Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 28, 2006)
With each season of The Flintstones, the quality becomes lower and lower. As much as I love the series, I admit I go into Season Five with some trepidation. How much wheat and how much chaff will appear here? Read on to discover my thoughts!
I’ll examine each of these 26 programs in the way presented on the DVDs, which also corresponds to their airdates. The “P#” after the title relates the episode’s place in the production order; for example, “P2” was the second program completed. The synopses come from a site called “The Flintstones and Hanna-Barbera” (http://www.topthat.net/webrock) - thanks to them for their permission to use the recaps.
Hop Happy (P-116): “Barney buys a hopparoo for Bamm-Bamm. The animal annoys Fred, until the families' lives are endangered at a picnic and Hoppy goes for help.”
I think that when a series adds new characters, it usually smacks of desperation. The Flintstones brought in many new components over Seasons Three through Five. Hoppy is just the first of a few; we’ll see plenty more gimmicks to provide new ideas for the writers.
At least Hoppy is a fairly painless addition and not one who feels especially forced. He gives Dino a pal and his kangaroo connection makes him unusual. “Happy” itself is a pretty amusing episode. I do love the scene in which Fred challenges an angry Dino to bite the hand that feeds him. When my dogs act like ingrates, I occasionally perform the same action. Happily, to date they have yet to chomp on my mitt. It tosses in more than enough additional laughs to become a positive start to Season Five.
Note that “Happy” provides a change in the main voice cast. Instead of Bea Benaderet, Gerry Johnson now plays Betty. Funny – I don’t recall ever noticing this shift in the past, but as soon as I heard Betty here, I realized a change had come. I guess this seems more obvious since I’ve watched all the shows season by season.
Monster Fred (P-118): “Fred's bowling-ball accident necessitates a visit to Dr. Len Frankenstone, who sees an opportunity to test his personality-switching machine.”
I don’t know why, but something about the sight of Fred’s voice coming from Dino’s mouth amuses me. That’s the point, of course, and the show manages to become reasonably entertaining. It boasts an asinine concept but provokes some fun moments.
Trivia note: “Monster Fred” marks the series’ first allusion to the Beatles. Here they’re called “The Beagles”, though they’ll pop up in other guises in the future.
Itty Bitty Freddy (P-119): “Fred's experimental reducing formula leaves him a diminished man, a situation he and Barney exploit by putting together a ventriloquist act for the Ed Sullystone Show.”
As you can tell with this episode and “Monster Fred”, Season Five finds us with more and more unrealistic concepts for The Flintstones. While “Monster” wasn’t very good, “Bitty” proves much more entertaining. Some of that comes from the amusing jabs Ed Sullystone pokes at Dummy Fred, and some of it simply stems from the lameness of the ventriloquist routine. Overall, I like this episode quite a lot; it’s one of Season Five’s best.
Pebbles's Birthday Party (P-115): “’The only caterer in town’ muddles two parties, sending the Boulderettes to Pebbles's kiddie party and Rocko the Clown to the Water Buffalo Lodge.”
“Party” takes easy laughs from its situations but they’re fairly good laughs at least. It derives all its humor from the mix-ups and milks them for all they’re worth. The show doesn’t feature a memorable premise, but it works.
Bedrock Rodeo Round-Up (P-120): “Fred is jealous of Pebbles' affection for rodeo rider Bony Hurdle, Wilma's old sweetheart, and enters the Bedrock Rodeo himself to win her back.”
After the minor highs of “Party” we go to a dull episode. I’m with Fred here – Bony’s an annoying character, and I feel bad for our hero since no one else understands why he feels threatened by Bony’s presence. Cripes – Pebbles calls him “Da-da” and everyone thinks Fred’s being unreasonable? His friends and family abandon Fred awfully easily in this lackluster program.
Cinderellastone (P-117): “Fred's fairy godmother helps him make a splash at Mr. Slate's party.”
While the last two episodes stayed within realm of reality, we go back to fantasy with “Cinderellastone”. I figured this wouldn’t be a good show because I maintained absolutely no memory of it; I’ve seen it a number of times, but the plot synopsis didn’t jog any recollections.
When I watched the show, I remembered it. That reminded me why I couldn’t recall it in the first place: it’s decidedly forgettable. It takes Fred into the Cinderella story with sporadically amusing results. There’s not much here to make this a good program.
A Haunted House Is Not A Home (P-121): “In order to receive his Uncle Giggles' inheritance, Fred and co. must spend the night in his uncle's haunted mansion.”
