The Honeymooners

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For the 2005 film, see The Honeymooners (film). For the television episode, see The Honeymooners (King of the Hill).
The Honeymooners
The Honeymooners title screen.png
Title screen
Genre Sitcom
Written by Marvin Marx
Walter Stone
A.J. Russell
Herbert Finn
Leonard Stern
Sydney Zelinka
Directed by Frank Satenstein
Starring Jackie Gleason
Audrey Meadows
Art Carney
Joyce Randolph
Composer(s) Sammy Spear
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 39 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Jack Philbin
Stanley Poss
Producer(s) Jack Hurdle
Cinematography Daniel Cavelli
Doug Downs
Jack Etra
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 26–27 minutes
Production company(s) Jackie Gleason Enterprises
Distributor CBS Films (1957–1971)
Viacom (1971–1995)
Paramount Television (1995–2006)
CBS Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original run October 1, 1955 (1955-10-01) – September 22, 1956 (1956-09-22)

The Honeymooners is an American sitcom, based on a recurring 1951–55 sketch of the same name. It originally aired on the DuMont network's Cavalcade of Stars and subsequently on the CBS network's The Jackie Gleason Show,[1] which was filmed before a live audience. It debuted as a half-hour series on October 1, 1955. Although initially a ratings success—becoming the #2 show in the United States during its first season—it faced stiff competition from The Perry Como Show,[2][3] and eventually dropped to #19,[3][4] ending its production after only 39 episodes (now referred to as the "Classic 39"). The final episode of The Honeymooners aired on September 22, 1956. Creator-Producer Jackie Gleason went on to revive The Honeymooners as sketches and hour-long specials off and on until 1978. The Honeymooners was one of the first U.S. television shows to portray working-class married couples in a gritty, non-idyllic manner living in a run-down Brooklyn apartment complex.[5]

Cast and characters[edit]

The show's cast in 1955 as it premiered on CBS.

The majority of The Honeymooners focused on its four principal characters on fixed sets within a Brooklyn apartment building. Although various secondary characters made multiple appearances and occasional exterior shots were incorporated during editing, virtually all action and dialogue was "on stage" inside the normal backdrop.

Ralph Kramden[edit]

Played by Jackie Gleason—a bus driver for the fictional Gotham Bus Company. He is never seen driving a bus (except in publicity photos), but is often shown at the bus depot. Ralph is frustrated by his lack of success, and often develops get-rich-quick schemes. Ralph is very short tempered, frequently resorting to bellowing, insults and hollow threats. Well-hidden beneath the many layers of bluster, however, is a soft-hearted man who loves his wife and is devoted to his best pal, Ed Norton. Ralph enjoys bowling, playing pool and being a member in the Loyal Order of Raccoon Lodge (although in several episodes a blackboard at the lodge lists his dues as being in arrears). Ralph was given honorary membership in the union for real New York City bus drivers (Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union) during the run of the show, and a Brooklyn bus depot was named in Jackie's honor after his death.[6][7] Ralph Kramden is the inspiration for the animated character Fred Flintstone.

Alice Kramden [edit]

Alice (née Alice Gibson), played in the first seven episodes by Pert Kelton and by Audrey Meadows throughout the "classic 39", is Ralph's patient but sharp-tongued wife of roughly 15 years. She often finds herself bearing the brunt of Ralph's insults, which she returns with biting sarcasm. She is levelheaded, in contrast to Ralph's pattern of inventing various schemes to enhance his wealth or his pride; in each case, she sees the current one's unworkability, but he becomes angry and ignores her advice (and by the end of the episode, her misgivings are almost always proven to have been well-founded). She has grown accustomed to his empty threats: "One of these days... POW!!! Right in the kisser!" or "BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!", to which she usually replies, "Ahhh, shut up!". She studied to be a secretary before her marriage, and works briefly in that capacity when Ralph is laid off. Wilma Flintstone is based on Alice Kramden.[citation needed]

Another foil for Ralph is Alice's mother, who is even sharper-tongued than her daughter. She despises Ralph as a bad provider. Alice's father is occasionally mentioned but never seen. Alice's sister, Agnes, appeared in one episode (Ralph jeopardizes his newlywed sister-in-law's marriage after giving some bad advice to the groom, but all works out in the end). Ralph and Alice lived with her mother for six years after getting married before they got their own apartment. Ralph's mother is rarely mentioned, but appears in one episode. Ralph's father is only mentioned in one episode ("Young Man with a Horn") as having given Ralph a cornet he learned to play as a boy, and insists on keeping when Alice suggests it be thrown away. In a 1967 revival, Ralph refers to Alice (played by Sheila MacRae 1966–70 and once more in 1973) being 1 of 12 children and her father never working.

The Honeymooners was originally a sketch on the DuMont Network's "Cavalcade of Stars", with the role of Alice played by Pert Kelton. When his contract with DuMont expired, Jackie Gleason moved to the CBS network where he had "The Jackie Gleason Show", and the role went to Audrey Meadows; Pert Kelton's husband had been blacklisted during the McCarthy hearings, affecting her career at the time.

