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Oh, My Aching Back
The Honeymooners Oh, My Aching Back (1955–1956)
TV Episode
  • Director:
    Frank Satenstein
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Leonard Stern,Sydney Zelinka
  • Cast:
    Jackie Gleason,Art Carney,Audrey Meadows
  • Time:
  • Year:
Ralph injures his back after a bowling tournament a day before his physical examination.
Episode credited cast:
Jackie Gleason Jackie Gleason - Ralph Kramden
Art Carney Art Carney - Ed Norton
Audrey Meadows Audrey Meadows - Alice Kramden
Joyce Randolph Joyce Randolph - Trixie Norton
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jack Lescoulie Jack Lescoulie - Himself - Announcer (voice)

The Honeymooners Oh, My Aching Back (1955–1956)

Norton mentions Spade Cooley. Cooley was an Western swing musician, big band leader, actor, and television personality. His career ended in 1961 when he was convicted for the murder of his second wife, Ella Mae Evans because of her many infidelities, including an affair with Roy Rogers.

Not one of the funnier episodes of the HONEYMOONERS "Classic 39," this one finds Ralph wanting to participate in a bowling championship despite having an important physical exam at work the next day. Alice warns him not to go; he acquiesces at first, but after some cajoling from Norton he goes anyway. Predictably, Ralph throws his back out while bowling. He must conceal this fact from Alice and heal by morning so he can pass the physical. Much of this episode is almost viscerally painful to watch, what with Ralph's stiff back and his desperate attempts to conceal it. Having back-slapping Uncle Leo over for a visit doesn't help matters. All of this is inexplicably mined for laughs. Just about the only genuinely funny thing in here is the bit where Norton attempts to take Ralph's temperature (he has to light a match to read the thermometer and...you get the picture). The ending of the episode is cut-and-dried. Ralph is even more dishonest, stupid and childish here than usual and you could argue that he got what he had coming to him.
This seems like a throwaway episode. It is predictable and not very funny. It's the old "put one over on the wife" things that shows the writers were suffering from a block. Anyway, Ralph is set to have a physical to keep his job. Alice wants him to go to her mother's for dinner. He tells her he needs to rest up, but it is a ruse to go bowling with Norton and his team. Alice catches them as they are leaving and he acquiesces and decides to stay home. He has had back trouble and can't afford to hurt himself. That is, until Norton starts putting on the peer pressure, shaming him. The rest is pure formula and kind of sad. Also, there is no real satisfying conclusion.
Fitfully funny episode. Seems Ralph's got a conflict. Should he go bowling with the guys who depend on him, or go with Alice to her mother's. Guess which Ralph wants to do. Trouble is he's got a job physical the next day and bowling risks hurting his back. So even if he tricks Alice into not going with her, he risks his job by bowling.

Reviewer Desapio has a point. The series' standard humor is put into question by Ralph's all too evident back pain. There is a fine line between comedy and tragedy, as slipping on a banana peel usually illustrates. Then too, Gleason's an excellent actor whether feigning anger, humor, or pain. Seems ironic that his acting skill would get a mixed response to this episode. Nonetheless, there're still many funny parts, as when Alice catches big boy in his bowling jacket. All in all, however, it's a matter-of-taste 30-minutes.