Back in 1955, Jackie Gleason turned his popular “The Honeymooners” sketch, which originated on his variety show, into a regular 30-minute sitcom called, you guessed it, The Honeymooners. The idea was that he and co-stars Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph would shoot 78 episodes in the first two seasons, with an option for a third season of 39 more. But following that first year, Jackie took the unexpected — and pretty much unprecedented at the time — move to cancel his own show. Believing that those episodes, collectively known now as “The Classic 39,” was as good as the show could be, he decided to return to his variety show format, folding Ralph Kramden, Ed Norton and their wives back into it.
“Jackie really marched to his own beat,” offers his stepson, Craig Horwich, who serves as the head of Jackie Gleason Enterprises in an exclusive interview. “Jackie saw himself as a man who was built upon his own talents and his own abilities, interests, and passions. His integrity as a man, let alone as an artist, and his integrity as a producer, stands alone in the industry. There are others that were certainly wonderful, but Jackie recognized that The Honeymooners worked because of the definition of their characters. Nowadays, in the 21st Century, we look at TV shows and writers working with their characters, intentionally looking to evolve them. I think with The Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorre and his team have acknowledged for years that they’re looking to take these young kids and give them relationships and marriages, and that’s all wonderful. Today’s audience expects that; we have that kind of relationship with our entertainment.”
Please scroll down for more of our exclusive look at the life and career of Jackie Gleason.
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