Until The Simpsons came along and ruined it for them, The Flintstones held the honor of being the longest running animated prime time series in television history. This cartoon, inspired by the success of The Honeymooners, soon became a cultural icon and a popular favorite among viewers of all ages and remains so to this day. Numerous spin offs, a couple of bad live action movies, plenty of comic books, toys, and games of all kinds have kept The Flintstones alive and well in the American subconscious and popular all over the world and Hanna Barbara has been teaming up with Warner Brothers to release the seasons in their complete form on DVD.
The show hit a nice blend of jokes for adults but at the same time had enough physical comedy and goofy situations that kids could get into it too. In short, The Flintstones was, and still is, a lot of fun for the whole family. With its constant running gag of prehistoric beasts being used as appliances and vehicles, combined with some characters who had a lot more personality than any cartoon at the time, the series kept the laughs coming and hooked viewers by using a nice mix of running plots and single episode stories.
Here's a little peek at which episodes live amongst the fancy animated menus in all their digital splendor, spread across four mighty discs and making up the entire fifth season of the show, which ran from October 15, 1964 through March 12, 1965.
Hop Happy: In a stroke of genius, Barney buys Bamm-Bamm a pet hopperoo named Hoppy for a gift. He proves to be a lot more work than Barney imagined and causes Fred a headache or two before everyone learns to love Hoppy anyway, which is a good thing as he and Dino save The Rubbles and The Flintstones from a near catastrophe at their picnic.
Monster Fred: Fred gets smacked on the head by a bowling ball and passes out. When he wakes up, he thinks he's a baby and Barney takes him to see Dr. Frankenstone who experiments on him to see if his method of changing personalities between creatures really works.
Itty Bitty Fred: Fred is experimenting with his new weight loss formula that ends up shrinking him down to a miniscule size. Barney decides this could be their big ticket and so he books the two of them on the Ed Sullystone Show as a ventriloquist team, with Fred as the dummy. Unfortunately for both of them, the effects of Fred's formula prove to be temporary with Fred regaining his former physical stature at exactly the wrong moment.
Pebbles' Birthday Party: Fred's in a bit of a pickle – he's supposed to be throwing a birthday party for Pebbles on the same night he's supposed to be helping out with a Water Buffalo's lodge party. He makes a mistake along the way and a group of burlesque dancers show up for the kids while the guys get a clown in their place.
Bedrock Rodeo Round-Up: Fred's always been a jealous type and this causes problems for the family when an old 'friend' of Wilma's shows up. He's a rodeo champ and Pebbles becomes quite enamored with him, causing Fred to try his hand at some rodeo antics himself in order to prove himself to his wife and daughter.
Cinderella Stone: Mr. Slate is having a party and everyone at the quarry has been invited except for Fred. He reads Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm a Cinderella styled story and soon falls asleep himself where he dreams that he goes to the party with some help from his fairy godmother.
A Haunted House Is Not a Home: Fred's uncle Giggles has died and left him an inheritance that, in order to collect, requires him to spend the night is his creepy old house. He and Barney head off to crash there for the night and discover that Giggles isn't dead after all, he's just testing Fred.
Dr. Sinister: The wives send Fred and Barney out to get some brontosaurus burgers and buns but on the way a stranger hands them an envelope which they then deliver to the address on the front. This leads them to Madame Yes, a mysterious woman with ties to an international espionage ring and the boys find themselves locked in Dr. Sinister's underground volcano lair and having to judo chop their way out.
The Gruesomes: The house next door to the Flintstones, Tombstone Manor, has long been empty so Fred is pretty excited when a family named The Gruesomes – Weirdly, Creepella, and their son Gobby (short for Goblin!) – take up residence there. Fred's hopes are dashed pretty early on when he realizes that The Gruesomes, as nice as they might seem, are actually pretty weird folks, which Fred and Barney learn the hard way when they get roped into babysitting Gobby and his pet spider, Schneider.
The Most Beautiful Baby In Bedrock: The Water Buffalo Lodge decides to hold a Beautiful Baby Contest, which seems like a great idea until the Flintstones get into a fight with the Rubbles over whose baby is the more beautiful of the two. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm get sick and tired of the adults fighting, so they take off and send their parents into a panic.