Edward Lillywhite "Ed" Norton[edit]

Played by Art Carney; a New York City sewer worker and Ralph's best friend (and upstairs neighbor). He is considerably more good-natured than Ralph, but nonetheless trades insults with him on a regular basis. Ed (typically called "Norton" by Ralph and sometimes his own wife) often gets mixed up in Ralph's schemes, and his carefree and rather dimwitted nature usually results in raising Ralph's ire, while Ralph often showers him with verbal abuse and throws him out of the apartment when Ed irritates him. Ed and Ralph are both members of the fictional Raccoon Lodge ("An Emergency meeting is an Emergency meeting—never a poker game. An Executive Meeting, that's a poker game."). According to Entertainment Weekly he is one of the "greatest sidekicks."[8] Ed worked for the NY sewer department and described his job as a "Sub-supervisor in the sub-division of the department of sub-terranian sanitation, I just keep things moving along". He served in the United States Navy, and used his G.I. Bill money to pay for Typing School, but felt he was unable to work in an office as he hated working in confined spaces. The relatively few scenes set in the Norton apartment showed it to have the same layout as the Kramden's, but far more nicely furnished. Though Norton makes the same salary as Ralph ("Sixty-two dollars a week!"), their higher standard of living might be explained by Norton's freer use of credit; at one point he admits to having nineteen charge accounts. Ed enjoys bowling and playing pool. Ed is the inspiration for Barney Rubble in The Flintstones.

In 1999 TV Guide ranked him number 20 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list.[9]

Thelma "Trixie" Norton[edit]

Played by Joyce Randolph; Ed's wife and Alice's best friend. She did not appear on every episode and had a less developed character, though she is shown to be bossy towards her husband. In one episode she is depicted as a pool hustler. On another episode, Ralph insults Trixie by making a reference to Minsky's (a burlesque theatre; the original Trixie [played by Elaine Stritch] was a burlesque dancer). There are a few references to Trixie's burlesque background in the lost episodes (e.g., Norton: "Every night I'd meet her backstage and hand her a rose ... It was her costume!"). Randolph played Trixie as an ordinary, rather prudish, housewife, complaining to her husband on one occasion when a "fresh" young store clerk called her "sweetie-pie". In a 1967 hour special Trixie (played by Jane Kean from 1966–1970 and 1976–1978) resentfully denied Ralph's implications that she "worked in burlesque" to which he replied "If the shoe fits, take it off." Trixie is the inspiration for Betty Rubble in The Flintstones.

Elaine Stritch was the first and original Trixie Norton in a Honeymooners sketch with Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, and Pert Kelton. The character was originally a burlesque dancer, but the role was rewritten and recast after just one episode with the more wholesome looking Joyce Randolph playing the character as an ordinary housewife.[10]

Others[edit]

Some of the actors who appeared multiple times on the show include George O. Petrie and Frank Marth as various characters, Ethel Waite Owen as Alice's mother, Zamah Cunningham as Mrs. Manicotti, and Cliff Hall as the Raccoon Lodge President.[11]

Ronnie Burns, son of George Burns and Gracie Allen, made a guest appearance as "Wallace" on one episode. On another episode, Ed Norton makes a reference to a co-worker, "Nat Birnbaum"; George Burns's real name was Nathan Birnbaum (as in "'nat' a 3 letter word for bug", stated by crossword aficionado Ed Norton).

The apartment house[edit]

The Kramdens and Nortons lived in an apartment house at 328 Chauncey Street in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York. In the 1955 episode "A Woman's Work is Never Done", the address is referred to as 728 Chauncey Street. The landlord of the apartment house is Mr. Johnson. In the Honeymooners episodes filmed from 1967 to 1970, the address of the Kramdens' and Nortons' apartment house changed to 358 Chauncey Street, and the number of the Kramden apartment is 3B. In actuality, the real 328 Chauncey Street is located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of the borough, approximately eight miles northeast of the show's location.

Apartment House Residents[edit]

  • Mr. and Mrs. Manicotti: An older couple who were of Italian descent.
  • Tommy Manicotti: He played stick-ball and contracted the measles. He also left his water pistol in the Kramdens' apartment.
  • McGarrity: He was tired of hearing Ralph practicing for The $99,000 Answer quiz show. He accused Ralph of renting his tuxedo from an undertaker. He also loved Ralph's joke about "sending a knight out on a dog like this."
  • McGarrity Boy: He played stick-ball and contracted the measles.
  • Mrs. Bennett: Needed her radiator fixed when Ralph was the janitor.
  • Johnny Bennett: He played stick-ball, earned an apple for a home-run and contracted the measles.
  • Mrs. Doyle: Mother of Tommy Doyle.
  • Tommy Doyle: He was arrested for spending a $100 counterfeit bill that Ralph gave him to take his suits to the cleaners.
  • Mrs. Stevens: She gave Alice a box for hairpins that was made of matchsticks for Christmas which was the same exact gift Ralph was about to give her. She received a kitchen thermometer from Alice.
  • Mrs. Olsen: She said that Ralph broke her venetian blinds instead of repairing them when Ralph was the janitor.
  • Mrs. Hannah: Needed her bathtub fixed when Ralph was the janitor.
  • Mrs. Folgerty: Accused Ralph of taking food out of her ice box when Ralph was the janitor.
  • Mrs. Schwartz: The apartment house blabber mouth who reported that the Kramdens' had set the all time lowest gas bill for the building. She also was curious to know if the house phone was able to connect to New Jersey when Ralph was the janitor.
  • Mr. Riley: Had a full garbage can that needed to be emptied when Ralph was the janitor.
  • Judy Connors: A teenager who didn't want her father to meet Wallace her date.
  • Tommy Mullins: A U.S. Navy service member who was home on leave for Christmas.
  • Carlos Sanchez: A Mambo dancer who works at night.
  • Mr. and Mrs. August Gunther: Were former residents of the Kramdens' apartment. August hit it big with his donut business.
The real 328 Chauncey Street

