Saturday, November 24, 2018

Weekend Post

So last Wednesday I did a post sharing my love for the 1950’s sitcom classic, THE HONEYMOONERS. In the comment section I got the expected few who agreed and adored it and those that felt the show was meh. And that’s great. That’s what the comment section is for.  And the idiots who called me a libtard just got deleted.   

I also received a number of comments that took the show to task for lead character Ralph Kramden’s “threat of domestic violence.” He would constantly threaten to hit his wife, Alice, or “send her to the moon.” In light of today’s #MeToo era is Ralph’s behavior offensive? And although his threats were jokes, is it okay to find them funny today?

So let me offer my feelings on the subject… with the understanding that it’s just one man’s opinion. But it’s a man who happens to have a blog so here goes.

First off, as a lot of readers pointed out, for all his bluster, at no time did we ever believe Ralph would actually act on his threats. How do we know this? By watching Alice’s reaction to them. She never bats an eye. So it was crystal clear that she was never in the slightest danger. And whenever Alice got mad or felt Ralph had gone too far she could level him with one “Ralph, don’t you dare.” He immediately retreated, instantly becoming a contrite tub of jello. Alice was the boss of that relationship. And you have to put that into context because at the time all the other domestic sitcoms featured an authoritative husband (a la Ricky) and a ditz-brain wife (Lucy).

Ralph Kramden never laid a hand on Alice. Watch I LOVE LUCY – there are episodes where Ricky puts Lucy over his knee and spanks her. Yikes! Where’s the outcry against I LOVE LUCY?

My second point goes back to context. Expecting characters sixty years ago to have our current sensibilities is not fair to them. It’s just not. It is fair to say you personally are disturbed by watching such behavior, don’t find it funny, and would prefer watching something else.

But in light of this particular show, I feel I can watch it and laugh in all good conscience. I don’t feel it makes me less enlightened, I don’t feel it makes me a hypocrite, and I don’t feel there’s a part of me that should feel guilty.

Ralph Kramden is a sad character. He lives in a shit hole, has a go-nowhere job, and strives for that brass ring of the American Dream that you know he’ll never capture. He has get-rich quick schemes that all backfire. He’s physically unattractive. He’s not very smart.

He’s a frustrated man. But a key element of comedy is frustration. And as portrayed so brilliantly by Jackie Gleason, Ralph Kramden is extremely funny. What makes his “threats of domestic violence” so funny is how hollow they are. What makes his anger so funny is that how benign he ultimately is. No one shivers in their boots when Ralph erupts. They’re tantrums. John Cleese in FAWLTY TOWERS does the same thing. He and Gleason and a few others have turned the act of the meltdown into true hilarity.

So bottom line, I’m not justifying Ralph Kramden’s behavior. And today you could never in a million years sell this show. But seen for what it is and what it was I think there’s still a lot of enjoyment to be derived from watching THE HONEYMOONERS. Guilt free.

57 comments :

E. Yarber said...

Jack Benny once said that the biggest mistake he made on his radio show was the time they decided to reuse an old script from the 1930s featuring Rochester, figuring the audience would never recognize material done years earlier. Only after they'd done it did they realize that the jokes were built around stereotypes that they had long since dropped from the character and would never consciously return to. Times change while old programs remain the same, and even if there was some way to "colorize" them to suit later modes, you'd probably have to repeat the process a generation later.

That said, the HONEYMOONERS post led me to watch some of the shows again, and I found myself more impressed than ever at the harsh but redemptive energy of the program. The intensity of Ralph and Alice's arguments perfectly fit their circumstances, and Ralph's threats invariably come when he has reached a brick wall logically and has nowhere else to continue. He's like a kid making a fist in frustration, but that's as far as it can go, and the general outcome of an episode is a reconciliation and embrace. The show works perfectly in its own context, while there are plenty of other works that remain loathsome even if you understand their perspective.

Pizzagod said...

Hey Ken-
Sure can't argue with any of that. It IS unfair to impose todays' mores on the stuff that used to be popular. Will Bilko be decried for enriching himself while an employee of the U.S.A.? (Read into that what you want, but in Ernie's defense, he didn't have a Florida country club or buildings with his name on them).

You really define the dynamic of that relationship well. Ralph would be a hopeless schmendrick without Alice in his life. She was the more actualized human being. Lucy on the other hand was a lesser character, and Ricky's life would have probably gone on quite happily without her.

