It’s in the news right now that Seth Macfarlane is working on a new Flintstones series for Fox. This will be Macfarlane’s 4th animated Fox comedy, following in the footsteps of Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. Fox execs feel the Flintstones were among the most beloved TV characters and wants to introduce them to a new generation.
But can a beloved cartoon classic from the 60’s be revamped for today’s audiences or will this show be a Yabba Dabba Don’t?
The success of this new series will ultimately rely on Macfarlane’s ability to find characters in Bedrock to fill his stock roles. While the context and approach of each of Seth’s shows differs, the basic makeup of the show follows one particular pattern. Each of the shows is predicated on the following 6 roles:
Let’s take a look at Bedrock and see if we can’t help Seth find the right people.
1. A Loveable Idiot – Fred Flintstone
The logical leap from Peter Griffin, Stan Smith and Cleveland Brown to Fred Flintstone is a short one. Like his fellow loveable idiots Fred is loud, portly and prone to accidents, making questionable plans and reaping the hilarious consequences. Seems like a perfect fit. Macfarlane will have to be careful, however, as 60’s Fred was always a manly character, more of a brute than any of the other three.
2. A Hot Wife – Wilma Flintstone
This one is more of a no brainer than Fred. In fact, the strong-willed and level headed wives who keep their husbands in line and help compensate for their shenanigans owe a debt of gratitude to Wilma, who was doing all that centuries before them.
3. A Loser Son – Barney Rubble?
This is where the template gets a little tricky. Unlike Peter, Stan and Cleveland, Fred Flintstone has no son. However, Barney Rubbles comparatively small stature does give him the comedic smallness of a son. Chris Griffin, Steve Smith and Cleveland Brown Junior are often dragged into their dad’s schemes, coming out worse for the wear, just as Barney does in the original cartoon. Barney may end up being a hybrid between the loser son and the stupid friends found in Family Guy and The Cleveland show.
4. A Daughter Who Hates Him – Pebbles? Betty?
Here is the first full breach of Macfarlane’s comedic template. Meg Griffin, Haley Smith and Roberta Tubs are constantly criticized, ostracized and occasionally brutalized as the butts of mean spirited humor. If you accept Barney as the loser son, the natural correlation would be Betty. Betty, however, is best friends with Wilma, often sharing her side plots, and would thus be out of reach of the standard abuse doled out by the loveable idiot. Pebbles, Fred and Wilma’s only daughter is best remembered as an infant. And even in the few spin offs where she was a teenager (see the Pebbles and Bam Bam Show and the Flintstone Comedy Hour) she was more loved and accepted than any of her modern day equals. Depending what age Macfarlane chooses to portray Pebbles, he will have to step outside his usual pattern.
5. A Comically Sized Sadist – The Great Gazoo
What do a baby who wants to kill his mother, a German Olympic skier trapped in the body of a goldfish and toddler thug have in common? They all occupy the comically sized sadist role. And why not? It’s really funny to see small things be angry. Many cartoon evil geniuses are diminutive, and finding one in bedrock isn’t difficult. Hailing from the planet Zetox, The Great Gazoo seems like he would be a better analogue for American Dad‘s Roger, but the fact is, dum-dums, that The Great Gazoo had built a doomsday machine that could destroy the entire universe, moves him firmly into this role. Plus, there were a lot of people who thought the original show would have been better without the Great Gazoo, and that’s just the kind of button Macfarlane likes to push.
6. A Non-Human Best Friend – Every Tool in the Show
Family Guy has a talking dog named Brian. American Dad has Roger, the alien. And The Cleveland Show has a deeply religious telemarketing bear named Tim. Seth loves animals who talk and this is why I am excited for his take on The Flintstones. One of the best on going gags of the original was the anthropomorphized animals used to give the Bedrockians (Bedrockites?) all the modern comforts of home. From the bird in the camera that carves a picture on a slate with its beak to the pelican whose beak was used as a washing machine, each of these animals reminded us that, “it’s a living.” Seth, who has proven himself prone to short side gags and breaking the fourth wall, will have a field day with these prehistoric analogues of today’s machines.
What do you think of these choices? Did I overlook any important roles? Important people?