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

In July 1950, Jackie Gleason took over as the host of Cavalcade of Stars, a variety show that aired on the DuMont Television Network. After the first year, Gleason and his writing staff developed a sketch that drew upon familiar domestic situations for its material. Based on the popular radio show The Bickersons, Gleason wanted a realistic portrayal of life for a poor husband and wife living in Brooklyn. The couple would fight almost constantly, but ultimately show their love for each other. After rejecting titles such as "The Beast", "The Lovers", and "The Couple Next Door", Gleason and his staff settled on "The Honeymooners" for the name of the new sketch. Gleason took the role of Ralph Kramden, a blustery bus driver, and he chose veteran comedy movie actress Pert Kelton for the role of Alice Kramden, Ralph's acerbic wife.[12]

"The Honeymooners" made its debut on October 5, 1951, as a six-minute sketch.[13] Cast member Art Carney made a brief appearance as a police officer who gets hit with flour Ralph had thrown out the window. The tone of these early sketches was much darker than the later series, with Ralph exhibiting extreme bitterness and frustration with his marriage to an equally bitter and argumentative middle-aged woman (Kelton was nine years older than Gleason). The Kramdens' financial struggles mirrored those of Gleason's early life in Brooklyn, and he took great pains to duplicate on set the interior of the apartment where he grew up (right down to his boyhood address of 328 Chauncey Street).[13] The Kramdens (and later the Nortons) are childless, an issue never explored, but a condition on which Gleason insisted. Ralph and Alice did legally adopt a baby girl whom they named Ralphina (because he actually wanted a baby boy which he could name after himself but fell in love with the baby girl whom the agency had placed with them). The biological mother requested to have her baby back, and the agency asked whether the Kramdens would be willing to return her even though they were the legal parents of the girl. Ralph agreed and stated that they would visit her and she would have a real life Santa Claus every Christmas.

Early additions to the cast of later sketches were upstairs neighbors Ed and Trixie Norton. Ed (played by Carney) was a sewer worker and Ralph's best friend, although his innocent and guileless nature was the source of many arguments between the two. Trixie Norton (maiden name unknown), Ed's wife, was originally portrayed as a burlesque dancer by Elaine Stritch, but was replaced by the more wholesome looking Joyce Randolph, after just one appearance. Trixie is a foil to Ed, just as Alice is for Ralph, but derivatively, and almost always off-screen.[13][14]

Due in part to the colorful array of characters that Gleason invented (including the cast of The Honeymooners), Cavalcade of Stars became a huge success for DuMont. It increased its audience share from nine to 25 percent. Gleason's contract with DuMont expired in the summer of 1952, and the financially struggling network (which suffered through ten-year layoffs from July, 1953 through October, 1963) was unable to re-sign him.

Move to CBS[edit]

CBS president William S. Paley convinced Gleason to leave the DuMont Network and bring his show to CBS. In July 1952, the cast of The Jackie Gleason Show embarked on a highly successful five-week promotional tour across the United States, performing a variety of musical numbers and sketches (including the popular "Honeymooners"). However, actress Pert Kelton was blacklisted at the time and replaced on the tour by Beulah actress Ginger Jones, who subsequently was also blacklisted (having earlier been named on the Red Channels blacklist) by CBS, which meant that a new Alice was needed.[14][15]

Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) with Ed Norton (Art Carney), and Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows) in a Honeymooners scene.

Jones' replacement was Audrey Meadows, already known for her work in the 1951 musical Top Banana and on Bob and Ray's television show. Before receiving the role, Meadows had to overcome Gleason's reservations about her being too attractive to make a credible Alice. To accomplish this, she hired a photographer to come to her apartment early in the morning and take pictures of her with no make-up on, wearing a torn housecoat, and with her hair undone.[15][16] When the pictures were delivered to Gleason, he looked at them and said, "That's our Alice." When it was explained to him who it was he said, "Any dame who has a sense of humor like that deserves the job."[15] With the addition of Meadows the now-famous "Honeymooners" lineup of Gleason, Carney, Meadows, and Randolph was in place.

The rising popularity of The Honeymooners was reflected in its increasing prominence as part of The Jackie Gleason Show. During the first season, it appeared on a regular basis (although not weekly) as a short sketch during part of the larger variety show. The sketches ranged in length from seven to thirteen minutes. For the 1953–54 season, the shorter sketches were outnumbered by ones that ran for a half-hour or longer. During the 1954–55 season, most episodes consisted entirely of The Honeymooners. Fan response was overwhelming. Meadows received hundreds of curtains and aprons in the mail from fans who wanted to help Alice lead a fancier life. By January 1955, The Jackie Gleason Show was competing with (and sometimes beating) I Love Lucy as the most-watched show in the United States. Audience members lined up around the block hours in advance to attend the show.[12]

Before Gleason's initial three-year contract with CBS expired, he was offered a much larger one by CBS and General Motors' Buick division (the carmaker having dropped their sponsorship of Milton Berle's Buick-Berle Show after two seasons on NBC). The three-year contract, reportedly valued at $USD 11 million, was one of the largest in show business history. It called for Gleason to produce 78 filmed episodes of The Honeymooners over two seasons, with an option for a third season of 39 more. He was scheduled to receive $65,000 for each episode ($70,000 per episode in the second season), but had to pay all production costs out of that amount. Art Carney received $3,500 per week, Audrey Meadows received $2,000 per week, and Joyce Randolph (who did not appear in every episode) received $500 per week. Production for The Honeymooners was handled by Jackie Gleason Enterprises, Inc., which also produced the show's lead-in, Stage Show, starring The Dorsey Brothers.[12][13] Reportedly, only Audrey Meadows, who later became a banker, received residuals by inserting language to that effect into her contract.[citation needed]

