Today, we’ll take a special sidetrip concentrating on two series of the late 50’s and early 60’s which, while not nominally starring robots, obtained a reputation for regularly filling the screen with them. These would be Joe Oriolo’s revival of Felix the Cat, and Hanna-Barbera’s first family of the future, The Jetsons. Each series has enough to offer to merit detailed review. And so we’ll pull out our Sherlock Holmes magnifying glasses to provide each’s trail with a detailed inspection.
I am unaware of what prompted Joe Oriolo to acquire the rights to a character who, while a formidable presence in animation during the silent era, had laid dormant (at least on film) for over 20 years. It seemed that the career of Felix the Cat had become during such fallow period limited to providing a sign over a noted Chevrolet dealership of the same name in Los Angeles, California. I am not certain if he had any remaining life in comic strips or comic books before Oriolo’s revival, and anyone more familiar with his history in print is invited to contribute. Nevertheless, Oriolo, just beginning his own film output for television in partial separation from his long association with Fleischer and Famous Studios, took a gamble on a property which was likely almost forgotten to television viewers except for some of the earliest rebroadcasts of prints of the silent originals – and the gamble paid off, big time.
Joe’s wise choice to produce in color surely helped, as more and more opportunities for color telecasting were soon to develop, keeping ready markets for the new franchise for decades. For nuts and bolts animation work, Joe turned to his old friends at Paramount/Famous, obtaining the talents (uncredited, except of a Cricket Records soundtrack album) of Jim Tyer, Stephen Muffati, Reuben Grossman, and Frank Endres, with scripts by Joe Sabo and Joe Stultz. (The Cricket album even went so far as to provide credits for editing and special effects – why so generous on a medium you couldn’t even see, and nothing on the films themselves?) The series lasted in first-tun from 1958 to 1961.
However, Oriolo had his own ideas, and made no attempt to place Felix in his usual element of back alleys and trash cans (this would be more suitable abode to Hanna-Barbera’s Top Cat, which would follow a few years later). Nor was Felix’s tail generally detachable, or convertible into any object desirable (except in the pilot), though Felix’s ears would continue to sometimes detach as if worn like a hat). Nor again would Felix visualize random letters or punctuation signs in the air and convert them into needed objects, as had become a trademark of his early films. Then what was to be Felix’s “edge” against the world? A new gimmick, of entirely unknown origin and creation, referred to as his “magic bag of tricks” – a canvas satchel in yellow with a signature cloth pastern of alternating dots and plus signs. This handy gadget (which I believe only once was depicted with any kind of a timer or remote control) would, with a tug here or pull there, transform in shape and texture into any device known to man, and in many cases to an apparently living animal form (though we must presume these “animals” are merely mechanical robots of some kind, to keep any semblance of plausibility to the scripts. The bag also had artificial intelligence, and could respond to verbal commands, whistles, and even observe on its own when in “animal” form. Had Felix met a wizard? A scientist? Or was he its inventor – and if so, who financed him? This seemed a far step from the gutters of the 1920’s, and no logical reason was provided why dame fortune would have so smiled upon him, when Felix could barely eke out a meal in his silent days. In reality, the only real reason apparent for Felix’s acquisition was to keep some basis for use of transformational gags within the series, giving the writers something to do, by a more “modern” means than the cartoon conventions of the 1920’s.
With this modernization, however, came another quantum leap. Felix had never had a regular protagonist, or any regular cast of characters. If there were to be a new series, some recognizable friends or villains would be needed to give the series more of a “hook” than a string of random one-shot adventures – and to potentially add marketability to the project for toys, comics, and the like. So, a primary villain was thought of, in the form of a nameless character simply known as “The Professor”. (He had a name once, but, as established in one episode, simply can’t remember it.) Now elderly, with a receding hairline with bald dome, and hair and moutache of solid white, the Professor is a mostly solitary recluse in his laboratory (more of a planetary observatory with domed roof and protruding telescope), where he applies his vast knowledge to devising sinister plots for world domination or quick moneymaking/larcenous schemes. His motives and quarries would vary widely from episode to episode – but one quest would take prominence over all others – to obtain Felix’s magic bag, and learn the secret of how it works. The series thus took on an unusually “scientific” slant, the Professor using all manner of inventions, futuristic weapons, and even mechanical creatures to capture Felix or render him harmless, secure the bag, and attempt to examine it with a fine tooth comb for a clue to its secrets. The series would become even more scientific with the arrival of Poindexter, a junior nephew to the Professor, always seen wearing a mortarboard hat in junior size and wearing a lab coat like his uncle. Oddly, in nearly all episodes featuring Poindexter, the Professor’s evil ways and motives to obtain the bag are virtually forgotten, the Professor putting business before pleasure in hiring Felix as Poindexter’s baby sitter. Poindexter became even more creative than the Professor, beating him at his own game, by inventing such articles as junior flying saucers, and a powerful super rocket fuel. He also was the only character in the series to ever figure out how the magic bag worked – though he seems to have never divulged the secret to his uncle or anyone else.With all this craze for inventiveness, the series sometimes began to go over the children’s audience’s head. Despite most scripts being written as if aimed in rather deliberate fashion to over-emphasize plot points so that the kids could follow along even with a limited attention span, there were lapses where only an adult would realize what was going on (such as in “Felix Baby Sits”, where Felix takes from a shelf a book nominally of Mother Goose rhymes, yet finds inside the Professor’s edition to read, “Mary, Mary quite contrary. How does your spectrum glow? With sodium glare, in the ionosphere, and satellites all in a row.” Felix can only turn to the audience, and ask, “How can they do this to kids?”). Of course, in this kind of atmosphere, it was inevitable that the series would from time to time become proliferated with robots – beginning with its very first episode, The Magic Bag. (Note that titles by which these episodes are currently known are in fact arbitrary, as no credits nor production records reflect working titles, each episode instead being assigned only a production number.) Felix is introduced, out for a casual stroll in the countryside, carrying his little bag. The Professor’s laboratory happens to be within viewing distance of Felix, as the cat is viewed on a TV screen though means of a telescoping lens that emerges out of the observatory sky dome, referred to in the series as a “sneakascope”. The Professor observes Felix pick apples by converting the bag into a portable escalator, cross a lake by converting it into a canoe, then stretch the bag again to produce a picnic table and Felix’s lunch within. Intrigued, the Professor mutters to himself that the magic bag must be his, and presses a button to activate a huge magnetic ray, which somehow attracts objects which are not metal, including Felix and the bag, who are drawn into the Professor’s observatory.
