'The Honeymooners' was one of the greatest shows in the history of television. Not only was it consistently hilarious, but the Kramdens and the Nortons were well-defined believable characters we could actually care about. More than once, I've genuinely empathised with Ralph Kramden's frustration as yet another of his get-rich schemes fails.
"The Honeymooners Second Honeymoon" (wot, no apostrophe?) isn't very good, but the mere fact that it was made at all is noteworthy. We're back in the Kramdens' familiar walk-up apartment in Bensonhurst (an amazing reconstruction of the original set, this time in colour), and it's depressing to see that the Kramdens STILL don't have a telephone nor a television. Ralph, getting on in years, is still driving a bus. Ed Norton is still working in the sewer, although Art Carney's girth has reached the point where he can barely fit through a manhole.
Audrey Meadows was NOT the original Alice Kramden (that would be actress Pert Kelton), but she's the one whom Honeymooners fans remember, thanks to those 'famous 39' episodes which have been in constant syndication since their original broadcast. Here, she returns to her role. Alice's mother is staying with the Kramdens for a few days, so of course Ralph (who hates the old bat's guts) is in a foul mood. Also, Ralph has to sleep in the kitchen so that Alice and her mother can share the bedroom.
Due to some incredibly contrived circumstances, Ralph thinks that Alice is pregnant! This could have been the premise for a classic 'Honeymooners' episode back in 1956, but twenty years on -- with Gleason and Meadows both well past middle age -- it somehow doesn't feel the same. And too many of the jokes here are painfully obvious. Contemplating the arrival of his child, Ralph tells Ed Norton: 'I want you to be the godfather.' So, of course that's Art Carney's cue to hum a few bars of guess-which movie's theme tune, followed by a bad Marlon Brando imitation. Sheesh!
SPOILERS COMING. At the end of the episode, Ralph of course learns that Alice isn't pregnant after all. However, in some amazingly euphemistic dialogue, she informs him that it's still biologically feasible for her to get pregnant. (What sort of marriage have they got, if he needs to be told this?) Gleason's face lights up as he loosens his necktie and he ushers Meadows towards the Kramdens' offstage bedroom. "Let's go-h-h-h!!!!" he tells her. (I was hoping he'd say "And awaaaaay we go!") Just then the bedroom door opens, and out comes Alice's mother: her hair in curlers, her face covered in cleansing cream. Ralph's romantic urges are killed right there.
The pleasure we get from seeing the Kramdens and the Nortons one more time is mingled with the very depressing fact that they still haven't moved up in the world.
'Honeymooners' purists may wonder why this special features Jane Kean (the second actress to play Trixie Norton) rather than Joyce Randolph (the original Trixie). Wonder no more. In 1976, Randolph was happily married to millionaire Richard Charles (who disapproved of her acting career), and she was not circulating in showbiz. Kean, a working actress who had already played Trixie several times, happened to be present at a dinner with Gleason and his long-time producer Jack Philbin when Philbin announced to the press that Gleason would be reviving his classic Honeymooners characters. To milk the moment for maximum effect, Philbin also told the reporters that Kean would be back in 'her role' as Trixie Norton. Joyce Randolph was never offered the part; she admitted afterward that she felt insulted by this.
My former sister-in-law informs me that when 'The Honeymooners Second Honeymoon' was aired in New York City on a network station, the local channel which normally aired Honeymooners reruns in syndication hired Joyce Randolph to host a special marathon of Honeymooners episodes, apparently hoping that viewers would tune in to see the original Trixie in old episodes rather than the original Ralph, Alice and Ed Norton in a NEW story. Nice try, Trixie. I'll rate this Honeymooners special 6 out of 10, mostly for old times' sake.
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