Boston-based cameraman, Bruins fan and eagle-eyed TV history sleuth Kevin Vahey posted a video on Twitter that dovetails nicely with the podcast I have running this week. The YouTube video shows several commercials and “brought-to-you-by” moments from The Flintstones (1960-’66).

The modern stone age family was brought to us by Winston cigarettes, as Flintstones‘ producer Joe Barbera of Hanna-Barbera talks about in this week’s episode of the podcast.

Barbera tells the story of traveling to New York from his studio in LA to try and sell the concept of a prime-time animated TV sitcom to skeptical network heads and potential sponsors. Back in those days, if you sold it to a sponsor first, getting a network deal was more or less a shoe-in.

The idea of cartoon character smoking cigarettes seems outrageous today but back in the late ’50s and into the ’60s, as the ad slogans suggested, four out of five doctors were still denying any link between smoking and various forms of cancer. Other popular network comedies of the day, including The Dick Van Dyke Show (Kent cigarettes) and I Love Lucy (Phillip Morris) were sponsored by cigarette companies, as were many westerns.

Winston, a relatively new brand based out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina., saw an opportunity and, persuaded by Barbera’s dynamic ability to sell his animation ideas, took a chance on Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty. Barbera was then able to land a deal for the comedy at ABC, a distant third in the three network universe in the early ’60s.

That the ad campaign was a success is evident that, by the time The Flintstones‘ six-season run had ended in 1966, Winston was the No. 1 cigarette brand sold in the world, a position it held until 1972 (coincidentally — or not — also around the same time cigarette advertising was banned on television).


Thanks to The Flintstones and many other sponsored shows, every kid or parent who watched The Flintstones knew the company’s slogan: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

The Flintstones had other sponsors, of course, and are still selling things such as vitamins and cereal. I have an animation cel from one of the Fruity Pebbles commercials.

The YouTube video clip at the top of this post also shows how the series signed off during its original network run. Most fans are familiar with the syndicated Flintstones theme (“Flintstones, meet the Flintstones, they’re the modern stone-age family…”). The above clip, however, plays, “Rise and Shine,” the theme song I remember from my childhood. For the first two seasons, and a couple of episodes into the third, the original closing sequence featured “Rise and Shine” and showed Fred trying to put the sabre-toothed cat out and getting locked out of his own house. I still remember all the lights of all the other houses in the city getting turned on due to Fred — artfully voiced by Alan Reed — hollering his head off.

Maybe he was too hopped up on cigarettes, but why he couldn’t just hop through one of the home’s glass-less windows I’ll never know.

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