This Is The Perfect Time To Bring Back 'The Jetsons' (And Here's How They Should Do It)

After years of development for the big screen and the small screen, Hanna-Barbera's futuristic cartoon The Jetsons will be reborn on ABC as a live-actino multi-camera comedy. Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke will act as executive producers, and Gary Janetti, whose writing and producing credits include Family Guy and Will and Grace, will also executive produce and write the show. While there aren't many other details out, the news is yet another chapter in Warner Bros. saga to bring The Jetsons back into today's pop culture.

Bringing The Jetsons to the TV screen is probably the easiest way to introduce the show to a new audience because The Jetsons has threatened to come to theaters many, many times. Even Kanye West tried to bring The Jetsons to the big screen as the film's creative director. Currently, Warner Bros. seems to have settled on an animated Jetsons movie, with Sausage Party co-director Conrad Vernon hired to bring the space-age family to the big screen. But despite Warner Bros. finally finding a way to go forward with their long-suffering Jetsons film, the question still remains: What's so difficult about bringing a simple Hanna-Barbera cartoon to the big screen? For some possible answers, let's turn to The Flintstones.

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The Flintstones Effect

The Flintstones is both the best and worst thing to happen to The Jetsons' chances of big screen development. The 1994 film adaptation of The Flintstones, executive produced by Steven Spielberg no less, is one of the best cartoon-to-live action adaptations ever. Yes, I said it — one of the best ever. The film took what was fun about a good episode of The Flintstones and blew it up into a feature-length story. It also doesn't hurt that The Flintstones is loosely based on The Honeymooners, meaning it's already ripe for more storytelling with a more adult bent. That's why it's not out of place for Fred to be seduced by the good life of upper-management at the rock quarry, get partially indicted in a fraud scheme, be charmed by the dangerous Miss Stone, and save his and Barney's kids from nearly getting killed.

The Jetsons, on the other hand, doesn't have the appearance of being just as adult, despite the fact that the first season of The Jetsons cartoon was pretty adult by '60s standards, just like The Flintstones. However, it was also less exciting that The Flintstones and was cancelled before getting revived in the late '80s. By that time, though, The Jetsons was purely for kids and therefore, it was void of much of the grit that could translate into box office success.

Where The Flintstones makes things even worse for a possible Jetsons film is how much Warner Bros. ran the live action Flintstones franchise into the ground. After the runaway hit of the first film, Warner Bros. played their hand when they released The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas in 2000, which, to be kind, certainly wasn't as stellar as the original. Warner Bros. continued to ruin the appetite for live-action adaptations of its properties with its Scooby-Doo films in 2002 and 2004. Even though the first Scooby-Doo film was a success with hardcore fans, it drew mixed reviews at best. The sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, was both a critical and box office dud. Therefore, the ability for Warner Bros. to pave the way for a live-action Jetsons, a cartoon property that started out as being The Flintstones' less-popular, space-age sibling, has been hampered by its own previous films. (However, that doesn't mean Warner Bros. isn't going to give up on bringing Hanna-Barbera cartoons to the movie theater, what with a new Scooby-Doo live-action film, S.C.O.O.B., slated to come out sometime next year.)

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The George Jetson Problem

The difficulty in bringing The Jetsons to screen might simply lie in the character of George Jetson himself. In short, George just is annoying. Fred has his own list of frustrating qualities as a character, but he's lovable in the sense that he's self-aware. Unlike George, Fred knows he's a bumbling fool and feels grateful to have the life he's managed to cultivate for himself. He recognizes who he is as a person, and that's actually quite cool. He might be an idiot, but Fred is a smart idiot on some level.

On the other hand, George is not only a whiny man, he's also a man who doesn't realize he's the very idiot his employer Mr. Spacely believes him to be. He's the image of a man who is trapped in his own ineptitude, but lacks the awareness to get himself out of his self-made hole. He seems like he's always annoyed with his well-meaning family and hates his dog, Astro. There's never an episode where George seems like he's actually at peace with life. It's George's attitude that makes The Jetsons cartoon show hard to watch.

