A lot of people remember shows like Josie and the Pussycats, Goober and the Ghost Chasers and the Funky Phantom as "Scooby Clones" because they followed the same man-in-a-mask, mystery-solving format that the classic cartoon canine did.
However, few people remember those years in the late 70s and early 80s where the Flintstones copied this same formula.
The very first time The Flintstones experimented with a spookier format was around Halloween in 1964, before Scooby began. There was a three episode stretch from the weeks of October 29 - November 12, 1964, in which Fred and Barney got involved in "spooky" encounters; the first of which being the episode "A Haunted House is Not a Home," in which Fred inherits a haunted house from his deceased uncle, and Barney and him spend the night. The second episode, "Dr. Sinister," is a parody of James Bond (Jay Bondrock, as he's called in the episode) where Fred and Barney are kidnapped by Dr. Sinister and his monster guards who are looking to destroy the world. This is sort of a monster mashup with James Bond, and the guards are never called monsters, but all of them (along with Dr. Sinister) are green.
The third episode would later become very influential into the main topic of this article. Simply titled "The Gruesomes," the third and final episode of that 1964 run was a parody of the Addams Family, which had just begun a few months ago. The episode involves The Gruesome Family moving next to the Flintstones, who are a very odd family with a house full of monsters. One of the best lines from that episode is the neighbor introducing himself "Hi, I'm Weirdly!", to which Fred replies "I was just about to say that!" Still makes me chuckle to this day.
After this three episode run, the Flintstones ditched this spooky element and went back to its traditional formula. The Gruesome Family does appear in one other episode of the original series, entitled "The Hatrocks and the Gruesomes," but they are merely used briefly in the episode for exposition purposes and the episode does not have the same spooky vibe. They also would appear in the 1972 spinoff show "The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show" for one episode, though the wife, Creepella, was completely redesigned and was voiced by someone who made her sound like more of a socialite than a monster, which was unfortunate. They may have been going for a Morticia-like voice here from the Addams Family.
You could also include "Monster Fred" in this "spooky" themed run of episodes, which aired five weeks before three episodes began to, though it had more to do with mad science so it's always been in its own separate category to me.
In 1979, The Flintstones spin-off show The New Fred & Barney Show rebranded the series a bit, which can be summed up by the line in the intro "full of lots and fun and mystery!" Yep, that's right, The Flintstones solve mysteries in this series...well, sort of! Out of the 17 episodes in the series, five had to do with monsters or mysteries. The first episode of the series, "Sand Witch" involves Fred and Barney's car breaking down in a haunted forest while about to go bowling, and they run into a witch who eats humans. There wasn't really much mystery to speak of, and it's more of a comedy romp in the vein of some of the Richie Rich / Scooby-Doo Show shorts. The second episode "Haunted Inheritance" was sort of a crappy remake of "A Haunted House is Not a Home" (the episode mentioned above from 1964), in which Fred and Barney inherit a haunted house but are in competition this time with some other people. There are no ghosts to speak of until the last few minutes of the episode. The only ghost that appears in the last few minutes of episode is very obviously fake, I think it's just some cheesy guy with a sheet over his head or something.
During the next few episodes, the formula changed a bit and they switched back to more classic adventures. In episode 6, "Blood Brothers," a new neighbor named Rockula (a parody of Dracula) moves to town and wants to become "blood brothers" with Fred, who suspects his new neighbor is a vampire. The episode was much more whimsical, illustrated by the fact that Rockula's wife is named "Poopsie." Another break was taken from this formula for the next 4 episodes of The New Fred and Barney Show.
Episode 11, "Stoneage Werewolf," returns to this spooky formula and is one of my favorite episodes of The Flintstones. The mystery and plotline itself is very detailed and cool, but you can tell some liberties are taken with the dialogue in some places. Some lines are a bit forced and goofy, like characters talking to themselves in order to build exposition. Content-wise, this episode features Fred and Barney going on a fishing trip, but end up having to retreat on a nearby island after a thunderstorm begins. Fred and Barney stay in the island's only house, owned by a kindly man who happens to be a werewolf. They don't realize this however, which makes for some spooky fun. There's also the amusing scene in this episode where the Hanna-Barbera background painters messed up and accidentally painted a whole scene as nighttime, but then, after the commercial break, this scene which was supposed to take place at the same time turned into day for no apparent reason. Oh, how I love those sorts of animation errors haha.
