Oct. 1 marks the 65th anniversary of the debut of "Classic 39" episodes of "The Honeymooners," which ran through Sept. 22,1956 and have seemingly been airing on TV ever since.
The sitcom about blustery Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason), his exasperated but loving wife Alice (Audrey Meadows) and their best friends, the dimwitted sewer worker Ed Norton (Art Carney) and his even-tempered wife Trixie (Joyce Randolph) was not new to viewers tuning in to CBS that October night in 1955. "The Honeymooners" had started in 1950 as a sketch on "Cavalcade of Stars," Gleason's variety show on the long-gone DuMont Network. (In fact, new sketches would continue to run sporadically on various Gleason variety shows and specials through 1978).
Nevertheless, Gleason declined to do a second full season, saying "the excellence of the material could not be maintained."
Excellence, indeed. These 39 have become staples of popular culture.
To celebrate this auspicious occasion, here's an alphabetical guide to some of the great catchphrases, characters and moments from the Classic 39.
A Andre — The interior decorator from Morgan's Department Store who, as part of an advertising campaign, offered to make over the Kramdens' drab apartment.
B "Bang! Zoom!" — Ralph's favorite veiled threat to Alice.
C Chef of the future — Ralph's character in a TV commercial he and Norton do hawking the "Handy Housewife Helper," a shoddy utensil that allegedly performs a dozen or so functions (among them, it can core a apple).
D Dus a brive — A very nervous Ralph's response when "$99,000 Answer" host Herb Norris asks what he does for a living.
E Ed Norton — The composer of "Swanee River," according to Ralph.
F Freddie Muller — Another driver at the Gotham Bus Company, whose car Ralph often borrows. He was played by character actor George Petrie.
G Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler — The highest-ranking member of the Raccoon Lodge. As a symbol of his grand high exalted post, he wears three raccoon tails on his coonskin hat. Morris Fink, a fellow sewer worker of Norton's, was GHEMR of the Bensonhurst chapter.
H Hong Kong Gardens — Chinese restaurant in Bensonhurst that was a favorite of the Kramdens and Nortons. Also helpful, as Norton pointed out, because its cooking smells allowed him to set his watch. He knew it was 5:00 when the aroma of freshly made egg foo young wafted over to him.
I "I have a big mouth!" — Ralph's memorable catchphrase, usually uttered at maximum volume after he has done something stupid, misguided or embarrassing.
J Janitor — After several janitors have quit working at 328 Chauncey Street, Ralph decides to take on the job himself (in addition to his day job). Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that he is wearing a painters' cap from Martin Paints on North Franklin Street, Hempstead.
K King of the Castle — Ralph's core belief (cringeworthy by today's standards) that men rule the roost.
L Lulu — Norton's childhood dog whose absence is at the root of his chronic sleepwalking. Lulu's identity is revealed after a doctor injects Norton with truth serum.
M Moon — Where Ralph threatened to send Alice innumerable times.
N Neapolitan knockwurst — Ralph is reluctant to go bowling because of his bad back, but Norton tries to sway him with the promise that Neapolitan knockwurst — one of Ralph's favorite delicacies — will be served at the party celebrating their team's impending championship.
O Oyster Bay — Norton attended public school here.
P Popular songs — The category for which Ralph is a self-described expert when he goes on "The $99,000 Answer."
Q Questioning Photographer — Newspaper columnist (patterned after the New York Daily News' Inquiring Photographer) who asks Ralph who's the boss of his house. Big mouth Ralph, of course, says he is.
R Raccoons — Ralph and Norton belong to the Bensonhurst chapter of this lodge. Their uniform, costing $35, was a double-breasted military jacket with large epaulets on each shoulder, white shirt, dark tie and a hat with a raccoon tail.
S Sewer — Where Norton toils (a "wet collar" job as he describes it).
T TV — The Kramdens' apartment lacks one until Ralph and Norton decide to share a new set. It goes in the Kramdens' apartment after Norton loses a rigged coin flip to Ralph ("Heads I win, tails you lose").
U Uranium field in Asbury Park — One of Ralph's "crazy, harebrained schemes," along with glow-in-the-dark wallpaper and no-calorie pizza.
V Virus — After being tossed out to the street, Ralph decides to end his rent strike and return inside because to he knows "how easy Alice gets virus."
W Wohlstetters — The couple Alice babysits for (of course Ralph thinks she's having an affair with Harvey Wohlstetter).
X Xmas episode — The only episode of the 39 where Gleason breaks character, asking the other cast members to come out and take a curtain call.
Y Young at Heart — One of the best of the 39, where Ralph attempts to recapture his youth by taking Alice and the Nortons roller skating.
Z Ziggy — One of the gangsters who come to the Kramdens' apartment to retrieve a suitcase filled with counterfeit money. Norton thinks he's a Wall Street big shot, who works for "Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Ziggy."
Where to catch "The Honeymooners"
Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on MeTV (Optimum Ch. 33, FiOS, Ch. 503)
Sept. 27: "Pardon My Glove" — Alice tries to surprise Ralph with a redecorated apartment, but a misplaced glove leads to a misunderstanding.
Saturdays at 9:30, 11 and 11:30 p.m. on WPIX/11
9:30 "The Deciding Vote" — Ralph learns that politics makes for strange bedfellows and running for office has its ups and downs.
11 "On Stage" — Carried away by his role in an amateur play, Ralph decides he is headed for Hollywood.
11:30 "Dial J for Janitor" — Ralph takes over the janitor's job in his building and finds that it is easier to make complaints than receive them.
9:30 p.m. " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" — The Kramdens and the Nortons gather in the Kramden apartment to share the joys of Christmas.
11 p.m. "Opportunity Knocks But" — Ralph seizes the opportunity when his boss asks him for billiards lessons. 11:30 p.m. "A Man's Pride — Ralph tries to pass himself off as the head of the bus company when he meets an out-of-town friend.
11:30 p.m. "A Man's Pride" — Ralph tries to pass himself off as the head of the bus company when he meets an out-of-town friend.