Originally broadcast 1955-56 on CBS. The sometimes madcap, sometimes touching life of bus driver Ralph Kramden and his wife Alice (who live in a cold-water walk-up apartment in Brooklyn based on Jackie Gleason's childhood home at 328 Chauncy Street) and their neighbors, sewer worker Ed Norton and his wife Trixie. Ralph and Norton are constantly embroiled in one crackpot get-rich-quick scheme after another.Born from a series of occasional sketches on the variety-format series The Jackie Gleason Show (many of which were rather misleadingly touted as "lost episodes" decades later), The Honeymooners was eventually spun off into its own series,featuring Jackie Gleason as big-mouthed, soft-hearted pseudo-bully Ralph and Art Carney as Norton, with Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden and Joyce Randolph as Trixie. (Pert Kelton originally played Alice on in the sketches on The Jackie Gleason Show but was blacklisted during the HUAC "Red Scare" and forced out of the cast. Uncle John's Bathroom Reader claims that Kelton's official reason for being fired was that "her boobs were too big").Along with I Love Lucy, this is one of the ur-SitComs from the early days of television. While a one-season affair as a standalone series (it regularly got trounced in the ratings by The Perry Como Show during its initial network run), it remained a part of Gleason's reconstituted variety show until the end of its run, found a second life in ubiquitous syndicated reruns, and became a certified cultural icon, widely imitated (in particular by The Flintstones) both in Hollywood and abroad. (There have been at least two Swedish versions, for instance.) In the late 70s ABC aired two one hour Honeymooners specials, one for Christmas and one for Valentine's Day. A movie version of The Honeymooners with an all-black cast (including Cedric The Entertainer as Ralph) was released in theaters in June 2005. The verdict? In the words of one reviewer, "How sweet it isn't."In 2002 CBS aired a TV movie called "Gleason" starring Everybody Loves Raymond 's Brad Garrett as The Great One - one scene of which features Gleason creating the basics of The Honeymooners along with his other characters.
The series was spoofed in several '50s Looney Tunes shorts. Most notably were three shorts that cast the characters as mice. In one Bugs Bunny cartoon, caricatured versions of Ralph and Ed are depicted as hungry train hobos who, when they see Bugs, naturally try to eat him.
Ralph: I'll spell it. (pauses) I'll spell it! Alice: Well? Go ahead. Ralph:(agitated) I'll spell it when you give me $16,000 for spelling it! Alice:(total disbelief) Sixteen thousand dollars for spelling it!? I'll give you $32,000 if you can SAY it!
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Ralph and Alice are constantly fighting, but have such a moment at the end of every episode, giving an opportunity for Ralph to say one of his catchphrases: "Baby, you're the greatest."
Catch Phrase: "To the moon, Alice!", "Baby, you're the greatest!", "Bang! Zoom!", "Hamana-hamana-hamana-hamana", (spoken by Ed) "Hey, Ralphie boy!" (and "Sheesh! Whatta grouch!" after being told to Get Out), in the "lost episodes" both "You are a mental case" for Ralph to Ed and "Eh, shut up" for Alice to Ralph.
Fry: He was just using space travel as a metaphor for beating his wife.
Celebrity Lie / Celebrity Paradox: A Jackie Gleason Show sketch (later redone in one of the '70s color specials) has Ralph claiming he knows Gleason and can book him for the Raccoons' annual dance.
One of the "lost" Christmas episodes featured Alice sending Ralph out to get special potato salad as she prepared the apartment for a holiday party. During the rest of the segment Gleason returned as his now lesser known characters including Rudy the Repairman, Joe the Bartender, The Poor Soul, and Reginald Van Gleason the Third, before finally returning as Ralph.
Another "Lost Episode" revealed that Ralph and Alice's Landlord is none other than Jack Benny!
