"The Honeymooners" Classic 39 One at a Time (Episode-by-Episode Thread)

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by RayS, Mar 7, 2017.

  1. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I've done film-by-film (Woody Allen) and track-by-track (a number of Bob Dylan albums), so I figured it's worth a shot to do an episode-by-episode thread of my favorite season in TV history - "The Honeymooners" "Classic 39" from 1955-1956.

    I ask that contributors:

    Limit the scope of their posts to the current episode under discussion, or episodes already discussed (You can tell us what your favorite episode is when we get to your favorite episode).

    Avoid making general, overarching comments about the entire series. (Although those are quite welcome when we've finished with the 39.)


    This may seem a bit oppressive, but from my experience in similar threads, it REALLY helps to focus the discussion and allows us to dig deeper into each episode.

    I'll try to allow a day or two between each discussion to allow people to watch or re-re-re-watch each episode. If you know what Classic 39 episode I just referenced, than this thread is for you. :)
     
  2. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Let's go, Captain Video! Great topic!
     
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  3. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Episode #1 - "TV or not TV"

    Aired: October 1, 1955



    This episode was voted the 26th "Greatest TV Episode of All-Time" by TV Guide in 1997 (so says Wikipedia).

    First off (for me) this episode is incredibly funny (even on the hundredth - five hundredth?) viewing!

    Norton's responses to watching "Captain Video" .... Gleason's hilarious response to hearing the gun shots on the TV (is Carney laughing in character or out of character?) ... heads I win, tails you lose ...

    A few things I find interesting:

    They really hit the ground running in the transition from the variety show skits to the sitcom. This is a really crisp script. As Joyce Randolph pointed out in interviews, Trixie's "job" was often to come down and talk to Alice to provide the exposition for the episode (with minimal gags), then get out of the way as the funny business started. This episode is a perfect example. It's interesting to see how adamant Gleason was about capturing the episodes live despite having the ability for retakes. Audrey Meadows botches one of the jokes by transposing Washington and Lincoln (making the joke nonsensical) ... Gleason tries to cover for her ("Awww ...shaddup") but she quickly moves on from the mistake ... and they clearly gave no thought to going back to fix it. Similarly, Gleason dealing with exploding popcorn bag sure looks unscripted ... he deals with it like a champ (and gets a laugh).
     
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  4. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Episode Ephemera:

    There are lots of names thrown around in this episode that meant little to me when I watched reruns in the 1970s without the benefit of the Internet. But with it, in 2017 ....

    "Captain Video" had already been canceled 6 months before this episode aired. "Captain Video" was originally, like "The Honeymooners" (as part of "Cavalcade of Stars") on the DuMont Network. Interesting that CBS didn't care about Gleason referencing a show from another network (even one that had been canceled).

    There really is a film called "Rhythm on Ice" (a short from 1946), but none of the actors Ralph mentions are in it. I knew who Buddy Ebsen was (thanks to "The Beverly Hillbillies", which was still a good 7 years away), but had never heard of any of the other folks. They are all real actors.

    Jane Frazee was a minor actress who had given up film to work in TV by this time.
    Buddy Ebsen was currently appearing on "Davy Crockett" (which gets famously referenced by Harvey Wallstetter Jr. in a later episode - he never knew that Davy Crockett was so fat!)
    Kenny Baker's claim to fame (at least in my world) was playing the romantic lead in The Marx Brothers "At the Circus"
    Jerry Colonna worked with Bob Hope during this period. He appeared in two "Ice Capades" films in the early 40s, perhaps the inspiration for the whole ice skating motif
    Frankie Darro is maybe most famous for being inside Robbie the Robot in "Forbidden Planet"

    Maxie Rosenbloom and Kingfish Levinsky were both real prize fighters, but both had long since retired, and moved on to acting. There was no TV show called "Fights of the World" that I could find, but DuMont was broadcasting "Boxing From St. Nicholas Arena" during this time period.

    While there were a ton of Charlie Chan movies made, "The Galloping Ghost of Mystery Gulch" was not one of them. "The Galloping Ghost" was the nickname for football star Red Grange.

    The episode marks the "Classic 39" debut of supporting players George Petrie and Frank Marth, but neither one appears on screen! They are the voices of Captain Video and the announcer on the "CV" show.
     
  5. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    I haven't seen this in ages, so pardon my having to ask, but: Do the ladies show any interest whatsoever in watching the new TV? I don't recall any.
     
  6. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    It's Alice who wants the TV (she wants to see Liberace!), but no, she's never seen watching a thing. Trixie disappears from the episode after the first couple of minutes. In one of the lost episodes ("My Fair Landlord") we find out that Norton is as equally devoted to "The Mickey Mouse Club" as he is to "Captain Video".
     
  7. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Oh, yeah...."I wanna see Liberace!" (Or "Look at Liberace" or some such thing.) Of course!

    [EDIT: "I wanna look at Liberace!"]
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
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  8. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    FWIW, the $75 that Ralph has tucked away in the bank (giving Alice "financial security") is about $675 in today's dollars.

    "I got it here!"
    "...and you got it here and you got it here, and you got it HERE!"

    I love how Norton actually answers out loud when the announcer asks questions on Captain Video. Reminds me of the scene in Napoleon Dynamite when he watches the learn-to-dance video and the announcer asks something like, "Are you ready to boogie," and Napoleon responds out loud, "Yes."

