Fifty years ago today, America was introduced to “George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife” when The Jetsons premiered on ABC.
America was introduced to the future on September 23, 1962 when the popular animated show debuted, showing a 21st century filled with flying cars and high collars. Being 12 years into the 21st already, the show has proven eerily prophetic, at least on the “collar-popping” side of things. Flying cars, not so much, but The Hollywood Reporter specified that original press releases indicated that The Jetsons takes place in 2062 – 100 years after its debut – so there’s a still time for us to catch up.
In any case, The Jetsons premiered at the height of the space race between the USA and then-USSR. Seven months before the premiere, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in the Friendship 7 space capsule, and a little over a year earlier, President John F. Kennedy promised to put a man on the moon. The show was also ABC’s first to be broadcast in color.
The Smithsonian magazine blog Paleofuture calls The Jetsons “the single most important piece of 20th century futurism … that helped define the future for so many Americans today.”
According to Newsday, the half-hour sitcom aired until September 8, 1963, as a Sunday night prime-time series before “beginning endless reruns.” The original run had only 24 episodes, but later syndication in the late 80s brought the total up to 75.
Following on an earlier point: The Jetsons featured future technologies including videophones, floating chairs, household robots, and of course, flying cars. Take a look around: Do we have anything like that today? How do you think the vision of the future portrayed in The Jetsons measures up to the real 21st century? Sound off!