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"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane is going back to the future to resurrect "The Flintstones."
It's gotten so that just seeing the words "reboot" or "remake" in a headline about a new version of a popular TV show or movie is enough to make us cringe.
We've been conditioned by years of disappointment to expect the worst. But even after suffering through re-imagined renderings of "Psycho," "Bewitched" and "The Dukes of Hazzard,” we maintain a glimmer of hope that Hollywood somehow won't screw it up again. Which, of course, the suits count upon as they use the familiar to lure us to TVs and theaters.
We're going to try to bury past disillusionment and allow ourselves to get excited by the news this week that "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane is digging deep into TV history to unearth "The Flintstones" for Fox.
There's reason for optimism: MacFarlane, as he’s shown with “Family Guy,” possesses the right mix of pop cultural reverence and irreverence (with an emphasis on the latter) to bring the 1960s modern Stone Age family into the present.
The creators of successful, relatively edgy fare like "Family Guy," "The Simpsons" and "South Park” owe a debt to the folks at middle-of-the-road Hanna-Barbera, who proved that a heightened-reality cartoon sitcom could play in prime time.
But the appeal of a reboot is about more than just paying homage an animated ancestor: "The Flintstones" was a lens through which to view the pop culture of the early-to-mid 1960s (remember the "Way Outs?"), and could prove an effective prism for our era, via MacFarlane's off-kilter, reference- and cameo-heavy style (Stoney Curtis could give way to, well, Joss Stone).
MacFarlane already has demonstrated a knack for adding his own twisted twist to the old "Honeymooners"/”Flintstones” formula with “Family Guy.” As he put it in a statement about his upcoming gig: “I think America is finally ready for an animated sitcom about a fat, stupid guy with a wife who's too good for him."
McFarlane has mined “The Flintstones” before for gags on "Family Guy" (including a bawdy cutaway in which Fred and Wilma argue in a divorce lawyer's office) and in a short from his “Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy” web series, showing Fred and Barney trying to get into a hip nightclub.
"Look at you,” the doorman scoffs. “You're the most-out-of-date looking d-----bags I've ever seen in my life. What are those, freakin' animal skins you're wearing?"
It’s that kind of sensibility that makes MacFarlane a good retro-fit for “The Flintstones.” Check out the “Family Guy” clip below for a glimpse of the new side of Bedrock to come in 2013:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.