The Flintstones was not only the first but also the longest running animated show on prime-time television. The premise involved Fred and Wilma Flintstone with their best friends Barney and Betty Rubble living the prehistoric town of Bedrock facing the problems of working-class life. The episodes involved various conflicts within their home, with their friends, and their hobbies such as bowling.
The Flintstones broke new ground in that each episode contained only one story throughout the full half hour of its timeslot. Up until this point half hour programs often had multiple shorts and a live-action segment. The Flintstones was the first animated series by have a story arc by having Wilma pregnant and the birth of Pebbles. Fred and Wilma were also the first couple to be shown in bed together on prime-time television. The cartoon helped establish Hanna-Barbera as a major animation studio and by the late 1960s the studio was the world’s largest producer of animated entertainment films.
The Flintstones were famous for selling cigarettes as during the 1960s Winston Cigarettes sponsored them. At the end of the show Fred and Barney avoid doing chores around the house and decide to light up. Fred would say the famous tagline “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” Once the 1970s Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was enacted however, cigarette ads were banned on TV and radio. Thus they switched to advertising Welch’s Grape Juice. This marked the major shift from the show appealing to the adults to the show targeting children.
The show portrayed the Stone Age in a rather unique way. Furniture, wheels, and newspapers were all made of stone (sometimes they’d even make a stone or rock pun in regards to places and people). Dinosaurs, mammoths, and other prehistoric were often used to power modern-day machinery such as vacuum cleaners, elevators, phones, etc.
The Flintstones cartoon had a heavy influence from the 1950s TV show known as the Honeymooners. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble’s characters heavily resembled Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton in terms of character personalities. Jackie Gleason even considered suing Hanna-Barbera at one point but backed down not wanting to be known as the man who destroyed Fred Flintstone.
The Flintstones was the first animated show to get nominated for an Emmy due to outstanding program achievement in comedy. Several celebrities such as Tony Curtis, Ann Margaret, and Cary Grant got to guest star on the show, which back then was considered a great honor.
Much like Tom and Jerry after the Flintstones got canceled after six seasons numerous revivals, spin-offs, and even two live-action movies were made all to varying degrees of success. None of them, however, were capable of tarnishing the reputation and history that the Flintstones made in animation. It truly cemented Hanna-Barbera’s reputation in cartoon history.