The magnet is shut off, dropping Felix and the bag onto a small platform. The platform is repositioned under the lens of a ray gun, which fires a beam from above directly on Felix, shrinking him to a size smaller than the bag itself. The professor seizes the bag away, taking it outside (where, oddly, the Professor decides to nap atop the dome of his observatory), Felix whistles to his bag, which responds under its own power, changing into a bouncing ball and hopping back in through the dome’s skylight. Felix hops on the ball and bounces off the platform and across the lab. The bouncing bag deposits him atop a large control panel in another corner of the lab, then the bag reconverts back to bag shape on the floor. Felix ponders what to do next, and casually leans on a lever, which activates a device with readout reading “Robot Control. DANGER!” A closet door opens, revealing a towering robot behind steel bars. The barred door opens, and the robot (of blocky head and chest, not too dissumular to Superman’s Mechanical Monsters but without wings or propeller) lumbers forward, while Felix’s amazed eyes spin in a spiral. The robot, however, does not have good eyesight, and presumes the person at the control switch is the Professor. The robot asks the “Professor” what is desired of him, and Felix plays on the confusion by shaping his tail to resemble the Professor’s moustache for a disguise, and imitating the Professor’s voice (an easy task, as all voices in the series are supplied by the same star – Jack Mercer). Felix tells the robot to get him the magic bag on the floor. When the robot draws close enough to the bag, Felix whistles again, prompting the bag to open, revealing a yellow kangaroo (robot?). The kangaroo goes into boxing mode, while Felix cheers him on. “Hit him in the mainspring. Sock him in the sockets. Twist his transistors.” Perhaps a designer at the Marx toy company remembered this episode, as the next shot looks all too similar to a famous commercial for the later-devised action toy, “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots”, as the robot’s “block is knocked off”, its head coming loose and bobbing on a mainspring, while letters light up on its forehead reading “Tilt”. After a brief moment of confusion where the robot falls into the kangaroo’s pouch, the kangaroo delivers a final blow, sending the robot staggering back into its closet and shutting the doors. “Good riddance to bad robots”, quips Felix in a play on words. The kangaroo carries Felix back to the table with the reducing ray, then activates a button to set the ray into reverse. Felix instructs the kangaroo, “No padding in the shoulders. Size 44.” (Rather large, for a cat.) Felix is returned to normal size, while the kangaroo disappears back inside the bag. Felix sees the feet of the Professor sleeping on the dome above through the skylight, and, rather than leave well enough alone and escape, converts his tail for one of the only times in the series into a lasso, and pulls the Professor back in with a thud. The Professor does not attempt another capture of Felix, but rather resorts to a modification upon the self-kicking machine used in Mighty Mouse’s “Frankenstein’s Cat”, with a robotic hand providing a self-spanking of the Professor’s rear every time he pushes down a handle. Felix laughs for the iris out.
An entire sub-genre would develop when Poindexter, on one of Felix’s early baby-sitting assignments, built a working flying saucer out of a king-size erector set. Felix is dragged off aboard the device to the moon, where the craft runs out of gas. No worry, as Poindexter also devises from the erector set an atomic drive to get them home. But their trip back does not go uneventfully. In Master Cylinder, King of the Moon, a tractor beam pulls Poindexter’s saucer into one of the craters of the moon, asd the Professor witnesses the event by means of a TV monitor hooked up to his telescope on Earth. The Professor jumps in a rocket ship of his own creation, and hurtles through space to the rescue. He passes a small asteroid where an astronaut or spaceman is thumbing for a hitch, and flips down a sign on the visor of the windshield of his spacecraft reading “No Riders”. In another gag that would certainly have gone over the kids’ heads, the path of the Professor’s rocket is crossed by a detailed still drawing of one of the vintage balloons of pioneer balloonist Eugene Godard from the late 1800’s. The Professor can only mutter, “Sunday flyer.” Within the crater is an underground jungle world. Through the underbrush creeps a sinister-looking mechanical claw. It pursues Felix and Poindexter into a cave, but is suddenly repelled with three vibrating jolts – retracting to reveal that corks have been placed by our heroes upon each of the arm’s claw points. It nevertheless finally draws out heroes out of the cave, in its grasp, and pills back to its owner – A huge metal can of a monster, with large eyes watching on a TV screen in the face of the device. A voice from within introduces the device as “Master Cylinder, King of the Moon”, and further announces that he hates intruders. While the Cylinder decides what to do with them, Poindexter tells Felix to push a button om Poindexter’s chest with his nose. Felix does so, and the screen with the Cylinder’s eyes develops static, then shuts off. Poindexter states the button is a force ray generator, that paralyzed the Cylinder’s antenna. Unfortunately, the device has very limited battery power, and goes flat before the boys can take off in their saucer. The Cylinder revives, twisting a dial on its chest to fine-tine the monitor signal for its eyes, then retrieves Poindexter and Felix from their saucer with the use of another mystery magnet that attracts flesh instead of metal. At this moment, the Professor arrives, demanding to know what is the meaning of this. The Cylinder is pleasantly surprised, and refers to the Professor as his “favorite instructor at the Space Academy.” “The voice is familiar, but I can’t place the claw”, responds the Professor. Master Cylinder (who seems to have gone by the same name even when in human form) reveals that he is really a cyborg, and was once the Professor’s most promising pupil. “You flunked chemistry. Always blowing yourself up”, recalls the Professor. “That’s how I lost my body”, admits the Cylinder with some embarrassment, “But nothing could destroy my magnificent brain.” Without further explanation of how the Cylinder came to be installed into his current tin can, the Professor and Cylinder barter over the hostages. Cylinder consents to Poindexter going, but insists Felix stays, as he can be useful in the Cylinder’s experiments. “That’s fair enough” says the Professor, with no concern for Felix’s safety. Felix, however, has other ideas, and notices an electric cord connecting the Cylinder to a socket in the wall. Felix pills the plug, and the Cylinder’s screen monitor falls dead again (raising the further question, who plugged the Cylinder in?). The Professor gives a tow to the boys’ saucer, begrudgingly taking Felix along too, for the trip home.
The Cylinder would become a recurrent pest in the series, with several modifications. He would take up new headquarters on Mars instead of the moon. He would acquire a right-hand man in the form of an octopus-like creature named General Clang. He would lose the power cord (perhaps switching to batteries), and somehow manage to become mobile, sort of sliding along on the planet’s surface, though equipped with no legs. And, his motivations would change to commanding an army of rocket ships to invade the Earth. The Cylinder, however, has one big problem. His rockets have only enough propulsion to make it halfway to Earth, then run out of fuel. He somehow gets wind that Poindexter has developed a super rocket fuel formula. Unfortunately, Poindexter does not seem to have written it down – and never seems to be able to duplicate it in his efforts in a lab. The Cylinder engages in many nefarious plots to lure Poindexter to Mars, to work on recreating the formula in Cylinder’s own private lab. One such scheme involved an invention of General Clang, in The Exchanging Machine, which Clang refers to as “the Tel-Exchanger – a device to exchange objects at great distances” Before demonstrating the device, he shows to Master Cylinder what the Cylinder at first thinks is Poindexter, but a funny walk-cycle (animated by Jim Tyer) which results in a forwards fall on its face reveals that Clang’s Poindexter is nothing but a poorly-made robot. Clang inserts the robot into the chamber of his invention, sets dials to the coordinates of the Professor’s laboratory – and in the twinkling of an eye, the robot fades away as if in the Star Trek transporter room, and the real Poindexter appears, in the flesh. Back home, Felix tells “Poindexter” it’s his bedtime, but the robot performs its usual walk, and again falls flat on its face. Though Felix knows it must be the work of the Cylinder, he is at first largely helpless to do anything – until on Mars, Poindexter is a holdout regarding mixing up the rocket fuel formula, unless Cylinder produces his baby sitter Felix to keep him company. Clang hastily comes up with a badly-made rag doll of Felix, and the exchanger is set into operation again. The puzzled Professor returns home on Earth to find his laboratory occupied only by the robot and rag doll, while Felix is teleported to Mars. Felix escapes, but Cylinder mercifully lets him go, figuring he’ll either starve on Mars’s barren terrain, or “the talking rocks will drive him crazy.” Felix discovers the “talking rocks” are actually native Martians in disguise, gathering to oppose the Cylinder and Clang. (In a previous episode, Felix was informed that Clang was not a native Martian, but a refugee from a Coney Island freak show. “Oh, a phoney from Coney”, responded Felix.) The Martians provide Felix with a “rock suit”, which makes him look like a rolling boulder with a pebble for a nose, so that he can roll back to the Cylinder’s compound. Poindexter meanwhile is at it again in the Cylinder’s lab, and produces, to the Cylinder’s disdain, “Another explosion”. Poindexter is blasted into the sky, then falls upon Felix, cracking open his suit. But no matter, as the Martians enter the fray by creating a rolling landslide down a slope toward the camp. In an all-too-typical continuity error, nobody catches a boo-boo in Mercer’s voice over, where a line intended for Clang winds up voiced as the Cylinder, resulting in the Cylinder addressing and answering himself with the lines, “Let’s run. Run? With what?” (indicating the Cylinder’s lack of legs). Clang has to pick up the Cylinder bodily and race for a getaway to save him, while Felix and Poindexter jump into the tel-exchanger for a return to Earth. They dissolve back in place of their counterparts in the Professor’s lab before the startled Professor’s eyes, leaving the Professor to faint, while uttering the words “It is impossible.”
