The Honeymooners was one of the most influential television programs of it’s time. The 1950s sitcom followed a working class husband and wife in New York City as they engaged in comedic hijinks with their married neighbors. Not only has the show inspired pretty much every sitcom about married life that has come since, but it also had some notable imitators back in it’s day. One such show that was inspired by The Honeymooners was The Flintstones. In fact, there were so many similarities between the two shows that Jackie Gleason, the stars of The Honeymooners, almost sued The Flintstones’ creators. Join Facts Verse as we explore why Jackie Gleason almost sued The Flintstones.
The Honeymooners came on the air in 1956, and the sitcom proved immediately influential. The show was created by and starred comedian Jackie Gleason, who had taken the show’s premise from a popular sketch on his variety show. The plot of The Honeymooners revolved around Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie himself. Ralph was a bus driver in New York City that worked tirelessly to support his wife. Ralph’s wife was Alice, who was played by Audrey Meadows. In addition to Ralph and Alice, the couple’s neighbors also often played into the action. Their neighbors were a fellow married couple named Ed and Trixie Norton. Together, the four characters proved a winning ensemble, and the show achieved massive success. In addition to being one of the first sitcoms, the show also proved incredibly influential to many subsequent shows depicting married couples. One of the earliest shows to be influenced by The Honeymooners was the 1960s animated sitcom The Flintstones.
The Honeymooners only produced new episodes for a year, though the show proved incredibly popular during both it’s original run and subsequent airings. The show ended it’s production run in 1956, and The Flintstones was created several years later. The Flintstones first came on the air in 1960, and Hanna-Barbera Productions produced the animated sitcom. The show went on to become the longest running animated television program ever before being beaten out by The Simpsons’ seventh season in 1995.
One might argue that one of the reason The Flintstones proved so successful was that it had borrowed it’s winning formula directly for The Honeymooners. In fact, there were many people that were arguing this even back when The Flintstones first began airing. The similarities between the two programs were immediately apparent to viewers, including to The Honeymooners’ creator, Jackie Gleason.
In many ways, The Flintstones appeared to be a carbon copy of The Honeymooners, only animated and with a distinct setting. Instead of Ralph and Alice Kramden, you had Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Like Ralph, Fred was a blue-collar worker that worked tirelessly to support his wife. Like Alice, Wilma proved more intelligent and down-to-earth than her husband, though admired him for his work ethic. In addition to the similarities between the Kramdens and the Flintstones themselves, there were also many similarities between their neighbors, the Nortons and the Rubbles.
On The Flintstones, Fred and Wilma lived next to Barney and Betty Rubble. This married couple shared a lot of similarities with Ed and Trixie Norton. Just like Ed, Barney was an easy-going foil to Fred’s more hard-willed and aggressive nature. Barney typically played the patsy to Fred’s schemes, just like Ed did to Ralph on The Honeymooners. Likewise, Betty and Trixie were both beautiful women that were often comically deemed to be far too attractive for their significant husbands.
Of course, the main difference between The Honeymooners and The Flintstones was the latter’s distinctive prehistoric setting, as well as it’s unique animated format. The Flintstones stayed on the air until 1966, lasting six seasons and 166 episodes. Today, the show maintains an impressive legacy. However, there are still many who view it as a rip-off of The Honeymooners. One person that noted the similarities between the two shows early on was Jackie Gleason, though he decided not to take any legal action.
Apparently, Jackie Gleason had seriously considered suing Hanna-Barbera Productions over the similarities between The Honeymooners and The Flintstones. However, the comedian chose to let the matter slide because he didn’t want to be perceived as the man that put an end to the beloved prehistoric family. Whether The Flintstones was a rip-off or not, audiences loved it. Perhaps wisely, Jackie decided to take the animated homage as a compliment.
The folks at Hanna-Barbera Productions were adamant that they didn’t specifically rip-off The Honeymooners, though they always claimed to be big fans of Jackie Gleason’s hit show. Whether Hanna-Barbera Productions was directly ripping elements off of The Honeymooners or not, they did attempt to recruit several of the writers that had worked on the show. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Although Hanna-Barbera Productions claimed that they weren’t directly ripping off The Honeymooners when creating The Flintstones, the similarities between the two shows go well beyond the surface. In fact, Hanna-Barbera Productions attempted to hire several writers that had worked on The Honeymooners to work on scripts for The Flintstones. Sadly, these scripts were not deemed satisfactory due to their lack of visual gags, and the writers were let go.
