The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show

The Honeymooners (1955-1956, 1971)
The Jackie Gleason Show (1952-1955, 1956-1957, 1958-1959, 1962-1970)
Type: Spin Off

   Ahhhh!!! Another tricky entry. Give me a straight forward spin off over something complicated any day. And this is more than a little complicated.

   Here's the easy and inaccurate version. Jackie Gleason had his own variety show. On that show he had a running skit about a bus driver - who he played - named Ralph Kramden, Ralph's wife Alice and their neighbor's Ed and Trixie Norton. The bit was so popular that it spun off into a separate series called The Honeymooners that became a classic and legendary sitcom. This is not entirely false but also not wholly true.

   First of all, while The Honeymooners is today considered a classic, when the show initially aired it wasn't exactly a smash hit. It actually lasted just a single season.

   Here's the other problem. The Honeymooners wasn't just a bit on one of Jackie Gleason's many TV shows that then spun off into its own show. The Honeymooners went further than that. Ralph Kramden was one of Gleason recurring signature characters that he did on all sorts of TV and stage shows. Even before The Jackie Gleason Show The Honeymooners had been performed on another variety show called Cavalcade Of Stars. Does that make The Honeymooners a spin off of that too? And after The Honeymooners was cancelled as a show it still showed up in other shows and specials. Spin off just doesn't quite cover this situation. It would be like saying The Muppet Show was a spin off of Sesame Street because Kermit The Frog was on both. It's silly. Kermit was on both because he was part and parcel of muppet creator Jim Henson and Kermit was likely to turn up in anything Henson might create. Same deal with Ralph Kramden - although without the fins and green skin color.

   The Honeymooners in all its various forms had Ralph as the blowhard husband with a multitude of get rich quick plans who was constantly getting into shouting matches with his wife. In the end though they always made up and showed how much they truly loved each other. Ralph's main catch phrases demonstrate the far opposite ends of their relationship. When he would get mad he would yell at his wife, "One of these days Alice, Bang Zoom! To The Moon Alice! To The Moon!" or "One of these days Alice BAM! Right in the kisser!" Try and get spousal abuse humor to fly today. Just doesn't work. But when they would make up, Ralph's voice would fill with love and he would tell Alice, "Baby, you're the greatest." And don't read that wrong or for less than its worth. The way it was acted out it was clear Ralph meant in more deeply than he did his more... violent outbursts.

   Norton was a sewer worker who was at once Ralph's best buddy and also and the lighthearted goofball who could get under his skin and annoy him to no end. Basically a lot of the humor came from making Ralph deal with people he liked but whose behavior could also make him want to beat the crap out of them. Trixie filled out the foursome giving Alice a friend to play off of.

   Whether intentional or not, The Flintstones highly resembled a cartoon version of The Honeymooners minus a bit of the spousal abuse riffs (although Fred Flintstone yelled just as loud - just not as threateningly).

Other Honeymooners Crossover Links
The Honeymooners and Here's Lucy

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