‘The Jetsons’: The Reason the Show Was Canceled Wouldn’t Have Been a Problem Today

Over the years, there have been plenty of TV shows and movies based on what the future holds. But nothing predicted the future of life on earth quite like the animated television series of The Jetsons. The unique show hit the airwaves in the early ’60s and represented a whole new futuristic view. At the time, Americans weren’t ready for the cartoon family, and the show was canceled after only one short season. Today, the beloved show is often referenced when talking of out-of-this-world inventions and technology. The show would most likely be a big hit in the current world of television programming, but back in the ’60s, The Jetsons didn’t stand a chance.

The Jetsons poster will the cast in a flying car
The Jetsons | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

‘Meet George Jetson’

A catchy theme song, whirling space vehicles, and a robot maid seemed to have all the makings for a great television show. Created by Hanna-Barbera, it was a never-before-seen look at what the future held. Children and adults alike dreamed of one day flying through space wearing a jet pack, traveling in a flying car, and walking on a moving sidewalk. Living inside a house in outer space with video conferencing walls, instant meals on-demand, and easy wardrobe access was a fantasy world that seemed a million miles away.

George Jetson worked at Spacely Sprockets and was married to Jane. Together they had two children, Elroy and Judy. The family dog, Astro, was known for his catchphrase, “Ruh-ro, Reorge!” The nuclear family unit brought hope to people across the country who held onto a vision for a future filled with honest values and advanced technology. When the show aired, Americans were anxious about political fears surrounding communism. That same year, NASA launched John Glenn into space, becoming the first American astronaut to orbit Earth. The Jetsons provided an escape as well as hope for a brighter future.

Why was ‘The Jetsons’ canceled?

What the show didn’t do was anticipate the current situation in American households. In 1962, when The Jetsons first aired, it was the first color television program to debut on the ABC network. Unfortunately, after only 24 episodes, the show was canceled in the first season. It’s important to note that it wasn’t until 1972 that half of the country had color television sets. In 1962, only three percent of households had a color television. That means that most Americans watched the animated show in black and white.

According to MeTV, only ABC affiliates in major cities such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were broadcasting The Jetsons in color. Even then, only households in those markets would see the show in color if they had a color television. A futuristic world that was meant to be full of color and life looked flat and uninteresting in a black and white format. It’s believed that for that reason, the show only lasted one season, according to Mental Floss.

Hope for the future

Regardless of its short-running timeframe, the show remains a point of pop culture reference more than 50 years later. Entrepreneur reported that some of the inventions that existed on The Jetsons are available today. Some examples include interactive newspapers, robotic help, holograms, and drones. The most widespread Jetson-inspired invention is the Apple Watch. It closely resembles the device George wore on his wrist to call work, make appointments, handle doctor visits, and much more.

Tesla is teasing us with self-autonomous vehicles, but people are still waiting for the highly-accessible flying cars used by the Jetsons. We may not have to wait another 50 years as a Slovakian company is currently working on a flying car prototype. Smithsonian Magazine said, “The Jetsons stands as the single most important piece of 20th-century futurism.” They claim the show “has had a profound impact on the way that Americans think and talk about the future.”