Show: Remembering When

Episode: 868-135 The Honeymooners


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Episode Description:

The Honeymooners was an American sitcom, based on a recurring 1951–55 sketch of the same name. It originally aired on the DuMont network's Cavalcade of Stars and subsequently on the CBS network's The Jackie Gleason Show hosted by Jackie Gleason, and filmed before a live audience. It debuted as a half-hour series on October 1, 1955. Although initially a ratings success—becoming the #2 show in the United States its first season—it faced stiff competition from The Perry Como Show, 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. Gleason went on to revive The Honeymooners as sketches and hour-long specials off and on until 1978. The Honeymooners was one of the first U.S. television shows to portray working-class married couples in a grittier non-idyllic manner living in a run down Brooklyn apartment complex.

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.

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 by inserting language to that effect into her contract.

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 and had aired every Saturday since. 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.

Critical reaction to The 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".[9] In February 1956, the show was moved to the 8 pm(et) 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.

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SD (Standard Definition) File

File Name of SD Episode: 868-135 The Honeymooners.mpg

Total SD Episode Video Runtime (hh:mm:ss): 00:28:43

File Size of SD Episode Video: 1,323,310,022 Bytes

Resolution of SD Episode Video: 720x480

Date SD Episode Video Uploaded: Sunday, June 9, 2013 - 12:34


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