JOHN L’S TOP TEN EPISODES (8/1/96)
with commentary from other emails.
: 1. THE ADOPTION
(Lost episodes) Weepy and saccharine,
qualities I usually abhor, but somehow just right in the context of the
Honeymooners. One of Gleason's all-time great performances.
Ignore the fact that the premise -- and some of the dialogue! -- are
lifted from the Cary Grant-Irene Dunne sudser PENNY SERENADE.
: Excellent all around, one of the finest hours of television I've
ever seen. Very interesting how, decades before the "Very Special
Episode of FULL HOUSE" syndrome so prevalent today, Gleason and Co.
tackled a very serious subject, and did it with great humor and
tremendous acting, esp. from Gleason and Meadows. (Of course, the
following week's episode was probably about Ralph getting his head
stuck in the ice-box or something.) And the end, Ralph and Alice
make a moral choice (whether it is correct or not is not going to be
debated here), decide to give the baby back, and that's that.
: 2. BETTER LIVING THROUGH TV
(Classic 39) My single favorite half-hour of TV comedy by anyone,
anytime, anywhere, ever. And then some. The greatness of the last scene
overshadows the fact that the
Ralph-Alice confrontation is one of their best exchanges. Oooohhhh, it
can core a apple!
3. 'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE
"Oh, I see. The mousetrap was just a clever ruse in case some
dope was dumb enough to stick his hand under the icebox..."
4. THE $99,000 ANSWER (39)
"There ya are, loudmouth, now you woke up my wife!"
5. GOOD BUY AUNT ETHEL
(Lost) Ethel Owen, who usually played Alice's mother, here (almost) steals the show as Alice's aunt, the former
sausage-stuffer. (I mean that in only the nicest way.)
: Oh, my favorite Gleason reaction ever in "Good Buy Aunt
Ethel" (why the hell was it titled like that, with the word
"Buy"? A typo from SHOWTIME, p'raps?). When Ethel tells him
that Freddie lives at the YMCA so he AND Aunt Ethel will be living at the Kramden residence... need I describe it to you? So
unlike the usual Ralph reactions ("Oh, the YMCA?" --- goes off into
room, a second later comes out with bugged out eyes, screaming "THE
YMCA?!?!?"). This time, just a tiny look of horror for about a
nanosecond, then he just goes quickly into his room to pack his bags and move out himself.
: 5. ALICE AND THE BLONDE
(39) "Tubby! That's a perfectly charming name!"
"Do YOU think so, Mrs. Weedemeyer?"
6. HEAD OF THE HOUSE
"Either that's wine on the table or somebody was just stabbed upstairs!"
: My favorite Gleason moment from The
Classic 39 is in HEAD OF THE
HOUSE, when Joe Fensterblau is over for dinner, and Alice enters. Ralph
is expecting the worst, but Alice covers for him. That look
he gets on his face as he stares at Alice --- it is amazing. He's
not Jackie Gleason playing Ralph --- he is Ralph right there, totally
blown away by the goodness of the woman he still can't believe agreed
to marry him.
A friend of mine used to say she couldn't stand the way Ralph always
yelled at Alice. I tried so many times to convince her that the
only reason he does that is because he has a major inferiority
complex. He knows Alice is ten times the human being he is, and
he loves her so much it hurts, but he can't just come out and say it
all the time.
: 7. A DOG'S LIFE
Years ago while in a restaurant with a few friends, the waitress came to our table for drink and appetizer orders. "I'll
have Kram-Mar's Delicious Mystery Appetizer", I said, to which the
waitress replied, "With or without horsemeat?" I liked her
immediately, but she was married.
8. KRAMDEN VS. NORTON
(Lost) In which Ralph and Ed wind up in small claims court, battling over ownership of a TV set, and Norton is shocked to
learn Trixie's real name (Thelma).
9. A MAN'S PRIDE
Gleason's face as he gets stuck with the dinner check..
10. UNCONVENTIONAL BEHAVIOR
(39) "Okay, Norton, I'm gonna give you one more boomph!"
