One of my fondest memories from growing up in New Jersey was the post-primetime lineup of reruns on Channel 11, WPIX TV from New York City.
It was epic.
- 10:00pm M*A*S*H
- 10:30pm M*A*S*H
- 11:00pm The Odd Couple
- 11:30pm The Honeymooners
- 12:00am Star Trek: The Original Series
- 01:00am The Twilight Zone
Now, I wasn’t always able to watch the whole lineup every night, and I don’t think I’d have had much of a life if I had. I had a very small black & white TV in my bedroom, and despite my best efforts to keep the volume down, to sit dangerously close to the screen, and to cover myself and the TV with a blanket, I was regularly busted by the parental units, forced to shut it down and go to sleep. But, this lineup was the same for many years, and so the episodes kept cycling through, meaning I was able to see a LOT of them numerous times anyway.
There are a number of things that I loved about that lineup of shows, and I could go on and on about it, but it seems redundant, given a piece I found at ClassicFlix.com by Rick Brooks, professing his Love Affair With WPIX, and saying many of the things I would say myself.
Just a sample:
We would look forward to seeing a series not just because it was so good, but because we knew it held up to multiple viewings. Look at The Honeymooners, which ran weeknights continuously for over 30 years on the station. That staying power is staggering, particularly when you consider that, though eventually it added the “Lost Episodes” to the mix, channel 11 was running the same “Classic 39” episodes from that one legendary season (1955-56). I will say it again: 39 episodes ran continuously for decades, and fans loved them.
It would be impossible for me to pick one of these shows as my favorite, but I’d rather honor one of them at a time with a Video Fridays installment, and since I just shared Rick Brooks’ info on The Honeymooners, let’s start there.
For me, The Honeymooners was very special. It was the only TV show of that vintage that was actually still on the air, as far as I could tell, and it served as a time capsule to a bygone era. From the clothing to the furniture, the vernacular of the day to the acting styles, I found it utterly charming.
The biggest strengths of the show were three of the main actors and the writing.
Jackie Gleason, as bus driver Ralph Kramden, could be an insufferable loudmouth, by today’s standards verbally abusive to his wife, and yet when his hairbrained schemes crashed and burned, as they always did, Gleason somehow, almost magically, induced pathos.
Audrey Meadows, as Ralph’s wife, Alice, unlike other women leads of the time and beyond, didn’t hide her struggles with sexism behind an always cheerful veneer. You could see in her expression a weariness as she went about her domestic duties, and she could go toe-to-toe with Ralph in a way you’d rarely see a wife stand up to her husband on TV.
Art Carney, as friend and upstairs neighbor, Ed Norton, well, let’s just say, with his brilliant physical comedy prowess, specifically his grand, clown-like entrances into the Kramden apartment, there would absolutely be NO Kramer from Seinfeld without Art Carney’s Ed Norton. (Interestingly, nothing I could find online gives credit to Art Carney as a direct inspiration for Kramer, and that REALLY bugs me!)
As for the writing, the episodes are masterpieces, with consistently great story arcs, a wonderful mix of comedy and the aforementioned pathos, and it was one of the most quotable shows ever made. My friends and I could nearly recite entire episodes from memory, the jokes were so good.
Like I said, I could go on and on, and I guess I did!
To wrap up and get on with this week’s video selection, I chose an episode that seemed perfect for the occasion, a TV show about watching TV, containing one of my all-time favorite lines, “Official space helmet on, Captain Video!!!”
Happy Weekend, everyone!