I think the only marriage where there was equality in old TV shows were Pete and Gladys or the Cleavers. I'd include Ozzie and Harriet, if I could remember any of them (if it weren't for characters named Lumpy and Thorny I don't think I'd remember any of that).

Gleason was in my opinion a genius. He touched on a lot of facets of humanity-and was really underrated as an actor (I just saw Requiem for a Heavyweight again, and remember his cool detachment in The Hustler. Think about that, acting with Rod Stieger and Paul Newman. Walking in pretty tall cotton.)

There was nothing hurtful in the Honeymooners. It wasn't built on the foundation that the characters were to be mocked (Amos 'N Andy) or that half of the couple was a hopeless ditz (Burns and Allen) or that the woman was some pretty little thing that would get in a mess that a man had to pull her out of (Gale Storm if memory serves me).

Ralph knew that Alice was the best thing in his life and he worked to provide, even though he had a crap job. But he had a relationship. He had a life. He wasn't the sad womanizer I think of when I think of "Love that Bob".

Another show that probably would get taken apart today would be the Beverly HIllbillies. The premise? Fish out of water. Did it mock country people? Um....they had decency, honesty, a work ethic, and were non-judgmental, accepted people for what they were, etc. etc.

People who want to go nuts on The Honeymooners need to get a life.

Janet Ybarra said...

Hey Ken, thanks for posting this. I really appreciate everything you had to say and I'm sorry for people who got mean... you certainly didn't deserve it.

You paint an interesting picture of Ralph Kramden... almost a sort of stereotypical President Dump voter in a sense.

But my problem with it is much less "political" than just someone who grew up with parents going at each other too often.

I just don't like anyone raising a fist like that to a loved one. To me, being in that kind of relationship is exhausting... no way to be.

However, perhaps based on your personal experience and life history, maybe you perceive the content differently. Those differences make the world go round.

What you said that I agree with 100 percent, is "Expecting characters sixty years ago to have our current sensibilities is not fair to them. It’s just not."

That is true and we don't remember that often enough.

It seems like Republicans have cast off science. Sometimes it appears progressives want to ignore history.

And just so you know you aren't the only one having a childhood memory picked apart, apparently THE CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING has been deemed to be racist because Franklin sits off by himself when the kids are having "dinner" out on the lawn:

https://comicbook.com/tv-shows/2018/11/22/charlie-brown-thanksgiving-racist-franklin-scene/


Rick Hannon said...

" ... a go-nowhere job ..." I don't think you understand the nature of bus driving. Granted, one usually ends up where one has started, but, ...

James said...

Part of what I do in my college classes is introduce my students to some older TV series they might not be familiar with, THE HONEYMOONERS being among those series. As I said Wednesday, discussions about THE HONEYMOONERS in recent years have come to center heavily around whether or not Ralph's behavior is abusive and whether or not Alice is guilty of "fat-shaming" Ralph.

What I've noticed about my students in the last few years is that, for many of them, being offended is almost second nature to them. They find possible offense in everything. Every movie, every TV show--so many of these students go into them almost as if they're looking for something to be offended about. I don't know where that comes from. Perhaps it's just a reflection of their being raised in a hyper-sensitive culture.

It's not just 1950s shows. When I show them CHEERS, which many of them have never seen, one of the criticisms that invariably comes up is that minority faces are a rarity on that show. I can count on someone wondering whether or not CHEERS has a "Whites Only" sign nailed up outside.

Incidentally, I LOVE LUCY has come under fire for a couple of occasions on the show where Ricky puts Lucy over his knee. You're probably just not aware of it because LUCY doesn't seem to be on your radar the way that THE HONEYMOONERS is.

I find it interesting, though, that many female students respond more positively to I LOVE LUCY, their reason being that they see Lucy as being rebellious. She's in a marriage that follows the traditional rule that the husband is clearly in charge, but she won't follow that rule. She's forever defying Ricky's "orders" and doing whatever she wants, in spite of what he thinks or wants. (That's how many of the women in my class look at it, anyway.)

On another note, it still throws me that my students these days think of CHEERS as just another "old TV show," one that most of them have never seen. But then, the series had completed its network run and was in reruns well before most of them were born.

Dennis said...

Ralph Kramden was the only one of Gleason's recurring characters that I ever liked. The others -- like Reginald Van Gleason, The Poor Soul, Rudy the Repairman, Charlie the Braggart -- I don't find particularly funny, and watching a complete Gleason variety show is kind of a slog, to be honest.

