As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.
The Flintstones ran from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966 on ABC. Produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, The Flintstones is about a working class Stone Age man's life with his family Fred & Wilma Flintstone and his next door neighbors and best friends Barney & Betty Rubble. Critics and fans alike agree that the show was an animated imitation of The Honeymooners with rock puns thrown in. It aired during an era when color television was becoming popular in America. Its popularity rested heavily on its juxtaposition of modern-day concerns in the Stone Age setting. The Flintstones also became the first primetime animated series to last more than two seasons this record wasn't surpassed by another primetime animated TV series until the third season of The Simpsons in 1992.
The show is set in the town of Bedrock where dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, and other long extinct animals co-exist with barefoot cavemen. Like their 20th century peers, these cavemen listen to records, live in split-level homes, and eat out at restaurants, yet their technology is made entirely from pre-industrial materials and largely powered through the use of various animals. For example, the cars are made out of stone, wood, and animal skins, and powered by the passengers' feet.
It has been noted that Fred Flintstone physically resembled voice actor Alan Reed, and also Jackie Gleason. The voice of Barney was provided by legendary voice actor Mel Blanc, though five episodes (the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 9th) during the second season employed Hanna-Barbera regular Daws Butler while Blanc was incapacitated by a near-fatal car accident. Blanc was able to return to the series much sooner than expected, by virtue of a temporary recording studio for the entire cast set up at Blanc's bedside. It should be noted, however, that Blanc's portrayal of Barney Rubble had changed considerably after the accident. In the earliest episodes, Blanc had used a much higher pitch. After his recovery from the accident, Blanc used a deeper voice. Additional similarities with The Honeymooners included the fact that Reed based Fred's voice upon Jackie Gleason's interpretation of Ralph Kramden, while Blanc, after a season of using a nasal, high-pitched voice for Barney, eventually adopted a style of voice similar to that used by Art Carney in his portrayal of Ed Norton. The first time that the Art Carney-like voice was used was for a few seconds in "The Prowler" (the third episode produced).
In a 1986 Playboy interview, Jackie Gleason said that Alan Reed had done voice-overs for Gleason in his early movies, and that he (Gleason) considered suing Hanna-Barbera for copying The Honeymooners but decided to let it pass. According to Henry Corden, who took over as the voice of Fred Flintstone after Alan Reed died, and was a friend of Gleason’s, “Jackie’s lawyers told him that he could probably have The Flintstones pulled right off the air. But they also told him, “Do you want to be known as the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air? The guy who took away a show that so many kids love, and so many parents love, too?”
Henry Corden handled the voice responsibilities of Fred after Reed's death in 1977. Corden had previously provided Fred's singing voice in The Man Called Flintstone and later on Flintstones children's records. After 1999, Jeff Bergman performed the voice of Fred. Since Mel Blanc's death in 1989, Barney has been voiced by both Frank Welker and Kevin Richardson. Various additional character voices were created by Hal Smith, Allan Melvin, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler and Howard Morris, among others.
Although most Flintstones episodes are stand-alone storylines, the series did have a few story arcs. The most notable example was a series of episodes surrounding the birth of Pebbles. Beginning with the episode "The Surprise", aired midway through the third season (1/25/63), in which Wilma reveals her pregnancy to Fred, the arc continued through the trials and tribulations leading up to Pebbles' birth in the episode "Dress Rehearsal" (2/22/63), and then continued with several episodes showing Fred and Wilma adjusting to the world of parenthood. A postscript to the arc occurred in the third episode of the fourth season, in which the Rubbles, depressed over being unable to have children of their own (making The Flintstones the first animated series in history to address the issue of infertility, though subtly), adopt Bamm-Bamm. The 100th episode made (but the 90th to air), Little Bamm-Bamm (10/3/63), established how Bamm-Bamm was adopted. About nine episodes were made before it, but shown after, which explains why Bamm-Bamm would not be seen again until episode 101, Daddies Anonymous (Bamm-Bamm was in a teaser on episode 98, Kleptomaniac Pebbles). Another story arc, occurring in the final season, centered on Fred and Barney's dealings with The Great Gazoo (voiced by Harvey Korman).
The Flintstones was the first American animated show to depict two people of the opposite sex (Fred and Wilma; Barney and Betty) sleeping together in one bed, although Fred and Wilma are sometimes depicted as sleeping in separate beds. For comparison, the first live-action depiction of this in American TV history was in television's first-ever sitcom: 1947's Mary Kay and Johnny.
The show contained a laugh track, common to most other sitcoms of the period. In the mid-1990s, when Turner Networks remastered the episodes, the original laugh track was removed. Currently, the shows airing on Boomerang and the DVD releases have the original laugh track restored to most episodes (a number of episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 still lack them). Some episodes, however, have a newer laugh track dubbed in, apparently replacing the old one. Because of this practice, the only episode to originally air without a laugh track ("Sheriff For a Day" in 1965) now has one.
Following the show's cancellation in 1966, a film based upon the series was created. The Man Called Flintstone was a musical spy caper that parodied James Bond and other secret agents. The movie was released to theaters on August 3, 1966 by Columbia Pictures. It was released on DVD in Canada in March 2005 and in United States in December 2008.
The Flintstones had several spin-offs and TV specials.
The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971–72)
The Flintstone Comedy Hour (1972–73)
The New Fred and Barney Show (1979)
The Flintstone Comedy Show (1980–82)
The Flintstone Funnies (1982–84)
The Flintstone Kids (1986–88)
The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones (1987)
I Yabba-Dabba Do! (1993)
Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby (1993)
A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)
The Flintstones: On the Rocks (2001)
There weree also two Live action Flintstone Movies
The Flintstones (1994)
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000)
After fifty years, Fred still hasn't won the fight, And that cat has not stayed out for the night.