Beyond the basic dynamics on the couples on each show, the specific characters on The Honeymooners and The Flintstones also shared plenty of specific character traits with their respective doppelgangers. Fred was loud and had an incredibly short temper, not dissimilar from how Jackie Gleason acted as Ralph Kramden. A huge part of each show was the protagonist’s dissatisfaction with their working class job, whether we’re talking about Ralph’s gig as a bus driver or Fred’s gig as a prehistoric construction worker.
Next, let’s look at the similarities between the characters of Barney Rubble and Ed Norton. Both characters were much more easy-going than Fred and Ralph respectively, with each tending to let the other push them around. Mel Blanc was even instructed to copy the vocal mannerisms of Ed when performing the voice of Barney, though he refused. A difference between Barney and Ed was their heights, with Barney being much shorter. However, Barney’s decreased height compared to Fred served the same purpose as Ed’s reduced weight compared to Ralph, with Fred and Barney simply being opposites in height instead of weight.
Next, let’s take a closer look at the two wives each featured on the respective programs. On The Honeymooners, Ralph’s wife was Alice, who served as a calming presence for her more aggressive husband. Ralph was often outspoken, and Alice served as the quieter voice of reason. Likewise, Wilma played the same role on The Flintstones when it came to her husband. No matter how angry Fred got, Wilma always knew just what to say to calm him down.
Barney and Ed’s wives also shared similarities given their contrasting appearances with their respective husbands’. On The Honeymooners, there was a recurring joke that Ed’s wife, Trixie, was a retired burlesque dancer. The lanky and awkward Ed seemed undeserving of his beautiful wife, much like the dopey and small Barney seemed undeserving of his. Still, both lovable characters managed to charm their way into marrying way out of their league.
Another similarity between The Honeymooners and The Flintstones is that both shows featured an antagonistic mother-in-law. Both Ralph and Fred had a mother-in-law that believed they were not worthy of their respective daughters. Both Ralph and Fred were also members of a social club, something that was common around the time the shows aired. On The Honeymooners, Ralph was a member of The Loyal Order of Raccoons. On The Flintstones, Fred was a member of The Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo.
One difference between The Honeymooners and The Flintstones is that the Flintstones themselves always seemed to have more spending money than the Kramdens. One of the recurring gags on The Flintstones was Wilma and Betty’s predilection for charging extravagant purchases on their credit cards, something that Alice and Trixie simply couldn’t afford to do. As well, while the Flintstones were proud homeowners, the Kramdens were struggling to make ends meet in their New York City apartment. Still, these minor differences in spending habits between the Flintstones and the Kramdens can simply be chalked up to inflation given that both Fred and Ralph worked similar menial jobs. Perhaps laborers simply made more back in the Stone Age!
Despite the fact that it took so much obvious inspiration from The Honeymooners, The Flintstones is arguably the show that has gone on to have the bigger cultural legacy. Not only are Flintstones Chewable Vitamins still featured on store shelves today, but the property is also routinely revived in various media forms. The show was given a live-action big screen adaptation in 1994, with John Goodman as Fred and Rick Moranis as Barney. That film was given a sequel in the year 2000 with a different cast. The animated versions of the Flintstones continue to sporadically pop up in made-for-television and direct-to-video features. The Honeymooners was given a theatrical adaptation in 2005, though the film was neither financially successful nor received well by fans.
Despite the fact that the Flintstones are still raking in more money than the Kramdens, real fans know that The Flintstones would never have existed without The Honeymooners. Both shows continue to entertain and inspire audiences of all ages in reruns, and both could possibly be revived again at some point in the future.
The Honeymooners lasted for one season and 39 episodes, while The Flintstones lasted for six seasons and 166 episodes. Comment down below to share if you think that one is better than the other, or if you think that Hanna-Barbera Productions deserved to be sued for how much inspiration they took from Jackie Gleason’s hit show when creating their prehistoric animated sitcom. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!