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Retro : A Show Right Out of History

April 14, 1991|SUSAN KING | Times Staff Writer

Yabba-dabba doo. America's favorite Stone Age family, "The Flintstones," is celebrating its 30th an niversary.

It was back on Sept. 30, 1960, when ABC introduced the world to those animated Bedrock residents, Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble. "The Flintstones," the first prime-time animated series, aired on ABC from 1960 to '66 and reruns still are in syndication on KTTV and TBS.

To commemorate "The Flintstones" anniversary, Hanna-Barbera Home Video also has just released the "Flintstones 30th Anniversary Collection."

"The Flintstones" was the brainchild of the Oscar-winning animation team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the duo who brought the world Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo and Huckleberry Hound.

"We were doing Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw when the salespeople asked us, 'Can you do a prime-time show featuring a family?' " Barbera recalled. "So we went around and around. It wasn't until we took the artwork and put skins on them like cave people and gave them bare feet that it began to take off. Then we began to use identifiable objects that we converted to the Stone Age like the Stoneway Piano and the Polarrock Camera."

Former radio actress Jean Vander Pyl created the voice of Wilma and has done the character ever since. She also doubled as Fred and Wilma's baby daughter, Pebbles.

"It was inspired by 'The Honeymooners,' " she said. "That's how I came up with my twang, or as Joe Barbera calls it, my housewife whine."

Vander Pyl believes one of the reasons "The Flintstones" clicked with both adults and children was because it was a perfect marriage between the cast--which also included Alan Reed as Fred, Bea Benaderet as Betty and Mel Blanc as Barney--and their characters.

"We were all such good friends," she said. "We had worked together for many years on radio shows. This was kind of like a homecoming. 'The Flintstones' also was good clean humor. They didn't have to get their humor from smut, you know."

After Alan Reed died in 1977, stage and film actor Henry Corden took over the voice of Fred. "People relate to 'The Flintstones,' " he said. "Wilma is a wonderful lady and yet is not subservient. Fred, of course, is the usual bumbling male. But he is a good, wonderful man and people can relate to an Everyman."

Barbera recalled how Fred's signature phrase "Yabba-dabba doo" came quite by accident. "I used to direct all the shows then. And I was recording the show one day and in the booth and Alan Reed was marking his script. He yelled up to me and said, 'Joe, it says 'Yahoo' here in the script. Can I say 'Yabba-dabba doo' instead?' That's how it happened."

One of the highest-rated episodes of "The Flintstones" aired in 1963, when Wilma gave birth to daughter Pebbles. "Having a baby was an all-time first for an animated series," Barbera said.

Originally, though, Fred and Wilma's offspring was to be a son. That is, until the Ideal Toy Co. wanted to create a doll based on the baby. "It never occurred to me, being chauvinistic of course, that you didn't have boy dolls. So I said, 'OK, it will be a girl.' We just called her Pebbles--a little chip off the old rock. It was a big event. We must have sold 3 million of those dolls."

Universal has a live-action "Flintstones" movie in the works. It was suppose to go into production next year, but, Barbera said, has been pushed back to 1993. "They had John Goodman as Fred and Danny DeVito was to do Barney, but they haven't been able to get a script off the ground."

"The Flintstones" airs Monday-Friday at 7 a.m. on KTTV and 1 p.m. on TBS.

ALSO WORTH WATCHING

The late great Ronald Coleman stars in "The Long Silk Hat," a segment of the mid-'50s anthology series Four Star Playhouse (Sunday at 10 p.m. on KOCE), as a man who has a lover's quarrel and vows never to return to his girlfriend, only to discover he has left his silk hat at her apartment.

Comic Robert Klein sings "I Can't Stop My Leg" on The Best of Saturday Night (Monday at 11 p.m. on Nickelodeon).

The late Sal Mineo of "Rebel Without a Cause" plays a motorcycle-riding hippie friend of Robbie's on My Three Sons (Monday at 1:30 a.m. on Nickelodeon). And that's Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster, circa 1970, who guests on Tuesday's episode.

Super model Cheryl Tiegs guests on Moonlighting (Wednesday at 2 p.m. on Lifetime) in the series' innovative takeoff of "It's a Wonderful Life."

Robert Culp, a frequent guest on "Columbo" over the years, is featured as a murderous lawyer in a two-part Mrs. Columbo (Wednesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. on A&E).

Richard Pryor plays a priest trying to exorcise the devil from Laraine Newman on The Best of Saturday Night (Wednesday at 11 p.m. on Nickelodeon).

Tough guy Charles Bronson plays an escaped convict who murders a gas station attendant on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Nickelodeon).

Wilbur loans Ed to Zsa Zsa Gabor when she has to make a Western movie on Mr. Ed (Friday at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon).

Comedian John Byner and talk-show host Regis Philbin, long before he met Kathie Lee, guest on Get Smart (Friday at 9 p.m. on Nickelodeon) in an episode in which a KAOS agent imitates the president's voice and orders CONTROL to open its files to a KAOS agent.

From the early 1950s: The late Sterling Hayden finds himself battling the supernatural on the Golden Age of Television thriller "Points Beyond" (Saturday at 3 a.m. on A&E).

Steve Kanaly of "Dallas" and comic Tom Smothers, sans brother Dick, drop by Hotel (Saturday at 3 p.m. on Lifetime).

Cesar Romero pops up on Get Smart (Saturday at 9 p.m. on Nickelodeon) as agent Kinsey Krispin, who agrees to turn over a list of enemy agents to CONTROL if it can find his missing wife.

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