I was trying to think of something to say about the news that Seth MacFarlane will be reviving The Flintstones. I think the most obvious point to make is that with Hanna-Barbera cartoons, there is no artistic integrity to violate. That doesn’t mean they never made good shows. And they certainly made lots of beloved shows, as well as shows that were influential: their early TV work, including the early Flintstones, was a huge influence on Ren & Stimpy. But virtually every H-B TV cartoon is a copy of something else that was successful.
MacFarlane has sort of learned from this in that most of his TV cartoons have their premises stitched together from various other things; one of the best characters on any of his shows is an alien who talks and acts like Paul Lynde, which is the H-B philosophy of how to create a cartoon character (not just theirs, obviously, but they did it the most), make your character as close to a famous performer as you can without getting sued. Maybe it’s no wonder MacFarlane wants to revive H-B’s second most-famous property; he didn’t only start at Hanna-Barbera, he’s sort of their successor.
Reviving The Flintstones is a bit different from reviving the classic cartoon characters, and probably easier. Easier because they are a sitcom already – literally, the first animated prime-time sitcom – so there’s no need to figure out what their new format should be. And because they’re sitcom characters, they don’t depend on an older, less TV-friendly type of story like Bugs Bunny does. They don’t actually need to be “rebooted,” they just need to be revived. I could see it working for that reason — there’s not a whole lot the new version would need to change, other than the nature of the jokes themselves (which would need to be raunchier and more pop-culture-aware to get with the times). The writers could just do what they always do, add prehistoric jokes, and the result is the revival of a cartoon franchise and merchandising bonanza. It’s a bit cynical, but so was the original.
Or they could go another way and genuinely “reboot,” changing the format and the characters, but the reports seem to give the impression that Time-Warner wouldn’t have given Fox/MacFarlane the license if they were going to do that. Anyway, here’s an example of what an actual Flintstones reboot might look like, from the show that rebooted every Hanna-Barbera character it could get its hands on, my favourite Adult Swim show, “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.”
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