Gleason cameoed as Ralph in the "Lucy Visits Jack Benny" episode of Here's Lucy in 1968. In the story Lucy and Company are vacationing in Jack's Palm Beach home (long story). Jack, being Jack, charges for everything, and an evening BBQ turns out to not be for them but rather tourists on a bus, who line up, give Jack a dollar apiece which he puts in a wooden box he's holding. A man who works for Jack says that the bus driver would like to know if he can have a bite too. Jack says "Of course" and the man calls "Ok, Ralph, you can come in." Gleason comes in shyly looking around at everyone (he acts more like his Poor Soul character than Ralph), slowly starts to assemble a hamburger, then starts to take a bite. He notices the box of dollars in Jack's hands, takes a dollar, putting it atop his burger as lettuce and again raises it to his mouth saying "Oh, how sweet it is!"
Department of Redundancy Department: TV Land noticed that much of the scripts were people repeating what they or other people had just said (for example, Ralph: "It can't be! It can't be!"), and created a promo highlighting this fact (calling the effect Duo Dialog).
Domestic Abuse: Despite what some parodies tell you, totally averted. Ralph was a pompous bully-wanna-be, but Alice was the emotionally stronger of the pair by far. In a mix of Closer to Earth and Over and Under the Top, Alice ignored Ralph's impotent threats of violence while Ralph was instantly cowed by dirty looks from Alice.
Don't Explain the Joke: An odd example that's not the show's fault at all; one episode has Ralph and Norton accidentally handcuffed together on a train, forcing Ralph to get out of bed whenever Norton wants something, much to the former's chagrin. After Norton prepares a cigarette, you can clearly hear a kid in the audience anticipate that Norton forgot to get a match.
555: In recent syndicated and cable cast showings of the episode in which the Kramdens get a telephone, some of the numbers are dubbed over when spoken by the characters.
Follow the Leader: The show created the term 'lost episode', although ironically they weren't lost, Gleason knew all along that he had copies of the live sketches in storage, he just didn't know what to do with them. Now any time a previously unaired or censored episode of a series is released, it's generally labeled a 'lost episode'.
Sometimes lampshaded with Ralph just repeatedly pointing to the door and/or mouthing the words. Norton watches for a few seconds before saying, "You want me to get out, Ralph?" before Ralph then shouts the words.
Get Rich Quick Scheme: A common theme on the show, in which Ralph is constantly throwing away his and Norton's wages on foolish get-rich-quick schemes.
Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Said word for word in one episode by Ralph to Ed before a coin flip. It goes over Ed's head, of course, but after Alice glares at Ralph, Ralph says "Don't look at me that way, I learned that trick from you when you got me to marry you!"
Herr Doktor: In one episode, Ralph calls on a psychologist to administer "ze truth serum" to Norton to figure out why he has been sleepwalking.
I Ate WHAT?: In one episode, Alice takes care of a dog, and puts some leftover dog food in the icebox. Ralph and Ed find it, taste it and like it, and Ralph sees a money-making opportunity to market this delicious appetizer, tries to sell his boss on the idea... until one of the co-workers who raises dogs takes a sniff of it.
Last Name Basis: Ralph calls Ed Norton "Norton". For that matter, it seems like everyone calls him 'Norton' much more than they do 'Ed'...including Trixie who only calls him "My Ed" when she's worried about him like when he's sleepwalking.
Minsky Pickup: In the episode called "The $99,000 Answer" (after the fictional TV show Ralph is going on), when Ralph is cramming for an appearance on a game show where he has to identify songs, Norton is helping him by playing songs on the piano. To Ralph's consternation, EACH song is preceded by Norton "warming up" which consists of the first few notes of "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" followed by "dadum, dadum dum dum!" (The bit with the Minsky Pickup is here starting at 6:40) It's the only Honeymooners episode that has its own page on The Other Wiki.
Ralph: Why must you always play... (mimics the notes of "Swanee River") ...before you go in and play the song I'm trying to guess?
Norton: If I told you once, I told you a thousand times, it's the only way I warm up before I play the piano. A pitcher warms up in the bullpen before he pitches the ball game; I gotta warm up before I play the piano. I hope I don't have to tell you this again.
Megaton Punch: Ralph constantly threatens to do this to Alice. Judging by the events in "The Bensonhurst Bomber", he probably could knock her clear to the moon. But he never does, and never will — the only reason he hit a guy in that episode is because he thought it was part of an act.
