While the Flintstones live in a world with machines powered by birds and dinosaurs, the Jetsons live in the year 2062 in a futuristic utopia (100 years in the future at the time of the show's debut) of elaborate robotic contraptions, aliens, holograms, and whimsical inventions.
The original series comprised 24 episodes and aired on Sunday nights on ABC from September 23, 1962, to March 17, 1963, with primetime reruns continuing through September 8, 1963. At the time of its debut, it was the first program ever to be broadcast in color on ABC-TV. (Only a handful of ABC-TV stations were capable of broadcasting in color in the early 1960s.) In contrast, The Flintstones, while always produced in color, was broadcast in black-and-white for its first two seasons. Following its primetime run, the series aired on Saturday mornings for decades, starting on ABC for the 1963-64 season and then in future seasons on CBS and NBC.
Further episodes were produced for syndication between 1985 and 1987 as one the original lineup of the weekday/weekend morning programming block known as The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera.
The Jetsons are a family residing in Orbit City in the year 2062. The city's architecture is rendered in the Googie style, and all homes and businesses are raised high above the ground on adjustable columns. George Jetson lives with his family in the Skypad Apartments: his wife Jane is a homemaker, their teenage daughter Judy attends Orbit High School, and their early-childhood son Elroy attends Little Dipper School. Housekeeping is seen to by a robot maid, Rosie, which handles chores not otherwise rendered trivial by the home's numerous push-button Space Age-envisioned conveniences. The family has a dog named Astro, which talks with an initial consonant mutation in which every word begins with an "R", as if speaking with a growl.
George Jetson's workweek is typical of his era: an hour a day, two days a week. His boss is Cosmo Spacely, the diminutive yet bombastic owner of Spacely Space Sprockets. Spacely has a competitor, H. G. Cogswell, owner of the rival company Cogswell Cogs (sometimes known as Cogswell's Cosmic Cogs). Jetson commutes to work in an aerocar that resembles a flying saucer with a transparent bubble top. Daily life is leisurely, assisted by numerous labor-saving devices, which occasionally break down with humorous results. Despite this, everyone complains of exhausting hard labor and difficulties living with the remaining inconveniences.
The show's original run consisted of 24 episodes that first aired on ABC from September 23, 1962 to March 17, 1963. In 1984, Hanna-Barbera began producing new episodes specifically for syndication; by September 1985, the 24 episodes from the first season were combined with 41 new episodes and began airing in late afternoon time slots in 80 U.S. media markets, including the 30 largest. The 41 new episodes were produced at a cost of $300,000 each, and featured all of the voice actors from the 1962–1963 show. Starting in 1987, ten additional "season 3" episodes were also made available for syndication.
The series' theme song, by composer Hoyt Curtin, became a pop hit in 1986.
After the announcement of the fall 1962 network television schedule Time magazine characterized The Jetsons as one of several new situation comedies (along with The Beverly Hillbillies, I'm Dickens... He's Fenster, and Our Man Higgins) that was "stretching further than ever for their situations"; after all the season's new shows had premiered—a season "responding to Minow's exhortations"—the magazine called the series "silly and unpretentious, corny and clever, now and then quite funny."
Thirty years later, Time said: "In an age of working mothers, single parents and gay matrimony, George Jetson and his clan already seem quaint even to the baby boomers who grew up with them." Conversely, Jeffrey Tucker of the Ludwig von Mises Institute has argued that "The whole scene — which anticipated so much of the technology we have today but, strangely, not email or texting — reflected the ethos of time: a love of progress and a vision of a future that stayed on course ... The Jetsons' world is our world: explosive technological advances, entrenched bourgeois culture, a culture of enterprise that is very fond of the good life."