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Reviewed by Will Harris
any a television show has been accused of “jumping the shark” for deciding to write a pregnancy into the proceedings, but hey, you can’t argue with the stats; the birth of a baby almost always results in a ratings boost for a series, if only for the duration of that particular episode. Proof positive: when Pebbles Flintstones was born on February 22, 1963, 39% percent of all American TV households tuned in to witness the blessed event…and once Fred and Wilma had a kid, it was inevitable that Barney and Betty would get one as well. Given that the Rubbles’ son was adopted, however, the episode focusing on his introduction didn’t score nearly as high in the Nielsens, but it still remains a key moment in the mythos of “The Flintstones” because it spotlighted the meet-cute between Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm.
Five years after the original “Flintstones” series went off the air, Hanna-Barbera came up with the idea do a spin-off, focusing on Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm as teenagers, no doubt figuring that, since the show ostensibly took place during prehistoric times, no one would complain about the fact that, in real time, only eight years had passed since Pebbles’ birth. (And, yes, there really are people out there who would say, “You know, just because it’s a cartoon doesn’t mean that the characters shouldn’t be held to the laws of aging, but since this stuff took place a million years ago and it’s all history to us, anyway, I’ll let it slide.”) Taking a very intentional cue from a certain gang from Riverdale, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm were now teamed with brand new friends from school: the nerdy but brilliant Moonrock, the high-pitched, horoscope-obsessed Wiggy, and the chubby and squawky Penny. The character roster was further filled out by adding a nemesis for Pebbles (Cindy) and giving her a Bamm-Bamm equivalent (Fabian), then upping the hipness quotient by providing Bedrock with its very own motorcycle gang (The Bronto Bunch). Lastly, since every group needs its very own jinx, Schleprock was thrown into the mix.
“The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show” was as much of a sitcom affair as the show that spawned it, with zany schemes occurring just as often as wacky misunderstandings. Moonrock’s intellect allows for fantastical inventions, such as the submarine which allows the gang to capture a snorkasaurus for Sea Rock World, and the fact that the characters are teens provides an opportunity to do plenty of high school-themed episodes (Pebbles joins the football team, Pebbles acts in the school play, and so forth). There’s an air of familiarity running throughout the kids’ adventures, but most of it comes via regular appearances by their parents; yes, the whiff of blatant recycling is evident in “The Golden Voice,” which revolves around Bamm-Bamm having a fantastic singing voice that only emerges when he’s in the shower (surely you remember that Barney suffered from the same affliction in an old “Flintstones” episode), but, thankfully, it’s a rarity.
As animated spin-offs go, “The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show” is one of the best of its breed, never feeling like an unabashed attempt at cashing in on the “Flintstones” legacy; its creators did an excellent job of building a brand new generation of characters, with the elders aiding the stories without feeling like they’re being shoehorned into the proceedings. It hasn’t all aged well (Wiggy’s constant quoting from her horoscope feels really dated), but overall, “Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm” is a pleasant reminder of a time when studios didn’t just paint by the numbers and try to make a few extra bucks for the minimum amount of effort.
Special Features: Disappointingly, this is the first Hanna-Barbera DVD release in awhile to not offer any sort of featurette or documentary about the making of the series. As an attempt at a consolation prize, we’re given four bonus Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm episodes from “The Flintstone Comedy Hour,” but it’s a poor substitute for an education on how the show came into existence.