Here's Lucy (1962-1974)
The Honeymooners (1955-1956, 1971)
This classic crossover has been the bane of my existence since this site started. Way way back someone alerted me to it: Lucy meets Ralph Kramden in a Lucy episode featuring Jack Benny. Only at the time I could find no info on it. Then I hunted up what I thought was the episode in question on a second rate DVD release. Only it was the wrong "Jack Benny" episode. Turns out he was on quite a few times. After awhile I started finding references to it online but nothing of any depth. Just, "it happened," basically. Finally, things turn around. The correct episode comes out on DVD and TV Land mentions the episode on a special about unexpected TV moments. Trying to save a buck I figure maybe watching the special will give me enough info. So I watch the special and walk away still not knowing enough. The special didn't really explain plotwise why Ralph Kramden showed up. I bite the bullet. I'll buy the DVD set. But, still cheap as Jack Benny, I figure I'll save money and get it on Half.com for cheap. I order the DVD. The seller writes to tell me they have discovered the DVD set is damaged and not sellable after all. I try another seller. After waiting two weeks the seller tells me the DVD is out of stock. I try a third seller. He sends the DVD set but it gets lost in the mail. He sends a replacement set and FINALLY I get the episode in my grubby mitts.
Finally I get to see the episode: Lucy Visits Jack Benny. This episode is a big deal. It puts on screen together three true comic legends. Lucille Ball is a comedy goddess. I Love Lucy was classic. Then she came back after that to create The Lucy Show which then transformed mid-run into Here's Lucy (thus the odd listing above on the years it ran; The Lucy Show turned into Here's Lucy in 1968). That show was a hit as well. That's impossible! Very few sitcom stars manage to have TWO hit shows. Many try, most fail. And Jack Benny? Forget about it! His reputation for cheapness was only exceeded by his comic genius. Super funny. Finally ya got Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden. The Honeymooner's Ralph Kramden alone is a classic sitcom character. Bus driver Ralph was the original sit-com "man with the doomed to fail plan". Fred Flintstone was a direct steal on the character. No Ralph, no Fred not to mention at least a dozen other sitcom characters. And beyond Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason was an even bigger comic legend. And that is saying something.
Sadly, seeing these three gods of comedy on the screen together is the best thing about thing about this episode. I hate being a party pooper but aside from that amazing moment, the episode is only okay. I hate saying that but it's true. The episode has Lucy and company heading to Palm Springs for vacation. Lucy has found an amazing deal in Palm Springs where someone is renting out rooms in his house to vacationers for a very very low price. They head on down only to discover the owner of the house is legendary tightwad Jack Benny! Now why would a guy who loves money so much give them such a bargain? Because once he gets them in, he charges them more money for every little thing. Seemed odd to me at first because the extra charges were actually low. A dime for his, a quarter for that. Then I realized they were literally having him nickel and dime his guests to death.
The topper to Jack's stinginess is revealed at the end as he prepares a barbeque "for his guests". He has a huge spread of food. The gang is floored by what a spread he has laid out. Only it turns out it isn't all for them. Seems there is a "See The Stars Homes" bus tour that comes through regularly. The food is for them. Jack charges the tourists a buck a meal and forces his "guests" to help serve the food.
Well, as the tourists file in, the tour guide asks Jack if the tour bus driver can come in and eat. Jack says of course he can and then shouts, "Come on in, Ralph." In walks Ralph Kramden. Total surprise. He wasn't even billed as appearing in the episode. Utter surprise to everyone watching. He walks over and makes himself a burger, milking the moment for all it's worth. First he steals an extra burger patty, then he puts some of Jack's money on the burger as if it's lettuce, and then finally he lets fly with his catchphrase, "How sweet it is!" and chomps down on the burger.
That final moment was classic! Amazing! If only the rest of the episode was on that level. But the rest of the episode felt like typical sitcom filler. I mean Lucille Ball in her prime was an engine of trouble and mischief. Here she doesn't do that much. She goes on vacation. They do some shtick on a golf course with her brother-in-law bending her into a pretzel trying to fix her stance and then with her talking every time he about to take a swing. You know, typical golfing jokes. But you have three comic legends on the set! Three legends and you're doing "typical golf jokes"? What the hey? The bit does end with Jack Benny showing up in scuba gear having retrieved one of their balls from a lake for a small fee but still…
And even with the Jack Benny shtick they don't really "go for broke". They do some nickel-and-diming jokes but they could have pushed it much further. They do the whole long golf skit when they could have used that time to do bit after bit with Jack taking their money. They could have really hit that even though he is only charging small fees, since he charges for everything it is really going to add up. Instead… golf gags.
And finally there is the look of the episode. The whole show is set outside of Jack's house. But the whole show is shot in a studio. So you get that whole "fake" outside look. It isn't faked well at all. I mean, usually when they do that on a show they really try to cover it up. In this case there is a vast landscape that is clearly just paint on a wall right behind them. It just looked bad.
Now maybe I'm being unfair with the set thing. At the time I think how they did it was pretty much how any sitcom of the time would have. But it just doesn't hold up today. It looks cheesy. It looks stereotypically bad-sitcommy. Any other time maybe it wouldn't bother me. But here all the bits of bad add up to undermine the thing. Again, you have three comedy greats on cheesy sitcom sets performing material that they are way better than. Jackie Gleason does the best out of all of them. He comes in at the very end, steals all the attention and even though he has very little to do, he frickin' milks every second of screen time for every laugh he can get. I just wish the rest of the episode was as inspired.
Okay, I've dissed a sitcom classic. Let the hate mail begin!Other Here's Lucy Crossover Links
Here's Lucy and Mannix
Other Honeymooners Crossover Links
The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show
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