The twelfth and final episode of the series to feature a "spooky" vibe is called "Fred & Barney Meet the Frankenstones." The episode involves an overworked Fred and Barney touring a condorstonium (condominium) run by Frank and Hidea Frankenstone. There are odd things like a body-building machine that builds real monsters, and Atrocia, the Frankenstones' daughter whose only dialogue is cackling for a few seconds, then speaking unintelligible gibberish and cackling again. Not sure why the writers found this so funny, but this "joke" is repeated at least 10 times throughout the episode. This episode is all over the place, but there is some really creepy stuff in this episode, like Hidea's gigantic eyes!!! (pictured above)
This opened up the doors to "The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone," an hour-long television film in 1979 which featured the Flintstones winning an all-expense paid trip to Rockula's castle for the night. There is no continuity in this film to the previous Rockula episode, and Count Rockula is played up as a sinister Dracula-esque figure of legend, rather than a random vampire. The movie, which is my favorite Flintstones film of all time, has Fred, Wilma, Betty and Barney going to Rockula's castle unsuspecting that Rockula has awoken from his 500 year sleep along with Frankenstone. Rockula believes that Wilma is his long-lost bride, and tries to reclaim her while killing off Fred. Even if a lot of it is just a monster chase, it's still really enjoyable and I always try to watch it every Halloween. Frankenstone also has a different, deeper voice than he did in the previous episode, but the design is kept (as well as for Rockula). Frankenstone would later get back his original voice actor.
The 1980s would continue with this formula, and really latched onto the Frankenstones. The 1980 special, The Flintstones' New Neighbors once again lacks some continuity and has the Frankenstones move to town again. It's the same basic plot as "Fred & Barney Meet the Frankenstones" but this time, they move next door to The Flintstones in a spooky house which parallels that of "The Gruesomes" from 1964. Frank Frankenstone gets his original voice actor back, and has two kids with different names than the first time (they were named Atrocia and Creepy in the original episode). This time, they are named Frankenstub/Stubby and Hidea, the latter of which is originally the wife's name. Frank's wife was renamed Oblivia, and has a different voice. Oblivia has a different voice actor than the original wife, Hidea, did. I'm honestly not sure which voice I like better. Oblivia's comes off as more down-to-Earth, whereas Hidea's is a bit of an indescribably creepy voice. The new daughter, Hidea, does not have the same odd quirk of giggling and mumbling gibberish, and speaks in full sentences. Frankenstub has the same voice actor as Creepy in the original episode. But to get to the heart of the episode, Fred initially dislikes the Frankenstones and even pulls cruel pranks on them (i.e. putting up a sign that says "This way to the Freak Show!" pointing to their house), but they end up having to work together when Pebbles falls into a pterodactyl's nest.
Clearly, they liked this idea, as The Frankenstones would continue to appear in a segment of The Flintstones Comedy Show. The continuity from the New Neighbors special sticks, except for Fred and Frank being friends. In this series, Fred hates Frank Frankenstone once again, and Frank Frankenstone oddly hates him as well. Frank has a new voice actor, who IMO is pretty bad and just sounds like an angry guy rather than a creepy monster as he was intended to be. Frankenstub was written out in favor of a new "normal" son (similar to Marilyn in The Munsters), who Pebbles becomes friends with much to Fred's annoyance. Pebbles is also an adult now, despite the fact that she was a child when they moved here in the New Neighbors special.
In another segment not involving the Frankenstones in this same series, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm actually solve mysteries with the man-in-a-mask format! Admittedly, I've only seen two of these episodes, one called "Ghost Sitters" where they solve the mystery of a ghost cowboy, and another called "Monster Madness" which I vaguely remember had something to do with a baseball going into a haunted house with various monsters. Someday I may have to treat myself and pay for a month of the Boomerang streaming service, as all the episodes are on there.
Anyways, that was it for this article. I always thought it was interesting how such an acclaimed show like The Flintstones found the need to copy Scooby, but nonetheless it made those episodes interesting for me to watch as a devoted Scooby fan.
~ WildwindVampire ~