I haven’t had a chance to play much golf this year, so I’m bound to be rusty the next time I hit the links. Fortunately, if I want to refresh myself on the nuances of the golf swing, golf attire, and golf etiquette, I can always watch Art Carney giving Jackie Gleason some tips on a classic episode of The Honeymooners.
What was the first TV catch phrase? When did TV writers and stars realize that there was something different about this new entertainment medium that made viewers crave the familiar line that they had heard so many times before? The discovery probably occurred at the very dawn of the TV era, when someone like Milton Berle was running out of new ideas and decided to re-use some old material, and realized to his astonishment that the audience loved it.
I can’t think of many catch phrases from the early TV shows. If Lucille Ball had a catch phrase on I Love Lucy — other than crying Waaah! when one of her plans went awry — I don’t recall it. The first catch phrase I can think of is also one that would never be used on modern TV: Ralph Kramden’s frustrated uppercut and cry of “Pow! Right in the kisser!” when Alice had finally and conclusively squelched another of his harebrained get-rich-quick schemes on The Honeymooners. (Of course, everyone knew that Ralph loved Alice deeply and would never, ever hurt her.) If that was in fact the first catch phrase, later TV stars owe Jackie Gleason a huge debt.