The first episode of the new half-hour series aired Saturday, October 1, 1955, at 8:30 pm Eastern Time (during prime time), opposite Ozark Jubilee on ABC and The Perry Como Show on NBC and had aired every Saturday since. As it was sponsored by Buick, the opening credits originally ended with a sponsor identification by announcer Jack Lescoulie ("Brought to you by ... Your Buick Dealer. And away we go!"), and the show concluded with a brief Gleason sales pitch for the company. All references to the car maker were removed when the show entered syndication in 1957.[16]

Critical reaction to The Honeymooners was mixed. The New York Times and Broadcasting and Telecasting Magazine wrote that it was "labored" and lacked the spontaneity of the live sketches, but TV Guide praised it as "rollicking", "slapsticky" and "fast-paced".[12] In February 1956, the show was moved to the 8 pm(et) time slot, but had already started to lose viewers to the hugely popular Perry Como Show.[2][3] Gleason's writers had also begun to feel confined by the restrictive half-hour format (in previous seasons, Honeymooners sketches typically ran 35 minutes or more), and Gleason felt that they were starting to run out of original ideas. After just one season, Gleason and CBS agreed to cancel The Honeymooners, which aired its 39th and last original episode on September 22, 1956. In explaining his decision to end the show with $7 million remaining on his contract Gleason said, "the excellence of the material could not be maintained, and I had too much fondness for the show to cheapen it".[12] Gleason subsequently sold the films of the "Classic 39" episodes of the show to CBS for US$1.5 million.[13]

Revivals[edit]

One week after The Honeymooners ended, The Jackie Gleason Show returned on September 29, 1956. The "Honeymooners" sketches were soon brought back as part of the revived variety show. In 1962, Gleason's variety show returned as Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine. The "Honeymooners" sketches returned as well, whenever Carney was available. Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph were replaced as Alice and Trixie by Sue Ane Langdon and Patricia Wilson, respectively, for two sketches.[13][14]

In January 1966, Meadows returned as Alice for a musical special,The Honeymooners: The Adoption, a re-enactment of a 1955 sketch of the same name. When The Jackie Gleason Show (then based in Miami Beach, Florida) returned in 1966, the "Honeymooners" sketches (then in color for the first time) returned as a series of elaborate musicals. The sketches, which comprised ten of the first season's thirty-two shows, followed a story arc that had the Kramdens and Nortons traveling across Europe after Ralph won a contest (an updated version of a 1957 story arc, with musical numbers added). "The Color Honeymooners", as it has since become known, featured Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean in the roles of Alice and Trixie, respectively (Meadows and Randolph did not want to relocate to Miami). One notable 1967 segment featured the return of Pert Kelton (in one of her last performances; she died the following year), this time playing Alice's mother, Mrs. Gibson.[13][14]

The Honeymooners ended again when The Jackie Gleason Show was canceled in 1970, the result of a disagreement in direction between Gleason and the network. Gleason wanted to continue interspersing "The Honeymooners" within the confines of his regular variety show, while CBS wanted a full-hour "Honeymooners" every week. On October 11, 1973, Gleason, Carney, MacRae and Kean reunited for a "Honeymooners" skit called "Women's Lib" on a Gleason special on CBS. The Kramdens and Nortons were brought back for four final one-hour specials on ABC, which aired from 1976–1978. Alongside Gleason and Carney, Audrey Meadows returned as Alice (for the first time since 1966) while Jane Kean continued to play Trixie. Joyce Randolph, the actress most identified as Trixie, never played the part after the 1950s. These four specials came at a time when Gleason and Carney had each achieved new found fame, with Gleason's prominent role in the box office smash Smokey and the Bandit and Carney winning an Academy Award for his leading role in Harry and Tonto, which actually brought some more attention to these series of specials. These were the final original "Honeymooners" productions.[14]

Production[edit]

The Honeymooners was filmed using three Electronicams.

In 1955, many television shows (including The Jackie Gleason Show) were performed live and recorded using kinescope technology, though sitcoms were already largely done on film, e.g., The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, My Little Margie, I Married Joan. I Love Lucy, which was recorded directly onto 35 mm film, had influenced television production companies to produce directly on film. For The Honeymooners, Gleason utilized the Electronicam TV-film system, developed by DuMont in the early 1950s, which allowed for a live performance to be directly captured on film. As a result of the superior picture and sound quality afforded by the Electronicam system, episodes of The Honeymooners were much more suitable for rebroadcast than most other "live" shows of the era.[13][14]

All 39 episodes of The Honeymooners were filmed at the DuMont Television Network's Adelphi Theater at 152 West 54th Street in Manhattan, in front of an audience of 1,000. Episodes were never fully rehearsed, as Gleason felt that rehearsals would rob the show of its spontaneity. The result was that while the cast was able to bring a fresh approach to the material, mistakes were often made — lines were either recited incorrectly or forgotten altogether, and actors did not follow the scripted action. To compensate, the cast developed visual cues for each other: Gleason patted his stomach when he forgot a line, while Meadows would glance at the refrigerator when someone else was supposed to retrieve something from it.[16][17]

In contrast to other popular comedies of the era (such as Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet), which depicted their characters in comfortable, middle class suburban environments, the set design for The Honeymooners reflected the blue collar existence of its characters. The Kramdens lived in a small sparsely furnished two-room apartment (the main set) in a tenement building at least four stories high (the Kramdens were on the third floor and the Nortons' were one floor above them), badly aired and with insufficient lighting. They used the single main room as the kitchen, dining and living room, and it consisted of a functional table and chairs, a chest of drawers, a curtain-less window (with a view of a fire escape) and an outdated icebox. The Kramdens' bedroom was never seen, although in the episode about Ed Norton's sleepwalking the Nortons' bedroom is shown.[13][14][15] One of the few other sitcoms about a blue-collar family was The Life of Riley, whose first season (1949–50) had actually featured Jackie Gleason in the lead role; William Bendix, who had originated the role of Chester A. Riley on the radio show, took over the role on television thereafter.