    Anybody know if there were actual Captain Video Space Helmets that viewers could buy, like Norton has? I doubt it, but....
    Was there a pledge?
     
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  9. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    According to the "Captain Video" entry on Wikipedia, there were a number of tie-in merchandising items, including an "official" space helmet. The article suggests that sales were boosted by the appearance of the helmet and gun on "The Honeymooners", but that claim seems a little iffy, since the show had gone off the air by then.

    Regarding the pledge, Wikipedia says "During commercial breaks, DuMont aired special "Video Ranger messages". They ranged from public service spots on morality and civics to advertisements for Video Ranger merchandise. Sounds like the pledge could derive from one of these messages.
     
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  10. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    I find it mildly interesting that there are two references in this episode to Ed as a "poor soul," that, of course, being a name for one of Gleason's best-known characters: The Poor Soul - Jackie Gleason Video Clips

    Also, Carney, of course, would later appear in a film called "The Late Show," and here they are up all night watching The Late, Late, LATE show.

    Great episode, IMO.

    Granted, it's in widescreen stretch-o-vision, but here's the full episode on YouTube:
     
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  11. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Yes, the reference to The Poor Soul is surely intentional (a little homage to the character who had been put in mothballs for the '55-'56 season?)

    Did you not like the YouTube link I put in the third post in the thread? :)
     
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  12. Luke The Drifter

    Luke The Drifter Forum Resident

    Location:
    United States
    They did indeed hit the ground running. I actually thought the Washington/Lincoln joke worked. Are we sure it was a flub? Lincoln being kind of associated with a log cabin, where the first part with Washington's being preserved.

    I don't think it is very funny either way, but it did work for me.
     
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  13. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Ha! I clearly glossed right over that, somehow.
     
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  14. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm fairly certain it's a flub because of Gleason's response. When Meadows would make a mistake, Gleason's usual response was to tell Alice to shut up or to issue one of his vague threats - trying to cover for her and distract the audience. I don't think the joke is all that funny the other way either, but Washington's birth place would have been about 75 years older than Lincoln's. But yeah, the idea that she's equating their apartment to a log cabin isn't out of the question (although it never occurred to me).
     
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  15. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    In my top ten favorite episodes. Not only are the lines great but the facial and body expressions are just as funny. My favorite facial expressions are from Ralph when he and Norton are fighting over watching the romantic movie or Captain Video. When Ralph "tests" his reach for all of his goodies on the table just before turning on the TV is hilarious.
     
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  16. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Yes! Ralph has this smug, self-satisfied look on his face because he thinks he's high-brow watching a romantic movie (which he may be, in comparison to his friend with the official space helmet). :)

    Until some time around the early 80s, WPIX in New York aired edited versions of the episodes. It was a huge deal (to me anyway) when they starting airing them uncut. I still remember, about 35 years later, that the edited version of this episode started the second act with Ralph asking Alice if she had the paper. No opening the packages, no testing his reach. Quite a loss!
     
  17. John Moschella

    John Moschella Forum Resident

    Location:
    Christiansburg, VA
    I'm sure there are a lot of people who read this thread with a big smile (like me), that **** is so funny.

    I like Norton leaning back in the chair.

    "space helmet off, Captain Video, wherever you are" is a common quote I use around the house.
    Of course, my wife understands, but the kids chalk it up to yet another old-timie cultural reference.
     
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  18. John Moschella

    John Moschella Forum Resident

    Location:
    Christiansburg, VA
    I grew up on the WPIX shows in the 70s (followed, of course, by Star Trek for many years) but didn't get to see the full things until they came out on video because I moved.
    You've seen them so many times that you still know the exact parts they left off even today.
     
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  19. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    That is funny.
    Poor Norton is drenched in sweat when he takes that helmet off. He must have been roasting under the bright lights.
     
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  20. Benno123

    Benno123 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    From the October 1, 1955 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  21. Benno123

    Benno123 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    Some articles in regards to the first show. As you can see the new filmed format was not that well received by the critics.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  22. Benno123

    Benno123 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
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  23. Benno123

    Benno123 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    I have always loved this episode. The scene where Alice yells about seeing the same walls and how she wants to see Liberace is one of my favorite quotes from the series. Regardless of the feeling at the time I think this is a strong start to the weekly series. Gleason ripping the bag open and chuckling to himself always makes me laugh. It's moments like that that set his shows apart from others.
     
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  24. RayS

    RayS Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thank you for the terrific posts! A bit mind blowing to think that one of top TV episodes OF ALL TIME got negative reviews on its first airing. It seems like these critics had their minds made up before they even watched it. The spontaneity of the live show is nearly intact (apart from the knowledge that something REALLY wild - like Gleason breaking his leg again - was not going to happen). The mistakes are there, the ad-libbed moments, the lack of rehearsal, the live audience response. And yes, a story about getting a TV was old hat for folks in the nice suburbs in 1955, but the idea was that the Kramdens lived in relative squalor (and Ralph part cheapskate and part incredible squanderer).

    On another note:

    According to What Happened in 1955 including Pop Culture, Significant Events, Key Technology and Inventions

    How Much things cost in 1955:
    Black and White TV $99.95

    So yeah, for $150 between them, they probably did get a "great" set!
     
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  25. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    The soundtrack on this box set has a problem in that it is very quiet. I have to turn my set up loud to compensate for it. All of the other episodes sound fine except for TV or Not TV.
    [​IMG]
     
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