Always thought it was interesting that when Gleason replaced Audrey Meadows as Alice (she didn't want to move to Miami, where Gleason taped his show), he went with Sheila MacRae, who was quite noticeably younger than he was. Ralph Kramden wound up with a trophy wife. Sheila MacRae was just an echo of Audrey Meadows, though, and those color HONEYMOONERS skits from the 1960s don't even begin to live up to the filmed half-hours from the 1950s.

ELS said...

When someone turns on the Honeymooners today, there are two options; watch it or don't. No matter how offended one gets, no matter how repressive or insulting one finds it, it will not be changed. It will not be updated. It will not be rereleased. So there are two options. Watch it and laugh. Or change the channel to something less offensive. Even a three year old can change the channel (again and again and again...)

And in the end, we always knew how Ralph felt: "Baby, you're the greatest!"

Wendy M. Grossman said...

While I greatly admired Lucille Ball's comic abilities - and even more how hard she appears to have worked to achieve them given her beginnings as a dramatic actress - I never cared for I LOVE LUCY that much. I did and do love THE HONEYMOONERS, and I think Alice's composure and confidence were part of that. Ralph and Alice, Norton and Trixie were all up against some pretty tough constraints, and they worked hard. I don't imagine any of them as Trump voters, though. They were staunch union members.

Alice's and Ralph's marriage had a lot in common with the one depicted in TIL DEATH DO US PART, the original British series on which ALL IN THE FAMILY WAS BASED. The wife in the British series, played by Dandy Nichols, could puncture her husband, Alf Garnet (Warren Mitchell) with a look or a syllable. My memory of that show is that he would wax garrulous on whatever piece of bigotry, and eventually, when she'd had enough, she'd utter a couple of words and all the wind would go out of him.

James: Last year I attended a local (very good) amateur production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Afterwards a couple of the younger members of our group expressed shock at the anti-Seminitism portrayed, and surprise that people still allowed the play to be produced. Well, I said, a) it's Shakespeare and one of his greatest hits at that; and 2) it's a reflection of the attitudes and experiences that time directed at that character. I never imagined having to justify a Shakespeare production.

wg

blinky said...

If you really want to stir up some shit do a review of Amos N Andy. I watched that show in the 60s and it was great. Now it is permanently banned from the light of day. A great cast of black actors erased by purity hindsight.

Anonymous said...

@Pizzagod
What most people don't realize is that The Beverly Hillbillies was not mocking country folk.
It was mocking Southern California - the trends and the phoniness.

Jeff Alexander said...

After reading both your posts on The Honeymooners (a justifiably celebrated TV classic), I couldn't help but wonder if you ever had an opportunity to watch any of the segments that had Pert Kelton before Audrey Meadows took over.
I've seen a few and there is quite a difference in the two Alices. With Audrey's Alice, you knew that she could wither Ralph with just a look or a sardonic remark. The marriage never degenerated into any kind of actual physical violence by either one of them.
With Kelton's interpretation, there was a much darker edge -- Kelton doing a kind of "Irish biddy." I liked her a lot, but, boy, I got the impression that if Ralph did actually try to send Alice "to the moon," Kelton's Alice could punch back and leave a few bruises in the process. They'd then make up by going down to the neighborhood bar and hoisting a few together!
For the record, I never was too impressed with Sheila MacRae as Alice - I got the feeling she was just plain fed up with being married to Ralph and would just as soon leave him as stay married to him. As a result, you wondered why she didn't.

Griff said...

TV shows today are very inclusive. Almost self-consciously so. It's generally obvious that many of them have tried to make sure as many races as possible are represented, in all possible combinations of sexes and sexual orientations. So it shouldn't be surprising that it sticks out to young people raised in this inclusive media environment that most TV shows from the 20th century (and certainly not just CHEERS) are very, very white.

Janet Ybarra said...

Oh, and if given a choice, I would take the BURNS AND ALLEN over I LOVE LUCY.

Their sweet TV relationship on screen reflected their real life love story.

But George and Gracie could consistently create great comedy out of love and kindness rather than anger.

Peter said...

In the age of political correctness and social justice warriors, it would be impossible to make Cheers now. You can just imagine all the whining there would be from offended Twitter SJWs.

Sam would be deemed an example of toxic masculinity because he sleeps with lots of women.

