Waxing Nostalgic Over Classic TV

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Honeymooners: Bang! Zoom! To the Moon!

"You know what the sink is? That's my Adventureland!"

Although Ralph Kramden would occasionally threaten to send his wife Alice to the moon, we knew that he was just being cranky, and that by the end of the show would be laying a big wet one on her, in that strange 50's kind of way, where you only saw the back of his head.

The Honeymooners was a true television phenomenon, one of the handful of 50s sitcoms that manages to maintain its humor 50 years later. The show ran on CBS from 1955-1956. (These 39 episodes are commonly referred to as the Classic 39). It had its origins on Jackie Gleason's Calvacade of Stars variety show in 1951 and returned to run from 1966-1970 as part of The Jackie Gleason Show, but with a new Alice and a new Trixie.

The relationship between Ralph and Alice was at the heart of the show, with Alice playing the long-suffering wife to Ralph's blustery "I'm the King of My Castle" husband. Alice was no wallflower, though. She wasn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with Ralph if she thought he was being a jerk. Her special weapon was sarcasm, and she employed it with the skill of a master.

They lived a spartan existence in a very drab apartment, and the fact that the show was in black-and-white just added to that perception. Ralph, however, was always coming up with money-making schemes to supplement his bus driver's salary. But we always knew his schemes were doomed to failure, and that Alice would be there for him when he came crashing back to reality.

Jackie Gleason was the star of the show, but it was Art Carney who, as the funniest second banana in the business, gave the show its pazzaz. Their relationship was often rocky, but you knew that they'd be best pals forever.

A few years later, in 1960, The Honeymooners would inspire the animated Flintstones, a popular but pale imitation of the original.

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