The Cylinder would undergo one more transformation, in “Felix the Cat Meets Martin the Martian” (a misnomer in retitling of the series’ episodes, as Felix and Martin first met in a previous installment). Poindexter is bored at the lab, wondering how his friend Martin is doing on Mars. Martin (the only native Martian we ever saw in the flesh during the series), is a round-headed creature with an antenna on his head, wearing an outfit in the style of coveralls. His gimmick is a folding travel-chamber called a fourth-dimensional space capsule, appearing to be nothing more than the outlines of a drawn cube not painted in. The traveler enters the cube, which folds upon him in two directions, then disappears entirely from view, transporting him to another location. While Felix dozes off, Poindexter eyes Felix’s magic bag, and slips away with it into the Professor’s lab. “I wonder how this bag works?”, he ponders, and subjects the bag via the Professor’s machinery to tests for vibration rate and compression index. (Why didn’t the Professor think of this? I guess Poindexter’s brain is so advanced beyond him, the Professor couldn’t make the calculations). “I’ve got it”, declares Poindexter, and with a note to himself of “Easy does it”, successfully transforms the bag into a magic doorway to Mars. (If it took a scientific brain like Poindexter’s to unravel the secret of the bag, how had Felix, who seldom understands any complex equation or technical concept, been doing it so easily for years? A natural knack? Or a secret instruction book never seen?) Anyway, Poindexter travels through the portal to the red planet, and Felix awakens to find the door open. The metal claw of the Cylinder snatches him up from the doorway, and drags him through. This seems to forebode the usual danger, until Felix discovers on Mars Poindexter, inside the metal shell once occupied by the Cylinder, experimenting with the controls inside for the robotic claw arms. The Cylinder seems to have disappeared, leaving behind only his metal framework. Felix starts to scold Poindexter, but things are interrupted by the appearance of Martin in his space capsule, for a quick reunion. Who should also appear at this scene of reminiscence, but the Cylinder – a different-looking Cylinder than we’ve ever seen. He is about half of his former size, in a casing which now includes a moving mouth panel rather than merely having the Cylinder’s voice heard as if encased inside the can, and, newest of all, a pair of robotic legs in addition to the usual claws. The Cylinder brings down upon the trio a metal encasement that serves as a small portable jail, then explains his own transformation as a conversion into a “more convenient, all transistor model”. Seeing Martin’s space capsule outline, Cylinder orders Martin to bring it outside for an inspection. Martin obliges, but places the capsule down around the Cylinder, trapping him inside. The capsule folds, then disappears. Felix asks where did he go, and Martin responds, “I sent him to the crab nebula.” Felix and Poindexter travel too, ending the visit by returning through the magic doorway back to Earth. Though nothing further is said between Felix and Poindexter about the incident, Poindexter appears to have decided to be a good little boy, and has since never used the bag again, nor disclosed its secrets to his uncle. As for the Cylinder, he would make one other appearance in his condensed shell, in a surprise cast reunion for Felix’s birthday in the series finale, “Public Enemies Nimber One and Two”, attending the party peaceably as if he were Felix’s old friend.
Poindexter would have one more encounter involving robots, on a day when he is in a bad mood, and inconsistently begins to show evil tendencies descending to him genetically from the Professor’s bloodline, in Baby Pill. (With this kind of unexplained mood swing, is he really someone who can be safely relied upon to keep the magic bag’s secret?) Felix is baby-sitting again, and tells Poindexter it’s his bedtime. Poindexter doesn’t want to sleep, and instead wants to tinker in the lab, so disappears through the wall via a secret panel next to his bed. Felix suddenly hears the clanking and clunking of work within the lab, and rises to investigate. The door to the lab flies open, and out rolls a small, bullet-shaped robot on one wheel with antenna on his head, and beady light-bulb eyes, Poindexter appears, introducing the robot as created to keep an eye on Felix, as Poindexter has “no time for naps. He’s all yours, robot”, Poindexter continues. The robot chases Felix, captures him in one claw, and quickly dresses Felix in a humiliating baby bonnet. The robot force-feeds Felix a bottle of milk, burps him, then places Felix in bed, like an infant. Felix protests that no hunk of tin is going to push him around, and tries several times to escape, but repeatedly winds up back in bed again, the robot sunging him a metallic lullaby. Poindexter again appears from the lab door. ‘Having trouble, robot?”, he asks. “He won’t stand still”, responds the robot. Poindexter produces a new invention – two bottles of pills. One bottle holds white pills. which Poindexter states will convert Felix into a baby, while another bottle of dark pills has the power to make him normal again. (Wow. Poindexter doesn’t believe in waiting around for FDA approval.) Felix protests, but is held down by the robot while Poindexter force-feeds him a white pill. Felix is reduced to a babbling infant in mind state but not in physical appearance, barely able to utter phrases such as “goo goo”. With Felix under control, Poindexter leaves him on the bed, informing the robot, “I have other plans for you.” Here, Poindexter shows the true colors of his lineage from the Professor, announcing the diabolical intention of building an army of robots. “Then, I can replace everybody at my command.” When did Poindexter develop this megalomania? Perhaps Felix should consider giving up this baby-sitting gig. But Felix is no quitter, and, even in his infantile state, rises from bed to inspect the bottles of pills on a table. (Poindexter, you idiot, don’t you know better than to leave medicine unattended around a toddler?) Dangerously mistaking the bottle of dark pills as a jar of candy, Felix swallows one of them – and in a flash, is shed of the baby bonnet, and returned to his old self. Felix wonders what the white pills might do to a robot. He slips into the lab behind the robot, and drops a pill into the robot’s jaw. Suddenly, the robot is unable to speak, uttering only metallic goo-goos and babbling. Poindexter is shocked, and turns to find Felix in control of the pill bottle. Poindexter quickly assembles another robot to chase Felix, but Felix performs the same stunt on robot 2, with the same result. Poindexter constructs a robot of twice the size and strength, his best robot ever, and sends it after Felix. Felix hides just inside the doorway to the bedroom, and the robot zooms right past him. Felix slips back in the lab, and Poindexter again proves to be not as smart as he seems, allowing Felix to slip up behind him, and place a pill into Poindexter’s mouth. Now it’s Poindexter doing the goo-goos. But Felix’s troubles aren’t over, as a metal claw seizes the pill bottle away from him, then another claw snatches him up by the waist. The super-robot has returned, and sticks a funnel into the helpless Felix’s mouth, intending to pour the whole bottle of white pills down his throat. At the last second, Felix wisely gets one paw loose, and places it over the opening of the funnel. The pills are deflected off his paw, bouncing into the jaw of the robot. Another helpless babbling baby is born. The cartoon closes with Felix tucking in Poindexter and the super-robot in bed side by side for a long nap, remarking to the audience, “Aren’t they cute together?”