Coach and Woody would be regarded as offensive to people who are intellectually slow.

Diane would be viewed as ridiculing intelligent and academically accomplished women.

Rebecca would be seen as too fixated on the men she falls in love with and therefore not a strong independent businesswoman.

Carla would be called a stereotype of loud working class mothers with lots of children.

Norm would be accused of promoting excessive drinking and also domestic abuse because of his jokes about Vera.

Cliff would be attacked as mocking blue collar workers.

We all know this is what they would say. It's the singular achievement of millenials that they are so painfully humourless and predictable.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I saw a movie recently about a powerful man who demanded sex from desperate women in return for exit visas. I believe it was called CASABLANCA. There may have also been something in there about Nazis. The powerful man turned out to be one of the good guys.


The other night I caught a bit of another movie from the same period, where a man got drunk and raped his wife -- and she loved it. I didn't catch the title. Something about "wind" maybe.


Nothing from the past seems to be up to our high standards, does it? By the way, I once heard a black man say he loved AMOS & ANDY as a kid because it showed black people who were lawyers, cab drivers, police officers, shopkeepers -- everything but the janitors and servants they played on "white" shows. So go figure.

Eric J said...

In my case, it's not that I'm imposing today's norms on something from 60 years ago. I came of age during the Honeymooners first run. My objection to the show was Ralph Kramden, an obnoxious, bloviating bully. I saw no humor in his actions. He wasn't funny to me then. He's not funny to me now.

Television was relatively new then. Watching evening TV was very much a family expectation. We all usually watched what dad wanted to watch. There were few options in the mid-50s in L.A., and only one TV. So when the Honeymooners came on, I left the room to do homework. That's how much I disliked the show. We watched wrestling because my grandma loved it--there were no options. I still have flashbacks of Stan Chambers on KTLA outside the Olympic Auditorium slapping a new Chevy fender with searchlights churning in the background.

People change, society changes. What's funny also changes. There's probably a universal core of what's funny, farting maybe, but I think most comedy requires context and that changes.

cadavra said...

Gleason made fat jokes a central part of his career. As he had total control over the series, those jokes would not have been in the script had he not approved them.

I really am fed up with the PC crowd retroactively putting their "values" on old movies and TV shows. Some years ago I was subjected to a tirade by a woman who was deeply offended by Harold Lloyd's classic SAFETY LAST, because of stereotypical black and Jewish characters who were very minor. I tried to explain to her that you cannot place modern attitudes on a (then) 80-year-old silent film, but this just made her angrier. (And she was neither black nor Jewish.) One reason comedy stinks nowadays is that audiences are so self-victimized that it's become almost impossible to say or do anything funny.

Mike Bloodworth said...

How dare you use the term "libtard?!" Only LIBTARDS can use that word. Someone as progressive as you should know better than to use the "L-T word." Why, if I was a "libtard" I would be truly offended by your use of the word "libtard." If I were you I would immediately apologize to the "libtard" community before the ACLU and other hyper-politically correct groups try to destroy your career and/or legacy as they have with others who have used offensive or derogatory terms. I'm sure that many of your liberal, Hollywood buddies have already started to turn against you for saying "libtard." Even if they themselves aren't "libtards" or closet "libtards." Maybe in the 40's or 50's it was O.K. to use "libtard," but not in 2018.
As most of you know I'm more conservative than the majority of Ken's readers. Yet, my personal opinion of "libtards" as a group has nothing to do with this rant.
M.B.


By the way, just in case you didn't figure it out, its satire, folks.

Timothy said...

Ken,

A year ago I started watching Cheers on Netflix from the start (with one eye towards all the knowledge I've gleaned from your blog). As soon as I got into the Kirstie Allie era, I abandoned watching the show. Sam's overtly sexual harassment of Rebbeca was rather disgusting and disheartening to watch. In one episode, Rebecca limply tosses herself onto a chair and invites Sam to do whatever he pleases to her, just to shut him up. This goes on repeatedly for many, many episodes.

The Honeymooners was of a completely different era, but Cheers? That's post ERA and well into feminism. Sure, it's not a #metoo level of awareness, but that type of humor is markedly out of touch for even that era. I'm curious to your thoughts.

Robert Forman said...

Try watching the early Bond films without cringing. Take for instance his rape of the physiotherapist character in Thunderball. Or how he rapes Pyssy Galore in Goldfinger and thus converts her from being a lesbian. All she needed was a “real” man, don’t you know. Of course, in those days we saw those rapes as “seductions”.

therealshell said...

