The Honeymooners

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
The Honeymooners TV Poster Image
Classic couples' comedy bears sexist signs of the times.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show focuses more on the tumultuous friendship between two working-class men than on the men's relationships with their wives. But there are plenty of scenes that suggest married life is less than blissful. Ralph's catchphrase -- funny as it was in its era -- is a threat of domestic violence, which is no longer considered appropriate for humor.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The show is rooted in gender stereotypes of its day, with the men earning money outside the house and the women staying home to cook and clean. The women do appear to play some role in managing the finances, but they often have to ask their husbands for things they want. Men refer to their homes as "my house," etc.

Violence

All violence is played for comedy, but Ralph sometimes pretends to hit or punch his wife in frustration, using his famous catchphrase, "... one of these days ... POW! Right in the kisser! One of these days, Alice, straight to the moon!" There's also some verbal sniping between husband and wife, and between husband and mother in law.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional drinking and smoking, typically played for comic effect. Slang terms like "getting loaded" (drunk).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this classic comedy about two working-class married couples is pretty tame compared to modern incarnations. That said, there's some not-so-subtle sexism that should warrant a little discussion, particularly when it comes to the way Ralph talks to his wife and threatens her with violence, however empty those threats may be. A few episodes involve smoking or drinking, but they're typically played for comedy.

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What's the story?

Set inside a threadbare Brooklyn apartment building, THE HONEYMOONERS follows the antics of boisterous city bus driver Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) and his repeated attempts to get rich quick with help from his dimwitted best friend, Ed Norton (Art Carney), who lives upstairs. Meanwhile, Ralph's long-suffering wife, Alice (Audrey Meadows), never expects her husband's schemes to work -- and rarely keeps her opinions to herself.

Is it any good?

Even though The Honeymooners often ends up on critics' lists of the most beloved television comedies of all time, there's bound to be a disconnect for modern audiences, especially those who can't dismiss the series' stereotypical take on married life as a now-outdated product of its time. Because while Ralph's classic catchphrase might have brought in peals of laughter in its day, his frequent threats to send his wife "to the moon" actually play as borderline disturbing when paired with his closed fist coming swiftly toward her face.

The show is still notable, however, for two things: Carney's five-time Emmy Award-winning performance as Ralph's bumbling best friend, Ed, and the critical role The Honeymooners played in television history as one of the first series to offer an unfiltered look at working-class households of the 1950s (standing in stark contrast to the highly glossed families of Leave It to Beaver and other shows that would follow in its footsteps). It also served to inspire a slew of other sitcoms, some of which still echo its basic structure today.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the show's use of now-outdated male and female stereotypes. How does this show portray relationships between men and women? How does that differ between the way those relationships are portrayed on television today?

  • Can you think of other TV comedies that might have been inspired by this one? How do shows like Roseanne, The King of Queens, or even The Flintstones compare?

  • Does the show's comedy still hold up, considering this show is more than half a century old? Which elements make it feel less relatable for modern audiences?

TV details

For kids who love classics

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