However, there are still things about The Jetsons that keeps the collective imagination rapt. Despite my personal hatred of George Jetson, there are elements surrounding George that are awesome.

THE JETSONS, Rosie, Judy Jetson, Astro (dog), George Jetson, Jane Jetson, Elroy Jetson, cartoon tele

Making The Jetsons Cool Again

If there's anything fun that came out of the late '60s, it's pop culture's obsession with the space race. There have been several cartoon shorts from the '40s and '50s that espoused on the glories of the America of the future, but The Jetsons capitalized on the space age obsession in a way that captured everyone's imagination, in a similar way The Flintstones made cro-magnum times undeniably cool. Who doesn't love the idea of a world in the sky? Who doesn't want flying cars? Who doesn't love the unique sass and wit of Rosie the Robot?

The space race background for The Jetsons probably wasn't used with the same level of creativity as the 1960s caveman aesthetic was with The Flintstones. While The Flintstones was rife with jokes and sight gags, such as the poor animal vacuums and trash compactors saying, "It's a living" to Hollywood stars "Flintstone-ified, such as Cary Granite and Gina Lolabrickida, The Jetsons doesn't have many, if any, memorable pop culture moments.

Well, except for the absolute best episode of The Jetsons,

Probably the best blending of 1960s pop culture with the space obsession of the time is the episode "A Date with Jet Screamer," where George's daughter Judy wins a date with pop star Jet Screamer, a character who seems like a mix between Frankie Valli and Elvis Presley. This leads to an overprotective George to tail Judy while she's on the date to make sure Jet doesn't try any funny business. What could have ended with Judy in tears at her dad ruining her date turns into a moment when George himself helps inspire Jet's brand new song, "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah." At the end of the date, George himself is a huge fan of Judy's crush.

This episode is probably the best example of what The Jetsons is — it's a show that, like all family shows, exaggerate the everyday moments families have, but with a fun, futuristic backdrop. In fact, this episode should be used as one of the inspirations for a fun Jetsons movie.

Piggybacking off of that, here's what I'd do if any studio asked me for advice on how to make a great Jetsons movie. Because I am able and willing to take your calls.

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Make George Jetson More Likable

As I said above, George Jetson just isn't fun a character as many of his contemporaries. Fred Flintstone is constantly getting into trouble, misunderstanding things, and needing to be bailed out by Barney and Wilma. Seeing him goof up and learn something, only to do something else ridiculous later on, keeps you entertained and wanting to see the next episode. George, however, doesn't go on many ridiculous antics, and, maybe, he's got the wrong personality to be shoehorned into the Fred Flintstone mold Hanna-Barbera tried to put him into. In my mind, he's got more in common with Tom Rath from The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit than Fred. Instead of being a low-brow everyman, George is squarely middle-middle class, with even a little bit of privilege—he has a maid, and working at a big company like Spacely Sprokets has got to count for something in social circles, right? It's not like he's splitting rocks at the quarry. Like Tom, George is never at ease with his surroundings or himself, and that sense of internal discord actually makes George a character with a very dark undertone. Couldn't George be a little at ease with his life? With so many morose characters in movies nowadays, can't we have someone who feels calm during these horrible times?

A modern George Jetson would have to be fun on some level. He doesn't have to be like Fred, and he doesn't even have to be happy all of the time. However, there is one thing he and Fred share which would be the basis for a good plot and that is the desire to give their families the lives they've always dreamed of having. The film version of The Flintstones was partially driven by Fred's ability to give his family a better life than what he, a simple quarry worker, could afford. Since Wilma came from money, Fred was putting pressure on himself to become the man he felt his wife deserved. George's characterization could use this same kernel of emotion and expound it in a way that makes sense to George as a character and the societal pressures of living in a space-age world.

