You're My Greatest Love
First episode date
1 October 1955
Marvin MarxWalter StoneA.J. RussellHerbert FinnLeonard SternSydney Zelinka
Jackie GleasonAudrey MeadowsArt CarneyJoyce Randolph
Theme music composer
Jackie GleasonBill Templeton
"You're My Greatest Love"
The honeymooners ending credits
- The honeymooners ending credits
- Cast and characters
- Ralph Kramden
- Alice Kramden
- Edward Lillywhite Ed Norton
- Thelma Trixie Norton
- The apartment house
- Apartment residents
- Move to CBS
- The Classic 39 episodes
- Syndication and home videoDVDBlu ray Disc
- The Flintstones
- Spoofs parodies and importation
- Adaptations and remakes
- International remakes
- Video Game
The sketches originally aired on the DuMont network's variety series Cavalcade of Stars, which Gleason hosted, and subsequently on the CBS network's The Jackie Gleason Show, which was broadcast live in front of a theater audience. The popularity of the sketches led Gleason to rework The Honeymooners as a filmed half-hour series, which debuted October 1, 1955, on CBS, in place of the variety series. 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 on NBC, 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, although Gleason revived the characters 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 building). The program is also popular internationally, particularly in Canada, Poland and Scandinavian countries Norway and Sweden.
Cast and characters
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.
Played by Jackie Gleason—a bus driver for the fictional Gotham Bus Company based out of Brooklyn, NY. 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 Gleason's honor after his death. Ralph Kramden is the inspiration for the animated character Fred Flintstone.
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 ones 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, shaddap!". 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.
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, Gleason moved to the CBS network where he had The Jackie Gleason Show, and the role went to Audrey Meadows; Kelton had been blacklisted during the McCarthy hearings, affecting her career at the time.
Edward Lillywhite "Ed" Norton
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. In most episodes, Ed is shown to be better-read, better-liked, more worldly and more even-tempered than Ralph, despite his unassuming manner and the fact that he usually lets Ralph take the lead in their escapades. 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." Ed worked for the New York City sewer department and described his job as a "Sub-supervisor in the sub-division of the department of subterranean sanitation, I just keep things moving along". He served in the U. S. 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 Kramdens', but more nicely furnished. Though Norton makes the same weekly $62 salary as Ralph (about $555 in 2016 dollars), their higher standard of living might be explained by Norton's freer use of credit; at one point he admits to having 19 charge accounts. Ed enjoys bowling and playing pool. Ed is the inspiration for Barney Rubble in The Flintstones. He's also the inspiration behind Yogi Bear (in terms of design, clothing, and mannerisms).
In 1999, TV Guide ranked him 20th on its list of the "50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time."
Thelma "Trixie" Norton
Played by Joyce Randolph; Ed's wife and Alice's best friend. She did not appear in 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.
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.
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" (as in "'nat' a 3 letter word for bug", stated by crossword aficionado Ed Norton); George Burns's real name was Nathan Birnbaum .
The apartment house
The Kramdens and Nortons lived in an apartment house at 328 Chauncey Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York, where Jackie Gleason lived after his family moved from his birthplace at 364 Chauncey Street. 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 taped 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. The actual 328 Chauncey Street is located in the Bushwick section of the borough, approximately eight miles northeast of the show's location.
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 (Harry Crane and Joe Bigelow) 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.
"The Honeymooners" made its debut on October 5, 1951, as a six-minute sketch. 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). 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.
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 layoffs from July, 1953 through October, 1953) was unable to re-sign him.
Move to CBS
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.
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. 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." 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.
The "Classic 39" episodes
The "Classic 39" episodes of The Honeymooners are the ones that originally aired as a weekly half-hour sitcom on CBS from October 1955 to September 1956.
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. Reportedly, only Audrey Meadows, who later became a banker, received residuals when the "Classic 39" episodes were rebroadcast in syndicated reruns. Her brother Edward, a lawyer, had inserted language to that effect into her contract. (However, Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie Norton, did receive royalty payments when the "lost" Honeymooners episodes from the variety shows were released.)