Never Wake Up A Sleepwalker: One whole episode shows Norton walking in his sleep. Ralph is forced to look after him and even ponders waking him, against which Alice warns him, because it's dangerous to disturb a sleepwalker.
No Indoor Voice: Ralph shouts a lot, especially when he gets angry enough, which is relatively common on this show.
Obnoxious In-Laws: Ralph dreads the visits of his mother-in-law, because she constantly implies that Alice could've done better than him.
The Other Darrin: Audrey Meadows as Alice, with Pert Kelton as The Pete Best. Kelton lost her job due to the blacklist. Also Joyce Randolph replaced Elaine Stritch (yes, Jack Donaghy's mom) as Trixie when the show jumped to NBC.
Perpetual Poverty. To Ralph's chagrin. Alice isn't as bothered, although she does get a bit envious at times over Trixie's TV and phone.
Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In the episode "A Matter of Record", as Ralph's mother-in-law makes wisecracks about him to Alice, he glowers at her and says, "YOU! Are a BLABBERMOUTH!!!" This causes not just Alice's mother to leave, but Alice herself walks out on her husband as well.
He even says "Blab! Ber! Mouth!
Real Life Writes the Plot: Jackie Gleason based the apartment on his childhood home; Art Carney based his trademark of waving his hands before doing anything on a ritual habit his father had before he would write anything.
Snap Back: One episode has Ralph being laid off, forcing Alice to get a job. By the end of the episode, things are back to normal.
Lampshaded in an episode of Family Guy in which the same thing happenend to Peter and he remarked how odd it was that Ralph had his job again by the next episode.
Stan Freberg: Recorded one of the many parodies of the show — "The Honeyearthers", in which the cast are all natives of the Moon.
Strongly Worded Letter / Irrevocable Message: The "Lost Episode" "Letter to the Boss." Ralph thinks he's been fired after being told to turn in his uniform, so he dictates to Norton a hilariously hostile letter where he calls his boss JJ Marshall a "dirty bum" and a "miserable lowlife" and that he "ought to turn in" his "membership card to the human race." Ralph tells Norton to sign it "Respectfully yours, etcetera etcetera." Later, Ralph finds out from a higher-up at the bus company that he's been promoted to traffic manager. Ralph is thrilled but remembers the letter so he and Norton have to run off and find it before Ralph's boss sees it. Oh, and Norton ACTUALLY SIGNED the letter "Etcetera, etcetera."
In the filmed episode "The Man From Space", a knob falls off of Ralph's spaceman costume while he tries to get Alice to guess what he's supposed to be. Alice picks it up and hands it to Ralph. Instead of stopping filming Gleason simply ad-libs, "Gimme that. That's my Denaturalizer", and the scene continues.
In "Better Living Through TV", as Ralph and Norton rehearse a commercial to sell an all-purpose kitchen gadget, part of the gadget falls off. Gleason ad-libs by picking it up and saying, "Maybe we ought to say something about spear-fishing?"
Trivia websites like IMDB have pointed out that a great deal of the show featured Throw It In moments. Apparently, Gleason had something of a photographic memory, and didn't like to rehearse, so he would only look at the script once before appearing live on air. When he forgot his lines, he would pat his stomach as a signal to the other actors, so they could cover for him. It often fell to Audrey Meadows to get the scene back on track; for instance, she would glance at the refrigerator when someone needed to cross to it.
In one episode Ralph wants to invest some money and Alice reminds him of some of his previous investment schemes, including lo-cal pizza and glow in the dark wallpaper. Lo-cal pizza of course can now be found in any supermarket, while some companies actually did come out with glow in the dark/black light wall paper in the 60s.
You Look Familiar: The very first Honeymooners sketch featured Art Carney as a passing policemen who gets a container of flour dropped on him from the Kramdens' window. Ed Norton would make his first appearence in the second sketch.
In the crossover Christmas episode noted above, Alice never notices how everyone looks like Ralph suddenly.