Dino And Juliet: Mr. Loudrock has moved in next door to Fred and Wilma and Fred can't stand it. Loudrock is always making Fred the butt of his practical jokes and he annoys him to no end. This complicates things for poor Dino, as he's falling in love with Loudrock's dog.
King For A Night: Fred happens to bare an uncanny resemblance to the King of Stonesylvania, who just happens to be in Bedrock this fine day to get a loan for his small country. Eventually he hires Fred to impersonate him and they switch places, which causes a lot of confusion for poor Barney who can't quite figure out why his best friend is acting so out of character.
The Indianrockolis 500: Barney has built himself a racecar and so he and Fred decide that Fred, under the name of Googles Pisano, should race the car in the Indianrockolis 500 competition. Unfortunately at the start of the race the tires rot and they're kicked out of the race, but later they win a tire sponsorship and make some money off of it.
Adobe Dick: The Water Buffalo's head out on a fishing trip where the titular whalesaurus ends up swallowing Fred and Barney. The tickle the giant fish until he finally laughs so much that he passes out, and then they take a picture of it as proof but Barney's photography skills prove to be quite lacking.
Christmas Flintstone: In this holiday episode we find Fred taking a part time job as a department store Santa Claus and he winds up doing so well at it that the real Santa Claus asks him to fill in for him as he's got a cold. Fred is happy to help out and he does a pretty good job but he forgets to deliver presents to one single house – his own!
Fred's Flying Lesson: In a Water Buffalo charity raffle Fred wins himself some flying lessons. He's pretty sure he'll take to it in no time and has lofty aspirations of becoming a career pilot but soon, once he's in the plane, things do not go as planned.
Fred's Second Car: At the Bedrock Police auction, Fred scores a cheap used car but what he doesn't know is that the jewel thieves that it was confiscated from are still after it as they think their loot is still hidden inside. They capture Fred and he sends Dino for help before he can escape, only to have Wilma call in the cops for him.
Time Machine: The Flintstones and The Rubbles head out to the world fair where they try out a time machine that they figure is just a joke. They wind up being transported into the future where they witness the rise of Rome, the reign of King Arthur as well as Christopher Columbus' discovery of America and Ben Franklin's time as well.
The Hatrocks And The Gruesomes: Fred's friend, The Hatrocks, are hillbillies who come to stay with the Flintstones but who soon prove to be a real pain for the family. Fred tries to convince Weirdly and his family to help scare them away but that won't work either. Fred has only one choice left – to scare them off with rock and roll!
Moonlight And Maintenance: Fred gets sick and tired of having to help with the house work all of the time so he takes a job at Bedrock Towers as a janitor so that his family can live in an automated home where all their work is done for them. He's none too happy when he moves in only to find out that his apartment is in the basement and none other than Mr. Slate himself resides in the penthouse suite.
Sheriff For A Day: Fred and Barney head west in search of uranium and wind up being appointed Sheriff and Deputy in a small town where a gang of bandits are holding the local populace in terror. Fred and Barney aren't so good at their jobs and soon the famous Cartrocks are called in to save the day.
Deep In The Heart Of Texarock:Fred's uncle Tex is filthy rich but he needs his nephew's help one day so that family head out to his ranch so that Fred and Barney can help him take down some cattle rustlers. Unfortunately while they're out there doing their thing, a Cowasaurus named Carmen notices them…
Rolls Rock Caper: Super cop extraordinaire Aaron Boulder recruits Fred and Barney as his assistants but it soon becomes obvious that he's using them to do all the work while he chases the ladies all day. When the dust settles, just as Fred and Barney have finally had enough, Boulder reveals the truth surrounding their unusual circumstances.
Superstone: Superstone, Bedrock's favorite superhero, was supposed to be making an appearance but something came up and he can't make it and now Fred has to take his place. What Fred doesn't know is that a gang of crooks are going to plan a heist and lay the blame on him. Good thing Barney is around to help Fred catch the crooks and save the day!
