Hanna-Barbera (September 16, 1985 – November 13, 1985), Warner Home Video (June 2, 2009), three discs, 462 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $34.98
After twenty-two years, The Jetsons returned to television with a second season in 1985. These twenty-one episodes feature the space-age family in exciting new adventures.
The Sweatbox Review:
If we are to believe the original timeline, the Jetsons lived one hundred years into the future when the show premiered in September 1962. This means that we are approximately 53 years away from the age featured in The Jetsons. This also means than in three short years, the classic Hanna-Barbera creation will mark its 50th anniversary. It’s not surprising to me that we are still a long way away from a future with flying cars and robot maids. Then again, the show never aimed to predict the future, instead focusing on a familiar future that lives in our imagination. The show originally premiered as a primetime counterpart to The Flintstones in 1962 and portrayed a contemporary American family in a retro-futuristic world. Although it was deemed a success at the time, the original show’s first season would only produce 24 episodes that would later run continuously on Saturday mornings. Twenty-two years later in 1985, the show was revived for an additional 2 seasons, later repackaged for syndication together with the original episodes. All in all, 75 episodes were produced, along with two television films (The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones, Rockin’ With Judy Jetson) and one theatrical film (Jetsons: The Movie). A rumored live-action film is also in development and expected to be released in 2012.
With the second season of the show, the creators went back to the drawing board to bring the show up to the contemporary style of the 1980s. They also wanted to bring the focus of the show to a younger audience now that the show would play in the afternoon. The original show was essentially a traditional 1960s family sitcom similar to The Flintstones and was aimed at families watching Primetime TV. The new season, while still focused on the family aspect, would feature more fantasy, sci-fi and adventure stories set in new locations. The season also counted on the addition of new regular characters to the show’s cast. The first episode of the new season even introduces the character of Oribity, an alien resembling a fur ball with springs attached to his arms and legs. Other established characters would also get a larger presence on the show including Rosie the robot maid, the building handyman Henry Orbit, his robot Mac and George’s work computer R.U.D.I. (The Referential Universal Digital Indexer). In fact, the greater appearance of the robots and computers was one of the major new directions on the show. The 60’s episodes focused more on rockets and they had a space age vision of the future. In the 1980s, the world gradually became more fascinated with computers and robotics, and this was portrayed on the show. Another major theme would be corporate greed and the extent to which corporations would go to lie, cheat, and steal their way to the top. All of these changes were made to update the show for a new generation.
One of the major pervasive themes in The Jetsons is the place of technology in our lives. The Jetsons have a robot maid named Rosie that does all of their housework and George has a computer at work that does all the work for him. Out of these 21 episodes, many episodes feature technologies that are supposed to make life easier, but end up making it more complicated than expected. In SuperGeorge, a Thinko machine makes the Jetsons wishes come true, including turning George into a superhero. Fantasy Planet features a fantasy machine that allows them to live their inner fantasies, ultimately leading to dissapointment. In Instant Replay, a machine called a Replayola accidentally allows George to change the course of his life, but ends up erasing his wedding with Jane in the process. Future Tense does the opposite when Jane gets special glasses that allow her to see the future. Finally, in The Wrong Stuff, Elroy and Astro get more than they bargained for when they are trapped inside a space shuttle. The technology in The Jetsons is never perfect and there are always glitches that end up causing more problems than anticipated. This basic theme of technology making life more complicated was a response to the rapidly changing world of the mid 1980s when PCs and other technologies were rapidly gaining in popularity. These episodes reflected on the role of technology in our lives and allowed us to think about what we wanted from our future. Of course, all of this was done in a fun, entertaining way familiar to fans of Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
Another pervasive theme found in this second season is related to corporate greed. This is embodied by corporate rivals Cosmo Spacely and Henry Cogswell, and their respective companies Spacely Sprockets and Cogswell Cogs. In many of the show’s episodes, the rivals compete ruthlessly for technologies and prominence. In Solar Snoops, for example, George is caught in the middle of a corporate espionage scheme when one of Spacely’s new products is stolen by Cogswell. Spacely is regularly the symbol for corporate greed in episodes such as Jetsons’ Millions and Astro’s Big Moment where he tries to manipulate George into giving him money. This greed is also portrayed in the workplace, as in the episode S.M.A.S.H. when Spacely treats George like a slave for half of the episode. Of course, at the end of all these episodes, Spacely ends up having to backtrack and he must suffer the consequences of his greed. Looking back, greed was a dominant theme of the early 80s when get-rich-quick schemes were common-place and the stock market was riding high. When portrayed on The Jetsons, the theme was featured in funny situations that allowed viewers to see Spacely ultimately suffer the consequences of his actions.