If you want to see a very violent, sociopathic take on "Ralph Kramden," watch "The Sopranos," one of the greatest shows ever produced (for me). "Tony Soprano" is Ralph with more than just the bluster. There are also, I think, echoes of Lou Costello in James Gandolfini's masterful performances. In spite of the fact that the character WAS a sociopath, Gandolfini made the audience love "Tony Soprano". I know that not everyone will agree with this, but whatchagonnado ?

Janet Ybarra said...

On a separate but related question, would you ever watch an episode of THE COSBY SHOW ever again? I couldn't see him ever again as Cliff Huxtable.

It's a shame the man has a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Brian said...

No one needs to justify or apologize for "The Honeymooners" or "I Love Lucy". They were comedies. They were funny. They hurt no one. And I would imagine that most of the people who are pissing on those shows now are people who couldn't create anything funny or lasting like "The Honeymooners" or "I Love Lucy". So my advice to people who want to be revisionist comedy critics is this: Until you create something equally as funny that lasts more than 50 years, shut the hell up.

Janet Ybarra said...

Remember the timeline of CHEERS (mid to later CHEERS) also aligns with the time of the Clarence Thomas hearings and all of the mores of the time period that implies.

blogward said...

My Dad was a bully in the Ralph Kramsden mode, you knew he'd never actually make physical contact, except that scaring people was good enough. Mum, unfortunately, didn't have the self-esteem to resist - where would she go with 6 kids? That's why The Honeymooners and similar husband/wife sitcoms are bittersweet to me; there's an emotional balance that allows comedy, but late 50's (and later) gender reality was very different.

The deeper point is that the more intense the hatred, the more intense the comedy.

Gwendolyn said...

Perhaps those with a PC mentality should learn to look beyond the obvious. When I was a teenager I loved the movie The Tender Trap.
Today it would probably send youngsters into fits and frothing at the mouth. But rewatching in my dotage I discovered I still liked it.... not for the gooey romance between Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds (talk about a mismatch)...but for Celeste Holm's portrayal of an independent woman and David Wayne's kind, thoughtful gentleman. That's what I had taken away from the movie originally and still do now.

And, as I've mentioned before, Room Service is one of my favorite Frasier episodes. In today's atmosphere would Niles be accused of taking advantage of an inebriated woman?

Max Clarke said...


I always liked Art Carney more than Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners.

I was a kid, but Jackie did such a good job as Ralph, I did not care about him. Also, their apartment was bleak, and they always had problems. Too young to see the humor.

Art Carney, as Ed Norton, was funny even by himself. His distinctive way of speaking and his mannerisms - which provoked Ralph - were enjoyable. A bit like the silent film actors.

And he would later make a good movie co-starring Lily Tomlin, "The Late Show."





Coram_Loci said...

The problem, Ken, is that you are capable of exercising judgment.

You are able to see the bigger picture: the character of the characters and the context of the times.

Orthodoxy, in this case PC orthodoxy, doesn't give people the chance to do that. Obey the rule. Don't think. Don't exercise judgment. Don't look for nuance. No, no. Bang! Zoom! To the Moon! It means one thing and one thing only.

Someone recently described the difference between the innocent and the virtuous. The innocent don't know evil. The virtuous know it but choose to do good.

Kramden Censorship is an attempt to make us innocent. But it does so a the cost of depriving of us the obligation and pleasure of exercising our own discretion and making our own evaluations. Follow the rule. Be a legalist rather than a person.

Kramden's funny if you can see the bigger picture.

MikeN said...

This was in the 1950s. Isn't 'To the moon' a great gift, along the line of Hidden Figures?

Mike Barer said...

I think the foundation of the Archie Bunker character was Ralph Kramden.

D McEwan said...

"Mike Barer said...
I think the foundation of the Archie Bunker character was Ralph Kramden."


Nonsense. The two have little in common. Archie is a far more toxic, genuine bully. Edith is not the real power in that house. Ralph aspires. Archie is settled and stewing in his bigotry. Ralph was full of schtick and physical comedy. Archie had zero schtick and no physical comedy. Ralph was a blowhard, but under it he was an OK guy. You could have a beer with him and enjoy the time. Archie I would not allow in my home.

Caroline Appleby said...