Fred Meets Hercurock: Go-Go Ravine hires Fred to play Hercurock in his new big time motion picture. Fred is excited about his latest shot at the big time until he finds out that he'll have to fight all manner of monsters and dinosaurs day in and day out, which causes him to rethink the merits of stardom.
Surfin' Fred: When the Flintstones head to the beach for a quiet getaway, Fred gets excited to find out about a surfing contest that's going on. He grabs his board and hits the waves but almost drowns – thankfully teen idol Jimmy Darrock (voiced by singer turned actor James Darren) is on hand to save him from a water grave.
The fifth season of the show might just be the best in the entire run of the series. With the introduction of The Gruesomes (not to be confused with the fuzz rock band out of Montreal of the same name, who lifted their name from this series!) seals the deal. Pretty much every one of the episodes in this set is a winner and if you're at all a fan of the series, this set is a must own. The writing and the voice work is clever and very much 'on' while the supporting characters are quirky enough to be completely memorable and a whole lot of fun. Sure, Fred and Barney find themselves in completely ridiculous situations time and time again but that's where a lot of the fun of the series stems from and some of the scenarios seen in this set are remarkably absurd and highlights in the history of the show.
Each and every one of these episodes was meant to be seen fullframe and that's exactly how they appear in this set. Thankfully, the elements look to have been in pretty good shape for this release as the video quality is great, despite some obvious dirt here and there and the fact that the limitations of the source material do shine through on DVD. Colors are nice and strong, print damage is surprisingly minimal, and there aren't any mpeg compression issues noticeable at all. There is a fine coat of grain overtop the picture pretty consistently but that's to be expected considering the age of the episodes. Overall, the series does look really good on these discs.
The original English mono mixes are maintained here on this release and for the most part, they all sound pretty decent. Things do get a bit flat in one or two scenes and those used to the flurry of activity present on more modern animation releases such as the DVD releases for The Simpsons might be disappointed but there aren't any serious problems with these tracks at all. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to understand, the background music and sound effects levels are balanced properly in the mix, and there is nary a trace of hiss or distortion present at all. Alternate dubbed mono tracks are provided for each episode in French, subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish and an English closed captioning option is also provided.
The first featurette is a four minute bit entitled A Stone Age Parenting Guide: Child Rearing In The Stone Age which is funny stuff in that it's presented as a fifties style educational film as it covers the do's and don'ts of raising your kids in prehistoric times. While we don't necessarily learn a whole lot about the history of the show in this, it is a completely amusing time killer and a rather unique bonus to include in the set. Fun stuff.
Fans of the horrifying family that lived next door should enjoy The Gruesome's Road To Bedrock which, during its eight and a half minute running time, explains through some clips and interviews the origins of one of the most famous and enduringly popular episodes in the run of the entire series. They cover the voice acting, who created the characters, and more. It's pretty interesting to hear how this all came about and of the enduring popularity that the characters have experienced.
Rounding out the extra features is a featurette called Gemstones – Flintstones Rarities Unearthed in which we're treated to interviews with Hannah and Barbara, some vintage commercials from the original broadcasts that took place in 1964 through 1965, and more. Unfortunately the cigarette ads that Fred and Barney did aren't included in here but there are some good grape juice spots that are pretty funny. The interviews explain where the ideas for the show came from and how they went about getting them nailed down for television. This is a pretty enjoyable little segment, the only complain that can be levied against it is that it is unfortunately too short. There's just over four and a half minutes of material in this segment.
Also worth noting that is that unfortunately the packaging has changed for this fifth season release. The previous four sets came housed in clear plastic cases that slid over the packaging which housed the discs inside. This is no longer the case, instead of the plastic slip we now have a cardboard one. It's not a big deal, but it's odd that they'd switch the format five releases in.
If you're not already sold on this set by the very fact that it has The Gruesomes in it, consider the amount of replay you'll get from a bunch of other classic cartoons all presented in nice shape and with a few decent extra features too. Better by far than the last two seasons of the show, The Flintstones – The Complete Fifth Season comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.