The instrumental theme song for The Honeymooners, "You're My Greatest Love", was composed by Gleason and performed by an orchestra led by Ray Bloch (who had previously served as orchestra leader on Gleason's variety show, as well as The Ed Sullivan Show). Although lyrics were composed, they were never sung. Sammy Spear, who later became Gleason's musical director, provided the arrangement.[18] The music heard in the episodes was not performed during the show, so to enhance the feeling of a live performance for the studio audience an orchestra performed before filming and during breaks.[12] The show's original announcer was Jack Lescoulie, who was also a spokesman for the sponsor, Buick. For the non-sponsored syndicated version, the introduction was voiced by CBS staff announcer Gaylord Avery.

Awards[edit]

Art Carney won five Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Ed Norton — two for the original Jackie Gleason Show, one for The Honeymooners, and two for the final version of The Jackie Gleason Show. He was nominated for another two (1957, 1966) but lost. Gleason and Meadows were both nominated in 1956 for their work on The Honeymooners. Gleason was nominated for Best Actor – Continuing Performance but lost to Phil Silvers, while Meadows was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role but lost to Nanette Fabray. Meadows was also nominated for Emmys for her portrayal of Alice Kramden in 1954 and 1957.[19][20]

The following table summarizes award wins by cast members, both for The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show.

Actor Awards won Show
Art Carney Emmy, Best Series Supporting Actor (1954) The Jackie Gleason Show
Emmy, Best Supporting Actor in a Regular Series (1955) The Jackie Gleason Show
Emmy, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (1956) The Honeymooners
Emmy, Special Classifications of Individual Achievement (1967) The Jackie Gleason Show
Emmy, Special Classification of Individual Achievements (1968) The Jackie Gleason Show
Audrey Meadows Emmy, Best Supporting Actress in a Regular Series (1955) The Jackie Gleason Show

Plot[edit]

For the full list of episodes, see List of The Honeymooners episodes.

Most of The Honeymooners took place in Ralph and Alice Kramden's small sparsely furnished two-room apartment. Other settings used in the show included the Gotham Bus Company depot, the Raccoon Lodge, and on occasion the Nortons' apartment (which was always noticeably better-furnished than the Kramdens'). Many episodes began with a shot of Alice in the apartment, awaiting Ralph's arrival from work. Most episodes focused on Ralph and Ed Norton's characters, although Alice played a substantial role. Ed's wife, Trixie, played a smaller role in the series, and did not appear in every episode as the other three did. Each episode presented a self-contained story, which never carried over into a subsequent one. The show employed a number of standard sitcom clichés and plots, particularly those of jealousy and comic misunderstanding.

The show presented Ralph as an everyman and an underdog who struggled to make a better life for himself and his wife, but who ultimately failed due to his own shortcomings. He (along with Ed) devised a number of get-rich-quick schemes, none of which succeeded. Ralph would be quick to blame others for his misfortune, until it was pointed out to him where he had fallen short. Ralph's anger would be replaced by short-lived remorse, and he would then apologize for his actions. Many of these apologies to Alice ended with Ralph saying, "Baby, you're the greatest", followed by a hug and kiss.[12][14][15]

In most episodes, Ralph's short temper got the best of him, leading him to yell at others and to threaten physical violence, particularly against Alice. Ralph's favorite threats to her were "One of these days ... one of these days ... Pow! Right in the kisser!" or to knock her "to the Moon, Alice!" (Sometimes this last threat was simply abbreviated: "Bang, zoom!") On other occasions, Ralph would simply tell Alice, "Oh, are you gonna get yours." All of this led to criticism that the show displayed an acceptance of domestic violence.[21][22] Ralph never carried out his threats, however, and others have pointed out that Alice knew he never would.[14][15] In retaliation, the targets of Ralph's verbal abuse often responded by simply joking about his weight, a common theme throughout the series.[14][15] Alice was never seen to back down during any of Ralph's tirades.

For the "Classic 39" episodes of The Honeymooners, there is no continuing story arc, all of the episodes are self-contained. For example, in the series premiere "TV Or Not TV", Ralph and Norton buy a television set. By the next week's show, the set is gone, although in later episodes a set is shown in the Nortons' apartment. In the installment "The Baby Sitter", the Kramdens get a phone; however, in the next episode, the phone is gone. And, in the episode, "A Dog's Life", Alice gets a dog from the pound which Ralph tries to return. But in the end, Ralph finds himself growing to love the dog and decides to keep him, along with a few other dogs. However, in the next episode, the dogs are nowhere to be seen and are never referred to again.

Occasionally, references to earlier episodes were made, including to Ralph's various "crazy harebrained schemes" from the lost episodes. Norton's sleepwalking in "The Sleepwalker" was referenced in "Oh My Aching Back." But it was not until the 1957 "Trip To Europe" shows that a Honeymooners story arc is finally used.

