunter‘.

Watch ‘The Astra’ Nuts’ yourself and tell me what you think:

The Astra’ Nuts

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 22
To the previous Flintstones episode: Love Letters on the Rocks
To the next Flintstones episode: The Long, Long Weekend

‘The Astra’ Nuts’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: February 24, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

The Tycoon © Hanna-BarberaThis episode has an unusual narrative structure. It immediately starts differently, using a narrator, who first introduces bedrock and its inhabitants, before focusing on Fred Flintstone. Moreover, the episode uses a flashback, and ends inconclusive, much unlike all the other Flintstone episodes.

The story is an example of a classic mistaken identity, when Fred Flintstone is mistaken for business tycoon J.L. Gotrocks, and vice versa. The problems start when Gotrocks flips his wig, resigns and goes out on the street, and his employees convince Fred to take Gotrocks place. Surprisingly Fred does an amazing job by saying “whose baby is that?”, “What’s your angle?” and “I’ll buy that” only.

Nevertheless, the comedy hardly comes off, as the lookalike plot never gets convincing. The best prehistory gag involves a bird voice recorder, which repeats the message when thrown a cracker.

Watch ‘The Tycoon’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Tycoon’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: February 17, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

Love Letters on the Rocks © Hanna-BarberaThe plot of this episode gets in motion when Wilma discovers an old love letter from Fred in a box full of memories. When Fred discovers his own poem in the drawer, he thinks it’s by somebody else, and suspects that Wilma has a secret lover.

What follows is a classic comedy of errors, also involving roller skates, a watch, and a private eye with a funny walk and the voice reminiscent of that of Tony Curtis as a millionaire in ‘Some Like It Hot’ (1959). Fred’s dramatic stances are priceless.

The episode is further uplifted by some amusing prehistory gags: a giant dinosaur from ‘Mastodon Motor Inc.’ full of cars on its back, a photo camera with a little bird drawing a picture in it, and a taxi you have to walk yourself. We also discover that Fred’s job, which already had been depicted in ‘The Snorkasaurus Hunter’, is being a “dino-operator”.

Watch ‘Love Letters on the Rocks’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 21
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Hypnotist
To the next Flintstones episode: The Tycoon

‘Love Letters on the Rocks’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: February 10, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★

The Hypnotist © Hanna-Barbera‘The Hypnotist’ is one of the silliest of the Flintstones episodes. The nonsense starts when Fred brags about being able to hypnotize himself after seeing one Mesmo on the television.

Betty and Wilma play along, but Fred really manages to hypnotize Barney, making him think he’s a dog. Unfortunately, Fred cannot make his friend snap out of it, and seeks the assistance of Mesmo. This leads to several slapstick gags, ending in a dog pound. In the end Mesmo turns Barney into human again, and two dogs, as well…

‘The Hypnotist’ is pretty gag rich, but few of the gags come off, due to poor timing and trite dialogue. Worse, in many scenes Fred’s designs are quite off, and the animation often is subpar. Most interesting may be the cash desk at the supermarket and the crazy veterinarian. This fellow is designed more stylistically than the other characters, recalling classic UPA modernism.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Hypnotist’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 20
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Hot Piano
To the next Flintstones episode: Love Letters on the Rocks

‘The Hypnotist’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: February 3, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★½

The Hot Piano © Hanna-BarberaIt’s Fred an Wilma’s tenth anniversary, and Wilma thinks Fred has forgotten the day, as usual.

On the contrary, Fred is buying a piano for her, at least he was until he discovers a piano costs $1500 instead of his $50. Yet, Fred manages to buy a ‘hot piano’ from a sleazy guy on the corner for just that sum.

A lot of screen time of this episode is devoted to Fred and Barney trying to get the piano in Fred’s house at night. This is a long string of slapstick gags, ending with Fred riding the piano on the street. Like ‘The Sweepstakes Ticket‘, this part has some throwback gags to Tex Avery’s ‘Deputy Droopy’ (1955) with Barney running to a mailbox to yell in it.

Much better though is the scene in which Barney and the shop owner play an elaborate, quasi-classical improvisation on the 1880 song ‘The Fountain at the Park’ at the Stoneway piano. This is one of the most delightful scenes within the complete series, greatly enhanced by the genuinely delightful music. Almost as good is the short’s finale, in which Barney and a quartet of policemen sing ‘Happy anniversary’ to the tune of Gioachino Rossini’s overture to William Tell over and over again, much to Fred’s chagrin.

Watch the anniversary song from ‘The Hot Piano’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 19
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Snorkasaurus Hunter
To the next Flintstones episode: The Hypnotist

‘The Hot Piano’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: January 27, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

The Snorkasaurus Hunter © Hanna-BarberaThe story of this episode is set in when Fred gets angry about meat prices in a supermarket. So he decides to use his vacation to hunt the meat himself.

