Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rein-Toon-Ation: The New Fred & Barney Show (1979)

The New Fred & Barney Show relaunched the Flintstones franchise when it was added to NBC's Saturday morning lineup in the winter of 1979 as a mid-season replacement. Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm were ret-conned back into toddlers, which, as we've speculated here before, was because advertisers with whom Hanna-Barbera had licensing deals (Post, Miles Laboratories) preferred the preschool incarnations of the characters, and so, the teenage adventures were excised pro tempore.

However, as we have also noted, long time fans of the franchise protested the de-aging of Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, and when the series eventually evolved into the 2nd incarnation of the Flintstone Comedy Show (1980-2), the kids were reverted to teenagers, but this time put forth with Dino and their friends as a stone age mock up of Scooby-Doo, since NBC was unable to acquire that franchise a few years earlier. Suffice to say, the Flintstones bade farewell to NBC in 1982, and eventually went back to their original network, ABC, for a series of periodic primetime specials that continued Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm's story, even though the Alphabet Network had already aired The Flintstones & the Little Big League before The New Fred & Barney Show landed at NBC.

Now, let's talk about the show.

Alan Reed, the original voice of Fred Flintstone, had passed away, so Henry Corden, the understudy and previously the singing voice of Fred, stepped into the role. John Stephenson, long the voice of Fred's boss, Mr. Slate, and numerous other characters, serves as announcer, something he was used to, but not at H-B. Stephenson, you see, was the off-camera narrator at the end of Dragnet during its second run (1967) before being replaced by Art Gilmore. Otherwise, the only other thing that was new, besides the revamped theme, was the presence of title cards for each episode, something that the earlier series didn't have.

Unfortunately, NBC had to tinker with the show. Season 2 saw a format change, with the Flintstones now joined by the solo adventures of the Fantastic Four's Thing, now rebooted as a shape-shifting teenager, whose more familiar alter ego appears only when Benjy Grimm brings together a pair of rings. As bad as it sounds. With The New Shmoo, adapted from Al Capp's L'il Abner strip, failing, someone decided that stitching it into Fred & Barney Meet The Thing might save it, expanding the latter to 90 minutes. That proved to be a disaster. To make good to fans, NBC experimented with a return to primetime for The Flintstones, marking the series' 20th anniversary, but that didn't work, either.

Scope out the episode, "Bedrock Rocks", in which Fred & Barney must impersonate musicians to fulfill Mrs. Slate's birthday wish.

In this writer's opinion, it might've worked better if they left Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm as teens, getting ready for college, instead of catering to Madison Avenue's interests. It might've helped the series succeed without all the tinkering.

Rating: B.

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