Broadcast history[edit]

Season Day & Time Preceded by
1 (1955–1956) Saturdays at 8:30 pm (October 1, 1955 – February 18, 1956)
Saturdays at 8:00 pm (February 25 – September 22, 1956)
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show at 8:00 pm (January 7 – February 18, 1956)
Stage Show at 8:30 pm (April 14 – June 2, 1956/September 22, 1956)
Two for the Money at 8:30 pm (September 8–15, 1956)

Syndication and home video/DVD/Blu-ray Disc[edit]

The Honeymooners "Classic 39" Episodes DVD

The Honeymooners gained its greatest fame in syndication, where it has aired almost continually since its cancellation. WPIX in New York City has aired the series for more than five decades (after initially running in 1957–1958 on WRCA-TV, now WNBC),[23] with occasional breaks.[13] In the United Kingdom, BBC Two aired 38 of the original 39 episodes beginning in 1989 and ending in 1991.[14] The show has also aired in Australia, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Suriname.[12] It was previously seen on WGN America from June 2008 to September 2009 and Me-TV from December 2010 to September 2011. As of April 2012, the show has returned to Me-TV.

In 1984, the Museum of Television and Radio announced the discovery of four original Honeymooners sketches from the original The Jackie Gleason Show. When they later held a public viewing for three of them, the response was overwhelmingly positive. In January 1985, Gleason announced the release of an additional group of lost episodes from his private vault. As with the previously released sketches, these "lost episodes" were actually kinescopes of sketches from the 1952–55, 1956–57 run of The Jackie Gleason Show.[1] Because the prints had not been stored under ideal conditions, parts of the soundtracks of three episodes were unusable, and voices had to be redubbed. Gleason personally approved the soundalike actors, with impressionist Joe Alaskey doing Kramden's lines.

Gleason sold the broadcast rights to the lost episodes to Viacom, and they were first aired from 1985–1986 as a series of 68 22-minute episodes on the Showtime cable network. They have since joined the original 39 episodes in syndication, and have also been released on VHS and DVD.[1] In September 2004, another "lost" episode was reportedly discovered at the Peabody Award archives in Georgia. This episode, "Love Letter", originally aired on The Jackie Gleason Show on October 16, 1954.[24] It aired for the first time since then on October 16, 2004, its fiftieth anniversary, on TV Land. CBS Television Distribution (the modern-day successor to Viacom), via CBS Broadcasting, owns the "classic 39" series outright, while the Gleason estate owns the "lost episodes" (although CTD does distribute them).

Paramount Home Entertainment/CBS DVD released the six-disc DVD box set The Honeymooners "Classic 39" Episodes in November 2003 (only available in Region 1). The set contains all 39 episodes from the series' original 1955–56 broadcast run. Also included in the set is an edited version of a 1990 anniversary special hosted by Audrey Meadows, as well as original show openings and closings (sponsored by Buick) that were removed when the show entered syndication.

MPI Home Video released 80 of the "lost episodes" in 'Region 1' DVD format in 2001–02 spread out on 24 single-disc volumes. MPI subsequently re-packaged the 24 volumes into six 4-disc box sets. Both the 24 individual volumes and the six 4-disc box sets went out-of-print during the course of 2008. However, MPI has since renewed its deal with Jackie Gleason Enterprises LLC and has continued to release new editions of the "lost episodes" and other Honeymooners material not currently owned by CBS. On July 28, 2011, MPI Home Video announced the release of a complete restored set of all existing Honeymooners Lost Episodes from 1951 to 1957. The 50-hour, 15 DVD set will contain 107 Honeymooners sketches, include the home video debut of the nine existing original DuMont Network sketches, six other sketches never before released on home video and the eight musical Honeymooners episodes from 1957 which are collectively known as the "Trip To Europe" shows that have been long sought after by Honeymooners fans. The new restored set of Lost Episodes was released on Oct. 4, 2011, sixty years after the first Honeymooners sketch aired.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Honeymooners- Lost Episodes Collection 1 13 October 30, 2001
The Honeymooners- Lost Episodes Collection 2 13 October 30, 2001
The Honeymooners- Lost Episodes Collection 3 15 January 29, 2002
The Honeymooners- Lost Episodes Collection 4 15 March 26, 2002
The Honeymooners- Lost Episodes Collection 5 12 June 25, 2002
The Honeymooners- Lost Episodes Collection 6 12 August 27, 2002
The Honeymooners- Lost Episodes: The Complete Restored Series 107 October 4, 2011

In June 2006, MPI Home Video released The Color Honeymooners – Collection 1 (NTSC and PAL), which collects the "Trip to Europe" story arc presented on The Jackie Gleason Show in 1966. It has since released an additional three volumes featuring additional episodes from this story arc. AmericanLife TV Network has also aired The Color Honeymooners shows under license from Gleason Enterprises and Paul Brownstein Television.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Color Honeymooners- Collection 1 9 June 27, 2006
The Color Honeymooners- Collection 2 8 February 26, 2008
The Color Honeymooners- Collection 3 12 May 27, 2008
The Color Honeymooners- Collection 4 12 August 26, 2008

On July 22, 2013 Paramount and CBS Home Entertainment announced that all 39 episodes would be released on Blu-ray Disc on October 15, 2013.[25] The release will be remastered and in high definition. On September 30, it was announced that the box set has been pushed back and will now be released on March 18, 2014.[26]

Impact[edit]

Steven Sheehan explains the popularity of The Honeymooners as the embodiment of working-class masculinity in the character of Ralph Kramden, and postwar ideals in American society regarding work, housing, consumerism, and consumer satisfaction. The series demonstrated visually the burdens of material obligations and participation in consumer culture, as well as the common use of threats of domestic violence in working class households.[27]