We shift gears to a time at the far end of the 21st Century, as Hanna-Barbera, reversing the idea that brought them prime-time success with “The Flintstones”, transports us to visit the typical family of the future instead of the stone age – “The Jetsons”. Modeled after the family of Dagwood Bumstead in the comic strip “Blondie”, the series pulled a coup in voice-casting by obtaining the services of Penny Singleton – the actual “Blondie” of Columbia’s long-running movie franchise, who would soon (if her contract contained such provisions) be receiving additional royalties from Columbia’s re-franchising of the Blondie movies to television. At the helm of the family was veteran George O’Hanlon, who had starred in Warner Brothers’ longstanding series of live-action “Joe McDoakes” comedy shorts, amd also done a stint on TV as a supporting player on “The Life of Riley.” And, rounding out a cast of other H-B regulars, Mel Blanc was cast in the role of George’s boss, Cosmo Spacely, coming up with a modified version of Yosemite Sam’s voice without most of the gravel, and a signature yell that could curdle the blood of any timid employee: “JETSONNNN!!!”
But for our purposes, we’ll focus not so much on the humans, but on the mechanical personnel of the future. The series would offer us all manner of metal masterpieces over its run, including robot teachers, jurors, army examiners, slot machines, and door-to-door salesmen, just to name a few, along with endless varieties of appliances with voice chips who seemed to posses some degree of intelligence (such as talking watches that respond to “Thank you” with “S’all right”). These devices would often fill the role of the animal appliances in “The Flintstones”, with wise cracks or comebacks to the audience on the state of present life. But other robots received special prominence in the scripts, and receive mention here.
First and foremost was Rosey the Robot, who was the nominal star of the series’ premiere episode (9/30/62) A robot maid, available from a U-rent service for a day’s free home demonstration, her voice and personality are modeled after a successful television property of Columbia/Screen Gems, “Hazel”, starring Shirley Booth, which ran for many seasons. She is of middle-aged demeanor, has “been around the block” in experience, both in performing services and in otherwise becoming world-wise, and knows a thing or two about just about everything – a talent she is quite willing to exercise openly in advice and action when the opportunity arises, frequently meddling into her boss’s and family’s lives. Rosey and Hazel share these traits, with Jean Vander Pyl providing voicing approximating as close as possible Booth’s intonations in live-action. In the episode, Jane is tired of the household drudgery of pushing buttons all day, and further disheartened by the breakdown of the family’s Fooderacacycle – a console device which is supposed to automatically churn out the family meals at the press of a series of selector buttons.
Her mother informs her of the free home demonstration available from the rent-a-maid service, and Jane travels there upon the local “slidewalk” to obtain a helper for the day. The agency (much as in the predecessor cartoon “Electronica” from Paramount, discussed in a previous article, where a prototype Rosey appeared to be available) offers an assortment of maids. First is a prim and proper British model, ready to serve tea and crumpets. Another is a seductive French maid, with shapely suspension, and an engine in the rear, “where the enfine belongs”, observes the salesman. Jane is not satisfied with either of these models, and is finally shown “an old demonstrator model, with a lot of mileage”. Rosey appears, eager to take orders, but the salesman whispers to Jane that she is very “H-O-M-E-L-Y”. Rosey quips back to the salesman, “I may be homely, Buster, but I’m S-M-A-R-T, smart!” Rosey is taken, with some reluctance from the salesman, who warns that she can’t be guaranteed. Rosey sticks out a metallic tongue at the wise-guy salesman as a final departing gesture, before leaving the agency.
At home, Rosey is a hit with the kids, throwing forward passes of a football out one window and in another for Elroy, as well as rebounding basketball shots which land cleanly in a personal basket in Rosey’s chest. Likewise, daughter Judy is in love with Rosey when she finds out Rosey is wired for homework tape analysis, and can obtain all the answers for Judy’s night of study in about ten minutes. She’s also a whiz at housework, cleaning the dining room carpet by pulling it out from under furniture, like a magician would pill a tablecloth out from under a table of dishes without breaking it, then removing the dust by shaking the whole area rug on the ledge outside the apartment windows. But there’s still the matter of George, who is coming home with a compact-saucer back cramp, from a tough day at the office where the boss has self-invited himself to dinner in the absence of his own wife to cook. Not seeing who is doing it, George receives a relaxing back rub from what turn out to be robotic fingers instead of his wife’s. He nearly goes into shock when he discovers who the masseuse is. He also knows there’s no way to explain Rosey’s presence to the boss, who will wonder where he’s getting the money to afford a maid, despite Jane’s assurance that she is free. The Jetsons do their best to keep Rosey hidden and out of the way when Spacely arrives, and Rosey solves the problem of what’s for dinner by rolling everything the Jetsons have for food into a dough concoction she refers to as “filet of leftovers”. Dinner proceeds smoothly, and Spacely is well-sated. Unfortunately, Spacely asks for a light to smoke an after-dinner cigar, and Rosey overhears. She comes out of hiding, with a cugarette-lighter attachment, and carrying dessert to complete the meal – a pineapple upside-down cake. “Very efficient maid you’ve got here, Jeston”, says Spaeley – then his eyes widen at the realization of her presence. “How can you afford a maid on what I’, overpaying you? You’re moonlighting, aren’t you. Admit it!”, barks Spacely. “Down boy, down”, responds Rosey with disdain. “It’s bad manners to leave the table until after you’ve had your dessert.”
She plants the cake firmly onto Spacely’s head. “There, now. The pineapples are right-side-up.” Spacely leaves in a huff, placing his hat atop the cake on his head, and declaring George “FIRED!!”. Rosey tearfully leaves, too, realizing the family can’t afford her. “Sorry I blew a fuse,. Sir. Thanks for the chance. See you all in the junkyard.” At this sad moment of departure, a call comes in on the visaphone. It is Spacely, with an apology. “I got halfway home and started thinking that I’ve got a BIG mouth, and shouldn’t have fired you.” The reason for his change of heart is that he has begun eating the pineapple cake on his head, and is amazed at how good it is. Spacely offers George his job back with more reasonable hours, and “a little extra in the pay capsule, so you can afford that long-playing bulldozer you’ve got for a maid. She may be sassy, but she makes the best pineapple upside down cake I ever got clobbered with.” Things end happily, with Rosey retrieved by George, and the whole family gathering to hear Rosey read the kids the story about the cow who de-gravitated over the moon.
Oddly, except for being regularly seen in the show’s closing credits sequence, Rosey would not appear again in the original first-season run except in the single episode, Rosey’s Boyfriend (11/11/62). Building superintendent Henry Orbit has built out of spare parts a ramshackle robot to act as his assistant in maintenance chores around the Spacepad Apartments. The robot, named Mack, has a metal filing cabinet for a chest, four arms with wrenches where hands should be, and an inverted metal pail for a head. In the Jetsons’ apartment, Rosey is commenting on the daily rises and falls in mood of Judy, as she enters and exits one romantic crush after another upon the handsome boys at her high school. “Miss Judy in love”, says Rosey, breaking into her best impression of the toe-dancing of a ballerina, singing :”Tra lla la, tra la la”. “Miss Judy out of love”, she continues, bending low at the waist, and uttering her most pathetic-sounding moans. Rosey states she’ll never go romantic, because everything is too up or down. Her words don’t hold up long, however, when Mack arrives to conduct a repair at the Jetsons’ apartment. The two robots see each other only once, but their head units nearly fly off their necks, spinning in spirals, and Mack’s neck lets off regular puffs of steam, as he repeatedly utters “Beet Beep” in mimic of Rosey’s antennas, and “Woo woo” in reaction to her beauty. Mack exits the apartment through the wall instead of the door, and Rosey waves a fond bye bye.
