Television

I don’t mean to sound snooty but I really do not watch television. I watch “Squawk Box” on CNBC for perhaps 20 minutes while I have my breakfast. I will watch snippets of an occasional Chicago Bears football game (if they are in the hunt) or maybe“Honeymooners” episode (see June 7, 2012).

Last year, Donna got video recordings of the first two seasons of “Downton Abbey.” She asked if I would watch with her. I said – quite flatly – “No.” She said “please.” I responded “I’d rather not.” And started to walk away. That’s when she pulled the “You know I would really like for you to watch – just an hour – of this program with me.” Now I am not quite as dumb as I look and I read into this request all that might lay behind it. So I  turned, smiled and said “sure.” And I watched.  The first hour of “Downton Abbey.” 

When she leaned over and said “do you want to watch the second episode?” I said (without much coaxing) “sure.”

I know some of you may not “watch t.v.” I can relate. However let me offer my observation that “Downton Abbey” is not just t.v. It is wonderful — and well-worth the time spent — programming.  I now can’t wait for Sunday night.  If you’re going on vacation, get the first and second seasons on DVD (so you have context). 

I still don’t watch television apart from the occasional Bears game, “Honeymooners” episode or “Squawk Box.” But I do watch “Downton Abbey.” WOW!

“The Honeymooners”

We all have favorite T.V. shows.  Donna likes “Dancing with the Stars” and a couple other network offerings.  For me, there is not much that captures my attention.  “Squawk Box” while I’m having breakfast and reading the newspaper.  The Weather Channel if the weather is “iffy.”   But there is one program that I love to watch.  Pretty much anytime.  “The Honeymooners.”  Talk about an upper.   I have seen each of the episodes perhaps a couple dozen times.  And I never get tired of it.  This series is iconic. . . . . 

The Honeymooners” — which was based on a “Cavalcade of Stars” sketch that ran from 1951 to 1955 —  had only 39 original episodes (I have them all on DVD :)).  The series aired in 1955 and ended in 1956.  The stars were Jackie Gleason (1916-1987) as Ralph Kramden; Art Carney (1918-2003) as Ed Norton; Audrey Meadows (1926-1996) as Alice Kramden; and Joyce Randolph (born 1924) as Trixie Norton.  When the episodes ended, Gleason revived the program for occasional short sketches up until 1978. 

The shows were filmed before a live audience at the Adelphi Theater in New York.  Rehearsals were spare since Gleason wanted spontaneity.   When he forgot a line, he would pat his stomach (which he seemed to do with some frequency. . . . ).    Alice would look at the refrigerator. . . . .  There was nuance and hilarity.  Ronnie Burns, son of George and Gracie, made a cameo appearance in one episode as bebopper “Wallace.”  In another episode, Norton refers to a coworker as Nat Birnbaum.  George Burns real name was “Nathan Birnbaum.”  In 1960, the animation “The Flintstones” was based in large measure on “The Honeymooners.”   

The only living cast member is Joyce Randolph.  There are wonderful recent interviews where she spoke of the show – and her fellow cast members (see http://www.emmytvlegends.org/blog/?p=4710 ).

The theme song was actually written by Jackie Gleason.   And away we go. . . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSFSkiq1FXE