Some traditions are more well known than others, but for residents of the New York area, something would seem awry without the latter, which ritually kicks off the television year with several hours’ worth of the seminal sitcom.
It’s still easy to appreciate the timeless humor of these 50-year-old episodes, even when you know all the plots and punch lines. And held above the fray of our tawdry popular culture, The Honeymooners assumes a level of sophistication that was probably unimaginable when CBS launched The Jackie Gleason Show in 1952. Equally jarring is how these two couples, who spent $75 to rent a pair of one-bedroom apartments in Bensonhurst (that’s for two apartments, and even after a 15 percent rent increase, which Ralph uproariously protested by living in the street), depict a New York City more realistic than anything on the air today.
With that, Slice has decided to kick off the year with a slice of this landmark show. No, this does not involve Ralph’s ill-fated plan to open a no-cal pizzeria, a scheme cited in more than one episode but one that never made it to script. Taken from the episode in which Ralph learned that Alice was planning a surprise birthday party for him, it involves a diet-conscious Ralph being tempted by Ed’s indulgence in our favorite food. At this point in the show’s run, Ralph and Alice were using a red-and-white-checkerboard tablecloth, making this pizza scene even more tasty. Bang, zoom!
Ed: How about a little pizza?
Ralph: Yeah, how about a little pizza, Alice?
Alice: No, thanks, Ralph. I’m going to bed. And Ralph doesn’t want any pizza, either.
Ralph: What do you mean I don’t want any pizza? I’m hungry.
Alice: Ralph, I made you a very nice salad and it’s in the ice box. Good night, honey. Good night, Ed. Ralph—salad.
Ralph: Good night.
Ed: You want me to move this pizza upstairs so it will remove the temptation?
Ralph: What do you think I am, a child or something? That if anything is in front of me, I’ve got to eat it? Who needs it? I’ve got a salad. Not a bad one, either. Everything in here is good for you. You’ve got carrots for your eyes. Got beets for your blood. There’s lettuce for your teeth. Everything’s good. Everything’s good for something on this plate.
Ed (lifting whole pizza from the box): Poor little pizza. Ain’t good for nothing. I’m telling you, if pizzas were manhole covers, the sewer system would be a paradise. (Ed bites into the uncut pie.)
Ralph: Will you stop waving that thing?
Ed: I thought you said it doesn’t bother you.
Ralph: It doesn’t bother me. You want to eat it, go ahead and eat it. Just don’t enjoy it so much.
Ed: You want some pizza?
Ed: You can’t have any. It’s not that I’m selfish and don’t want to give you any. It’s not any good for you. That’s all.
Ralph: I didn’t ask you for a half of a pizza or a quarter of a pizza or even an eighth of a pizza. All I want is a teensy-weensy little piece to find out what it tastes like.
Ed: Well, I guess a teensy-weensy little piece won’t hurt. (Ed cuts off a minuscule piece, about a quarter-inch square, with a pair of scissors and puts it in Ralph’s salad.)
Ralph: And what am I going to do with that?
Ed: What’s the matter? That’s not enough for you? You want more? (Ed starts cutting Ralph another piece.)
Ralph: Yes, I want more.
Ed: Well, if you wanted a teensy-weensy piece, why didn’t you ask? (Ed holds up first piece in left hand.) This is an itsy-bitsy piece. (Ed holds up second piece in right hand.) This is a teensy-weensy piece. If you wanted an itsy-bitsy piece, which is bigger, you should have asked.
Ralph: Sit down and eat.
New Yorkers who missed this year’s Honeymooners marathon can catch a ride out of the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot on Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, visit the Viacom advertisement in the form of a Ralph Kramden statue outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, and support current transit workers in quest of a fair contract.