Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Flintstones Comedy Show: 1980-1984...

Over the course of this year there have been several uploads on YouTube shining the spotlight on the half hour syndicated series, Flintstone Frolics. The title of this blog entry encompasses the years that The Flintstone Comedy Show happened to be on network television under a variety of titles.

The series debut on NBC on November 22, 1980. The reason for the late start-up date is because 1980 happened to be a strike year for television writers and the 1980-1981 season didn't get underway until November (instead of the usual month of September). This particular series expanded on the concept of several Flintstones programs that had aired in the years preceding the debut of this 90 minute, Saturday morning series. During the 1979-1980 season NBC aired a half hour cartoon series titled The New Fred and Barney Show. In one of the episodes, titled "Fred and Barney Meet the Frankenstones", the ghoulish family is introduced. This happened during a September 1979 air-date. Episodes of The New Fred and Barney Show aired from February to October 1979 on NBC's Saturday morning line-up.

The Flintstone Comedy Show consisted of six segments per episode. The main segment titled The Flintstone Family Adventures contained adventures/stories similar to the 1960's episodes of The Flintstones focusing on Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty. Bedrock Cops is a segment that features Fred and Barney as patrolmen on prehistoric motorbikes...perhaps a spoof of the live-action series, CHiPs. In the segment Fred and Barney are aided by Shmoo, a shape-shifting glob of alien species. Their boss is Sgt. Boulder. The Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, and Dino segment revolved around Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm solving mysteries in which Dino acted as comic relief. The segment often come across like Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm's previous series of adventures in the early '70s on The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show including appearances from Moonrock, Penny, and Wiggy.

A fourth segment, titled Captain Caveman, told the adventures of Captain Caveman's years in Bedrock before being frozen in ice and discovered millions of years later by Dee-Dee, Taffy, and Brenda in the Captain Caveman and Teen Angels series. In the 1980 series Captain Caveman is the alter-ego of Chester, a mild-mannered copy boy at The Daily Granite. Chester turns into his alter-ego, Captain Caveman, during times of crisis and danger...and is often cheered on by both Betty and Wilma (co-workers of Chester's at the paper) even though he's just as klutzy and clumsy as ever. Their boss is Lou Granite. In this series Chester's facial area is clean-shaven but after he transforms into Captain Caveman he looks as he should...covered completely in hair. This segment keeps with The Flintstones tradition of taking modern-day culture and events and placing them in a prehistoric setting. A fifth segment of the 90 minute series centered around The Frankenstones. In this segment Frank Frankenstone's been transformed from a lovable, easy-going monster into a devious and short-tempered agitator. In previous incarnations of the Frankenstone character the depictions had been more or less similar to Boris Karloff's legendary performance as The Frankenstein Monster in the Universal Studios horror movies. Ted Cassidy, and later, John Stephenson, voiced Frankenstone prior to this 1980 series. Charles Nelson Reilly became the new voice of the character and therefore the character's personality changed to match the vain, prissy, and easily annoyed characterization that Reilly was noted for. A sixth segment of the 1980 series centered on Dino...the segments having been called Dino and Cavemouse. In the segment (2 per episode) Dino and a character named Cavemouse battle one another in Tom and Jerry/Road Runner and Coyote-style adventures.

Syndicated internationally The Flintstone Comedy Show received a different title in the form of The Flintstone Frolics. Under this title the original 6 segments from the 90 minute version that were airing in America became repackaged in 30 minute installments. This meant that each half hour broadcast of the Frolics featured 2 segments chosen at random. One episode may feature The Frankenstones and Bedrock Cops, another may feature Bedrock Cops and The Flintstone Family Adventures, another may contain a Captain Caveman adventure along side a Flintstone Family Adventures segment, etc. etc. There happened to be 11 individual episodes produced for 5 of the 6 segments during the ninety minute 1980-1981 season. As mentioned previously the Dino and Cavemouse segments had 2 chase adventures per episode for a total of 22 installments. An additional 7 ninety minute episodes aired during the 1981-1982 season. In total 5 of the 6 segments added up to 18 episodes each. Dino and Cavemouse enjoyed a total of 44 segments during that same period. The Flintstone Comedy Show series, in America, left the NBC Saturday morning line-up on September 11, 1982 but the segments continued to air...

As international audiences seen the program as The Flintstone Frolics a different re-packaged, half hour series aired in America beginning on September 18, 1982 on NBC under the title of The Flintstone Funnies.

As you can see from the title card the series spotlighted the segments originally seen on the 90 minute series. Like the Frolics incarnation overseas, the domestic Flintstone Funnies randomly aired segments of the 90 minute series out of sequential order in a 30 minute time-slot on NBC. This meant that segments produced in 1980 and 1981 aired back-to-back in most half hour installments. This Saturday morning re-packaged series aired on NBC until September 8, 1984. It would be the last time The Flintstones and The Rubbles appeared on network television as adults...ABC aired The Flintstone Kids (1986-1988)...and that series marked the last time The Flintstones and it's related characters appeared on network television in a series (moving to reruns on cable-TV over the next 25+ years). The characters of Fred and Barney continued to air on network TV in the form of commercials for Pebbles cereal throughout much of the 1990s.

The voice cast for the original 90 minute series is rather large as you could imagine. Henry Corden starred as the voice of Fred Flintstone; Mel Blanc also starred as Barney Rubble, Dino, and Captain Caveman; Jean Vanderpyl starred as Wilma Flintstone; Gay Autterson starred as Betty Rubble and Wiggy; Russi Taylor voiced Pebbles Flintstone and Cavemouse; Michael Sheehan voiced Bamm-Bamm Rubble; John Stephenson voiced numerous characters but his main one happened to be Mr. Slate. Also in the cast...Don Messick as Bad Luck Schleprock. Frank Welker as Shmoo and Rockjaw. Lennie Weinrib as Moonrock and Sgt. Boulder. Charles Nelson Reilly as Frank Frankenstone, Ruta Lee as Hidea Frankenstone, Zelda Rubenstein as Atrocia Frankenstone, Paul Reubens as Freaky Frankenstone, Kenneth Mars as Lou Granite, and Mitzi McCall as Penny.

30 minute episodes of the repackaged 90 minute series are on YouTube at the moment. Unfortunately the person that uploaded the episodes has the wrong titles posted for whatever reason. For example there's an upload called "The Ghost Sitters Sands of Saharastone" (which isn't even a title of any of the segment episodes!) but the 2 segments that appear on that upload are "A Night on the Town" (a Frankenstones segment) and "Monster Madness" (a Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, and Dino segment). You can see that episode HERE. Count Rockula, in that episode, is voiced by Don Messick. I uploaded that one because it's got the best audio, so far, of the other uploads available.

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