When I was writing about Family Classics the other day and waxing nostalgic about growing up in Oglesby, Illinois I started to think about some other TV shows that I used to watch regularly especially sitcoms.
Aside from some of the my favorite prime time servings that would define an era like All in the Family, Happy Days, M*A*S*H and the Mary Tyler Moore Show what I remember watching a lot back in the 70s (at least up until 1976) were reruns of The Honeymooners on WFLD-TV, Channel 32 (another cable station out of Chicago) almost every night.
It’s been over a year of being without a TV here in Korea, but I have been getting by with a steady diet of DVDs—including some classic TV shows like The Honeymooners—which keep me sane and entertained. It’s become my daily routine these days, after teaching or working out at the gym to stop off at my favorite Korean restaurant for a carry out and then come back home and pop in a DVD into my laptop, sit down with my food and watch a movie or a sitcom like The Honeymooners.
Before TV shows like Friends, Cheers, M*A*S*H, and Seinfeld became firmly entrenched in syndication to tickle our funny bones, there was always those classic episodes of The Honeymooners to watch on local cable stations at 10:00pm instead of the local nightly news. Even though you might have seen the same show before, you just don’t see shows like this on television now. It’s no surprise why shows like The Honeymooners, or I Love Lucy or the Andy Griffith Show are classics now. Nothing is this well acted or this well written these days. Some shows might come close, but comedy just doesn’t get any better or funnier than The Honeymooners.
Of course what made the show work so well were the actors and the well-written scripts. Jackie Gleason had the comedic timing down to an art; sometimes he doesn’t even have to say anything at times. Just watch him stew, his face contort while listening to his mother-in-law just prior to his famous blabbermouth rants.
Audrey Meadows was a perfect match for Ralph’s outbursts and his famous “one of these days Alice, one of these days, bang, zoom to the moon” speeches. To be sure, when Gleason sets them up, Meadows’ Alice knocks them down like no one else.
Ralph: “The bills will get bigger & bigger, and I’ll get less to eat. Then you know what I’ll look like?”
Alice: “Yeah, a human being.”
Episode after episode, she deadpans cut down and cut down with deadly accuracy.
Likewise, Art Carney’s Norton was the perfect antithesis for Ralph’s get-rich-quick schemes. He has an uncanny chemistry with Gleason and as you watch the two in a scene you forget that they are actors but that they seem more like real friends; as if they’ve been best friends for long enough to be close friends and long enough to get on each others nerves all the time.
Finally, Trixie played by Joyce Randolph rounds out this classic TV ensemble. She’s the perfect upstairs neighbor and knows how to counter Norton’s screwball behavior with the grace and friendliness of a very good friend.