Of course, throughout all 21 episodes of this second season, the theme of family is a consistent presence. Many of the episodes deal with the feeling of belonging to the family or being appreciated and remembered by others. This is the basic theme in Elroy Meets Orbity, Rosie Come Home, and Judy’s Birthday Surprise. In the premiere episode of the new season, Elroy Meets Orbity, Elroy finds Orbity while on a fieldtrip and eventually the family adopts him as the new pet. This causes Astro to feel like he is being replaced by the new member. In Rosie Come Home, it is Rosie’s turn to feel like she will be replaced when she begins to make mistakes and catches the Jetsons in a robot store where they are looking for a replacement part. Finally, in Judy’s Birthday Surprise, we get the basic story about Judy who thinks everyone has forgotten her birthday. Other episodes in the season deal with what family members do for one another. In Family Fallout, the Jetsons participate in a game show similar to Family Feud against the Spacelys and only by working together are they able to beat them. In Mother’s Day for Rosie, George tries to recreate Rosie’s mother and bring her cheer on Mother’s day. My favorite episode, however, is The Cosmic Courtship of George and Jane where the couple revisits the beginning of their relationship. This is one of the most memorable episodes of the show and cleverly showcases the heart at the center of the show.
Of course there are those episodes that do not specifically deal with any one of these three themes. These episodes depend on external forces that dictate the direction of the episode, regrettably making some of these episodes weaker than the others. Characters make their one-time appearance and are never to be seen again. In Fugitive Fleas, we have fleas that seek asylum on Astro. In two similarly-themed episodes, S’No Relative and The Mirrormorph, alien lifeforms and artifacts delivered to the Jetsons become the center of the storylines. While these are generally fun adventures, most of these episodes are forgettable.
The episodes found in this set are as follows:
1. Elroy Meets Orbity
2. Rosie Come Home
3. Solar Snoops
4. Judy’s Birthday Surprise
6. Family Fallout
8. The Mirrormorph
9. Mother’s Day for Rosie
10. Jetson’s Millions
11. Fugitive Fleas
12. Rip-Off Rosie
13. Far-Out Father
14. Astro’s Big Moment
15. The Cosmic Courtship of George and Jane
16. Fantasy Planet
17. S’No Relative
18. Instant Replay
19. Haunted Halloween
20. Future Tense
21. The Wrong Stuff
Is This Thing Loaded?
Special Features are slim in this set. This is in sharp contrast from earlier Hanna-Barbera sets which featured commentaries and several featurettes. Included in this set is a single featurette called The Jetsons Return to the Future (8:34) that can be found on disc two. In this featurette, Andrea Romano (The Jetsons Casting Director), Jerry Beck (Animation Historian), Mark Evanier (Animation Historian), Gordon Hunt (Recording Director, The Jetsons), Janet Waldo (Voice of “Judy Jetson”), and Jeff Hall (Producer Director, The Jetsons) talk about the evolution of the show from 1960’s primetime to 1980’s afternoon syndication. They discuss the ways the producers decided to redirect the series (more sci-fi and robots for children) and reflect on how the voice cast felt about reuniting after nearly two decades. Portuguese and Spanish subtitles are available for this featurette.
