Monday, March 27, 2017

'Mooners Monday #5: Honeymooners Books Part 1

I'm going to step back today from the episode-by-episode impressions and start a periodic review of Honeymooners books. (Classic TV fans, take note: Hazel: The Early Years returns Wednesday with a big look at another season 1 installment!)

In this series of posts, I refer often to The Official Honeymooners Treasury, a book published in 1985 and written by the co-founders of RALPH (Royal Association for the Longevity and Preservation of the Honeymooners). As far as I know, this remains the definitive book on the show, and it is 1000% recommended to any fan of the show. The guys received cooperation and blessings from the Great One himself and other writers, cast, and crew of the series, and the result is indeed a treasure trove.

The format is a general overview of the show, followed by chapters devoted to each of the 'Classic 38" episodes that lived on in syndication for decades. Each of those chapters contains a long list of trivia questions and excerpts from original scripts--many of which were drastically reworked or outright scrapped before air. As authors Peter Crescenti and Bob Columbe write in their introduction, reading all this material is the equivalent of finding a 40th episode (Of course, 1985 was just before the Lost Episodes resurfaced and gave fans scores of "new" episodes to devour).

Things that were commonly deleted from the scripts include Norton threatening to hit Trixie (obviously some of those survived), plus other recurring jokes the writers kept trying to include but Gleason kept crossing out.  The authors also note that Ralph is even more devious in the scripts than in the finished episodes.

I am not a big fan of trivia books, but in this case, the answers (presented in the back of the book) often come with little tidbits, so it is worth reading them even if you don't care to play along. Better yet are the stills, ephemera (like original TV Guide close-ups), and other info in each chapter. For example, last week I talked about Herb Norris, host of the fictional $99,000 Answer. That episode's chapter contains quotes from Jay Jackson, who played Norris and shared his thoughts on the experience. One of the highlights of the Treasury is the wealth of info on supporting players like Jackson or, say, recently deceased Freda Rosen, AKA Rita Wedermeyer in Alice and the Blonde.

The authors pack all sorts of cool stuff into this format--pictures, illustrations, merchandising----it's all here. I just wish there were an updated edition, maybe something incorporating the Lost Episodes (though there IS a separate book for those--stay tuned for more on that). Until then, you'll have an easier time prying Jim McKeever's ring off Ralph's finger than getting this book from my hands. Plenty of copies are available on secondary markets and on Amazon.

If you don't believe me, take it from the two blurbs on the back of the book:

"It's an amazing book! It knows more than I do!"--Jackie Gleason
"As far as I'm concerned, the Honeymoon will never be over! I loved The Official Honeymooners Treasury!--Art Carney

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