There is literally a 1955 episode of "I Love Lucy" in which Lucy wins an auction for a designer dress without realizing how expensive it is. (The dress costs $500 instead of $100.) And so, she schemes to give herself a painful sunburn, hoping that this will dissuade Ricky from beating her after he finds out how much she spent.

D McEwan said...

I love that episode where Alice learns that Cesar Romero will be on Ralph's bus, but Ralph won't let her do a show in the bus aisle, so she and Trixie Norton dress up as guys, steal another bus, and drive Ralph's route ahead of him to collect Cesar Romero. Comic chaos ensues. Alice winds up going "Waaaaaaa!" on the moon.

Mike Doran said...

A Sense Of History.

This is what people these days don't have anymore.
{And the younger they are, the less likely they are to have it.)

When I was a kid in the '50s, the country was in transition; radio to TV, movies to TV, hardcovers to paperbacks, 78s to 45s (and both to vinyl LPs).

On TV we saw twenty-year-old movies, with many of the same people we saw on newer TV shows.
WWII and Korea were close enough in memory that we only needed minimum explanation.
Race relations were something new; we had to learn as we went.
Politics weren't anywhere nearly as explosive as they would become; civil conversation was still possible.
The list goes on, but I think you get the point.
What we had - what "Millennials" (God, how I hate that word!) don't have, is context.
What we don't recall first- or second-hand, we know where to look it all up.

There's another thing, nobody wants to take the time and effort to look things up anymore (Research? That's something you do in school, fer Chrissakes!).

Ken:
Make a Friday Question out of the above, and answer it (if you dare).



K

Jeff Boice said...

I just feel this whole thing is way over-analyzed. I heard people over the years express their dislike for shows where the characters yelled at one other. Heard that about the Honeymooners, Danny Thomas, and Norman Lear's 70's sitcoms. That's just their personal taste. No big deal.

Ken has commented in the past on how draining it was to do 22 or 25 shows a season, and how he can't imagine doing 39 shows a year like they did in the 50's. The deadline pressure must have been tremendous. So its understandable some questionable stuff would slip through. I've read that Larry Gelbart expressed embarrassment over the House Arrest episode of M*A*S*H. It happens.

I never really thought of Ralph Kramden or Lucy Ricardo as flesh and blood humans-they were sketch comedy characters. Not to say there weren't emotional moments on their shows, but I never gave much thought to the state of their marriages- just as I never gave much thought to why the castaways on Gilligan's Island packed so many clothes for a 3 hour tour.

So I agree with Ken on the Honeymooners. I also agree with Jackie Gleason when he said that 90% of the shows success was due to Art Carney.




Johnny Walker said...

Well said, Ken

Pamela Jaye said...

Without reading any comments -

As a kid who grew up with a father who screamed all the time at wife and kids but never hit - this show has always upset me. I never knew why till some guy mentioned abuse. Screaming is still abuse.
I don't mind if you watch it but I've never found it funny.
The apartment shithole is also depressing.

I don't love Lucy either.
I was born in 59, for reference.

Edward said...

I watched "The Honeymooners" at 11:30 PM while growing up in the NYC area during the late 1970's and early 1980's. One thing that never made sense to me was the visual quality of the show. It was filmed. At the same time, I read/heard that the show was broadcast live. I knew that kinescopes were made for live TV shows and that they were usually poor quality, so something was off. It was not until many years later that I learned that Dumont Network used an "Electronicam," which filmed the show and also broadcasted it live at the same time. Too bad, this camera was not more widely used back then.

http://www.earlytelevision.org/dumont_electronicam.html

BobinVT said...

One of the funniest lines that I remember from The Honeymooners came when Ralph was trying to stall someone knocking on his apartment door. It might have been the episode where he found a suitcase full of money and was scrambling to hide the money before opening the door, fearing that it was the police, the mob, the IRS, etc. As he madly tries to hide the money and the knocks at the door become more insistent, he blurts out “ I can’t open the door right now, my wife is taking a bath in the sink”. Pure Honeymooners and pure Ralph.

Some say that the show has not “aged well” due to Ralph’s perceived bullying. But the comedy, in my opinion, has aged incredibly well. The shows are over 60 years old, and to me they are still laugh out loud funny, even after many repeat viewings. There are episodes available on the internet of just about any old TV show you can think of. I’ve sampled many. None holds up comedically like the Honeymooners. Bilko is close.

BobinVT said...

