Thursday, September 9, 2010

ABC Airs Its First Color Program: The Jetsons, September 23rd, 1962 In Television History

September 23rd, 1962,  ABC Television inaugurated color television programming with the debut of The Jetsons in television history.

By the beginning of the 1960's, television had established itself firmly on the landscape with three major networks who had all but exploited traditional themes for dramatic and comedy programming. Because of the stringent policies limiting the types of situations and language that could be portrayed on FCC licensed stations, programmers were faced with the challenge of creating innovative programming while maintaining modest budgets that would keep the medium profitable. The success of the animated Flintstones series the year before prompted ABC programming executives to schedule another Hanna-Barbera cartoon situation comedy,The JetsonsThe Flintstones was clearly a remake of The Honeymooners set in prehistoric times, and The Jetsons revisited the traditional family in much the same way as Father Knows Best did with the futuristic twist of living in the 21st Century.

The Jetsons solved several dilemmas for the then struggling ABC Television Network.  The Hanna-Barbera style of animation used repetitive sequences which cut down on the number of frames that had to be drawn for an episode.  The voice talents used were the same contract players who worked for far less than marquee Hollywood and Broadway names.  The cartoons were made in color, and it was easy for ABC to telecast the shows in color because only one color film pickup or videotape recorder was needed to transmit the show nationally.  At this time, less than five percent of all television sets were color, and only NBC (a division of RCA) had the resources to telecast programs in color.  The Jetsons provided ABC with an economical toe-hold for the inevitable move to color programming.

The Jetsons' life on prime-time television was short-lived.  After running one season on Sunday evening at 6:30 ET, the reruns moved to Saturday mornings where the original 24 episodes ran for ten years on ABC and then eventually moved to local stations and specialty satellite channels where George Jetson and family live on in syndication continuously to this day.  In the 1980's some new episodes were made with some minor updates using the same voice talents. Ultimately the show became a pop culture Icon with many incarnations in films, merchandising and commercials.