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"The Jetsons Season 2": Back to a Very Retro Future

Stop this crazy thing! No, Jerry meant the DVD. Stop it.

That said, the episodes on offer here are mostly solid if unspectacular. Episodes usually feature one character more than the others, so it’s possible to speak of “Elroy episodes” and “Rosie episodes.” This is a good thing, because it not only gives the show a bit of variety but also lets us get to know each of the characters a bit better. In general, though, I enjoyed the episodes that center on the feud between George’s boss, Mr. Spacely of Spacely Sprockets, and his rival Cogswell of Cogswell Cogs. “Solar Snoops” is genuinely quite fun as Cogswell schemes to steal Spacely’s “microchip cookie” and George has to dress in drag on a counter-espionage mission. And “Winner Takes It All” takes the rivalry to the Olympics. The strained relationship between George and his boss is one of the cornerstones of the show (taken directly, of course, from The Flintstones).

One of the charms of the show is its world of imaginative robots and gadgets. There are some great little touches, such as Judy’s talking diary that promises not to tell anyone her secrets. But watching this show in 2009, there is an added joy in spotting the technologies that have come to fruition. George reads his newspaper and his mail on screen—they couldn’t have known about such things in 1985! As I was watching, I kept reminding myself about what was and wasn’t invented then, because little things like reading the news from a screen seem perfectly natural to us now. However, The Jetsons seems to get at a deeper point about our reliance on technology. When Rosie’s disc is “past its mileage” in “Rosie Come Home”, she thinks she is obsolete and that the Jetsons want to replace her. But the replacement the family gets does things differently and they don’t like it; they’d rather the older model. The whole episode reminded me of upgrading my old PC until the point came where I had to get a new one. It’s interesting to see that that process dramatized and humanized.

A show as middle-of-the-road as The Jetsons almost resists analysis. By 1985 standards it’s positively retrograde. I mean, if you put it up against Thundercats, He-Man, Dungeons and Dragons, MASK, Transformers, or Defenders of the Earth, it’s immediately clear that we’re dealing with something from a different time. However, since it was a conscious effort to recreate a 60s show, that can hardly be leveled as a criticism. I’m wondering who the “natural audience” for The Jetsons was in the 80s. I was a kid then, and I was watching men with big swords fight and then nagging my parents to buy me plastic replicas of them. I remember seeing The Jetsons on but I always assumed (even back then) that it was from the same stock of endlessly re-run 50s, 60s and 70s shows that people don’t tend to criticize, like Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, Top Cat, Yogi Bear, and Popeye that they’d put on as filler during a “dead spot” in the schedules. I can’t ever remember going out of my way to watch it.

I guess this is my problem with The Jetsons in general: who would go out of their way to watch it? It’s the sort of show that everyone has seen but is nobody’s favourite show; I can’t really imagine someone describing themselves as a die hard “Jetsons fan.” It’s mildly amusing: but more “mild” than “amusing”; it’s gently inventive, but more “gentle” than “inventive”. It’s not particularly funny, but harmless enough; it’s faintly nostalgic but not particularly endearing. Well, you get the picture. In short, The Jetsons is a study in bland moderation that struggles to justify its own existence.

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