History Robots Science Space Technology

The Jetsons At 50 Is A Wrap

The Jetsons

The Jetsons

It’s a wrap. Matt Novak started the project, “50 Years Of The Jetsons: Why The Show Still Matters,” last September, and this week he put the finishing touches on what’s been a grand dissection of the show’s influence and cultural impact over the years.

Spanning just 24 episodes that originally aired from 1962-1963– Novak illustrates beautifully how The Jetsons exposed the country to futurism, writing:

“The Jetsons” was the distillation of every Space Age promise Americans could muster. People point to “The Jetsons” as the golden age of American futurism because (technologically, at least) it had everything our hearts could desire: jetpacksflying carsrobot maidsmoving sidewalks. But the creators of “The Jetsons” weren’t the first to dream up these futuristic inventions. Virtually nothing presented in the show was a new idea in 1962, but what “The Jetsons” did do successfully was condense and package those inventions into entertaining 25-minute blocks for impressionable, media-hungry kids to consume.

Novak combs through all 24 original episodes one by one and offers up some brilliant insights all along the way, and with an historical grip on the country’s Cold war fears, individual and collective anxieties, and utopian dreams and expectations of tomorrow, he brings it all together with playful, engaging respect to the science and technology of the past, present, and future.

With episode entries, entitled, Viva Las Venus: The Jetsons and Wholesome Hedonism, and The Jetsons and the Future Of the Middle Class, or Automating Hard or Hardly Automating? George Jetson and the Manual Labor of Tomorrow, explaining how the mood of the day was that eventually we’d all get to a place where we worked a couple hours a day, flew home on our jetpacks and flying cars for a relaxing smoke and a martini in a future world(estimates around 2026) where our biggest healthcare concern is “Buttonitis” and too much leisure time, Novak sits the pop-culture on the couch and delves into its Jetsons fetish.

It really is a fascinating series, with a particular quote from Danny Graydon, author of “The Official Guide to The Jetsons,” discussing the way we look back on that period of time:

This nostalgia for the futurism of yesteryear has very real consequences for the way that we talk about ourselves as a nation. So many people today talk about how divided we are as a country and that we no longer dream “like we used to.” But when we look at things like public approval of the Apollo space program in the 1960s, those myths of national unity begin to dissolve. Public approval of funding for the Apollo program peaked at 53 percent (around the first moon landing) but pretty much hovered between 35-45 percent for most of the 1960s. Why is there a misconception today about Americans being more supportive of the space program? Because an enormous generation called Baby Boomers were kids in the 1960s; kids playing astronaut and watching shows like “The Jetsons”; kids who were bombarded with images of a bright, shiny future and for whom the world was much simpler because they saw everything through the eyes of a child.

How could we have ever disliked the Apollo program?! This is unacceptable!

But in Matt Novak’s final installment in the 24 part series, The Jetsons Get Schooled: Robot Teachers in the 21st Century Classroom, I think he ends on a really great note, giving much credit to Athelstan Spilhaus‘s Sunday featured comic strip, “Our New Age(1957-1973),” for not only inspiring a generation of science-minded Nerdom, but for perhaps being a bit of a scientific spiritual guide for John F. Kennedy, who is said to have told Spilhaus during a meeting in 1962: “The only science I ever learned was from your comic strip in the Boston Globe.”

So, you could say it was a Sunday comic that carried us to the moon.