Thus the four neighbors are off with a trailer to the mountains where Fred and Barney try to clobber a ‘Snorkasaurus’ to death, while their wives experience all kinds of camping annoyances, like mosquitoes and ants. The Snorkasaurus turns out to be a wise-cracking, refined talking animal with a suave voice (according to Wikipedia imitating comedian Phil Sivers).

In the end the episode turns out to give us the origin of Dino, Fred and Wilma’s pet. This is a weird turn of events, as Dino has been seen before as a four-legged yelping dinosaur, behaving like a dog, not the two-legged suave and talkative animal as shown here. Indeed, this is this the only episode in which Dino talks.

‘The Snorkasaurus Hunters’ is the first episode to show Fred working as an excavator machinist at ‘Rockhead and Quarry’s Cave Construction Company’. In ‘Love Letters on the Rocks‘ Fred says he’s a ‘dino-operator’. Both his work and the supermarket lead to several prehistoric gags. The camping episode is particularly slapstick rich, and has surprisingly much in common with earlier Warner Bros. cartoons. For example, Barney chops an enormous redwood tree, which crashes on Fred’s car and trailer. Later, Barney goes fishing, but gets swallowed by a large fish himself. The best gag, however, is when the four dream what they could do with the money they save by hunting their meat themselves. Barney’s dream in particular is a delight.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Snorkasaurus Hunter’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 18
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Big Bank Robbery
To the next Flintstones episode: The Hot Piano

‘The Snorkasaurus Hunter’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: January 20, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

The Big Bank Robbery © Hanna-BarberaThis episode starts with two bank robbers (voiced by Mel Blanc and Stan Freberg) followed by a police car.

The robbers get rid of the loot, which lands on Fred’s head. When the wives convince Fred and Barney to return the money to the police, the boys are quickly seen as the robbers themselves. Fred and Barney flee into the wild Meanwhile, Wilma thinks of a rather unhealthy way to attract the real bank robbers, posing as sleazy gals (“Shirl” and “Myrt”) with too much dough on their hands. It remains a wonder that they only attract the original bank robbers to their house, and not the complete criminal scene of Bedrock with their act.

Anyway, in the end Fred accidentally knocks out the real crooks, earning the reward. But his bragging about it makes him all too vulnerable to blackmail, and in the end it’s the other three who spend all the money, leaving Fred only with his story as a conquering hero.

This episode features a gas station using a mastodon, but the best gag may be the police sketch, which is much more inspired than the tiring and completely superfluous scene in which Barney ends up in a pterodactyl nest. Moreover, this pterodactyl looks more like a bird than the real thing.

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 17
To the previous Flintstones episode: Arthur Quarry’s Dance Class
To the next Flintstones episode: The Snorkasaurus Hunter

‘The Big Bank Robbery’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: January 13, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

Arthur Quarry's Dance Class © Hanna-BarberaWilma gets four free tickets for a big charity dance, but Fred and Barney refuse to go.

It turns out they can’t dance, and they are too ashamed to tell this to their wives. Thus they join ‘Joe Rockhead’s Fire Department’, a scam for husbands who want to go out each night, so they can go out and take dance lessons at ‘Arthur Quarry’s Dance School’.

Like many other Flintstones episodes ‘Arthur Quarry Dance School’ leans heavily on Fred and Barney’s rather depressing tendency to keep things secret from their wives, but this time it’s all for the good, and this is one of the rare episodes with a happy ending, even though Barney and Fred still can hardly dance in the end.

Highlight of the episode is the scene in which Fred and Barney meet their dancing partners at the school, two beautiful young ladies. The prehistoric gag department is limited to the mailman who uses a small Ceratopsian as a mail cart, and the bird as a record player, which by now has become a staple gag.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Arthur Quarry’s Dance Class’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 16
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Girl’s Night Out
To the next Flintstones episode: The Big Bank Robbery

‘Arthur Quarry’s Dance Class’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: January 6, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★★½

The Girl's Night Out © Hanna-BarberaThe wives are complaining that the boys never take them out, so Fred and Barney take them to an amusement park, much to Betty’s and Wilma’s dismay.

At the amusement park Fred records a song for Wilma, which he leaves behind, as Wilma clearly isn’t interested. But Fred’s record is picked up by teenagers, and even makes it to the radio. Soon, Fred becomes the bespectacled teenage idol Hi-Fye.

In his new career as a pop star, Fred is managed by a colonel, who keeps rambling about a boy from Georgia ad nauseam in a rather lame running gag. The Georgia reference is a rare occasion of a real contemporary reference within the series instead of a phony one (like ‘Hollyrock’), and belies the supposed stone age setting of the series.