  • In 1997, the episodes "The $99,000 Answer" and "TV or Not TV" were respectively ranked #6 and #26 on "TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time".[28]
  • In 1999, TV Guide published a list titled "TV's 100 Greatest Characters Ever!" Ed Norton was #20, and Ralph Kramden was #2.[15]
  • In 2002, The Honeymooners was listed at #3 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
  • On June 1, 2007, FOX aired a special of TV's Funniest Moments. A clip from the episode "The $99,000 Answer" was on the list. In the clip, Ralph lamely identifies the composer of "Swanee River" as being "Ed Norton".
  • In 2013, TV Guide ranked The Honeymooners #13 on their list of the 60 Greatest Shows of All Time.[29]

Legacy[edit]

Due to its enduring popularity, The Honeymooners has been referenced numerous times in American pop culture, and has served as the inspiration for other television shows. The show also introduced memorable catchphrases into American culture, such as "Bang, zoom, straight to the Moon!", "One of these days ... one of these days ... Pow! Right in the kisser!" and "Baby, you're the greatest".

The Flintstones[edit]

In 1960, the Hanna-Barbera-produced animated sitcom The Flintstones debuted on ABC. Many critics and viewers noted the close resemblance of that show's premise and characters to that of The Honeymooners.[30] In various interviews over the years, co-creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera have each stated that The Honeymooners was used as a basis for the concept of The Flintstones. Mel Blanc, the voice of Barney Rubble, was asked to model Barney's voice after Ed Norton, but reportedly refused. Gleason later said that he considered suing but decided that becoming known as "the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air" wasn't worth the negative publicity.[31]

Spoofs, parodies and inspiration[edit]

  • In the Futurama episode "The Series Has Landed", Fry witnesses the future's interpretation of The Honeymooners.
    • In the episode "Spanish Fry" of the same show, Lrrr says, "One of these days, Ndnd, bang! zoom! straight to the third moon of Omicron Persei 8!!"
  • The sitcom The King of Queens was inspired partly by The Honeymooners.[32]
  • The show was parodied in a series of animated Looney Tunes shorts, in which the principal characters are depicted as mice and Ralph's "big dream" is like to get enough cheese to impress Alice. These cartoons are The Honey-Mousers (1956), Cheese It, the Cat! (1957), and Mice Follies (1960). Human caricatures of Ralph and Ed are pitted against Bugs Bunny in the 1956 Warner cartoon Half-Fare Hare. And in another cartoon, A Bird in a Bonnet (1958), when Sylvester falls into an open manhole, inside we hear a voice like Ed Norton's say, "Whoo-hoo-hoo! Hey, look at this, Ralph, a pussycat." To which, Sylvester simply peers out of the sewer to the audience.
  • Louis C.K. has stated in an interview that he based the layout of Louie's apartment in the HBO show, Lucky Louie, on the Kramdens' apartment, in contrast to other shows like The King of Queens that have very nicely decorated apartments on low incomes.[33]
  • The Honeymooners was spoofed in an episode of Perfect Strangers as a result of the character Balki Bartoukomos (Bronson Pinchot)'s spinning an extended metaphor about the characters' existential situation to an episode of The Honeymooners he had once seen; Balki's description of the episode is shown in a black-and-white flashback.
  • As Ralph Kramden was a New York City bus driver, one of the service depots in Brooklyn was renamed the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot in 1988. All buses that originate from the bus depot bear a sticker on the front that has a logo derived from the 'face on the Moon' opening credits of The Honeymooners. The MTA also took 1948 GM-TDH5101 bus number 4789, renumbered it to 2969 and made it the 'official Jackie Gleason bus'.
  • A statue of Gleason as Ralph Kramden stands at the Eighth Avenue entrance to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. The plaque on the base of the statue reads, "Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden — Bus Driver — Raccoon Lodge Treasurer — Dreamer — Presented by the People of TV Land"[34]

Adaptations and remakes[edit]

The success of The Honeymooners in countries outside the United States has led to the production of new shows based entirely on it.

International remakes[edit]

Indonesia[edit]

Two series, 26 episodes in all were made for R.C.T.I. in 1996. It was the first sit com of that style ever attempted in Indonesia. It was entitled Detak Detik and starred Mat Sola as the Jackie Gleason character. Art Carney rang the cast prior to production to give them his best wishes. It was decided to make Mat Sola a Silver Bird taxi driver as they had a bit more prestige in Indonesia. We left Nurbuat who mirrored Ed Norton as a sewerage worker. The chemistry worked well. We had to remove any references to alcohol as Indonesia is a Muslim country

Canada[edit]

French Canada was entertained for years in the 1960s and 1970s by a sitcom titled Cré Basile, with Olivier Guimond, Béatrice Picard, Denis Drouin and Amulette Garneau, which was an uncredited Quebecker version of The Honeymooners (and could, by contemporary standards, qualify as plagiarism).

The Netherlands[edit]

In 1994, the Dutch broadcasting network KRO produced a version of The Honeymooners titled Toen Was Geluk Heel Gewoon ([Back] then happiness was very common), using translated scripts of the original series but changing its setting to 1950s Rotterdam. After the original 39 scripts were exhausted, the series' lead actors, Gerard Cox and Sjoerd Pleijsier, took over writing, adding many new characters and references to Dutch history and popular culture. The series was a hit in the Netherlands and it finished its run after 16 years and 229 episodes in June 2009.[35]

Sweden[edit]

In 1994, the Swedish network TV4 produced a version of The Honeymooners titled Rena Rama Rolf, but changing its to modern-day Gothenburg, Rolf (Ralph) is working as a streetcar driver. The show ran until 1998.[citation needed]

Poland[edit]

In 1998, the Polish network Polsat produced a version of The Honeymooners titled Miodowe lata which translates to "Honeymoon years", using both translated scripts of the original series and new ones, but changing its setting to modern-day Warsaw. The original series ran until 2003 and was continued in 2004 as Całkiem nowe lata miodowe.[36]

Film[edit]

On June 10, 2005, a feature film remake of The Honeymooners was released, featuring a predominantly African American cast. The roles of Ralph, Alice, Ed, and Trixie were played by Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union, Mike Epps, and Regina Hall, respectively. The movie was a critical and commercial failure, earning slightly more than US$13 million worldwide.[37] The film was released by Paramount Pictures.

