TV Land’s weeklong road to the classic 39 is paved with a single new entry in “The Honeymooners” canon, a “Behind the Music” look at the Kramdens and the Nortons and, more specifically, the life of Jackie Gleason. It’s all feel good — no examination of alcohol troubles or any debauchery — and eventually serves it purpose: rev up the anticipation for the airing of the bedrock of television situation comedy.
Hour-long spec, which touches on the greatness of Gleason but doesn’t get too deep, is something of a centerpiece for TV Land’s “Honeymooners” celebration. Tonight features “The Laughmaker,” a “Studio One” presentation from 1953 starring Gleason and Carney outside their Kramden/Norton roles.
Wednesday is “The Adoption,” a musical culled from the New Year’s Eve 1965 “Jackie Gleason Show”; Thursday is a rerun of the 1993 Paul Reiser-hosted special “The Honeymooners … The Really Lost Debut Episodes.”
A 48-hour marathon of the classic 39 episodes from the show’s one season, 1955-56, begins Saturday at 6 a.m.
“Inside” provides the lowdown on the show’s lineage and appeal, relying heavily on footage from two vintage interviews with Gleason (1970 and 1985) and a 1990 chat with Audrey Meadows, the most famous of the three Alices. (He died in 1987, she in 1996). New footage of the Nortons — Carney and Joyce Randolph — finds them relishing ” ‘Mooner” memories like never before.
Carney, in past interviews, has seemingly had a love-hate relationship with his most famous character, and here he’s even willing to don his trademark hat. “Always felt closer to Gleason onstage than off,” Carney offers, hinting at a darkness behind the golden days of TV.
Story is told briskly with the assistance of Gleason’s widow, Marilynn, her sister June Taylor, whose dance troupe was showcased on Gleason’s variety show, and the shows’ cast and crew.
“Everybody Loves Raymond” principals Ray Roman and Patricia Heaton, along with creator Philip Rosenthal, provide a throughline connecting the two domestic-squabbles sitcoms.
Tidbits such as Carney’s first appearance on “Cavalcade of Stars” — as a cop rather than Norton — and Meadows’ ploy to get a second shot at the Alice role help sustain the interest here.
In the end, though, it’s more tribute than tell-all, an appetizer for a main course that consists of what is arguably (hardly) television’s funniest show ever.