Unlike “Cinderellastone”, I possess strong memories of “Home”. In fact, I think I even wrote a little story based on it back in second or third grade, as I know I really liked it at that time. However, it’s not aged particularly well. The concept of having to spend a night in a haunted house was tired back in 1964, and the theme hasn’t gotten fresher over the last 40 years. This is a watchable episode but no better than that.
Dr. Sinister (P-122): “Lured by Madam Yes, Fred and Barney must escape from Dr. Sinister's island fortress.”
Hoo boy – the fantasy elements are getting heavy! I don’t like the Flintstones episodes that fall into the thriller/action genre, and this James Bond parody falls flat. It rambles on and on without ever becoming interesting. Except for a couple of mildly funny bits, this one’s a dud.
The Gruesomes (P-123): “The Flintstones befriend their next-door neighbors, the strange new inhabitants of Tombstone Manor.”
After a spoof of James Bond, we head to a Munsters/Addams Family parody. The Gruesomes aren’t terribly memorable characters. They feel like the gimmicks they are and this introduction to them is mediocre at best. I don’t like the Gruesomes or this silly program.
Trivia note: “Gruesomes” offers a very rare episode in which the pre-credit sequence doesn’t simply act as a teaser for a scene yet to come. This part is original and doesn’t repeat later.
The Most Beautiful Baby In Bedrock (P-124): “Rockeo and Julietta comes to life as the Flintstones and Rubbles enter their children as competitors in a beautiful baby contest.”
Wow – a show that doesn’t indulge a fantasy element! The return to a realistic concept makes this program an improvement over its immediate predecessors, but don’t expect miracles. It derives good moments from the battle between Fred and Barney and seems mostly good. I can’t classify it as anything particularly strong, though.
Dino and Juliet (P-125): “Dino falls in love with the pet of Loudrock, Fred's obnoxious new neighbor.”
The Flintstones stays in the realm of relative reality here. Sure, the love affair between the two animals clearly exaggerates actual behavior – it’s not like this is a documentary – but at least it doesn’t involve monsters or supernatural elements. Loudrock is a moderately interesting new character, and shows that focus on Dino are usually fun.
King For A Night (P-126): “Fred exchanges places with the King of Stonesylvania.”
We’ve already seen this story, as Season One’s “The Tycoon” followed a similar path. Does “King” offer any new twists? Not really. I can’t call it a literal remake of “Tycoon”, but it doesn’t stand out as particularly fresh. It’s entertaining but still little more than a rehash of an existing show.
Indianrockolis 500 (P-127): “Fred drives Barney's race car as Goggles Pisano.”
One of Season Five’s best shows, “500” offers a memorable running line about how Fred drives like a man coming home on the freeway. It’s a simple tale but the racing theme derives a lot of good humor.
Adobe Dick (P-128): “A Lodge fishing trip on the HMS Bountystone goes awry when Fred and Barney encounter a legendary whaleasaurus.”
Wow – two straight solid programs! That’s a real feat for Season Five. This one digs into some juicy references to other sea-related pieces, and it gets out a number of funny bits. It stands as a winner, especially when Barney misspells his smoke signal.
Christmas Flintstone (P-131): “Macyrock Santa Fred must fill in for the actual, ailing Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.”
Now we head back to a not-too-hot show. Leaving aside the oddness of a Christmas episode on a series that takes place BC, this one suffers from the sappy tone that infects many holiday programs. It’s a cute show at best.
Fred's Flying Lesson (P-129): “Fred ‘Wings’ Flintstone wins a free flying lesson and decides to take the full course after meeting the beautiful instructor.”
“Lesson” falls in between the good Season Five programs and the crappy ones. Actually, it falls closer to the “good” side, as it has a few nice moments. I like Fred’s reverse psychology when he avoids Wilma’s nagging, and the flying scenes have some funny bits. It’s not a classic, but it’s above average for this year.
Fred's Second Car (P-130): “Fred buys a ‘confisticated car’ at a police auction, and is chased by crooks who suspect that the car contains jewels.”
The Flintstones likes its wacky caper episodes, and “Car” comes in that category. This isn’t a fresh concept for the series, and nothing about “Car” makes it overcome its tired theme. I like some of the parts before the gangsters get involved, but after that, the show falters.
Time Machine (P-133): “A trip to the World's Fair turns into a trip through time as the Flintstones and Rubbles visit future historical eras.”
