The premise was that Jackie Gleason's character on the show, Ralph Kramden, planned to attend a costume party but couldn't afford to buy a costume. When he came out of their apartment bedroom wearing an outlandish costume he made himself, his wife Alice said she couldn't tell what he was supposed to be. Ralph proudly announced that he was "The Man from Space". Alice was still baffled, and commented that "nobody else is going to recognize it either."
Marty's family saw George watching a rerun of this episode the evening of October 25, 1985 while the family was having dinner, and laughing at Ralph's costume for an embarrassingly long time. Marty and Dave had seen this episode several times before, and amused each other during the meal by saying the lines one step ahead of the actors until Lorraine told them to stop. Marty did the same thing when he later happened to see the same episode while eating dinner at the Baines residence.
On seeing the episode in 1955, at the point when Ralph appeared wearing his costume, Marty blurted out that he recognized what the costume was, even before Ralph revealed it to his wife. Lorraine's brother Milton wondered how Marty could have known, since the show was brand new and was broadcast live.
Behind the scenes
- "The Man from Space" actually first aired on December 31, 1955, since Ralph was planning to attend a New Year's Eve costume party. According to imdb.com, the episode of The Honeymooners that aired on November 5, 1955, was "The Sleepwalker".
- Although Milton Baines did ask the question of "What's a rerun?", television shows were being shown in reruns as early as 1953, when networks realized the value of filming a live broadcast and telecasting it again later. However, the practice did not become prevalent until the summer of 1955, when reruns of I Love Lucy were being repeated. The Baines family, of course, did not have its first television set until November 5, so Milton's question is understandable. The question ("What's a rerun?") set up Marty's joke ("You'll find out").
- Marty was readily recognized as a "man from space" on two occasions when he wore a yellow radiation suit: at the Twin Pines Ranch, and in George's bedroom as "Darth Vader".