How The Jetsons' Future Inspired Our Present

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Jetsons

Fifty years ago this past Sunday, the Jetson family made its debut on American television. Hanna-Barbera’s space age counterpart to The Flintstones, the show lasted only 24 episodes, and yet has remained culturally ubiquitous for the past five decades. It was revived in the mid-1980s for several seasons, and later adapted for a film. Called the “single most important piece of 20th century futurism” by critic and writer Matt Novak, the program was not only about futuristic technology, it also employed some revolutionary technology of its own: it was first show ever to be broadcast in color on ABC.

Janet Waldo played Judy Jetson on the original show in the 60s. She talks about the future, as depicted in the television show, and how much of that has come true — from microwave ovens to video phones to moving sidewalks. "I think audiences are just a teeny bit disappointed that they haven't gotten their flying cars yet."

As Matt Novak says, "I've been studying past visions of the future long enough to never make a prediction." What is most interesting about the Jetsons' future to Novak is not how much technological change the show predicted, but how little social change it did. "The Jetsons' future was just projecting the 1962 family into the future," Novak says. Regardless of the futuristic setting, the Jetsons remained the perfect picture of an early Cold War American family

Indeed, Novak wonders how different things would be today "if the Jetsons had represented all of these different social futures." In his view, the impact this one show had on the expectations of an entire generation cannot be overstated.


Matt Novak and Janet Waldo

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Maggie Penman

Comments [5]


How happy I was to hear Janet Waldo. During WW2, my mother worked with a Janet Waldo in DC. She admired Janet and named me after her. Could this be the same Janet or a relative?

Sep. 28 2012 03:12 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Takeaway is not Morning Edition. That is the point. The Takeaway is an alternative type of probing show which tries to illuminate other aspects of the American conversation which is mostly ignored by every other medium... Some other Radio shows being the exception.

The Takeaway is an examination of the nooks and crannies of our society which reveals aspects of our daily lives in telling ways which are not obvious and it comes from Low Brow places (like an ancient cartoon) as well as High Brow Professors and Scientists, (who also have a sense of humor, and now how to not take themselves seriously.)

Hockenberry should be given credit for his ability to bring out the humor in serious segments as well. He is in touch with both the absurdity of situations and does not fade from asking the difficult questions to critics

The Takeaway is a show in which you have to be interested in the nuances of understanding and willing to not just hear the obvious headlines...Most other shows do that, if that is what your needs are, go there.

Doing a segment on "The Jetsons," is brilliant because, though it was a kids show, it satirdaydized" (a combo word of Saturday and satire) and now that it is fifty years old, we can examine aspects of that show that came true, both as Science Fiction turning to fact and as satire which still holds true or now has come true.

It was a welcome relief for me to mostly not hear segments on the election and more of a Sixty Minutes type of programing:timely, relevant, poignant and clarifying about topics I usually don't examine and explore on my own.

Much obliged for the terrific week of segments. Not a single bad one

Sep. 28 2012 11:11 AM

Would be great to see a live action remake of the

Sep. 28 2012 10:12 AM
USCDADNYC from Queens NY

The Show Producers had an Inside Joke. George Jetson worked for "Spacely's Sprockets" And Spacely's Main Business Rival was "Gogswell's Cogs" Get the Juxta-Position? Gog(s) and Sprocket(s). Look up the Dictionary Definitions OR ask a Mechanical Engineer.

Sep. 28 2012 10:05 AM
Daryl from Manhattan

The Jetson feature is the worse waste of good radio time I have ever heard on an NPR radio station. This continues the "personality driven" drivel that is the The Takeaway, which is an insult to Morning Edition.

Sep. 28 2012 09:58 AM

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