Things don’t go for well for a smitten Mack, as he repeatedly gets his orders wrong, installing dishwashers where stoves should be, and showers where there should be air vents. All Henry can get out of him for explanation is more “beep beeps and woo woos”. After half the building complains to Henty, he is forced to deactivate his assistant. Rosey hears about it when Henry arrives to fix the damage Mack made, and asks “What does de-activate mean?” “I had to shut him down”, responds Henry. Rosey reassumes the bent-over moaning of her impression of Judy out of love, and is no longer the same. She mops Mrs. Jetson’s face with a rag when she should be cleaning windows. She pours coffee all over George’s suit, and delivers his slippers onto George’s hands. A trip to the robotologist for Rosey’s 15,000 mile checkup turns up nothing wrong with her wiring and circuits, but has no effect on curing her. Meanwhile, Elroy visits Henry’s workshop in search of some fix-it help for his space scooter, and discovers that Henry is out, but the deactivated Mack is in a storage room. Elroy feels sorry for Mack, and decides to turn him on again for a little while. Mack resumes the beep beeps and woo woos, and Elroy realizes the beep beeps are the sounds Rosey makes. At the mention of her name, Mack repeats the name “Rosey” over and over, and Elroy puts two and two together. He sets up the visaphone to face Mack, then goes upstairs to have Rosey place a call to the workshop. The two robots react again with delight at the sight of each other, and lean close to each other’s images on the screen of the phone. The mystery is solved, and a 15 minute visaphone call a day between them keeps both happy and operational. This proves the adage of the phone company slogan that would probably have been in place at the Jetson’s time – “Reach out and beep someone.”
The Coming of Astro (10/14/62) pitted Elroy’s newfound, over-affectionate and over-eager canine friend against George’s idea of the ideal house pet – Electronimo, the world’s first nuclear-powered dog. Elroy insists Astro can do anything a robot dog can do, so it is agreed to put them to a competitive test. A first task of fetching George’s slippers easily goes to Electronimo, whose neck telescopes across the room for them faster than Astro can run. He follows commands on cue, while Astro points when he should sit up, plays dead when he should speak, etc. Electronimo wins in a clean sweep, to the dismay of everyone except George. Jane convinces George to at least let Astro stay the night, as it is cold outside. That evening, after the family settles down to bed, a masked cat burglar enters their apartment. He is sure it’ll be an easy job, as he’s cased the place previously, selecting it because it has no dog. Upon entering through a window, he steps right upon the sleeping Astro, who hardly budges and dozes right off again. The burglar thinks he’s nothing more than a lumpy carpet. But Electronimo is on the job, and begins a vigorous pursuit of the burglar. The burglar is familiar with the programming of these nuclear dogs – set to pursue anyone in a mask, and when George is aroused by the commotion, the burglar performs a quick switch, placing his hat and mask upon George’s head. Electronimo takes the false bait, and begins snapping at George’s rear, chasing him out of the house. George is almost arrested by a passing patrol cop, but insists the real burglar is back at his apartment. Meanwhile, Elroy tries to arouse Astro about the burglar hiding in the house. “Rurglar?” awakens Astro in a start, and begins running in blind fear out of the room. He collides head on with the cat burglar, also attempting his getaway, and knocks him cold, as Astro collapsing himself atop the intruder. Astro is the hero, and Electronimo is donated to the police force as their first nuclear patrol dog. George obtains a lifelong friend, though his only reaction to Astro’s affectionate slurps is “Yuck.”
And there was Uniblab (11/25/62) a multi-featured robot with a huge saucer-shaped head and filing chest-style body, who set Spacely back five billion bucks to acquire, to take the position of new office supervisor (in place of George, who expected the position as a promotion). Uniblab is a professional yes-man, saying everything in agreement with Spacely, in triplicate, when Spacely is around. Behind his back, Uniblab is a metal con man and racketeer, running crooked card games, roulette wheels, and one-armed bandits during lunch break, having employees fired by jettisoning them through the trash chute when they cross him, and guzzling barrels of Unilube for his own lunch, with George assigned to do all the pouring into Uniblab’s back chamber. He is also a rat fink, taking George into his confidence by uttering an insult about Spacely in the boss’s absence, then getting George to open up with his own true feelings about the boss’s tight-fisted and inept ways, while Uniblab secretly records his every word. A playback of the tape to Spacely gets George ordered to clear out by the end of the week. George moans about the double-cross to Henry, who follows him to work to see if a last ditch effort to apologize to Spacely will do any good. The apology is never heard, as George collides with Spacely’s car at a traffic intersection, causing his termination to be advanced to the next five minutes. With one minute left on the clock, Uniblab insists on his daily lubrication from George. Henry hides in the lubrication storeroom, and spikes Uniblab’s oil with a special elixir of his own creation, with intoxicating qualities. Uniblab is well-soaked when he makes an appearance before the company board of directors, hiccuping, shouting “Whoopee”, and messing up every command he is given. He gives baseball scores instead of stock market quotes. He douses the board in hot coffee. And he plays George’s tape of insults to the board, then tries to get them to play roulette. Uniblab is out, and Jetson is eventually back in. But Henry never overlooks what spare machinery can do for him, and announces that he is taking off a month’s vacation on the moon, leaving his new assistant in charge of the apartments – Uniblab. The episode ends with George giving Uniblab the bum’s rush out of his apartment, while Uniblab utters in triplicate new rules about rent increases and no pets. Uniblab would appear once more in the original series, in G.I. Jetson (1/27/63), where life in the military reserves is explored with draftees George and Henry, under the command of Commander Spacely, who brings back Uniblab as his sergeant. Uniblab’s behavior is almost a replay of the first episode, with Henry short-circuiting him by connecting his AC wiring to a DC battery.
Beginning in 1985, the series was given a new lease on life, expanding its number of episodes to allow for a full 65-episode syndication package. Amazingly, the entire original voice cast was still available, and regrouped to provide the soundtracks (though it would be the swan song for O’Hanlon, Blanc, and Butler, each of whom would die in close proximity to one another). While performances were slightly thinner and reedier in pitch and timbre, they were still reasonable matches to the original, allowing the new episodes to screen aside the originals rather smoothly. Several changes in style and emphasis, however, were present. Wisely, the writers noted the popularity of Rosey’s two original episodes, and rewrote her contributions to become a regular part of the goings-on of the Jetson family, appearing in nearly every new episode. (Oddly, while newly-filmed opening titles to these and the original first season episodes were made, the title of the premiere episode retains the spelling “Rosey the Robot”, while most newly-produced installments change the spelling to “Rosie”, For the most part, I’ll continue to refer to her as Rosey below.) Robots also became more technologically advanced (if that’s possible), with more sophisticated lighting, consoles, visual displays, etc. George’s command computer Rudy was transformed from a mere voice on an oscilloscope to a full-face image on a TV monitor screen. And a whole new staff of robotic workers assisted in the production at both Spacely Sprockets and Cogswell Cogs. Occasionally, these episodes would explore an entirely new story concept centering upon the robots, as described below.