Anyway, Barney, Wilma and Betty accompany Fred, alias Hi-Fye on a tiring tour, until the wives are so fed up, they spread a rumor that Hi-Fye is in fact a square, thus ending the teen idol’s career within seconds.

This episode is a nice satire on the pop music industry of the late 1950s and early 1960s with its rapid turnover of pop stars. The period between the end of rock-‘n-roll (ca. 1958) and the advent of The Beatles in 1963 was particularly depressing in that respect, with teen idols with shallow hit songs and a short product live span flocking the jukebox.

Fred Flintstone seems to be the epitome of such stardom, having only one hit: his updated version of the age old song ‘Listen to the Mocking Bird’, the origins of which go way back to 1855. Nevertheless, watching Fred doing his ridiculous ‘gimmick’ as Hi-Fye is a sheer delight. The episode also contains a short reference to Hot Lips Hannigan (the star of the episode of the same name) as being way out.

Apart from the pop music scene of the early 1960s, this episode unwillingly gives us a little insight in the depressing life of housewives of the era, who never go out of their homes and whose reason of existence seems to be to serve their husbands. True, more episodes of The Flintstones display this sobering fact, but in ‘The Girl’s Night Out’ this pre-feminist life is made the main subject of the episode.

Watch ‘The Girl’s Night Out’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 15
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Prowler
To the next Flintstones episode: Arthur Quarry’s Dance Class

‘The Girl’s Night Out’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: December 30, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

The Prowler © Hanna-BarberaThere’s a prowler in town and Betty and Wilma are taking judo lessons to protect themselves.

Fred doesn’t approve and to prove that this self-defense is all nonsense he dresses up like a burglar himself to scare the wives. When he and the real prowler turn up at the same time, this causes a lot of misunderstandings.

This is a particularly slapstick-rich episode, with Fred and Barney trying to get Fred through Barney’s window, Fred repeatedly running into the real prowler, and Fred getting a beating from Betty, Wilma and the prowler.

There are also two nice prehistoric gags: Fred uses a bee in a shell for a razor, and a dinosaur lawn mower.

Unfortunately, the episode is hampered by the backward depiction of judo professor Rockimoto, a foul caricature of a Japanese, with the obligatory round glasses, big teeth, and phony accent.

Barney’s voice wavers a little during the episode.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Prowler’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 14
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Drive-in
To the next Flintstones episode: The Girl’s Night Out

‘The Prowler’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: December 23, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★

The Drive-in © Hanna-BarberaTired of their jobs, Fred and Barney decide to open their own restaurant. So they quit their jobs to obtain a drive-in so lousy, they can even buy without the necessary cash.

Fred’s and Barney’s only mistake is not telling their wives, but of course, Wilma and Betty soon find out, thus ending the business. The running gag of this episode features two annoying waitresses who sing a particularly irritating drive-in song, which is also featured in the episode’s finale.

‘The Drive-in’ is one of the least inspired of all Flintstones episodes. The all too predictable story moves at a surprisingly slow speed, and even contains a completely superfluous scene with a bird stealing Barney’s flapjacks. The only prehistory gags in this episode are the giant ribs and eggs Barney and Fred serve at the drive in.

The designs of the characters are quite unsteady in this episode, especially Fred’s.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Drive-in’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 13
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Sweepstakes Ticket
To the next Flintstones episode: The Prowler

‘The Drive-in’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: December 16, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

The Sweepstakes Ticket © Hanna-BarberaBoth Fred and Barney and Betty and Wilma buy a sweepstakes ticket. They hide from each other, which leads to a small comedy of errors.

‘The Sweepstakes Ticket’ is not the most inspired of the Flintstones episodes: it relies heavily on tried and tested formulas. Most prominent is the ancient trope of devilish and angelic sides (typical examples include ‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto‘ from 1933 and ‘Donald’s Better Self‘ from 1938), which this time come to visit Fred. Then there is a W.C. Fields-like beggar, and Fred’s rather atypical asides to the audience.

Moreover, the episode reuses a gag from ‘The Engagement Ring’, aired only a few weeks before. At one point the story even reverts to the comedy of Tex Avery’s ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point‘ and ‘Deputy Droopy’ (both 1955) with Fred running away to a far away place to scream out his pain, and quickly singing a lullaby to the awakening Barney.

Fred’s behavior is highly questionable in this episode, burgling his very own neighbor, and it’s amazing to see his crime being unpunished.

Watch ‘The Sweepstakes Ticket’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 12
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Golf Champion
To the next Flintstones episode: The Drive-in

‘The Sweepstakes Ticket’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

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