I doubt that I’m the only person who recoils in something close to horror at the news that Seth MacFarlane is going to reboot The Flintstones for Fox. It’s not just the lazy thinking on behalf of the execs who greenlit the idea (“Hey! It’s a name people know, and we’ve got this guy who already makes cartoons for us!”), it’s a complete misunderstanding of what makes MacFarlane’s work and The Flintstones work. Can any good come of this?
Here’s the thing: The idea of bringing back The Flintstones isn’t a terrible one in and of itself (although I’d personally rather see a Jetsons revival). The series was a massive hit, way back when, and the core concept — using the Stone-Age family to comment on (and highlight the comedy in) contemporary family dynamics by drawing out both the parallels and ridiculousness therein– is stronger than most of today’s sitcoms have to rely on. But giving the show to Seth MacFarlane either demonstrates that TPTB at Fox have an astounding amount of faith in his talents, or no idea about cartoons other than they’re probably not real.
I may be jumping the gun with my concern, of course. The reportedly complicated contract negotiations between Fox and Warner Bros. Television, which owns Hanna-Barbera these days, apparently addressed concerns that the show would be too like MacFarlane’s other work, so there’s the possibility that we won’t be watching Family Guy: 3,000,000,000,000 BC when the show premieres in 2013. But I can’t help but think that The Flintstones was, like most sitcoms at the time, a sentimental show that pretended to be crabby but, at heart, believed in the family unit and friendship and the healing power of all good things. If it had a modern-day counterpart, it would be Modern Family, not Family Guy or American Dad, shows that are much snarkier and nihilistic in terms of humor, not to mention more scattered and dependent on pop culture tropes. It’s possible that MacFarlane has more strings to his bow than just the fast-paced foolery and unwitting father figure/snarky outsider commentator that really shouldn’t exist set-up of his two current Fox shows, and it’s definitely likely that he’s a Flintstones fan, but … well, based on past experience of his work, the idea of putting him in charge of a reboot seems tone-deaf at best. Here’s hoping the show proves me very, very wrong.