One Strike, You’re Out (9/30/85), embroils Spacely Sprockets in a labor dispute. Spacely gets word over a financial broadcast that, despite his own recent massive increase in production, Cogswell Cogs has out-produced him once again, and Cogswell is being considered for admission into the Fortuitous 5,000. Cogswell calls on the visaphone to rub it in Spacely’s face, and furious Spacely orders his workers to perform triple-time, around the clock, until he beats Cogswell. George pulls 44-hour shifts, and can barely drive himself home for a hard-earned half-hour nap. His biggest disappointment, however, is that he lets Elroy down on completing a school project, to build a robot to compete in a robot junior olympics. George’s brief attempt to operate the remote control to assemble and weld the parts sets construction back a week. Spacely phones to bark George back to work, and when George returns to his control console and Rudy the computer, he is greeted by a pair of Spacely’s few human workers, who get George to sign what he thinks is a greeting card for Spacely, but is really an ultimatum that if Spacely doesn’t hire more human workers to lighten their load, they will go out on strike. Spacely is of course furious, and crumples up the ultimatum for the wastebasket. Rudy comes on line to George with his own counter-ultimatum: if Spacely does hire more humans, the company robots threaten to go off-line and shut the place down. George becomes man-in-the-middle, acting as liason to keep peace between both sides while trying to find a solution to Spacely’s slave-driving. The pickets begin from the humans, and Cogswell drives by in his limousine to watch the fun, as well as to attempt to drive the final nail in the coffin, by offering the picketing workers the chance to leave Spacely and join Cogswell. Jane meanwhile calls George on the office visaphone, and hives him a bit of a pep-talk to stand up for his human rights. George finally decides to defy Spacely for a day, and take the afternoon off to see if he can still assist Elroy with his project.
But Elroy, in his absence, has already turned to Henry Orbit for help, and the robot is completed. Henry shows off the new Olympian, bur George tries out his control box to see what kind of rpm’s the robot can handle. He overloads the robot’s circuits, and the contraption falls apart. Elroy’s voice is heard, expecting to escort the robot to the stadium. George can’t bear the thought of failing his son once again, so insists on Henry helping him fit into the robot’s head and torso, so he can participate as the robot in the games. Henry warns him that the other robots will massacre him in competition – and his predictions come true, where George, despite his strongest efforts, takes a licking and loses every event. Jane gets a message through to Elroy, seeking to find out if he or Henry has seen George, as Spacely has been calling for hours about a crisis at the plant. George hears the call of duty, and asks Henry to get him out of the robot suit. But the battered suit is stuck tight upon George’s frame, and all George can do is report to work as he is, suit and all. While all this has been going on, Spacely has attempted to revert back to the way he started business in the first place – running the whole show solo. His idea is an utter flop, as he can’t figure the controls of the new-fangled machinery, and gets himself caught in the gears of the production line, and transported in a deep pile of sprockets on a massive ore car for delivery. Spacely is ready to listen to terms. A meeting of the humans and robots is called, and George arrives, still encased in his robotic suit of armor. The humans think George has sided with the robots, while the robots think he is making fun of them. But Spacely for once gets a good idea, and claims George is dressed this way as a sign of good will, to demonstrate that robots and humans should work together. The suggestion pacifies both sides, the humans admitting how much labor is saved by the robots’ calculations, and the robots admitting their need for human programming and lube. Spacely is on the verge of giving in to abandon the triple shifts, but detests the idea of losing face to Cogswell. Then someone lets slip about Cogswell having offered them jobs. Spacely leaves the room for a moment, to place an urgent phone call. Cogswell shows up at the door again, still ready to gloat, and to escort Spacely’s human workers to their new home at Cogswell Cogs, courtesy of his own limousine. Spacely returns, and offers Cogswell a jolt of his own. He informs Cogswell that perhaps he should take care of his own problems back at the plant. An unnamed “someone” has leaked the word to Cogswell’s computer staff about his intention to hire more humans – and the robots have shut the place down.
Cogswell, suspecting fully Spacely for leaking such information, vows to get even somehow, and leaves with egg on his face, as Spacely gloats that this surely puts his hopes for Fortuitous 5000 standing down the tubes. Everyone returns to work at normal shifts at Spacely’s, and George settles into his chair in front of Rudy as best he can, considering he has only finally managed to remove the robot head of his suit, and is still encased in its body. Elroy has forgiven him, in view of his valiant efforts to compete in the games on his behalf. Everything seems to be under control – until a female robot takes notice of George’s stunning physique due to his steel robot overcoat. Rudy comes online, and accuses George of flirting with his girlfriend. In retaliation, Rudy announces he is shutting things down for the rest of the day. George mutters that, indeed, things are getting back to normal.
Hi-Tech Wreck (10/17/85) is mostly about Rudy, animated somewhat differently than other episodes of the revival – the whole show featuring strong layout and poses by a pre-Ren & Stimpy, pre-Bakshi Mighty Mouse John Kricfalusi. Rudy’s facial features are displayed in more of a “pose reel” instead of lip-synching his mouth movements. Spacely is developing a new computerized executive perks program, intending to sell it to a merchandiser for big bucks. The software, however, is so complicated, it is putting Rudy into overload, giving his on-screen face the jitters, burning out smoking circuits right and left, and forcing George to shut him down to prevent the whole office system from collapsing. George is threatened to make it work by tomorrow, or face transfer as a door-to-door sprocket salesman in Outer Moongolia. George calls on boy-genius Elroy for software help, and Elroy comes up with a temporary program disc for Rudy, warning to run it on slow, until he can perfect a permanent program. Rudy is able now to handle the demonstration at normal speed – but, of course, the prospective purchaser takes the system’s control box, insisting on seeing what this baby will do in high. Rudy again nearly explodes, and the purchaser is well-fried and pummeled himself, calling the deal off. George and family are sent to Outer Moongolia, where being a door-to-door salesman isn’t going to be easy, as the Outer Moongolians are invisible to human eyes. But Spacely appears at their door on hands and knees, pleading for George to come back. Rudy has stood up against Spacely’s giving George a bum rap, and has threatened that if George is not returned within 24 hours, he will set all the systems of the plant into meltdown mode, reducing the place to a rubble-filled puddle. George and Rudy are reunited in the nick of time to avert the disaster and Jane playfully calls for a family celebration at George’s regaining his old job, with a special surprise for dinner – Moongolian Meatballs.
Robot’s Revenge (11/20/85) – This episode portrays such a “one versus the world” vibe that it almost feels like something out of Ray Bradbury, and leaves you feeling more awful for George than generating laughter. A robot attendant named Ralph (with sarcastic voice sounding like veteran comedian Frank Nelson from the Jack Benny Program), working at the gymnasium George frequents, is the first employee of the gym to try to pressure George into giving out tips for his services. When George doesn’t contribute to Ralph’s kitty, Ralph makes George’s gym visit absolutely miserable, shriveling George in an overdose of a futuristic steam cabinet, applying burning, smelly liniment to George’s back that won’t wash off, and shrinking George’s pants while pressing them. George leaves in his shorts, turning in his membership. The gym owner fires Ralph for losing the gym another member. Furious, Ralph sets out to make life even worse for George in retaliation, by phoning a robot central command station, and blackmailing the central computer (with threat to expose revealing photos of the computer with a female robot) into sending out a “Code Red” on George Jetson – a universal signal observed by all robots to do everything in their power to revolt against George. All traffic signals turn red for his car on cue. Robot steamrollers run over his car. Suit vending machines provide George with outlandish outfits, then shut down.