Back to the fantasy! “Machine” acts as one of the better episodes in its genre. Sure, it’s intensely gimmicky, but it musters decent comedy as the characters zip through the centuries.
DVD FOUR, SIDE ONE:
The Hatrocks and the Gruesomes (P-132): “If the Gruesomes don't scare the irritating Hatrocks off, Fred reasons, perhaps ‘bug music’ will...”
“Gruesomes” is a silly show but acts as a likeable one. Much of the fun comes from its quotable moments. I love how Jethro says “you mean that?” whenever Fred makes disingenuous statements about how he wishes the family could stay. Add to that the funny Beatles spoof with the Four Insects and their hilariously crappy song and this program stands out as a good one.
Moonlight and Maintenance (P-134): “The Flintstones move into Bedrock Towers, where Fred takes on the job of Resident Stationary Engineer in addition to his quarry duties.”
“Moonlight” doesn’t earn great points for originality, but it least it focuses on a believable situation and the comedy found in that setting. The concept of an overtaxed working stiff presents plenty of amusing situations, especially as Fred’s dream falls so short of what actually happens. This is a show that feels like a throwback to the series’ early seasons, and I mean that as a compliment. (I must admit it’s not clear why Fred doesn’t just quit his job at the quarry, though; the janitorial position seems to pay enough, especially since he needs to cover no rent and gets his mortgage paid by renters at his old house.)
Sheriff For A Day (P-135): “A uranium hunting expedition results in Fred being appointed sheriff of Rocky Gulch just before the Slatery Brothers ride into town.”
“Sheriff” isn’t as much a fantasy as something like “Time Machine”, but it sure departs the normal sense of reality. It offers a minor spoof of High Noon and provokes a couple of minor laughs. Still, it doesn’t become anything special or particularly memorable.
Deep In the Heart of Texarock (P-136): “The Flintstones and Rubbles help Fred's Uncle Tex thwart cowasaurus rustlers on his Texarock ranch.”
Two consecutive Western-themed episodes is probably two too many. Fred and Barney’s impersonation of a cowasaurus has its moments, though even those feel like they’re recycled from the costume party episode of a few seasons ago. Other than the return of Uncle Tex, this is a lackluster show.
Continuity alert: what gender is Hoppy? Just a couple of shows ago Betty referred to the critter as “she”. However, here Betty calls the pet “he”. What’s the deal?
The Rolls Rock Caper (P-138): “’Boulder's Rules’ apply as Fred and Barney help Aaron Boulder solve a murder mystery.”
Another episode that smacks of creative desperation, “Caper” is just another excuse to put Fred and Barney into a wild situation. It includes some mildly amusing cracks at the expense of detective series but never quite ignites and becomes tedious. The lack of reality makes this a less than stellar program.
Superstone (P-137): “Fred assumes the identity of a television superhero and is framed in a ticket-theft scam.”
I like the parts of the show in which Fred tries to be a hero for Pebbles and make a few bucks, but I don’t care for the inclusion of yet another threatening plot. The program would work better if it stayed in the realm of reality; the detour into the problems with the crooks just gets dopey. I feel like a broken record as I constantly harp on these elements through Season Five, but they cause a number of problems.
DVD FOUR, SIDE TWO:
Fred Meets Hercurock (P-139): “Fred lands a starring role in Hercurock and the Maidens, but he may not survive the filming.”
“Hercurock” offers another retread episode. Fred has gone Hollywood a number of times in the past, and this isn’t even the first show to cast him in physically grueling roles. In fact, it’s the third after Season One’s “The Monster from the Tar Pits” and Season Three’s “Hawaiian Escapade”. Despite that factor, the program generates a few laughs. It lacks the satirical anti-showbiz bite of the earlier episodes, but it has some nice bits.
Surfin' Fred (P-140): “Fred becomes a surfing fool among the teenagers at Rock Island, requiring frequent rescues by lifeguard Jimmy Darrock.”
Season Five concludes on a low note. Guest stars on The Flintstones rarely work, and James Darren’s feeble appearance doesn’t change that rule. With its connection to the surfing craze of the Sixties, it seems particularly dated, and it lacks many amusing moments. This is a decidedly forgettable show.
While I won’t refer to Season Five as a forgettable year, it’s unquestionably the most mediocre batch of Flintstones episodes to date. Unfortunately, I expect that Season Six – the series’ final year – will be worse, but I’ll deal with that when I get there. To be sure, there’s a reasonable amount of humor in Season Five. However, we find fewer real winners and more duds here, a trend that doesn’t bode well for the future.