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Why ABC's Live-Action "The Jetsons" Is Not Such a Bad Idea After All


When I first heard that ABC had ordered a pilot of a live-action version of The Jetsons to be executed produced by Robert Zemeckis, my first thought was why? Too many reboots! Come up with something original! But then I started thinking about the original series, which I have been rediscovering lately thanks to the new Boomerang streaming service, and how good it still is 50 years later. Perhaps a new version that reintroduced the characters to a modern audience is not such a bad idea after all.

The Jetsons revolves around George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, and Jane, his wife, a typical family living in the futuristic Orbit City (which I think is supposed to be in space?). It premiered on ABC, in primetime, in September 1962, the very first ABC program to be broadcast in color. It lasted one season of 24 episodes, before airing in Saturday morning reruns for the next several decades. The Jetsons, like The Flintstones before it, was an animated sitcom. It was aimed at adults as much as it was aimed at children. It featured typical plotlines that could be found in any family sitcom, although the futuristic setting and technology used by the characters made it stand out. 

The Jetsons' Googie-style idea of the future is perhaps one of the most definitive takes on the future of the twentieth century. One aspect of the future depicted in The Jetsons that I love is the sense that, in the future, society is even more globalized and interconnected. In the very first episode, Judy plans to go surfing in Acapulco after school and Elroy goes on a class field trip to Russia. Because travel time has decreased dramatically, visiting other countries and continents is treated as no big deal. Perhaps because of the isolationist rhetoric of a certain political leader, I think it would be really cool to see this type of globalized society depicted positively again. 

The Jetsons correctly predicted a number of things about the future; flat screen televisions, video chatting, robot vacuum cleaners, among others. But one major thing it gets so wrong is the way it depicts flying cars. I understand much humor was probably derived from the fact that George makes the same complaints about his flying car that most people made about their regular cars (traffic, nowhere to park, etc.), but did people really think these would still exist in the future? Was mid-century America so entrenched in its car culture that it thought it would last forever? I can't say much about what the future will be, but I can say that if there are cars in the future, they will drive themselves, and there won't be personal ownership like there is with cars today. Hopefully, the new series would eschew cheap laughs for a more thoughtful portrayal of transportation. 

A family sitcom set in the non-present would actually fit in perfectly in ABC's lineup. They already have two such shows already on their schedules (The Goldbergs, set in the '80s, and Fresh Off the Boat, set in the '90s). ABC's comedy brand of the past few years has been family sitcoms with unique points of view. In addition to the two I already mentioned, there are The Middle, American Housewife, Speechless, and Blackish, all of which have been successful critically and with audiences. I could see The Jetsons fitting in nicely with those shows. 

One potential cause for concern is that the new series is being developed as a multi-camera series. The fact by itself doesn't mean anything, but all of the series I mentioned that I hoped The Jetsons would be in the same vein as are single camera. ABC canceled all of the multi-camera series at the end of the last season, specifically citing a desire to move away from that format. So the news that The Jetsons will be multi-camera is quite a surprise.

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In the '80s, 52 new episodes of The Jetsons were produced for syndication, which I have never seen and apparently change a lot of things, such as making it more of a sci-fi show instead of a sitcom set in a sci-fi world. The new show should be based on the original '60s show. It should continue the original show's tradition of updating current situations for the future setting, but instead of '60s things getting updated, it would be 21st century things. What would the future version of social media look like? Some of the original episodes could actually still work for this concept. Take, for example, the episode where Judy wins a date with Ricky Nelson-esque pop star. The entire episode would still work today, except the pop star would be based on Justin Bieber. Some other aspects of the show, however, would have to be changed. For example, Jane would need a personality. And jokes criticizing Jane for not wanting to do chores and for being a terrible driver would not work for a modern audience.  

Of course, one of the reasons the original series was such a success was that it capitalized on the Space Age, when people cared about such things as putting a man on the moon. In 2017, most Americans agree that such programs are a waste of taxpayer money. Would there even be an audience for a show that glamorizes space travel? I am reminded of the recent ABC show The Muppets. That was another well-known property originally aimed at adult audiences that over time became perceived as solely for kids, that had a revival on ABC that sought to take it in a new direction. That series, despite it being brilliant and winning a slew of Timmys, struggled to find a steady audience and was canceled after one season. Might The Jetsons suffer the same fate?

Even if the pilot is any good, there is no guarantee that it would get picked up and become a series. Even if it is picked up, there is no guarantee it will be successful. So, as of now, there are too many ifs to make a judgment on this new version of The Jetsons. We'll just have to wait and see. 

What are YOUR thoughts on the potential new live-action version of The Jetsons? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

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