JOHN B.'S TOP TEN EPISODES (3/22/16)Note: It only took two decades to reply, and not in an email - exclusively for this page. List in no particular order.
'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
- The greatest Christmas episode of any show I've ever seen. This,
GOING MY WAY and at least two versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL are
staples of my Christmas season.
- My thoughts are in a reply above. A softly-murmured "wow".
BETTER LIVING THROUGH TV
- You wanna know what great TV comedy is? The last five minutes
of this episode. ("It does all of it.") The first twenty minutes are pure gold too.
LETTER TO THE BOSS
favorite of the Lost Episodes. "Dear Mr. Marshall... you dirty
bum!". There are two versions of this; both are outstanding.
GOOD BUY, AUNT ETHEL
longer version. Incredibly funny from beginning to end with some
of the best caustic exchanges of the entire run of the series. (Aunt
Ethel and Ralph fighting for the bathroom: Aunt Ethel: "Do you
mind if I brush my teeth first?" Ralph: "Give 'em to me - I'll do 'em
A DOG'S LIFE
- My buddy and I frequently use "Gotta be DESTROYED!" as a random joke while watching TV.
TV OR NOT TV
- The first
episode of the "Classic 39" set the tone of the whole season. It's
because of episodes like this that some others (a minor handful)
are even a little disappointing.
- It amazes me that no matter how many times I see it, Norton saying "Hello, ball!" is always funny.
THE MAN FROM SPACE
through and through, and contains one of Gleason's greatest ad-libs
when a piece of his Spaceman costume falls off: "Let me have that -
that's my denaturizer!"
- Too many
Classic 39s to choose from, so I thought I would add this Lost Episode
instead. While Ralph is out at the deli, Alice, Trixie and Ed are
visitied by a parade of Gleason's other famous characters, such as
Reginald van Gleason III, Joe the Bartender and The Poor Soul. Not one
of the great episodes, but it reminds us of how many different
characters Gleason actually created for his variety show, while today,
only Ralph Kramden is remembered.
THE BENSONHURST BOMBER
: So what are the code words again? Here are our choices:
1) "Get a load of Fatso over there"
2) "Hello there, Fatso"
3) "Get out of the way, Fatso"
Once simple line, and neither one of them could remember what it was.
THE SAFETY AWARD
: The only episode I'm slightly disappointed with (in the 39) is "The
Safety Award". Just never laughed too much at this.
: Not my least favorite, but a pretty mediocre entry to be
sure. Although Ralph striking his poses for the magazine
photographer is worth a yuk. My least favorites are "The Deciding
Vote" and "Something Fishy".
Do New York papers still have the cool headlines like "KILLS WIFE,
COOKS HER LEGS" and stuff?
: They usually don't get that graphic, but I think they have those
"MAN KILLS WIFE, SELF" and "1,000 LB. MAN REMOVED FROM APARTEMENT"
headline plates handy at all times. Not to mention, "CITY'S
SAFEST BUSDRIVER, WHILE ON WAY TO RECEIVING AWARD, HAS ACCIDENT".
MAMA LOVES MAMBO
: Here's tonight's trivia question: The actor who plays Mr.
Manicotti in the Honeymooners episode "Mama Loves Mambo" ("My Angelina,
she make-a like dis! and like dis!") is probably better known to both
of us for playing what role in what film? And what's his name?
: I was kind of stunned to realize it
was Louis Sorin (who played Roscoe W. Chandler in the Marx Brother's
1931 film ANIMAL CRACKERS) as Mr.
Manicotti. And strangely enough, I actually had manicotti for dinner
: Yes, Louis Sorin, apparently reduced to fish-peddler status again
by 1956. I ran across his name on a Honeymooners web site and
made the connection. He was a good character actor from the two
roles I know him from, but his list of credits on IMDB is very
short. I'm guessing he did a lot of stage work, especially since
the two things he's best known for were done in New York.
: You gotta salute a guy who worked with the Marx Brothers and
Gleason and not only lived to tell about it but actually got in a
couple of laughs.