The Honeymooners 1955-1956
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, 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, and eventually dropped to #19, 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 revived The Honeymooners sporadically 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 (the show is set mostly in the Kramdens’ kitchen, in a neglected Brooklyn apartment complex).
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.
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.”
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.