Ralph and Alice Kramden. Ed and Trixie Norton. A one-room set with a fire escape. Ed drives a bus, Ralph works in the sewers, and both couples struggle to make ends meet. Sound like a winning concept? In fact, the show lasted only one season before Jackie Gleason voluntarily shut it down.
But that tells only part of the story. The Honeymooners actually began in 1950 as a segment of Gleason’s Cavalcade of Stars program on the soon-defunct DuMont Network. The sketches were a hit, and CBS persuaded Gleason to switch networks in 1952. It was then that Audrey Meadows joined Gleason, Art Carney, and Joyce Randolph to form an endearing cast that was hugely popular. The skits ranged from six to thirty minutes within the Cavalcade program.
Finally in 1954, The Honeymooners was spun off into a separate half-hour show. Thirty-nine episodes were produced, the “Classic 39” as they’re known. Ralph was fond of saying, “To the moon, Alice!” or “One of these days…one of these days…Pow! Right in the kisser!” Some said the show glorified domestic violence, but everyone knew Alice wouldn’t back down. Despite his temper, Ralph would often apologize at show’s end by saying, “Baby, you’re the greatest.”
A couple of fun trivia facts: 1) When you’d see Gleason rubbing his stomach, that was the signal that he’d forgotten his lines; 2) If you think you’ve seen The Honeymooners animated, you have – they were the prototypes for The Flintstones.