In the 1950's, Jackie Gleason was America's Sultan Of Saturday Night Television.He vanquished most of his key competitors.Shows hosted by Perry Como, Sid Caesar and Lawrence Welk were either moved to other timeslots, or shifted to different nights on the broadcast schedule. Some of their shows were cancelled. Gleason reigned supreme on the Saturday TV schedule.
The volatile funnyman gained fame and fortune hosting a lavish, Saturday evening, comedy-variety program on the CBS Television network. THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW was the creative incubator for his unique portfolio of beloved characters ranging from The Poor Soul to Reginald Van Gleason III to his true alter ego, Brooklyn bus driver and devoted husband, Ralph Kramden.On that New York-based, Black & White series, he cultivated a legendary performing partnership with comedic virtuoso, Art Carney.
In the 1955-56 season,the variety hour gave way to his beloved sitcom,THE HONEYMOONERS,in his trademark, Saturday night timeslot. After one season , during which the Kramden's comic adventures failed to attract an audience commensurate with his variety series, The Great One returned to star in a Saturday night, variety series.
As the ratings declined and Gleason's interest in the arduous task of starring in a 60 minute series eroded , he moved to host an abortive game show , called YOU'RE IN THE PICTURE . That show was replaced,in a matter of days, by a loosely constructed talk format that failed to showcase Gleason's manifold talents.And then ,saying he was exhausted and in search of a new creative challenge,Gleason simply retired from weekly television...
The Fall of 1962, when the voluble and vibrant showman , who felt food, fun and spirits were meant to be enjoyed to excess , returned to the CBS network, to produce and star in JACKIE GLEASON'S AMERICAN SCENE MAGAZINE, an opulent , Broadway-style, comic revue with music, airing each week, in Gleason's original ,Saturday night timeslot.
Here, Gleason got belly laughs satirizing life at the dawn of the Kennedy-era, brought on world class guest stars and created a stable ofnew characters, including Frank Fontaine's opinionated bar-fly with operatic pipes, Crazy Guggenheim.It was a ratings and critical success.Gleason was at the pinacle, both, as a respected performer and as a larger than life personality.In 1964, the series was, at The Great One's insistence, and at CBS's expense, moved to Miami Beach.That decision was made, largely, so that Gleason , an inveterate golfer, could live and play at Florida's vaunted Inverarry County Club.
The show was reformatted as a weekly,book musical-comedy and the title shortened to simply THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW. Before it's run ended in 1970, Gleason revived THE HONEYMOONERS , with co-star Art Carney,as the musical adventures of the Kramdens and Norton's touring the globe, after winning a contest.The so-called COLOR HONEYMOONERS are still seen in syndication, today.
As his audience aged, as Gleason failed to recruit younger viewers and as CBS chose to invest in urban-oriented shows, with relevant social themes, The Great One was cancelled. While he went on to star in films and return to musical theater, he never again appeared on a weekly television series. However,his extraordinary legacy endures to this day.
Below is a clip from the NYCRETROGUY site on YOU TUBE, displaying the CBS-TV debut of JACKIE GLEASON'S AMERICAN SCENE MAGAZINE on September 29, 1962. Enjoy!!!!!
Below is a vintage sketch from JACKIE GLEASON'S AMERICAN SCENE MAGAZINE, also from the NYCRETROGUY YOU TUBE site, featuring Gleason as Joe The Bartender and Frank Fontaine, as lovable lush and barroom gossip, Crazy Guggenheim.Enjoy!!!!!