Some of the early episodes were so-so, but the show hit its stride around season four, when almost every episode was a gem. The shows are as funny today as when they originally ran, a testament to Gleason and his writers' genius. (For more on this classic series, go to The Honeymooners.) It's hard to pick favorite episodes, so I picked out favorite punch lines that any real fan of the show will recognize. All of the episodes mentioned below are from that magical fourth season in 1955-56:
Episode 97: The $99,000 Answer: Ralph goes on a quiz show with the category of Popular Songs He rents a piano, and with Norton as his pianist, practices all week from a stack of sheet music. Before playing any song for Ralph to guess, Norton first plays 8 bars of "Swanee River" as a warm up exercise, a habit that drives Ralph nuts. Despite Norton's annoying habit, by the end of the week Ralph's knowledge of pop music is encyclopedic, and he truly believes he will make it all the way to the $99,000 answer. Once on the show, the very first song they play for Ralph to guess is...."Swanee River." Ralph freezes up and can't guess the song, but watching his "humuna-humuna" panic stall as he tries to recall the name of the song is Gleason at his best.
Episode 112: Unconventional Behavior: Ralph and Ed are forced to take their wives, Alice and Trixie, to the annual Raccoon convention. The wives get separated from the guys on the train platform and Ralph and Ed wind up traveling together in a sleeping berth. While demonstrating some sure-fire gags to use at the convention, Ed accidentally handcuffs himself to Ralph, Of course Ed can't find the key to the cuffs, and tries the magic word (boompff) that the man who sold him the cuffs used to open them. After a few "boompffs" it's clear they are not going to get them open and will have to sleep as best they can in the upper and lower berths. Ed fusses and fidgets in bed, to Ralph's growing annoyance, and then asks: "Hey Ralph, do you mind if I smoke?" Ralph disdainful answer, dripping with scorn: "I don't care if you burn."
Episode 115: Alice and the Blond: The Kramdens and Nortons visit the Wedemeyers, Ralph's co-worker Bert and his dizzy but very glamorous blond wife, Rita. Ralph and Ed practically trip over each other lighting Rita's cigarettes, sliding out her chair and doing anything else they can for her. Alice and Trixie believe their husbands are neglecting them, and cut the evening short, but not before some great lines got delivered. Rita is telling the group how she and Bert have pet names for each other based on some physical characteristic of theirs, and asks the wives if they do likewise. "Oh sure," Alice says brightly, turning to Ralph, "Isn't that right Tubby."
They tried a remake of the show with Cedric the Entertainer and an all black cast in 2005. It was a mistake, beyond dumb...like remaking "High Noon" with Pee Wee Herman in the Gary Cooper role. Thanks to New Year's Day marathons and Honeymooners DVDs, I can watch the original shows well into my senility.
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