The Honeymooners (tv)

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Trixie Norton

REVIEWED: 12-01-97

The Honeymooners was the strongest challenger to I Love Lucy as a prototype for TV sit-coms, but the Kramdens never really had a chance against the more polished Ricardos. No one who has seen more than 10 seconds of The Honeymooners can forget the bleak set that served as Ralph and Alice Kramden's Brooklyn apartment. Their clothes weren't any better; Lucy could always get a bullfighter's outfit or whatever else was needed to further the plot, but when Ralph went to a costume ball, he had to use pots, pans, and some string to pass himself off as a "man from space." The Honeymooners was also closer to live theater, complete with ad-libs and improvisation. An I Love Lucy episode might be written to lead up to an elaborate sight gag; the laughs on The Honeymooners came from Ralph's volatile temper, Alice's devastating putdowns, and best friend Norton's ability to stretch out the simplest action into a three-minute pantomime routine. The Kramdens were popular on Gleason's variety shows (where they were introduced in 1951), but ratings were disappointing for The Honeymooners as a separate series (in 1955). Its working-class setting would reappear on All in the Family and Roseanne, but its raw energy would never really be attempted in another prime-time sit-com.

--Robert David Sullivan

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