After the success of The Jetsons animated show in the 1960s, I'd presume the creative forces at Hanna Barbera decided to breathe new life into their once-popular product and revive the show in the mid-1980s. To be fair, making people nostalgic for things two decades old was seemingly the norm in the 1980s, and when the second season came out, there were some nips and tucks made to the show in an attempt to modernize it, and it lasted for two seasons before pulling up the tent stakes once again, presumably for good. The video team at Hanna has blown the dust off of the tape cases and released the second batch of episodes from that 1985 season for the world to see.
For those who haven't seen the show, it is set a century into the future, where things like rocket cars, robot maids, and pneumatic tubes that could send you virtually anywhere were commonplace (Note: Halfway down and no sight of these things around. Come on, inventors!). The show's well-known introductory theme song is almost iconic at this point: George Jetson is head of a household that is a family of four. George may bring home the bacon, but his wife Jane fries it up in the pan. They have two children, the high school aged Judy and the youngster Elroy. Combined with Rosie the electronic maid and the family dog Astro, the family Jetson gets involved in hijinks of one sort or another over the course of the show. Adding in some supplementary characters like George's boss Mr. Spacely, you have got yourself a formula for an animated sitcom that is pretty easy to maintain.
If there is one thing from the show that has not stood the test of time through the years, it would appear to be the show itself. Granted, I remember watching both versions as a kid and remembering some of the nuances in each show, with the main difference being excluding a laugh track for the 1980s version. However, what may be the bigger difference in the two versions is the advancement of technology the viewer witnessed in real-life, while the show attempted to remain the same. The show was using "rocket" and "space" in front of common household items, and while this was kitschy in the '60s, the fact of the matter was at the time, rocket travel was becoming more commonplace, computers were becoming firmly entrenched as regular household items, so "space ketchup" may have been funny (it wasn't, and might not be a real example), it rang hollow to children of the MTV generation.
There is a stipulation that should be made here, in that to Hanna Barbera's credit, every effort was made to bring back the original voice talent from the show, so legends such as Mel Blanc and Daws Butler could reprise their roles that boosted their celebrity. Reviving the ambiance of the show was nice, but making it more of a child-centric affair (as opposed to the original show being a futuristic version of The Honeymooners, as Jeffrey Kauffman noted in his review of the first volume of discs) was little more than a grasp at a demographic that had long since left the fantasy of The Jetsons for a little more tangible reality that was better than the show could provide.
Is the 1980s version of The Jetsons fun and entertaining? Perhaps it is, but in watching it again it seemed to reinforce my initial thoughts, that I enjoyed the original version (and might be a willing sucker for laugh tracks) more than the revisioning. The Jetsons would almost serve as a metaphor for the times as well; why drink New Coke when you can enjoy the Original Flavor just as much?
Full frame video for the episodes and it looks decent, with colors reproduced vibrantly from the original broadcasts and little in the way of over saturation. There appears to be image noise in the end credits for some of the episodes, almost as if the discs were burned straight from a tape source, but this is inherent in the source material and is to be expected. Honestly I was not expecting to be wowed in watching these things and the discs (twenty episodes over three discs) lived up to this expectation.
The two-channel stereo track is about as good as could be expected. Being further out from the original first run of the show's episodes I notice more subtle sound elements both in the episodes and in the redone theme (which I still don't like all that much), and the dialogue sounds as strong as it is going to be on these discs. The action on the episodes is entirely in the front of the soundstage with little (if any) mirroring of the work in the rear channels, with no subwoofer activity to speak of. Don't expect to be wowed here.
Nada. It should be noted that while second "volume" (as Hanna and Warner Brothers are calling this edition) is chronological, it is by no means complete. The first two discs skip over one or two episodes here and there, with the last portion of Disc Two and all of Disc Three holding the final eight consecutive episodes with no muss, no fuss.
Overall, there would appear to be two sets of people that would enjoy The Jetsons as it appears now; those who liked the nostalgia which revived the nostalgia, and those who liked the original product, straight from the source. While it should be evident which group I fall under, by no means will I castigate anyone who wants to see the 1980s Jetsons again to relive any sense of childhood joy. With equal technical merits, I might suggest they look at the first Volume for the featurette that is included, but either set should do the trick.