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Maintain Those Retro Futuristic Elements

What made The Flintstones so good was how faithful (and exuberant) it was to keep the 1960s-infused caveman aesthetic intact. In fact, I'd say the film went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to making the film an adaptation worthy of its big budget. It kept Fred's lodge (and Fred's famous "Twinkletoes" bowling technique), the animal appliances, Wilma and Betty's call to "Charge It!" and the inclusion of a modern celebrity or group (in this case, The B-52s).

A Jetsons movie, like The Flintstones film, should be fun, lighthearted and nostalgic. The original Jetsons cartoon didn't expound much on the jokes and in-world humor like it could have. This would be the time to do it. Like how The Flintstones film still made fun of current times, The Jetsons live-action film could have fun by including some of today's movie stars or celebs, such as a play on The Kardashians (and perhaps a meta joke about Kanye West's former involvement with the Jetsons film?) or a version of a space-age Beyoncé and Jay-Z. I'm just spitballing here, but something along those lines could be cool and very much in line with what The Flintstones did well.

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Embrace an Optimistic Future

By the time we get to the Jetsons' futuristic time, America will be even more of a multicultural melting pot. You don't have to take my word for it — take National Geographic's, which has a comprehensive article on the subject. So what does this mean for The Jetsons? Maybe it's time to recast the characters and make them reflect their time — and our time — much more authentically.

Cue the folks who would think this is needless race-bending. We get those people every time with any character that is changed from white to some other race. But let's be really real — America, much less the world, isn't all one color or one culture. It would be cool to have a lighthearted sci-fi film that showed a utopia of sorts in the sky. And don't we need a fun version of the future at this point in our society? Most of the messaging we've been fed so far from the sci-fi films of today is that the future holds danger at every turn, and that humanity might be doomed whether we go out into space searching for new worlds or stay here on Earth. It'd be nice to see a film that said, "The future's going to be awesome, you guys! Just wait and see!" A film that showed a society getting along with one another (and with other aliens) would be great; in many ways, it'd be reminiscent of the positive themes found in the cartoon's live-action contemporary, Star Trek. I'd go see a Jetsons film that gave me uplifting Star Trek vibes, and I think audiences today are clamoring for that kind of heartfelt message as well.

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Don't Build a Universe

Let's be real once again; we might not need but one Jetsons film. We certainly might not need a Jetsons universe. In order to learn from the mistakes of The Flintstones films, perhaps Warner Bros. should only sign off on just one Jetsons film and don't announce plans for any others, at least until they see how good this one could be. The Flintstones became a parody of itself once it got to its Viva Rock Vegas days, and I would hope a Jetsons film wouldn't suffer the same fate. The same also applies to the ABC television version, but it will, by the nature of its medium, have more room to stretch and grow.

Nowadays, studios are signing off on franchises left and right, but what if studios actually went back to focusing on making just one good film at a time? However, Warner Bros. is busy trying to get more Hanna-Barbera projects going, with S.C.O.O.B. coming in 2018, so it's only too probable that Warner Bros. would include a Jetsons film in an Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe situation. I hope they don't go that route, though. While The Jetsons could be a fun film, does it really have it in it to stand up to the rigors of a film universe? I don't think so. In fact, I don't think many films out there stand up to those rigors. Yet, studios insist on following the Marvel template, which everyone else seems to blunder.

With the news that has come out about the current direction of the Jetsons franchise, it'll be fascinating to see what Zemeckis and his team bring to the classic story. Having someone like him on board, someone who is best known for the classic Back to the Future series that successfully combined retro kitsch with current, fun sci-fi, could bode well for the upcoming TV show's success. Perhaps that success could even translate into a future film's success. A Jetsons film could be really cool, really marketable, and really artistically inspiring. It could help bring audiences closer together under the umbrella of unity, family, and comfortable nostalgia, something that's especially needed in these increasingly scary times.

It's the right time for a new Jetsons. Let's hope they get it right.