I LOVE LUCY
DICK VAN DYKE
MARY TYLER MOORE
ALL IN THE FAMILY
THE 1955-56 SEASON
Year-End Rating: 30.2 (19th place)
Jack Philbin was executive producer for The Honeymooners'
single, bountiful season as a half-hour situation comedy, and all thirty-nine
were produced by Jack Hurdle. Three of Gleason's veteran writing teams
traded off scripting chores throughout the season--Marvin Marx and Walter
Stone, A.J. Russell and Herbert Finn, and Leonard Stern and Sydney Zelinka.
Frank Satenstein was the director, and the entire production was supervised
by Jackie Gleason.
The wonders of television disrupt life in the Kramden
household when Ed and Ralph share custody of a brand-new TV set.
Marvin Marx and Walter Stone scripted more classic Honeymooners
dialogue than any other two men on Earth. They first teamed up in the
writers' pool on Gleason's Cavalcade of Stars and soon found
themselves resident scribes of the chronicles of Kramden and Norton--a
task to which they were ideally suited, according to the series's executive
producer. "Marx and Walter Stone were Ralph and Ed's counterparts,"
observed Jack Philbin, "Marx thought like Ralph, Stone thought like
There's no extravagance too grand for the Kramdens after
Ralph discovers a satchel filled with $50,000--all of it counterfeit.
To curry favor with his boss, Ralph brags about his skill
on the green--a boast the non-golfer lives to regret when Mr. Harper
invites him to play that weekend.
Tired of Ralph's endless domestic complaints, Alice takes
a job and leaves a maid to take care of the housework.
Convinced that he's only got six months to live, Ralph
sells his deathbed story to a weekly magazine.
Ralph is worried when he contracts the fictitious malady
arterial monochromia, but he'd already survived cerebral monochromia
in an earlier Honeymooners variety show sketch, a vignette that
would serve as the inspiration for this script. As authors Donna McCrohan
and Peter Crescenti reveal in The Honeymooners Lost Episodes,
Gleason's writers thought nothing of filching whole sequences--and sometimes
entire plots--from scenes they'd written in the early fifties. At least
two other episodes from the classic 1955-56 season, "The Loudspeaker"
and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," were virtual remakes of earlier
sketches that eventually reappeared when many of the "lost episodes"
resurfaced--to the delight of Honeymooners fans everywhere--in
Norton's sleepwalking wreaks havoc with Ralph's well-ordered
routine after Trixie appoints him caretaker for her husband's somnambulant
Ralph is the tongue-tied "chef-of-the-future" in an ill-fated
late-night TV commercial that he and Norton concoct to sell 2000 Happy
One of the funniest episodes in a very funny season.
Norton and Kramden's chefs of the past and future create even greater
pandemonium than Lucy did with her classic Vitameatavegamin pitch. Here
the boys practically topple an entire TV studio in their efforts to
demonstrate the superior way to "core a apple."
Ralph's feelings are bruised when Ed buys a friendship
ring for one of his pals on the sewer crew.
Veteran comedy scribes Stern and Zelinka wrote their
first "Honeymooners" sketch for The Jackie Gleason Show in 1954.
Leonard Stern continued to create classic television comedy as a writer
for The Phil Silvers Show and later as creator of the influential
1967 sitcom He and She.
Ralph's insecurity gets the better of him after Alice
lands a job with a handsome employer, who thinks she's a single girl.
The tempest is short-lived, and by the fade-out, Ralph
once again intones, "Baby, you're the greatest," and envelops Alice
in an embrace capable of propelling the show's broad slapstick into
the realm of divine romantic comedy. "That kiss was very important,"
Gleason told interviewer Bill Zehme. "Without it, people would have
hated The Honeymooners. They would have thought, 'Jesus, it's
just arguing all the time.'"
Ralph seeks sanctuary with the Nortons when he and Alice
have a major row over an impending visit from her mother.
Ralph regrets his most recent outburst at Norton when
his pal suddenly holds the deciding vote in an important election at
the Raccoon Lodge.
Ralph and Ed easily persuade the lodge brothers to ban
their wives from the Raccoons' annual fishing trip--now all they have
to do is convince Trixie and Alice.
Ralph trades in his bowling ball to buy Alice's Christmas
gift in this modern revamp of O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi."
The episode ends with a priceless moment that preserves
forever the spontaneity of the show's theatrical origins, when Gleason--obviously
buoyed by holiday cheer--stops the final curtain to introduce the cast
in an impromptu curtain call.
Hoping to win a $50 prize, Ralph attends the annual Raccoon
Lodge costume ball dressed as a man from space.
Ralph is at loose ends when Alice moves in with her mother
after his latest outburst, until Norton convinces him to transcribe
his apology onto a record.
Ralph goes bowling on the eve of his company physical--against
Alice's warning--and returns home with a sore sacroiliac.
