It’s pilot season, which used to be a time of year where dozens of contenders would be hurriedly cast, filmed, tested and retested, all in a quest to grab a slot on one of three networks’ fall schedules. These days, with so few even being produced, even fewer by companies without corporate ties to the networks, and with such low odds for success ahead for those that do get ordered, it’s hard to even be interested in the process.
But at one time, this was for me a time of year as busy as it is for tax accountants, and I would be in a position of demand at whatever studio or network I was working at, because, and, mind you, I say this humbly, few can match my encyclopedic knowledge of television history and be able to quickly give context to any test group respondents’ references to an older show that the pilot, or one of its actors, reminded them of. It earned me street cred with writers and producers who had similar experiences to mine–children raised by TV, inspired by the past, and determined to put their spin on it and, hopefully, not yet a misinterpreted focus group get in their way of their quest.
Which is why I was especially excited to see this little nugget about a pilot order that Rosy Cordero of DEADLINE broke yesterday:
Elizabeth Banks, who has been shepherding the project as exec producer, will lead the voice cast of the series, starring as Pebbles, the adult daughter of Fred and Wilma.
The project has scored a pilot presentation, two years after it emerged that it was first in the works at Fox.
The cast also includes Stephen Root as Fred; Amy Sedaris as Wilma; Nicole Byer as Betty; Joe Lo Truglio as Barney; Manny Jacinto as Bamm-Bamm.
A primetime animated adult comedy series continuing the story of the Stone Age family, Bedrock catches up with the Flintstone family two decades later, with Fred on the brink of retirement and 20-something Pebbles embarking on her own career. As the Stone Age gives way to a shiny and enlightened new Bronze Age, the residents of Bedrock will find this evolution harder than a swing from Bamm-Bamm’s club.
Well, Yabba Dabba Doo!!!
I’m a huge fan of Banks, and not just because she accidentally flashed me while she was taping an episode of the insipid GONG SHOW reboot a few springs ago where, after imbibing too much fell backward into the oversized chair she was sitting in judging acts and I, without invitation, realized she had chosen not to wear panties that night. I know that beyond her looks she is an outstanding producer, along with her very lucky husband Max Handelman, and she has more than a notch of respect for developing and nurturing classic IP, both as a producer (CHARLIE’S ANGELS) and as a talent (ibid, plus her wonderful spin as host of the supersized and successful revival of PRESS YOUR LUCK).
But I do think she could use a consultant to help the development process along.
You see, THE FLINTSTONES was the first prime time series that I truly fell in love with, and watched in daily reruns at the dinner hour. And yes, though it was a cartoon, it was indeed a prime time show, and a very adult-oriented one at that when it first premiered. It was an animated homage to THE HONEYMOONERS, with harshly drawn characters, an overcaffeinated laugh track and frequent threats of physical violence. It was initially sponsored by a cigarette company, and Fred Flintsone was the de facto spokesman for it. From this shot alone, you can perhaps see how Pebbles may have been conceived.
And for all the attention Lucille Ball got during her pregnancy on I LOVE LUCY, Wilma Flintstone was one of the few other sitcom wives who was allowed to be shown “preggers”. When Pebbles Flintstone was born midway through the 1962-63 season, yes, indeed, during the February sweeps, it was almost as big a deal as when Little Ricky was born a decade earlier. The best-selling toys of the following holiday season included Building Boulders, Lego-like pieces of styrofoam that one could build their own miniature Flintsone house out of, as well as Pebbles dolls for girls (so they hoped). Somehow, my parents chose to give me the former as a rare Chaunkah gift.
\When Pebbles was born, the show took on a softer tone by necessity. I had the good fortune to work with the show’s creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, during my brief stint with Turner, which owned their studio and were hoping to take advantage of their brand to mount a comeback, as well as supply content to the newly-formed Cartoon Network. I got to brainstorm with their team, and would cherish the chance to simply listen to these two genial genuises talk about how their ideas were conceived. Bill Hanna himself told me that as the storyline for Pebbles was evolving the show’s drawings were softened to be more appealing to children–exactly how THE SIMPSONS evolved from their earliest days within the TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW world.
So yes, I do know a LOT about this IP, Elizabeth and Max. In fact, there’s already some examples out there of what your version can draw from, and perhaps improve upon.
