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Scrooge U : Part XVI -- Jettison "A Jetson Christmas Carol"

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Scrooge U : Part XVI -- Jettison "A Jetson Christmas Carol"

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There's really no polite way to say this. So I'm just going to say it: "A Jetson Christmas Carol" is lousy.

I don't know how familiar you folks are with this animated sitcom, so let me give you a quick history of the show: "The Jetsons" was produced by Hanna-Barbera with the hopes that this program would eventually become as popular as HB's other primetime animated series, "The Flintstones." The show debuted in September of 1962 as part of ABC's Sunday night line-up. But "The Jetsons" did so poorly in the ratings that it was cancelled after just one season in March of 1963.

However, while those 24 episodes of "The Jetsons" that Hanna-Barbera had originally produced didn't catch on in primetime, this animated series eventually became a Saturday morning staple. Where it was rerun for decades.

In fact, those original 24 episodes proved to be so popular as reruns that -- in the early 1980s -- Hanna-Barbera did something that was almost unthinkable. That animation studio actually began producing new episodes of "The Jetsons." With the idea here being -- that if they could just add another 50 "Jetsons" episodes to their film library -- HB would then be able to charge top dollar for the rights to rerun this 20 year old show. Given that -- once Hanna-Barbera had more than 65 episodes of "The Jetsons" on file -- that studio would then be able to strip that series. Meaning that episodes could then be run on television Monday through Friday for 13 weeks straight without a single repeat airing.

Copyright 1998 Turner Home Entertainment

Anyway, "A Jetson Christmas Carol" was one of the episodes that was created for this second batch of shows. And given that Hanna-Barbera was spending as little as possible on producing these new episodes (In order to maximize profits once this revived series began airing in syndication) ... Well, let's just say that we're not talking about top quality animation here. All the corners that were cut show.

The gist of this episode is that Cosmo G. Spacely forces George Jetson to work overtime on Christmas Eve. So that Spacely Space Sprockets can then fulfill a huge holiday order and Cosmos can earn a huge wad of cash.

Copyright 1998 Turner Home Entertainment

Meanwhile, back at the Jetsons residence, Astro the dog is rough-housing with his new Christmas toy. Which is a robotic cat. But when this cat breaks, Astro accidentally swallows some of that robot's inner workings. Which -- not so co-incidentally -- includes a cog that was produced by Spacely Space Sprockets.

This cog causes Astro to fall gravely ill. And -- as the Jetson family gathers around the couch -- they wonder what they should do. Given that it's next to impossible to get a veterinarian to make a house call on Christmas Eve.

Copyright 1998 Turner Home Entertainment

Meanwhile, back at the factory, Spacely has fallen asleep at his desk. Surrounded by that huge pile of money that Cosmos earned by forcing George to work overtime on Christmas Eve.

Suddenly, the ghost of Spacely's old partner -- Jacob Marsley -- appears. And he warns Cosmos that -- unless he changes his ways -- Spacely's going to come to a bad end.

Copyright 1998 Turner Home Entertainment

Then (following the well-established path of all "Christmas Carols") the Ghost of Christmas Past appears. Only this version of the holiday tale, the spirit is shaped like a giant robotic head.

Anyway, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Spacely back to his youth. Where we see Young George Jetson working at Young Cosmos' lemonade stand. Where -- just as he does in the future -- Spacely has Jetson do most of the work while keeping virtually all of the profits for himself.

Copyright 1998 Turner Home Entertainment

Okay. I know. This sounds like a very bland, by-the-numbers version of "A Christmas Carol." And you'd be right. The only flashes of wit that appear in this show are fleeting at best. Take -- for example -- that quick shot of the fly-in movie that Cosmos takes his soon-to-be wife, Starla, to. "And what movie is playing at that theater?," you ask. Why, "The Flintstones," of course.

And then there's the Ghost of Christmas Present. Who is literally just that. A giant Christmas present with arms.

Copyright 1998 Turner Home Entertainment

Anywho ... The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be finally shows up. And he reveals to Spacely that -- in the future -- the Jetsons have become enormously wealthy because they sued Cosmos. All because that cog that Astro swallowed (Which -- you may recall -- was originally built at Spacely Space Sprockets) eventually winds up killing the Jetsons' family pet.

Copyright 1998 Turner Home Entertainment

The idea that he could potentially lose his fortune horrifies Spacely. Which is why -- once he wakes up on Christmas morning -- Cosmos immediately leaps into action. He contacts the Spacely family veterinarian and then personally flies this MD over to the Jetsons apartment. Where this doc then reaches down Astro's throat and removes the offending cog.

And -- after throwing a few presents at George & family -- Cosmos goes on his way. Safe in the knowledge that he's saved the Spacely family fortune.

Copyright 1998 Turner Home Entertainment

So can you understand why Dickens purists might have a problem with "A Jetson Christmas Carol"? In this version of the classic holiday tale, the Scrooge character doesn't actually reform or even make a sincere attempt to redeem himself. He's just out to avoid some very expensive litigation.

Then -- when you factor in how poorly animated this episode of "The Jetsons" is ... Well, I'm hoping that you can understand why I'm suggesting that you take a pass on this version of "A Christmas Carol." Jettison "A Jetson Christmas Carol," if you can

Tomorrow ... It's the first of two satirical "Christmas Carols." With Bill Murray playing a television executive who's trying to produce a $40 million live version of Dickens' classic tale, only to find out that he's now being haunted by his own sets of holiday spirits.

Your thoughts?

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  • Yes, you are right, this is no comfortable viewing experience. In all fairness though, the Flintstones version, festooned as it is with wall-to-wall vomiting, is a far worse proposition and there are many other versions which are equally distasteful. However, it does serve to highlight the American attitude to the novel. Rather than seeing it as classic literature, it has achieved a fairy tale-like status in the USA and is therefore free to be remade in many different and innovative ways. For sure, some don't work but then look at the ones that do ! Ebbie (or 'A Miracle at Christmas') has a female Scrooge, 'Ms Scrooge' has a largely black cast.Both are tremedously good fun and retain the spirit of the original novel which is surely the most important thing.You are featuring forty versions - I probably have sixty or eighty in my collection of radio and TV versions and very few don't have some interestiing features. So fear not, with The Jetsons, it gets much worse....

  • Psssst.....Jim.......... wrong number. This is Scrooge U: XVI

  • Ew, I remember this.  What I learned today is that originally there was only a season.  Since I grew up in the 80's, I didn't realize that there were two different decades of production...strange.  I'm excited about the next one - Scrooged is one of my favorite Chirstmas movies, a must-watch every year.

  • Are you going to cover the Flintstones Christmas Carol? Now, laugh at me if you please, but if you skip over the dumb frame-story segments of that one and just stick to the Christmas Carol segments, it's actually a very good way to introduce young kids to the story. The dialogue adapts Dickens's (or is it "Brickens"?)words just enough to simplify their meaning for younger viewers, but not so much that it dumbs it down.

  • This doesn't sound all too different from Animaniacs' version of Christmas Carol, actually. But I don't think Christmas Carol is such a story into itself that it's hard to fit it into an episodic, non-continuity-driven series... particularly when Scrooge's role is played by a series regular. I highly doubt Spacely following in Scrooge's path would've been followed up on and you'd get the same kind of Christmas anamoly as this: http://www.dvdinmypants.com/reviews/H-N/images/he6.jpg

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