To this day, the Honeymooners is the only place I have heard anyone refer to themselves as a “moxe”. I always wondered if this was a Brooklynism, or perhaps a word that was dying out just as the show was being filmed.

Boomska316 said...

Friday Question:Are cast photos as awkward and forced as they appear? I don't think I've ever seen one that looked natural.

Donald Benson said...

I suggest that a major reason shows, plays or movies don't "age well" is that decades of ripoffs and riffs (not to mention incessant reruns) have diluted once was once bright and innovative.

I like to think I coined the term homeopathic entertainment, where everything is based not on life but on previous stuff, which itself was based on previous stuff. There was a period when every slasher film with a budget over $30 positioned itself as a satire or deconstruction of other slasher films. More recently, we have sitcoms stubbornly "commenting on" tropes and cliches that largely died with the advent of Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Married With Children.

Gleason himself brought back the Honeymooners with variety show glitz, where we never forgot these were Big Stars on a stage in front of a huge studio audience.

Craig Gustafson said...

There were, I think, two episodes in which Ralph hit Norton. The first occurred during a commercial break; Norton enters with a black eye. And in one of the Lost Episodes, Ralph socks Norton on camera. Both times - wrong and disturbing.

But in the episode "Trapped," bank robbers are in the Kramden apartment. One threatens Alice, and Ralph, who has been cowering, immediately stands up to the thug, takes him offstage and beats the crap out of him. I first saw that when I was a kid and LOVED it.

SteveJayCanada said...

Ralph Kramden, violent? He was a teddy bear compared to Genghis Khan in that old year 1,200 favourite sitcom “My Favourite Barbarian.”

SteveJayCanada said...

Me thinks they dost protest too much. Judge the humour in the context of its era.

Anonymous said...

Poor people punch each other, or threaten to. They tend to do it because they're trapped. A man can’t just move out because his wife is giving him a lot of lip. A woman can’t just pack up because the man takes a swing. Pride is expensive. Many can’t afford it. Some wouldn’t leave, even if they could, for other base reasons.

A great example of the culture is exhibited in "Streetcar Named Desire" in which Stanley roughs up Stella, all hell breaks loose, and Stella, the ever-lovin' horn-dog, takes Stanley back with passion. Across all cultures, if the sex is great, you'll tend to put up with just about anything. Even an angry drunken Stanley taking a swing on you once in a while.

The answer to the moral puzzle of Ralph and Alice's relationship is found in Alice's response to Ralph's idle threats. She does not respond in any way that reflects someone worried about a violent act transpiring. She doesn’t even respond as if she would beat the hell out of him if he tried it. She responds as if it wouldn’t happen in a million years. Much like she’d respond if Ralph claimed he was going to be a rocket scientist one day. It doesn’t even merit a considered response.

Alice is a picture of a woman who is in absolute control of her world. She deigns to allow Ralph to blow off some steam once in a while so he doesn’t suffer a heart attack, and that’s all. It is Alice being charitable. It is not Ralph gaining any status whatsoever, except the crumbs Alice allows.

J Lee said...

Late to the game here, but there actually was an attempt to create a kinder, gentler Ralph Kramden 12 years after the original 39 episodes of "The Honeymooners" when one of Jackie's writers, Leonard Stern, came up with "The Good Guys" for CBS, staring Bob Denver in the Ed Norton role, and Herb Edleman and Joyce Van Patten in the Ralph and Alice roles.

You had the same basic set-up, with Edleman as the struggling diner owner being warned by his wife about his harebrained get-rich-quick schemes, with Denver as his partner. But for this iteration, Stern took out Gleason's bombast, and made Edleman's Bert a less angry, but more needy character, while putting more emphasis on Denver's tax driver character to propel the story lines (not a shock, since Denver was the big name of the ensemble).

But it didn't work because you got the feeling with Ralph Kramden that even if he hadn't had Ed Norton as a neighbor, his plans still would have failed, because he was so headstrong about getting into them. Ralph with his rough edges cut off made Edleman's character more likeable, but it also turned the series into something akin to Gilligan's Island in Los Angeles, where you had the feeling that Bert could make a success of himself if only he'd stop hanging around Rufus and letting him do dumb things. So even a Gleason writer couldn't make a go of the basic idea without Gleason's character and his bombast, which included his empty threats against Alice.

McAlvie said...

