When did The Jetsons initially air?
What was the name of the prime time cartoon series that Steven Bochco produced?
The answers to these and just about any other cartoon questions can be found in Hal Erickson’s 1995 book Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 through 1993.
Erickson leaves no Flintstone unturned in his research. From Abbott & Costello to Zorro, it’s all there.
The Funky Phantom. Speed Buggy. Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles. The Smurfs. Super Friends. Josie and the Pussycats. The Pac-Man Show. Inspector Gadget. The Gary Coleman Show.
Erickson goes beyond titles and dates, though. He gives a thorough background on each program. The history, genesis, and syndication information, where available, will satiate the most die-hard cartoon buff. Spinoffs of live-action television shows give completists the necessary information to learn more about prime time television.
My Favorite Martians.
Partridge Family 2200 A.D.
The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang.
Fans, collectors, and historians will be in their glory. Beyond the details for individual shows, Erickson’s research explores the history of cartoons, with roots dating back to the 1920s with Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat. For nearly 50 pages, Erickson tracks the evolution of cartoons and television.
Television Cartoon Shows is a required compendium for the television trivia enthusiast. Ericsson matches his information with well-informed opinions, but sets a caveat in the book’s Introduction. “As much as I had intended an impersonal, scholarly work, I confess that my opinions run rampant throughout the book,” writes Erickson.
He also warns against the inevitable television vs. film debate: “The first rule I learned was not to condemn television animation outright simply because it is not up to the standards of theatrical cartoons. Plagues as they are by attenuated budgets, precious little production time, and the added creative handicaps imposed by sponsors and network censors, it is miraculous that the makers of television cartoons can get anything done at all, either good or bad.”
Erickson expanded his research to a two-volume set that also covers cartoon shows to 2003. It was published in 2005.
Cartoons are not just for children. The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, and The Cleveland Show contain jokes, references, and allusions for adults. Erickson covers them, too.
Perhaps the most interesting information in Television Cartoon Shows concerns obscure offerings. Surely, The Flintstones yielded a wealth of spinoffs, but Hanna-Barbera also produced shows that were not successful. Examples include The Roman Holidays, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, and Devlin. Inspired by the 1970s success of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, Devlin revolved around the adventures of Ernie Devlin and his siblings in their work for a traveling circus. No sugary show, this. Indeed, Devlin is a bit darker than the more recognizable Hanna-Barbera fare, for example, The Jetsons.
Television Cartoon Shows is a terrific reference book that will be required for the cartoon buff’s bookcase. But its gargantuan supply of information may have the curious getting curiouser, thereby spending hours exploring rather than minutes researching a particular trivia question.