Nearly a half-century after its television debut, "The Honeymooners" is enjoying a weeklong tribute this week on cable's TV Land.
Certainly few sitcoms are more revered than "The Honeymooners," which began in 1951 as a sketch on the Dumont network's "Cavalcade of Stars," became an integral part of Jackie Gleason's weekly variety show the next year, aired as its own sitcom from 1955 to 1956 (the episodes now collectively known as the "Classic 39") and continued showing up in various incarnations as late as 1976.
Centering on two working-class New York couples -- bus driver Ralph Kramden and his wife, Alice (Gleason and Jayne Meadows), plus sewer worker Ed Norton and his wife, Trixie (Art Carney and Joyce Randolph) -- "The Honeymooners" was an instant hit. It's also that rare sitcom that's just as funny today as ever; among its contemporaries, only "I Love Lucy" rivals it in popularity.
What makes the early shows even more remarkable is that they were broadcast live; the actors were frequently forced to ad-lib their way out of unexpected glitches (in one famous instance, Gleason missed his cue to come onstage, and Carney was forced to improvise an entire skit about peeling an orange).
Tonight, a 1965 installment of "The Jackie Gleason Show and His American Scene Magazine" airs at 10 p.m. Featured is a musical installment of "The Honeymooners" in which Ralph and Alice try to adopt a baby.
Tomorrow night at 10, "The Honeymooners ... The Really Lost Debut Episodes" includes six segments from "Cavalcade of Stars." Including is the gang's Oct. 5, 1951, debut, which featured Gleason and Carney (the latter as the neighborhood beat cop). Pert Kelton played Alice Kramden; she was replaced the next year, when "The Honeymooners" debuted on CBS and network executives didn't want to employ an actress who was blacklisted as a possible Communist sympathizer.
The real celebration, however, kicks off at 6 a.m. Saturday with a 48-hour marathon featuring all of the "Classic 39" episodes and the earlier 69 "Lost" episodes, as well as repeats of the new hourlong special, "Inside TV Land: The Honeymooners" (10 p.m. Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday). Sprinkled throughout the marathon will be brief newly filmed spots featuring Carney as Norton dispensing what the network is calling "Ed-Vice." And in case you're wondering, he's still wearing the same hat, vest and white undershirt.
St. Patrick's celebration
Housebound Irish revelers may want to check out WJHU-FM (88.1) Friday afternoon, when Marc O'Steiner serves as host for what he promises will be a "non-political" St. Patrick's Day celebration featuring Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and his band, O'Malley's March. The festivities, scheduled for the first half of Steiner's show, will also feature cast members from the Center Stage production of "The Hostage."
On a more serious note, the second half of today's show will feature Eleanor Smeal, former president of the National Organization for Women and current head of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Among other topics, Smeal will speak on the forthcoming Feminist Expo 2000.
"The Marc Steiner Show" airs weekdays from noon to 2 p.m. on WJHU.
Flood victims to benefit
Baltimore's Radio One network is holding a radiothon tomorrowto raise money for victims of flooding in Mozambique.
The Radio One stations will broadcast live from outside their studios, at 100 St. Paul St., tomorrow from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Listeners are urged to stop by and donate money for the Radio One Relief for Mozambique Drive.
Radio One operates four stations in Baltimore: top-rated WERQ-FM (92.3), WWIN-FM (95.9), WWIN-AM (1400) and WOLB-AM (1010).
Pax's Oscar tribute
It may sound unlikely, but it's true: Pax TV has organized a tribute to the Oscars for next week, centering on reruns of "Touched by an Angel" and "Diagnosis Murder."
How, you ask? It seems enough past Oscar nominees (and even one current nominee) have guest-starred on those programs to fill an entire week's programming.
The "Touched by an Angel" episodes that have been touched by Oscar feature guest stars Olympia Dukakis (Monday), Cloris Leachman and James Earl Jones (Tuesday), Haley Joel Osment (Wednesday), Rita Moreno (Thursday) and Edward James Olmos (Friday).
On "Diagnosis Murder," the visiting Oscar nominees are Sally Kellerman (Monday), Robert Vaughn (Tuesday), Piper Laurie (Wednesday), Robert Stack (Thursday) and Elliott Gould (Friday).
"Touched by an Angel" airs from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, "Diagnosis Murder" from 10 p.m.-11 p.m.
Goodbye to Lopez
Farewell to 98-Rock's Lopez, whose two decades as host of the liberally liberal "The Sunday Lopez" talk show (actually, it was called "The Spanish Inquisition" when it started in 1980) ended with Sunday's broadcast. He'll still be heard mornings on WIYY-FM (97.9) as one-third of the "Kirk, Mark & Lopez" show but has opted against starting a third decade as talk-show host.
TV's top shows
Here are last week's top TV shows, according to A. C. Nielsen Co. figures:
1 Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Tues. ABC 19.5
2 Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Sun. ABC 17.5
3 Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Thurs. ABC 17.2
4 60 Minutes CBS 14.7
5 Friends NBC 13.9
6 The Practice ABC 13.4
7 ABC Special Report: Super Tuesday ABC 13.1
8 Touched by an Angel CBS 12.9
9 ABC Special Report: Super Tuesday ABC 12.0
10 Everybody Loves Raymond CBS 11.0
The rating is the percentage of homes equipped with a TV in use.