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. 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.
The initial critical reaction to the half-hour sitcom 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". In February 1956, the show was moved to the 8pm (EST) time slot, but had already started to lose viewers to the hugely popular Perry Como Show. 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". Gleason subsequently sold the films of the "Classic 39" episodes of the show to CBS for US$1.5 million.
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.
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, as Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph did not want to relocate to Miami (Gleason raised no objections about this, but was adamant that the Ed Norton role never be played by anyone other than Art Carney). 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.
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.
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, and 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
The following table summarizes award wins by cast members, both for The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show.
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.
That the plots 'never' carried over to a following and sequential show is not strictly correct: There were two sequences, one concerning Ralph being sent to a psychiatrist for 'impatient' behavior during work that resulted in several passengers lodging complaints regarding his professional demeanor. Another show that continued for two sequential shows, was one in which Aunt Ethel visited and Ralph hatched a scheme to marry her off to the neighborhood butcher.
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." All of this led to criticism, more than forty years later, that the show displayed an acceptance of domestic violence. Ralph never carried out his threats, however, and others have pointed out that Alice knew he never would. In retaliation, the targets of Ralph's verbal abuse often responded by simply joking about his weight, a common theme throughout the series. 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.
Syndication and home video/DVD/Blu-ray Disc
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), with occasional breaks. It regularly airs on WPIX with a marathon that begins on the final hour of New Year's Eve and runs well into New Year's Day. In the United Kingdom it originally aired on ITV in 1958-1963. BBC Two aired 38 of the original 39 episodes beginning in 1989 and ending in 1991. The show has also aired in Australia, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Suriname. It was previously seen on WGN America from June 2008 to September 2009 and Me-TV from December 2010 to September 2011. In April 2012, the show returned to Me-TV. The show currently airs on the network on Sunday nights.
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. 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. 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. 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 during 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 would contain 107 Honeymooners sketches, included 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.
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.
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. The release was remastered and in high definition. On September 30, it was announced that the box set had been pushed back and was released on March 18, 2014.
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.
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 ..., "Homina, homina, homina," and "Baby, you're the greatest".
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. 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.
Spoofs, parodies and importation
Adaptations and remakes
The success of The Honeymooners in countries outside the United States has led to the production of new shows based entirely on it.
Two series, 26 episodes in all were made for R.C.T.I. in 1996. It was the first sitcom 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. They left Nurbuat who mirrored Ed Norton as a sewerage worker. The chemistry worked well. They had to remove any references to alcohol as Indonesia is a country with a majority of Muslim population.
French Canada was entertained for years in the 1960s and '70s by a sitcom titled Cré Basile, with Olivier Guimond, Béatrice Picard, Denis Drouin and Amulette Garneau, which was an uncredited Quebecois version of The Honeymooners. It could, by contemporary standards, qualify as plagiarism.
In 1994, the Dutch broadcasting network KRO produced a version of The Honeymooners titled Toen Was Geluk Heel Gewoon ([Back] then happiness was very normal), 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.
In 1994, the Swedish network TV4 produced a version of The Honeymooners titled Rena Rama Rolf, but changing its setting to modern-day Gothenburg, where Rolf (Ralph) is working as a streetcar driver. The show ran until 1998.
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.
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. The film was released by Paramount Pictures.
In 1988, First Row Software released a Honeymooners computer game for the Commodore 64 and DOS systems. The game involves the Kramdens and Nortons trying to earn $223 for train fare to Miami Beach, where Ralph wants to host the annual Raccoon Lodge convention, by playing a variety of mini-games related to the series. Additionally, players have the option of trying to double their money after each round by answering a Honeymooners-related question in a bonus round based on "The $99,000 Answer" episode.
It was announced that CBS will develop a reboot of The Honeymooners with Bob Kushell writing and executive producing the series along with Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Eric & Kim Tannenbaum and Jeff Greenstein.