The Great One

These interviews with Jackie Gleason from 1984 are really wonderful. That man was a creative genius in the true sense of the word, he could do almost anything very well. And you can see from this interview he not only tells good stories, his comic timing is effortless.

His music albums are really great. His show, the Honeymooners is still funny and played on TVs all over the world half a century later. And it only ran 39 episodes.

It’s interesting to listen to him talk about that show and his description of it, because it reveals why it hits home. It’s about real people, in a situation that should be depressing, but it’s funny and the characters have great affection for each other despite their battles. People can relate to the show because it has truth in it that so many shows could fail to come close to. While the Honeymooners is about a loser bus driver always trying to get rich and failing, a lot of TV shows today are about some elite team of incredible detectives or spies or some such rot. Perfect people are boring. Today’s TV is full of actors based on their youth and looks. Gleason was a fat man making $15 million a year in TV when that was like half a billion. There’s a lesson to be learned from that, I think. Gleason made a couple’s miserable life funny and in turn help a lot of other people deal with their own lives by making it a little brighter with humor.

[via Cinematical]

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  1. There were more Honeymooners segments than that…

    Thing is that what we call the “classic episodes” were a show of their of own filmed with motion picture quality film. That show lasted roughly 2 years before it got cancelled. It ran during the same era as “I Love Lucy” but I don’t think it was as popular. “I Love Lucy” ran for 6-7 years on its own before it was incorporated into the “The Lucy-Desi Show” which ran for a few more years with new episodes featuring the “I Love Lucy” characters.

    There were other episodes of “The Honeymooners” that were segments on Jackie Gleason’s variety series. A number of these got released on home video on their own in the 1980s while Gleason was still alive. They were filmed on Kinescope, though, and were inferior in visual quality to the classic 39.

    Gleason also tried to go back and do new Honeymooners specials with as much of the original cast as he could muster in the late 1960s and 1970s. I seem to recall seeing one of those specials as a very young kid in the 1970s. It just wasn’t the same seeing Ralph, Alice, Trixon, and Ed 20+ years older and still complaining about the same things. It was kind of sad! Those specials generally aren’t liked by ‘Mooners fans.

    But then again, when have ANY reunion specials (new skits, new episodes) of any sitcoms gone well? None of the Gilligan’s Island, Beverly Hillbillies, and the like reunions have been any good! The cast members are too old, the writing and direction are bad, and these are moments in time that once they’re done generally can’t be recaptured. It’s still to try to go back and redo this stuff with the original casts. Move on and do something new, guys!

  2. There’s a lot more about the Honeymooners production history here —

    The “classic” series lasted only about year and got cancelled because of the competition and Gleason’s feeling that the quality couldn’t be upheld indefinitely. Gleason was probably right. Remember, in those days it wasn’t unusual to day 30 or more episodes of a show PER year instead of the 23-26 that’s typical today. A lot of shows (Moonlighting being an infamous example) have had problems just meeting 20 episodes a year!

    Since this was way before my time (before I was born!), the Honeymooners spun out of Gleason’s earlier variety series which itself began as “Cavalcade of Stars” on the (now-defunct) DuMont Television Network.

    There’s more about DuMont and the fate of its series here —

    It just gives you a reason to hate entertainment lawyers all the more!

    The only reason why any of “non-classic” Honeymooners episodes exist is because of A) dumb luck and B) Jackie Gleason saving the kinescopes.

    Right now, the only Honeymooners still in print (to my knowledge) are the classic 39. You rarely see the other (still-extant) episodes now…

  3. “The great ones are like that. He reminds me of the great ones. He will be a great one. He just might be the next big deal.” Bayne, making just his second Cup start, battled through a track-record 16 cautions and 74 lead changes in a record-tying 208 …

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