There was indeed a spin-off of an older Pebbles, a Saturday morning entry several years after the original version ended, with a teenage version (voiced by a pre-ALL IN THE FAMILY Sally Struthers!) now dating a hunky version of Bamm-Bamm, and if you were to think they weren’t a notch inspired by Daphne and Freddie of SCOOBY-Doo. you’d be wrong. Joe Barbera himself admitted it. The original voice actors were all still alive at this point, and while the humor was watered down from its primetime roots, it was still must-see TV in my house.
We’ve already seen an older Fred Flintstone, by the way, and in an episode that pre-determined that Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm would indeed marry. As FANDOM describes the episode appropriately called RIP VAN FLINTSTONE:
After nearly demolishing a supermarket while trying to ride a skate-bone, a bored and irritable Fred is a nuisance at the Slate Company picnic, alienating his friends and co-workers, before he decides to wander away to a quiet place with Dino for a nap.
Sleep Fred does, and he awakens with a long, white beard, which repeatedly trips him. Initially Fred thinks Barney glued the beard onto him as a prank and is miffed. Fred can’t find Dino nor anyone at the picnic site, which is now decrepit from years of neglect. When he asks a passerby about the Slate Company Picnic, the passerby claims not to know about any Slate Company, except for the one that’s been out of business for almost 20 years. Fred walks into Bedrock-proper and goes to the Bedrock Pool Hall, to meet up with some buddies. However, none of them are there (presumably retired or deceased). Fred finally makes it home, but another family is living there, and they chase him away. Fred goes to Barney’s house to find out what’s going on, but another occupant informs Fred that Barney (now called B.J. Rubble) struck it rich almost 20 years ago, and now lives in a mansion called Sandstone Simeon. Fred now realizes why everything is so different. He’s slept for 20 years!
Fred is despondent at having slept his life away but decides to go see Barney to find out where his family is. The elder Barney is skeptical about Fred’s return, but the sleepy aged Dino, immediately recognizes Fred, erasing any doubt that it is him. Fred tells Barney how he somehow slept for an entire 20 years and asks where his family is. Barney informs Fred that Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Rubble, are now married and living there as well. Barney asks the couple to come out, so Fred can see his daughter, but identifies Fred as an old friend named “Mr. Glump” as Fred does not wish to put Pebbles through such an adjustment after being absent from her life for 20 years. While Fred is delighted to see Pebbles, married happy and beautiful, (and Bamm-Bamm as strong as ever), he’s sorry to have missed watching them grow up.
Forgive me…I get ferklempt every time I think of this episode. It’s as heartbreaking as my current life situation is to me, and for that reason alone BEDROCK’s revisionist history is appealing enough to me. No one should ever sleep their life away.
And–guess what! There’s even a theme song you can resurrect! For an earlier episode called THE TWITCH, Fred is asked to step in for an Elvis-inspired singer, Rock Roll, to fulfill a charity event obligation. The original version’s “Hound Dog” like performance is adorable, and can easily be adapted for this show’s theme (Warner Brothers owns it!):
And, please, for you 90s babies, don’t even TRY to defend the live-action movie’s execution of it. Do you REALLY want to see a coquettish Rosie O’Donnell doing her Betty Rubble giggle? Well, tough:
See what I mean?
And not only was there a homage dedicated by Mr. Roll to Fred’s hometown, Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty actually visited mine:
Their visit to the 1964 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadow Park, mere walking distance from the modest garden apartment I was raised in, may have been fictional. But, to a child version of me, it was surreal. And forever made me a fan, and a savant.
So, please, Ms. Banks, Mr. Handelman. Mr. Register, Mr. Thorn, Ms. Kerns, Mr. Zimmet. Heck, I’ll even appeal to Rupert and David.
If you think I’m impressive with just this much conceived on little sleep before dawn, imagine what I can do for you in the light of day with proper rest.
You think this is worth a comeback? So am I.
And if anyone reading this has any connection to any of the names above, please, pretty please, consider this entry my audition. I want so badly to be involved in a pilot again.
Because, honestly, if I had to try and pay for burgers in Flushing today, all I’d have are rocks. too.
Oh, is that reference too obscure? Don’t worry, I’ll bring you up to speed.
Before the Bronze Age ends.
Until next time…