Announcers: Jack Lescoulie (1952-1959) Announcers: Johnny Olsen (1962-1971) Theme: "Melancholy Serenade" by Jackie Gleason(written in 1953)
This was one of the longest running variety shows ever produced in the history of television,and for that longer length of time this was in fact a Saturday Night featurette that ran on the CBS-TV network for more than 20 years which was the network's second successful show opposite the long running "The Ed Sullivan Show",which ran for 23 years on the same network. The first "Jackie Gleason" original CBS variety hour,done live from New York,bore a stronger similarity to a show that he did during his routine on "The Cavalcade of Stars",which was on the DuMont Network since the summer of 1950 before he went over to CBS,but with a larger cast and a larger budget. His co-star and second banana,Art Carney,made the move with him along with the June Taylor Dancers and the music of the Ray Bloch Orchestra. Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph were added to the cast of regulars,primarily in "The Honeymooners" sketches and most of the characters that Gleason had developed on DuMont were honed to perfection on CBS,and from there became timeless classic that will forever be a tribute to the golden age of television. It was from there the sketch parody of "The Honeymooners" was made into a weekly series which ran for one season from 1955-1956,producing 39 episodes.
Among the characters that were created by Jackie Gleason in addition to "The Honeymooners",among them Ralph Kramden,were The Poor Soul,Joe The Bartender,The Loudmouth,Reggie Van Gleason III,Rudy the Repairman, and Fenwick Babbitt. The Great One,as Jackie was called,opened each telecast with a monologue and then led into the first sketch with his classic line "And awa-a-aay we go",as he left the stage. His other catchphrase,used in reaction to almost anything at was,"How sweet it is!" This became a national catchphrase. The original "Jackie Gleason Show" ran for three seasons and was replaced,for the 1955-1956 season with a half-hour situation comedy version of "The Honeymooners" which ran for one season. But despite very low ratings the following fall and with the chemistry that made it shine during the 1956-1957 season wasn't there anymore since Art Carney was replaced by Buddy Hackett as Jackie's second banana. And from there production of the original "Jackie Gleason Show" came to a grinding halt after the network CBS cancelled it in January of 1959. But that wasn't the last the network executives have heard from Jackie Gleason. Gleason went on to produced a quiz show "Your In The Picture" in 1959,and in 1961 had a talk show format titled "The Jackie Gleason Show". Both were dismal failures.
In September of 1962,Jackie Gleason returned with a lavish-full scale hour long variety show-"The Jackie Gleason Show:The American Scene Magazine". New cast members were added including Frank Fontaine(as Crazy Guggenheim in Joe The Bartender sketches)who could sing quite well when not in character and released a number of moderately successful record albums during his tenture with Gleason. Not only were most of Jackie's standard characters in evidence,but a new format titled "Agnes and Arthur" sketch about two love horn tenement residents which featured Alice Ghostley as Agnes was added as a semi-regular feature. Others that were added to the show were the beautiful "Glea-Girls",which introduce Barbara Heller as "Christine Clam",were still in evidence introducing the segments of each show,but there was a considerable turnover in the supporting cast. There was more topical satire on this show too,just to point out that you got to see a galaxy of special guest stars that appear on the show each week including numerous special guest appearances by former "Honeymooners" Art Carney and Audrey Meadows. In keeping with the title of the show,there were entire episodes that were done as musical comedies with book,lyrics,songs,dances,and sketches reflecting "The American Scene". At the insistence of Jackie Gleason himself,the entire production moved from New York to Miami Beach before the start of the 1964-1965 season,and remained a Florida-based show throughout the remainder of its run,ending in the fall of 1971. During the start of the 1964-1965 season,a feature was added to the show with a nationwide talent hunt,in which George Jessel traveled the country auditioning young performers who would get their first national exposure on Jackie's variety show.
The 1966-1967 season,brought a basic change in format,a modified title,and a different supporting cast,and this time around was in color. The title was shortened to "The Jackie Gleason Show". Art Carney was back with Gleason on a regular basis after a nine-year absence,and Sheila MacRae and Jean Kean were the only other cast regulars. In addition,"The Honeymooners" was brought back as the principal source of material. There were still variety shows with sketches and guest stars,special shows devoted to single subjects like circuses or tribunes to show-business greats,and book musicals,but throughout the last four-year run over half of the telecasts were full-hour "Honeymooners" episodes. Sometimes they were done as either musical comedies with songs and production numbers. They took place in Brooklyn,around New York,and in different locations around the world,and sometimes they were done with or without guest stars,but the constants were there,like the Kramdens and the Nortons,which were the specialty highlight of the entire series,which ran for more than 20 years. The final episode of the series,which aired on September 12,1971 left with only a whisper,never to be heard from again.