I agree with all that you said. If the show were contemporary, I'd be among the first outraged; but I'm old enough to have seen a lot of social change and secure enough to see past the imperfections of the past and still appreciate the best of it.

As an example, I'm also a fan of old British mysteries, and in the context of the 1930s - 1960s you will find many references that modern readers might take exception to as they should if the settings were modern. But those stories are also a snapshot of how life was and shouldn't be condemned for being true to their own time. I would even say that they are valuable for showing us how far we have come. You can't learn from history if you edit out all the troubling bits.

Jake Mabe said...

If anyone seriously thinks that "The Honeymooners" promotes domestic violence, well, I don't know what to say, except three words that faithful viewers to this superb show, and the sketches on the Gleason variety show, often heard:"You're the greatest!"

Anonymous said...

Over the weekend during a channel surfing excercise ( work that thumb, push, push) I landed on the Jaws set in a water park with dolphins and an Orca.
it made me think that are we going to view shows with water Parks/zoos, captive animals even Flipper in a negative light 20 or 30 years from now( assuming demented donnie doen't kill us all) and be having a similar conversation about how that, unknowing, cruelity totally destroyed any artistic value, just as we are seeing with the Honeymooners.
Frankly amazing that this farce ( what it was) upsets people more then say punks like sinatra who bragged about his mob connections gets a pass.

Jahn Ghalt said...


Pizzagod wrote:

Another show that probably would get taken apart today would be the Beverly HIllbillies.

I'd tend to agree, except that some of the tropes we remember from that show (and one that passes for gospel in Hollywood) did not exist in the first season.

One, however, was present - that hillbillies are ignorant of "city things". But on the whole, when Jed and his family got to "Beverly" (as they called it in the opening sequence: "Hills, that is...") the joke was usually on the city folks and their various blindnesses.

Of course, Mr. Drysdale (their banker neighbor) was written as a penurious, one-dimensional, banking executive.

But here's an interesting thing you rarely see nowadays - the oil company execs ethically and gladly made sure that Jed would get every bit of his royalties - despite Jed's complete ignorance of what a "royalty" was. By episode five, they were completely out of the picture and the writers moved on with other tropes.

VincentS said...

Agree 100%, Ken. And I think in addition to what you pointed out about Alice's reaction to Ralph's so-called threat - How many times did she simply respond, "Har har HARdy har har?" - it's significant that in the episode, BETTER LIVING THROUGH TV Ralph says, "Oh, would I like to belt you, just once." I think Ralph saying "just once," shows he never has and never will hit Alice.

Unknown said...

The show was a hoot! Bang zoom was hysterical because we KNEW he'd never harm Alice. He was venting his frustration at her. Fantastic!!!!!

Barry said...

Friday Question: Since we’re talking about sitcom wives, what’s your opinion of Laura Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Show? As much as I love the show, the characters and all the actors and respect its place in history, one thing that’s bugged me is how Laura essentially gave up a promising career as a dancer (she was in the USO show that Rob was associated with) to become a mother and housewife. While that may have been the norm in the real world of the early 60’s, it seems a waste of the character’s potential. It would have been interesting to see her try to find dance and singing work while wrangling Richie and not trying to play on Rob’s influence and connections. Sort of the anti-Lucy - she had talent and charisma and smarts enough to succeed, without taking away from everything that was happening on the Alan Brady Show. But as it was, her storylines mainly revolved only around domestic jokes (going on a quiz show, throwing a birthday party, being a hostess, taking art classes, etc.) Maybe I’m wanting her to be Mary Richards before Mary Tyler Moore was Mary Richards, but I think Laura Petrie deserved better.

Paul Duca said...

Robert Forman...in the GOLDFINGER book, Bond didn't have to force himself on Pussy Galore. Just being in the presence of such a manly man put her on his side in more ways than one (explaining that being assaulted by a relative at an early age was what put her off men. Also, Tilly Masterson--the sister of the girl Goldfinger killed--was a lesbian. Her character remained until the Fort Knox robbery, dying only because she tried to escape with Pussy rather than remain with Bond)

Paul Duca said...

Barry...writer Rick Metz described Laura Petrie as an change from previous sitcom spouses because "she had insecurities...not as a wife or mother, but a person" But I do wonder if because Carl Reiner had this view of what a woman should be in a marriage, that contributed to the end of his to Rob's mother.

Mike Doran said...

The end of Carl Reiner's marriage to Rob's mother …
… was her death in 2008.
Just so you know …