When Alice takes on baby-sitting jobs to pay for the phone
she's secretly installed, Ralph suspects she's having an affair.
Telephones and children were both taboo in the Kramdens'
cold-water walk-up. The gross misunderstandings that fueled many Honeymooners
plots could too easily have been cleared up with a simple phone call,
and who wanted that? Gleason and his writers were also aware that the
show's stringent production demands practically mandated that the Kramden
remain childless. "Kids can't time jokes or lines or dialogue," Gleason
explained. "To do a live show with them, you'd be dead. So I decreed
Ralph is a man obsessed when he lands a chance to break
the bank on a big-money quiz show.
Con-man Ralph sells Ed a percentage of his entire future
earnings, but has second thoughts after an eccentric old woman bequeaths
him a fortune in her will.
Inspired by a pair of teenagers, the Kramdens and Nortons
decide to recapture their lost youth at a skating rink.
The writers rarely passed an opportunity to exact a sight
gag from Gleason's graceful girth, whether it meant dressing him up
as a man from space for a costume ball or, as in this episode, setting
him loose at a skating rink to make a spectacle of himself on wheels.
Ronnie Burns, George and Gracie's son, took a break from
The Burns and Allen Show to make a guest appearance in this episode.
Only after Ralph convinces his boss to invest in his new
snack-food sensation does he discover that Kram-Mar's Delicious Mystery
Appetizer is dog food.
Ralph ruins his sister-in-law's wedding night when he
convinces her mild-mannered groom to assume his rightful place as lord
of the manor.
The husbands are jealous when a Latin lover moves into
the building and sweeps the wives off their feet with suave manners
and free mambo lessons.
The Kramdens are evicted after Ralph stubbornly refuses
to pay a five-dollar rent increase.
Ralph suspects hanky-panky when Alice postpones his surprise
birthday party to arrange a clandestine meeting with a genteel interior
A chance meeting with a self-made millionaire inspires
Ralph to embark on a rigorous self-improvement program.
Ralph thinks he's king of his castle, but it's Alice who
lays down the law when the local paper prints his inflammatory views
on a woman's place in the home.
A summons from the IRS has Ralph imagining the worst.
A pair of thugs holds Ed and the Kramdens hostage after
Ralph witnesses a robbery outside Harry's pool hall.
Ralph is so sure that he's about to be named Raccoon of
the Year that he drives Alice mad rehearsing his acceptance speech.
Ralph is delighted to be cast as the lead in the Lodge's
annual fund-raiser, until he finds out that Norton is slated to appear
as his co-star.
Ralph attempts to schmooze his boss over a game of pool,
but it's Norton who scores all the points.
A long train ride gets even longer after Norton accidentally
handcuffs himself to Ralph during their trip to the Raccoon Convention
This episode is fondly remembered for the classic handcuff
routine, but in The Official Honeymooners Treasury, authors Peter
Crescenti and Bob Columbe revealed that the entire bit was a last-minute
improvisation devised to fill time after another gag was cut at dress
rehearsal. "Jackie and Art played this incredible routine of trying
to sleep in the upper and lower berths with their hands locked together
in these handcuffs," reports actor Humphrey Davis. "And five minutes
was used up just like that, with absolutely incredible comic invention."
Ralph has his first traffic accident--on the way to accept
an award for being the safest bus driver in the city.
Norton follows Ralph's advice to gain a promotion at work,
and soon finds himself selling irons door-to-door.
Alice and Trixie are abandoned by their husbands at a
dinner party while Ed and Ralph heap lavish attention on a vapid blonde.
After Ralph is challenged to a boxing match by a local
tough, he and Ed devise a scheme to force the bus driver's flinty opponent
to back down.
With dreams of free rent, a salary--and tips!--Ralph signs
on as building superintendent at 328 Chauncey Street.
Ralph brags about his success to one of Alice's old suitors
and then has to make good on his boast when the man unexpectedly arrives
at the garage.
The series came to an abrupt end with this episode.
After Gleason voluntarily retired the half-hour Honeymooners
at the end of the 1955-56 season, the Kramdens and Nortons continued
to make occasional appearances on his variety show until it, too, was
finally canceled in 1970--an incidental casualty in the CBS housecleaning
that cleared the way for the network's bold new comedies, including
a new show called All in the Family.
Within a few months, Ralph's traditional Saturday-night
spot would be occupied by another bellicose, blue-collar Everyman. He
was a little older than Ralph, but they shared similar tastes in interior
decoration. Like the diligent bus driver, Archie Bunker worked hard
at his job--though he was quick to spot any scheme that might net him
a quick profit. And like Ralph, he was utterly dependent on the patience
and wisdom of his long-suffering wife--though he never understood just
They created quite a stir, this new family on the block.
They were often loud, usually abrasive, and really very much in love.
We were certain we'd never met anyone quite like Archie and Edith Bunker.
And yet, in so many ways, we'd known them all along.