Even at the office, Rudy revolts, tossing the stock for the order being processed for Spacely right through the walls. All this piles up on a day when a widowed aunt of Jane’s with loads of money is coming for a visit to make an “important decision”. The disagreeable frump already hates George, but when everything for George goes totally wrong in picking her up from the station, she hates him even more. Only Rosey, though she also at first tries to observe the Code Red, remains faithful, and claims she doesn’t have the heart to do that to Mr. J. She reveals to George the name of the robot who called for the Code Red, which George recognizes immediately. Ralph is traced to an employment agency, where he is being kicked out on his ear as unplaceable in any job. George begs him to cancel the Code Red. Ralph finally relents, on condition that Jetson find him a new job. George returns to his apartment, first intending to try to clear up his bad impression with Jane’s aunt so that she will remember them in her will – the “important decision” George was anticipating. Instead, as insults at George continue to fly from the Aunt, and the whole family starts to get defensive of George, the Aunt announces that her “decision” was not about her fortune at all, but as to whether she would hire away from the family their faithful maid. Rosey refuses to leave at any price, and the frustrated Aunt walks off in a huff, preparing to leave. She suddenly returns, holding by the robotic hand, of all robots, Ralph. “Holding out on me, were you?”, says the Aunt in acidic tones, having just hired Ralph “away” from the Jetsons. Ralph whispers to George that this satisfies his end of the bargain, and rolls away with Auntie, leaving the highly-possible prospect that he is about to make Auntie’s life miserable in his usual fashion. “They deserve each other”, remarks George for the curtain line.
In Mother’s Day for Rosie (10/1/85), Rosey becomes emotional again, and almost shorts her circuits out with hidden tears, when she finds herself feeling left out of the concept of Mother’s Day, having never known a mother of her own. Elroy’s poem to his Mom is the topper, that almost puts Rosey into malfunction mode again – and George notices, putting two and two together. What would be a mother for a robot, George ponders, then hits upon the answer – the previous model. He goes to a local robot shop, dodging the sales pitch to Elroy for a robot bulldog with adjustable levels of ferocity and ability to do tricks like rolling over by first spinning its head, then independently spinning its body. George provides Rosey’s model number from her old warranty papers. (Elroy remarks at how short her 90 day warranty was, while George remarks, “That’s more than we got when we got you.”) The proprietor of the shop remarks that George is looking for a real antique, and after searching records, discovers that one was discarded to the junk yard this morning, which might be still there. George hops in his space car, taking a camera along to get a good photo. After some searching with the junkyard guard, he locates the robot, largely in wrecked and inoperable condition, but with her face still intact in a rather Victorian-style maid hat, lying in the bed of a trash compactor. George positions his camera to take the shot, while the guard attempts to operate a lever to shift the top panel away from the compactor to give George more light. Unfortunately, the guard has never worked the controls before, and pulls the wrong lever, setting the machine into full crushing mode before George can snap the picture. All seems lost, as George holds the one-inch square hunk of tin that once was Rosey’s Mom – until the guard reveals that the robot was delivered together with her original blueprints – a perfect image of Mom, ready-made. Rosey is overjoyed, as she hangs Mom’s framed image on the wall, and all ends happily.
Rosey would also experience her share of new malfunctions. In Rip-Off Rosie (10/24/85), an emergency causes Spacely to summon George to check out the plant’s loading dock, where space trucks are being loaded with shipments to destinations unknown, without any corresponding orders placed. A robot in charge of the dock has gone haywire, seizing stock and loading it into trucks as fast as it can move. George tackles the robot, and discovers a faulty lug nit in its body cavity, which he easily replaces. Spacely gives him a day off, and a raise in pay in gratitude, and George returns home with presents for the family in celebration. He also carries in his pocket the removed lug nut, which he sets upon a table. His present for Rosie is an assortment of chocolate-covered nuts and bolts. Rosie gobbles them down, and is sad when she finds she’s devoured the whole supply. Spotting the lug nut on the table, she mistakenly thinks one tasty morsel almost got away. She swallows it, and develops malfunctions of her own, her head intermittently spinning, and her consciousness lapsing into a repetition of the phrase, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Before the family knows it, numerous items appear to be missing from the apartment – but are discovered stashed in Rosey’s room. The defective nut has turned her into a kleptomaniac. She raids a shopping mall, then takes off on a policeman’s flying motorcycle. The effects of the nut temporarily wear off, with Rosey awakening from her trance-like state with a start, wondering what she is doing on a motorcycle. Her vehicle crashes, leaving Rosey in a semi-disassembled heap. A nervous trip to the robot hospital and a session of surgery gets Rosey reassembled, and the lug nut found and removed. Rosey comes to, and wonders why everybody is standing around looking at her. Don’t they know she’s “not the kind of a lady to go to pieces”? She is still weak, but a gift from Judy of another assortment of nuts and bolts gets her out of bed in a hurry, heading for the hills to avoid going through all that over again.
Rosie Come Home (9/17/85) It is always said you should never ask a lady her age. Unfortunately, this has consequences when dealing with a robot maid, as Rosey is way past her manufacturer’s recommended replacement of her microchip master cylinder – which should have taken place 35,000 miles ago. Rosey’s performance and memory ae down – tripping over Astro due to her peripheral sensors failing to pick him up, serving George’s least-favorite enteree instead of his favorite one, and even snubbing her boyfriend/admirer Mack, the robot assembled by Henry. George and Jane go to the Robot City superstore for a replacement part, but all the salesman wants to do is sell them a brand-new robot maid who degravitates along instead of clanking on a wheel. While the salesman is making his pitch, Rosey happens by outside on a shopping errand, and spots the Jetsons being served by the newer model. She jumps to the wrong conclusion – that the Jetsons are about to terminate her services, without even providing customary 2 weeks’ notice. Rather than hang around to be fired, Rosey tearfully leaves. Rosey applies for all manner of off jobs (window washer, car wash attendant, and others), with miserable failure. The Jetsons have meanwhile acquired Rosie’s part from another dealer, and search high and low for Rosey, but seem unable to catch up with her trail – causing the previous salesman to fast-talk them into a one-week free tryout of the newer model. The new maid turns out to be dominating, ordering George onto a diet for being too “paunchy”, shutting off the family’s electricity in the middle of a ball game broadcast to conserve on power bills, and making George long for Rosey’s old services, glitches and all. Finally, Judy spots Rosy from the skies while taking her first driver’s test (for which she had studied with Rosey before she left). Judy nearly flunks her exam with reckless driving to catch up with Rosey (her examiner, played by Howard Morris in a return to the series, sweating bullets), and finally succeeds in bringing Rosey home. But the door is answered by the new maid, which sets Rosey crying again, and rolling off to get away from this scene. The family pursues, as Rosey approaches the junkyard and a trash compacter, deciding she’d be worth more to the world as scrap metal. Orbity (a spring-limbed gremlin added to the episodes of the revival series as Elroy’s new pet) leaps into the compacter and braces his lags against the metal walls on each side to keep them apart, while the family forms a human chain to pull Rosey from the compactor pit. The misunderstanding that they never wanted to replace her is explained, and Rosey gets the privilege of carrying out the new maid bodily, to heave her out with the trash. Rosey’s new part is installed by Henry, and Rosey gets her old sense of humor back, by offering George seconds of the previous dinner he couldn’t stand.