Trailers can also be found distributed along the three discs of the set. On disc one, we get Tiny Toon Adventures Season One, Volume Two, and Freakazoid! The Complete Second Season. Disc two opens with a trailer for Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s Volume One and 1970s Volume One. Finally, disc three opens with a trailer for Batman: The Brave and the Bold. These trailers are only available at the beginning of their respective discs and are not accessible from the main menu.
The first season of the show was released as part of Warner Bros.’ Hanna-Barbera Golden Collection series. This new season is billed as part of the Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection series, which may be a slight verbal distinction, but when it comes to the DVD case, the differences abound. The first season had a plastic slipcase with a cardboard case that folded up holding four discs. The new season features a cardboard slipcase with a transparent plastic keep case holding three discs. Inside the new case is one disc flap holding discs One and Two on either side. I do not have a problem with the new case, but it does lack a certain consistency expected for a sequential DVD release. The only marking that binds the two releases is the number two on the spine of this release that goes together with the number one on the spine of the first season set.
The DVD cover features the Jetson family, minus Rosie and Orbity. The back cover features Elroy, Orbity and Judy. Inside, we get episode listings for each disc on the other side of the cover seen through the transparent case. My only issue with the inside case is that we cannot see the complete Disc Three listing without removing the disc, but this is a minor issue. Overall, the disc art is beautiful with depictions of 6 family members (2 per disc).
Another minor complaint about the case regards the audio specs announced on the back cover. While English and Portuguese audio tracks are advertised, additional Spanish tracks are also included in the DVD. This is the second Warner Bros. DVD that I have found with this same mistake and it makes me think that Warner is facing major communications issues between their DVD producing unit and their marketing department.
Ink And Paint:
The second season of the show featured a rounder, softer look for the backgrounds and characters on the show. Colors also look brighter and richer, and this is most likely due to new animation techniques used in the 1980s. The episodes feature some dust and grain, but overall look okay for a show that is now over twenty years old. All episodes are featured in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
As far as I can tell, these episodes have not been released according to their original airdates. I believe they are being released in the order found in the syndication package created by Hanna-Barbera at the end of the series. This is not a major issue for me as it does not influence the show’s continuity, but some fans may disagree. Three chapter stops are also included in each episode and a “Play All” feature is also included on each disc. The end credits are also accessible from the episode listings on each disc.
The twenty-one episodes included in this release correspond to approximately half of the show’s second season. An additional 20 episodes will hopefully make up the series’ third release. The ten episodes of season three, plus the additional two TV movies will hopefully become release number four (fingers crossed!).
The Jetsons featured a legendary voice cast that brought the show to life. They included Daws Butler (as “Elroy”, “Henry Orbit”, and “Mr. Cogswell”), Janet Waldo (as “Judy”), Don Messick (as “Astro”, “Mac”, and “RUDI”), Jean Vander Pyl (as “Rosie”), Mel Blanc (as “Mr. Spacely”), and Frank Welker (as “Orbity”). “George” and “Jane” were played by comedian George O’Hanlon and actress Penny Singleton, respectively. When the show came back for its second season, nearly all actors returned to their original roles, even though many of them were well into their 70s and 80s.
The episodes on this set feature English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, in addition to Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 tracks. The later, for whatever reason, was not properly advertised on the back of the cover. English, French, and Portuguese subtitles are also available.
The Jetsons is one of the few television shows ever to get a second chance at small-screen glory. This feat is even greater when we consider that over twenty years passed between the first and second seasons. The second time around proved to be great for the show as the characters gained new popularity in syndication. With contemporary themes involving the unreliability of modern technology and corporate greed, the show allowed viewers to reflect on their role in society. At its heart, however, the show is about a family and the love that they feel for one another. After nearly 50 years, the show is still relevant and continues to entertain a whole new generation of fans.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?