'The Jetsons' Turn Fifty

Jetsons Cartoon Still - H 2012

With the words, "Meet George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife" and a hip jazzy soundtrack, viewers were introduced to America's most famous futuristic family on Sept. 23. 1962 when The Jetsons premiered on ABC.

The Smithsonian magazine blog paleofuture called the show, "the single most important piece of 20th century futurism … that helped define the future for so many Americans today."

The show arrived at the height of the Space Race, as the United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed to make it to the moon first. 

On Feb. 20, 1962, just seven months before The Jetsons arrived on TV, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in the Friendship 7 space capsule.

President Kennedy had promised to land a man on the moon in a speech to Congress on May 25, 1961.

The Jetsons were a familiar American suburban family placed in the whiz-bang future of the 21st century (though the show never specified an exact year, the original press materials said it was set in 2062, a century in the future). 

The series debuted on ABC's Sunday night schedule at 7:30 p.m., opposite The Wonderful World of Disney on NBC and the live-action Dennis the Menace sitcom on CBS.

It was the network's first color show, though only viewers in a handful of cities could actually see it in color.

It was preceded by its Stone Age-set counterpart The Flintstones by two seasons.

Both shows were produced by cartoon studio Hanna-Barbera, which was also responsible for Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Johnny Quest and Scooby-Doo.

The original only lasted one season, a total of twenty-four episodes, but Saturday morning re-runs, which first started in the fall of 1963, introduced the show to generations of new fans.

Fifty-one new episodes were produced for syndication between 1985 and 1987. An animated movie hit theaters in 1990.

The theme song became a cultural touchstone, with a re-recorded stereo version even reaching no. 9 on the Billboard charts in 1986.

The stories were typical sitcom plots.

The pilot featured George trying to hire a new housekeeper (in this case a robot named Rosey).

The second episode featured daughter Judy winning a date with pop idol Jet Screamer when her entry "Eep, Opp, Ork, Ah-ah!" wins a song-writing competition.

The cool part of the show was the fantastic technology and innovations its writers dreamed up.

The Jetsons' future included such things as flying cars that folded into briefcases, floating cities, video chat, an all-knowing computer called RUDI (short for Referential Universal Digital Indexer) and colonies on other planets.

More influential than any particular prediction was the show's iconic Space Age look and feel, which both reflected trends and influenced them going forward.

See the famous intro and a black & white network promo below.