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Seth MacFarlane's 'The Flintstones' Reboot: A No-Win Situation

by Stephanie Earp, posted May 24th 2011 5:00PM
Sometime in 2013, 'The Flintstones' will be part of the fall lineup for the Fox Network. I know it's not that unusual for businesses to plan several years ahead, but can I just take a moment to say how odd that seems in the context of television?

What if we all violently turn against animation between then and now? Or, what if we have an apocalyptic event that puts us back in the Stone Age, sans TV? I guess you just can't think that way if you're a mogul. Anyway, if the Mayans turn out to be as wrong as Family Radio, Fox has already secured its most talked-about property of the 2013 season.

Talked-about, because the man at the helm is none other than Seth MacFarlane, creator of 'Family Guy' and 'American Dad.' The announcement sparked incredulity among TV writers and bloggers last week. After all, 'The Flintstones' is a beloved Hanna-Barbera brand, owned by the highly protective Warner Bros. group. And MacFarlane is ... well, he's not subtle, shall we say. Even fans of MacFarlane point out that all three of his existing sitcoms are basically the same show with different drawings. The really astute commenters note that those three shows are basically versions of 'The Flintstones' already -- raunchy, tasteless versions of 'The Flintstones.'

Among the questions raised by this announcement -- such as why WB would allow the brand to go to Fox, and why they'd let MacFarlane anywhere near it -- is this: Why would MacFarlane want to hide his acerbic light under a stone-aged bushel? Turns out, it's a lifelong dream.

Uh oh.

In my experience, when an artist finally gets the chance to take on some project they've been dreaming about since childhood (MacFarlane says Fred Flintstone is the first figure he ever drew), the results are messy. Think of Kevin Costner's 'Waterworld' and David Eick's 'Bionic Woman.'

The problem is when writers and producer enter a project with too much reverence for the source material or the concept; when I studied creative writing in college, one of my profs would harp on about being willing to "kill your darlings" -- basically, being able to cut the lines and phrases you like best if it means he piece works better as a whole. It's much harder than it sounds. How much harder is it when it's someone else's darling? If MacFarlane grew up loving Fred, Wilma, Barney and the rest, how difficult will it be for him to apply any new perspective or characterization to them and their world? And if he can't, what's the point?

On the other hand, sometimes creative types dream of taking on an established and much-loved brand because they want to change it, because they see the potential for greatness in a flawed original. (I'd put the newer 'Battlestar Galactica' in this category.) But when the franchise you want is considered semi-sacred, I say good luck with that. If MacFarlane has secret plans to make radical changes to the brand, he'll probably find himself stymied. A producer at Fox who is working on the show with MacFarlane has already said the project will be "under the microscope" and that MacFarlane will be "very respectful to the original."

I'd be of a completely different mind about this if Hanna-Barbera had come to MacFarlane instead of the other way round. Some of the greatest new franchises and stories have come from unlikely partnerships. 'Lost,' for example, was basically a log line cooked up by a network executive. J.J. Abrams was hired to flesh it out, and a national obsession was born. J.J.'s own ideas led him to create 'Undercovers.' Gore Verbinsky was dragged into the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise a decade into its development, and based on some fond memories of the ride -- but not a devotion to it -- was able to revive the pirate genre, hire Johnny Depp, and make bazillions of dollars.

I feel bad for MacFarlane; I wonder if he realizes yet that this is a no-win situation. If he pleases his existing fans, he'll anger WB and 'Flintstones' purists (if such people exist). If he pleases these hypothetical purists, he'll disappoint 'Family Guy' fans and probably Fox, who I'm sure are expecting at least some shocking sequences. Either way, come 2013 there will be a whole lot of ink and pixels devoted to reviewing the pilot. I just have my doubts that come 2014, the show will still be on the air.

What do you think about the prospects for MacFarlane's 'The Flintstones'?

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Brynjar Konradsson

"In my experience, when an artist finally gets the chance to take on some project they've been dreaming about since childhood (MacFarlane says Fred Flintstone is the first figure he ever drew), the results are messy. "

- Yeah Lord of the Rings was a life long dream for Peter Jackson... what a mess! And Waterworld is an ******* awesome movie...

April 11 2012 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You really don't know anything about animation, or Seth.

But then again, you work for the Huffington Post. If you were an knowledgable journalist, you'd work for a real media outlet.

February 01 2012 at 9:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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October 24 2011 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hate to break it to you man, but Flintstones was never really the most "respectable" show, and I'm sure MacFarlane is going to parody that. The show is far from relatable nowadays, but the characters are still well known. Maybe it's time for a breath of fresh air.

October 17 2011 at 11:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christian Shaffer

You can't satisfy everyone. I'm pretty sure Mr. MacFarlane is aware of this.

October 13 2011 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This will be a good remake, Seth McFarlane is great!

July 26 2011 at 9:03 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Family Guy --> Simpsons --> Flintsones --> Honeymooners. There's a lot in between there too but it's generally the same premise, the lovable chub that has a wife that's a lot more attractive and good for him. I like Family Guy, although it's been going downhill. It's lost the spark and he's fallen to getting too political. I will like it if he brings in artists to basically don HD Flintstones and he can maintain what the Flintstones were about. I'm fine with it not being that different and just modernized but I'd rather not see it be along the lines of Family Guy in terms of adult content.

July 25 2011 at 6:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aaron Mocksing

I will only see this show if it's done in his 'What a Cartoon!' style animation.

If it's gonna be the same expressions on every single character, with minor alterations, then I don't know what to say. I guess pobody's nerfect. Still, I'm optimistic.

I respect him, and his success, but still, man... just a wee bit of respect, maybe? You can keep the erocktion jokes, but that 8^U copy/paste design has got to be replaced. Badly.

June 06 2011 at 4:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How can Seth's shows be a knock-off of the Flintstones when the Flintstones itself was a knock-off of the Honeymooners?

May 25 2011 at 9:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stephanie Earp, you are talking out of your butt. What have YOU ever done in professional animation to know even an inkling of what you're talking about?

NOTHING, I'M SURE. So you're just another one of these people who have acquired a position writing about something you know NOT A DAMN THING ABOUT THE PRODUCTION OF. Because you have no experience. Because you have no talent in this regard. Yet, you'll gladly do what you can to "sound" like an intellectual on these subjects, as if you know what the hell you are doing, when you do not.

Seth MacFarlane's success rate very much suggests this is at worst, an interesting project to undertake and to watch, or at best, that we're all "gonna have a gay old time. YABBA DABBA DOO!"

Yet you're sitting there, trying your best to pee all over the project, as if you have any sway, or actual reasoning on how things will turn out.

What a fraud you are. People like you just take up space online and in print, acting like little critic monkeys, pulling whatever crap out of your ass to fling upon the things you don't like or understand. Or that you just want to fill up column space to write something that has no basis for any kind of reasoning.

Lucky you that you get to be paid to write insubstantial crap that doesn't actually contribute to anything.

May 25 2011 at 4:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to magnut's comment
General Kenobi

The fact that she clearly doesn't get the production schedule of animated series should've been the first clue. Whether that first set of paragraphs was supposed to be funny, which is wasn't, or not, it's clear from that that there is no understanding of how long a process it is to make an episode, let alone a season of episodes from the ground up. Here's a clue, they're making the 2012/2013 episodes of the Simpsons right now, too... same for most animated primetime series with one notable exception. Just a silly article start to finish.

If it had merit, the author would deign to engage her audience... but she couldn't even do that after having been paid for this tripe, to then edit it based on the comments of a user, but not to reply is just.... lovely fan service. I'll leave it at that.

May 25 2011 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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