Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: In honor of the American Idol series finale, we’re revisiting our favorite television episodes featuring a talent competition.
There’s little question that the creators of The Flintstones owed a certain amount of inspiration from The Honeymooners’ Kramdens and the Nortons. So while “The Flintstone Canaries” may not be directly inspired by a Honeymooners episode, the fact that Ralph Kramden was once a contestant on a game show called The $99,000 Answer makes it seem like someone on the writing staff of The Flintstones might have been having a bit of a laugh.
The episode’s main plot kicks in when Fred returns home from the gym and heads for the living room, telling Wilma that he’s going to “pursue my favorite hobby: watching TV!” (Cavemen: they’re just like us!) When Fred turns on the TV, he finds Hum Along With Herman, a parody of the then-popular series Sing Along With Mitch, hosted by Mitch Miller. Herman’s announcement of a barbershop-quartet contest gets Fred’s blood pumping. The winners will receive an imported sports car; the wives of the winners—hello, sexism!—will receive “a stylish, fully let-out wooly mammoth.” Other prizes include a new dishwasher, a set of matched golf clubs (“from a putting pebble to a driving boulder”), a stereo record player with automatic record changer (a chimp), and a fabulous tropical vacation to Boulder Beach via Pterodactyl Airlines.
Fred is instantly determined to win the whole prize package, despite the fact that he doesn’t belong to a barbershop quartet or even know which of his friends can sing. He first rounds up Sam and Joe, a couple of guys from the quarry who, as luck would have it, harmonize like they’re straight out of the Four Freshmen. Fred’s foghorn-like voice, unfortunately, is so loud and abrasive that it literally starts an avalanche. Just as they’re convinced that they don’t have a shot, Fred overhears Barney singing like an angel. The only catch: His beautiful voice only comes out when he’s in the bathtub. With no other options available to them that can be worked out within the course of a 30-minute episode, the quartet decides to put Barney’s bathtub on wheels and roll it to the studio so that he can serve as their soloist on “Way Down Upon The Stony River,” leading to hijinks involving, of course, a runaway wheeled bathtub.
Whether or not the Flintstone Canaries win the contest remains to be seen. But they do secure a gig singing the new jingle for Hum Along With Herman’s sponsor, Softsoap. It’s not a great jingle, mind you—it’s to the tune of “Camptown Races,” and it features the highly unwieldy line, “Gentle for babies and brontosaurus, too / It prevents embarrassment”—but it does secure Fred, Barney, and their pals a spot on prime-time TV. And, frankly, isn’t that the real prize?
Availability: “The Flintstone Canaries,” as well as the rest of The Flintstones’ six seasons, is available on DVD and via digital download.