Videogame[edit]

In 1988, software company First Row Software released a Honeymooners videogame for Commodore 64 and DOS systems.

Episodes[edit]

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Kaplan, Peter W. (January 26, 1985). "75 'Honeymooners' Episodes Found". The New York Times. Retrieved November 26, 2006. 
  2. ^ a b Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1999). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (7th ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 464. ISBN 0345429230. 
  3. ^ a b c Jones, Gerard (1993). "Sweet Subversion". Honey I'm Home!: Sitcoms – Selling the American Dream. MacMillan. p. 112. ISBN 0-312-08810-8. 
  4. ^ Brooks; Marsh, "Top-Rated Programs by Season", p.1245
  5. ^ Conner (2010), Sitcoms Often Reinforce Racial Ethnic Stereotypes
  6. ^ Pollak, Michael (February 8, 2004). "F.Y.I.". New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  7. ^ Associated Press (July 1, 1988). "How Sweet It Is - At Jackie Gleason Depot". Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  8. ^ Ben Schott, Schott's Mischellany Calendar 2009 (New York: Workman Publishing, 2008), March 21.
  9. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 651. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1. 
  10. ^ "Elaine Stritch Biography" tcm.com, accessed August 31, 2009
  11. ^ ""The Honeymooners" (1955) – Full cast and crew". Imdb.com. Retrieved August 8, 2008. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h McCrohan, Donna (1978). The Honeymooners' Companion – The Kramdens and the Nortons Revisited. New York: Workman Publishing. ISBN 0-89480-022-1. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Simon, Ron. "The Honeymooners". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved November 25, 2006. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lewisohn, Mark. "BBC Guide to Comedy – The Honeymooners". BBC. Retrieved November 25, 2006. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Gehring, Wes (November 2001). "'The honeymooners' turns 50: a half-century after they first arrived on TV screens, Ralph and Alice Kramden and Ed Norton continue to delight audiences on countless late-night reruns". USA Today. Retrieved December 6, 2006. 
  16. ^ a b c Boudreaux, Jonathan (November 12, 2003). "The Honeymooners "Classic 39" Episodes DVD Review". tvdvdreviews.com. Retrieved November 25, 2006. 
  17. ^ "Classic TV At Its Best". Retrieved November 26, 2006. 
  18. ^ "Jackie Gleason". Retrieved November 30, 2006. 
  19. ^ "1956 Emmy Awards". Retrieved December 7, 2006. 
  20. ^ "Art Carney at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences". Retrieved December 8, 2006. 
  21. ^ Idaho Council on Domestic Violence And Victim Assistance (October 3, 1999). ""Take time this month to reflect on effects of domestic violence and work to end it!" (editorial)". The Idaho Statesman. Retrieved December 8, 2006. [dead link]
  22. ^ Michalski, Thomas (November 23, 2006). "Various agencies help crack down on domestic violence". Pinellas Park Beacon. Retrieved December 8, 2006. 
  23. ^ WRCA-TV (now WNBC) was the first New York City station to air The Honeymooners, Tuesdays at 7 p.m. during the 1957–58 season, as per contemporary New York-Metropolitan Edition issues of TV Guide. WPIX first aired the show at the start of the 1958–59 season.
  24. ^ "'Lost' episode of 'Honeymooners' uncovered". Retrieved November 26, 2006. 
  25. ^ "The Honeymooners: Classic 39 Episodes Blu-ray". Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  26. ^ Postponement for 'The Classic 39 Episodes' Blu-ray Disc
  27. ^ Steven T. Sheehan, "'Pow! Right in the Kisser': Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason, and the Emergence of the Frustrated Working-Class Man, Journal of Popular Culture, June 2010, Vol. 43#3 pgs. 564-82
  28. ^ "Special Collector's Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28 - July 4). 1997. 
  29. ^ Fretts, Bruce; Roush, Matt. "The Greatest Shows on Earth". TV Guide Magazine 61 (3194-3195): 16–19. 
  30. ^ "The Honeymooners on TV Heaven". Retrieved December 7, 2006. 
  31. ^ "The Flintstones Frequently Asked Questions List (item 2)". Retrieved February 16, 2014. 
  32. ^ "The King of Queens – About the Show". Retrieved November 25, 2006. 
  33. ^ Hagan, Joe (January 21, 2006). "HBO tries to revive the sitcom. But can foul-mouthed Louis C.K. thrive in a feel-good genre?". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2006. 
  34. ^ "Ralph Kramden Statue". Retrieved November 30, 2006. 
  35. ^ "KRO Produces A Dutch Version of The Honeymooners". Retrieved November 26, 2006. 
  36. ^ Meils, Cathy (October 26, 1998). "'Honeymooners' intro'd by Polsat". Variety.com. Retrieved November 26, 2006. 
  37. ^ "The Honeymooners at boxofficemojo.com". Retrieved November 26, 2006. 

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