Ralph Kramden, a driver for the Gotham Bus Company in New York City, lives with his wife Alice in a small tenement apartment in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Ralph often tries to improve his and Alice's lot in life by engaging in get-rich-quick schemes with his best friend, sewer worker Ed Norton, who lives with his wife Trixie in the same apartment building as Ralph and Alice as their upstairs neighbors. To his chagrin however, Ralph's schemes invariably backfire for a variety of reasons, and he is quick to lose his temper and blame others for his lack of success before the reasons why he failed are pointed out to him, after which he regrets his angry tirades and apologizes for them.
Ralph is frequently ill-tempered with others, particularly with Alice when she is resistant to his schemes and tries to point out the faults in those schemes to him, and with Norton when the latter irritates him with his occasional dimwittedness and tendency to provoke him by goofing around. Ralph often resorts to yelling, hurling insults and making threats when he gets angry, many of which are directed at Alice (most notably with one of his trademark threats, "One of these days, Alice, one of these days...POW!!! Right in the kisser!"). The more level-headed Alice, however, always stands her ground against him and gives back as good as she gets with sharp-tongued insults directed at him, frequently about his weight. Ralph never follows through on his threats and, after he realizes that Alice's doubts about his schemes were well-founded, he offers a humble apology to her, which she accepts as they then hug and kiss.
The Honeymooners began as a half-hour sitcom on October 1, 1955 on CBS, based on a similarly-named recurring sketch that aired on DuMont's Cavalcade of Stars and then on the original Jackie Gleason Show on CBS. As part of a contract series star Jackie Gleason had signed with CBS and the Buick division of General Motors, 78 episodes of The Honeymooners over two seasons, with an option of a third season of 39 episodes, were to have been made. After starting strong against variety shows Ozark Jubilee on ABC and The Perry Como Show on NBC on Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, The Honeymooners lost viewers to The Perry Como Show following a move to 8 p.m. in February 1956. That, combined with the show's writers feeling restricted by writing within a half-hour format, led to Gleason and CBS agreeing to end The Honeymooners after one season of 39 episodes, with the final original episode airing on September 22, 1956.
Gleason later sold the rights to the series (which later became known as the "Classic 39" episodes) to CBS, which entered the show into syndication through its CBS Films division (later the original CBS Enterprises beginning in 1968) in 1957. The "Classic 39" enjoyed new life and increased popularity in syndication for many years when, in January 1985, Gleason announced the release of a set of "lost episodes" of The Honeymooners from his private vault. These lost episodes, which were actually kinescoped Honeymooners sketches from The Jackie Gleason Show, originally aired during the 1985-86 TV season on Showtime as a set of 68 re-edited 22-minute episodes. Gleason sold the TV distribution rights to the lost episodes to Viacom Enterprises (the successor to CBS Enterprises), which then added them to the Honeymooners syndication package to bring the total number of episodes in that package to 107. Another lost Honeymooners episode, "The Love Letter" (which originally aired on The Jackie Gleason Show on October 16, 1954), aired for the first time since its original airing on October 16, 2004 (the 50th anniversary of that episode's airing) on TV Land and has since been added to the Honeymooners syndication package.
In the years since its original airings, The Honeymooners have developed a legacy which have served as an influence to other television shows. The most famous show to be influenced by The Honeymooners was the Hanna-Barbera animated series The Flintstones, which series creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera admitted used The Honeymooners as the basis for their show's concept. After seeing the close resemblance between The Flintstones and his series, Gleason considered suing Hanna-Barbera but later decided, on his lawyers' advice, against doing so due to the popularity of The Flintstones, which went on to a six-season run and became a successful franchise in its own right. In Canada, the French-language sitcom Cré Basile, which starred Olivier Guimond and was largely based on The Honeymooners, ran for five seasons between 1965 and 1970 in first-run syndication on the Quebec independent stations which later formed the TVA network in 1971, while broadcasters in Indonesia, the Netherlands, Sweden and Poland developed their own local versions of The Honeymooners. A feature film remake of the show, featuring African-American actors playing the main four characters, was released by Paramount Pictures in 2005 but flopped at the box office and was panned by critics.
The "Classic 39" episodes of The Honeymooners were produced by Jackie Gleason Enterprises. CBS Media Ventures (CMV), the successor-in-interest to Viacom Enterprises, now owns the series copyright to the "Classic 39", while Gleason's estate owns the lost episodes (new closing credits added to the lost episodes in 1985 include production and copyright credits to Gleason himself at the end of the credit scroll), and CMV distributes both episode collections as part of the entire Honeymooners syndication package.
|Jackie Gleason||Ralph Kramden|
|Art Carney||Ed Norton|
|Audrey Meadows||Alice Kramden|
|Joyce Randolph||Trixie Norton|
|Season One||October 1, 1955||September 22, 1956||39|
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series
DVD & Blu-Ray Releases
|Complete Series (Region 1)|
|"Classic 39" Episodes||November 4, 2003||5|
|Complete Series (Region 1)|
|Classic 39 Episodes||May 6, 2014||purchase||5|