Wedding Bells For Rosey (11/4/87) sets up Rosey in a situation that seems unbearable yet unavoidable at the same time. Henry’s robot Mack is still courting Rosey, but getting to be a general pest, following her everywhere. Rosey is about to ask him to leave for the umpteenth time, when an officer from weights, measures, and robot control intrudes upon the Jetson residence, followed by Henry. The officer is seeking a robot – not Rosey, who is fully documented and legit – but Mack, who allegedly never applied for a permit for his BEBOP license (standing for Basic Electro-Bionic Operations Permit). Henry points out that he threw Mack together from spare parts – who knows about permits? But the officer claims the penalty for going all these years without permit is immediate meltdown with a disintegration ray – unless someone who is permitted can vouch for him. The law is parallel to that for unlawful aliens – if someone legitimate marries him, the violation will be forgiven. Without ever quite saying that she wants to do so, comments of Rosey on Mack’s behalf are misinterpreted by the officer, Henry, and Mack a promise of marriage. Rosey faces a perplexing dilemma – not wanting to see Mack melted down, yet not wanting to marry him, either. Her mixed feelings about Mack become even more mixed-up when Mack starts trying to wait on her hand and foot, attempting to take over all her household duties, but turning such tasks into Mack’s usual style of disasters. Rosey is at the breaking point as the deadline for marriage or meltdown approaches, but becomes suspicious when she learns from George that a raid on unlicensed robots has also just taken place at Spacely Sprockets, halting all production just as Spacely was approaching the manufacture of his one billionth sprocket, ahead of the production line of Cogswell.
Comparing notes with other robots (including through some snooping by herself and George at an all-robot lube bar frequented by robots in the know (including Uniblab), Rosie discovers that the BEBOP law, previously considered old and antiquated, is suddenly receiving rigid enforcement with no evident explanation. A check of the office of Commissioner of Robots is in order for some answers – and even Spacely, also investigating his plant’s shutdown, gets into the act as the three of them pose as janitors to move in on the Commissioner’s office. There, they discover a secret meeting in progress between the Commissioner and, of all people, Cogswell, who has bribed the Commissioner to enforce the BEBOP law to beat Spacely at reaching the one billion production plateau. A rather complicated chase ensues over the evidence of the deal, which eventually has George make a counter-deal with the Commissioner to forget about the BEBOP law, in return for destruction of the incriminating evidence. George falls into Cogswell’s machinery in the process, stopping Cogswell’s production just shy of producing the billionth cog. Mack meanwhile has attempted to present Rosey with a wedding ring in one of his file-cabinet drawers, and Rosey makes a discovery which sends her and Mack scurrying for a judge immediately. George and Henry catch up, thinking that Rosey has gone through with the wedding after all, even though it’s no longer needed. Instead, Rosey reveals her discovery. Inside Mack’s drawer, she discovered a BEBOP license after all, and Mack is now certified by the judge. Henry realizes the paper must have been stuck to one of the spare parts he used when building Mack. So everything ends happily, with Rosey taking things at a slower pace, starting to go steady with Mack, before any more lasting plans are considered.
NEXT TIME: More random robots run rampant.
I’ll never forget how I couldn’t stop laughing when I found out there was really a car part called a Master Cylinder. The mechanic wasn’t amused.
I had forgotten all about Master Cylinder’s origin story and was therefore intrigued to learn that he had been a flesh-and-blood human being by the name of Cylinder whose body was destroyed in a lab explosion while taking the Professor’s chemistry class. (No doubt he was earning his Master’s degree.) He may have changed the spelling of his name at that time to better suit his new robotic shape, as “Selinder” is an actual surname in Sweden, and there may be some variant spellings as well. There was a dancer and choreographer named Anders Selinder, who was Ballet Master of the Royal Swedish Ballet for many years, which I suppose would have made him Master Selinder.
I can think of a couple of other Felix cartoons featuring robots: “Mechanical Felix”, in which the Professor created a robot duplicate of Felix as part of a plot to steal the Bag of Tricks; and “King Neptune’s SOS”, in which the Professor and Rock Bottom build a robot octopus to steal King Neptune’s sunken treasure.
“Spacely’s a stoop! Spacely’s a stoop!” If I live to be a hundred, and my memory has dwindled to the point where it still clings to only one line from The Jetsons, it’s going to be that one. “Eep opp ork what now?”
While Felix was off the screen for a time, the character did remain fairly prominent in the public eye prior to Joe Oriolo’s 1958 TV revival.
Felix appeared in a long-running newspaper strip distributed by King Features beginning in the early 1920s; this was illustrated for many years by Otto Messmer. The strip ran in numerous dailies until at least 1966.
Felix was featured in a number of one-shot Dell comic books (some simply containing reprint material from the newspaper strip, others including both new Messmer stories and strip reprints) in the 1940s. Dell began a regular bimonthly Felix comic book in 1947, publishing nineteen issues through 1951. Al Capp’s Toby Press took over the license in ’51 and published forty-two Felix comics through 1955. In ’55, Harvey took over the property and published perhaps sixty Felix comics until 1961.
There were also three Felix the Cat cartoons released as part of Van Beuren Studios’ “Rainbow Parade” series in 1936: “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg,” “Neptune Nonsense” and “Bold King Cole.” Although well-animated and colorful, Felix is otherwise just a stock “happy funny animal” character,” although he does retain his famous “pacing back and forth” schtick when thinking. Reportedly, Walter Tetley did the voice, which comes across sounding very childlike.
As I remember, these cartoons were in heavy rotation on local TV kiddie-cartoon shows in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and tended to be confusing to those of us who were more familiar with the Joe Oriolo Felix cartoons–it looked like Felix, but it didn’t act or sound like him.
The name “Uniblab”s sounds like a takeoff on UNIVAC, the first general-purpose electronic digital computer designed for business applications. Introduced by Remington Rand in 1951, UNIVACs were acquired by various major corporations, such as General Electric and US Steel, as well as by various government agencies and the military.
UNIVACs were well-publicized and so the name-gag would have been obvious to 1962 audiences. Their use also spawned the concept of management threatening workers that “we can replace you with a computer,” which these episodes seemed to also parody..
I remember this Felix from early 60s childhood, when he was probably in syndication. Like The Mighty Hercules and some other made-for-TV toons, he didn’t seem to have an actual show of his own; just a regular berth in a non-hosted local cartoon show.
Master Cylinder made an impression; I was always intrigued by robots operated by little guys on the inside, from the robot fighter Scrappy piloted in an old short to the mechanical ape on the King Kong show.
My older brother made a robot costume for a grade school contest. It was basically white cardboard formed into a big can, covered with drawn-on dials and buttons and with a rectangular window for the eyes. Not sure if he meant it to be Master Cylinder or some other droid out of the old sci-fi Bs we’d watch. Anyway, I thought it cool beyond words.
Did you mention “Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon” at some point? That Japanese feature featured a human-like race who zipped around in robot shells, threatened by 100% robots. Also a wind-up toy soldier who came to life
“The Strongest Robot in the world” was about Poindexter and Felix trying to stop the former’ds latest invention, who lived upo to his name, from destroying a out Professor’s lab;”Supertoy”,another with the non villianous Professor, Poindexter,and Felix, had Poindexter inventing a small toy who was capable of quite unpredictable talents like carrying the sleeping Profg.back and foirth, enclosing the labratory window, and “Robot Maid” had Felix with Rosie (pre-Jetsons), a robot who misunderstood or overidd Felix’s commands.
That’s REALLY Frank “Yesssssss?” Nelson in one of his final roles,having died the next year, 1986, as robot Ralph!! 😂🤣
When I saw the title of this article, it makes me reminding of the song The robots (which the German group Kraftwerk recorded in 1977).
I’m surprised there was no mention of the “Metal Munching Moon Mice” story arc in “Rocky and Bullwinkle.