A Look Back at the Future with "The Jetsons"
The Jetson family wave as they fly past buildings in space in their spaceship in a still from the animated television series, 'The Jetsons,' circa 1962. (Photo by Warner Bros./Courtesy of Getty Images)
The Jetsons was a Hanna-Barbera production that originally aired on prime-time television from September 23, 1962 to March 17, 1963 for a total of only 24 episodes. A short run for a television show but it got everyone’s attention. The show was an animated sitcom about a futuristic family. It was actually the first show to air in full color on the ABC television network. Just the fact that the show aired in color was futuristic in and of itself.
The show premiered at the height of the “Space Race”. The United States and the Soviet Union were in close competition to see who would make space travel to the moon first. Less than a year before the first episode of The Jetsons aired, astronaut, John Glenn, became the first American to orbit the Earth in the Friendship 7 space capsule. The Jetsons may have been a nod to that success.
The family consisted of George and Jane Jetson and their children Judy and Elroy. They also had a lovable space dog named, Astro, and a robotic housekeeper named, Rosie. The family lived in outer space in a floating home equipped with all of the conveniences thought to be on the horizon of the future.
It was never really clear, from watching the show, what year it was set in, but according to an original press release when the show first came out, it was to have been 100 years in the future. That would make the show set in the year 2026.
In 1962 The Flintstones had been on for 2 years. It was fun watching them live in the dinosaur age, using primitive means to do everyday things. We really counted ourselves lucky not to have lived in that time. When The Jetsons came out, it was Hanna-Barbera’s version of The Flintstone’s counterpart. I can only imagine what Fred Flintstone would have given to live that life.
The Jetsons enjoyed and took for granted, a world filled with fanciful inventions and apparatuses to make their lives easier. There were robots acting and taking the place of humans as well as holograms.
The Jetson family lived in a floating city and had futuristic conveniences at their fingertips. Buttons appeared throughout the house that did everything from making their meals to brushing their teeth. Whatever chores needed to be done that the buttons didn’t cover, Rosie the housekeeper would take it from there.
George Jetson, like most husbands and fathers, had a job. He worked for Spacely’s Sprockets. His main function was to turn a switch on and off. One prediction that actually has come to fruition was the video chat. Back in the 1960s that was a mind-blowing concept. Even with a dream job like that, he still managed to get into trouble with his boss. It is no wonder he needed all of those timesaving contraptions considering the exhausting days he spent doing his job.
Although it was animated, The Jetsons was considered, by a Smithsonian magazine blog, to be, “the single most important piece of 20th century futurism… that helped define the future for so many Americans today.”.
The Jetsons first premiered over 50 years ago, and we still have another 44 years to go if the show was indeed speculating about what the world would be like in 2026. We have come a long way since the 1960s and some of the predictions have actually come to fruition. I’m not sure, though, that we are on schedule to have jetpacks, flying scooters and flying cars that turn in to briefcases as a means of personal transportation by that time. It is fun to consider it, though.
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