Ahh, The Honeymooners. I've been a big fan of Jackie
Gleason as long as I can remember. As a young child, watching the
Jackie Gleason show in the late 60's was a highlight of my TV-viewing week,
eclipsed only by Star Trek and Saturday morning cartoons (mainly
Spider-Man.) I eagerly awaited every installment of The Great
One's TV show since I knew I would be guaranteed an hour of hilarity.
Once when I was playing with some friends in an empty lot near my house,
I fell on a rusty piece of metal and gashed my arm open pretty badly.
Many hours and several stitches later as my parents and I were leaving
the hospital I asked what time it was. It was late, after 9 pm, and
I instantly started to cry and cry. My mother asked me if my arm
was hurting, and I said no, we had missed Jackie Gleason. That was
much worse than getting scared for life.
I heard that some of these classic Gleason shows that I remembered from
my youth were coming to DVD, I was naturally looking forward to them.
Having soaked up the nine episodes on this set I'm glad that they've been
released, though the shows don't hold up as well as I was hoping.
A little dated and not as tight as the "Classic 39" Honeymooners show,
these episodes still have some good laughs in them.
Originally created as a reoccurring skit on the Gleason hosted Cavalcade
of Stars, the Honeymooners stared Gleason as Ralph Kramden,
a blow-hard Brooklyn buss driver who's always trying to come up with a
scheme to strike it rich. Aiding him in his schemes is his best friend
and upstairs neighbor Ed Norton (Art Carney), and opposing them are their
long suffering wives Alice and Trixie.
The skit was so popular that in 1955 it was spun off into its own half
hour TV show that lasted only one season. These are the known as
the "Classic 39" and featured Audrey Meadows as Alice and Joyce Randolph
as Trixie. Though the ratings weren't good in the mid 50's, when
the series went into syndication it became incredibly popular and has been
on the air ever since.
After the failure of The Honeymooners as a stand alone show,
Gleason kept the series alive on his variety shows where it had started.
It was a part of his 1962 show The Jackie Gleason American Scene Magazine
(which was soon renamed The Jackie Gleason Show) and when he moved
his show to Miami Beach ("The fun and sun capital of the world") in 1966,
the Honeymooners started playing a larger role. Though the characters
wouldn't appear in every episode, when they did the Honeymooners would
take up the entire hour-length show instead of being just a short skit.
This time around Alice and Trixie are played by Sheila MacRae and Jane
DVD set presents nine consecutive Honeymooner episodes of The
Jackie Gleason Show from that first season in Miami, 1966. These
shows makes a nice collection because they all make up one larger story,
where Ralph, Alice, Ed, and Trixie all win around the world trips.
After hearing that his brother-in-law has won a trip to Europe, Ralph
decides that he's going to win something too. He proceeds to
enter every contest he can find and ends up winning the Flakey Wakey Cereal
slogan contest with the line: "Flakey Wakey's add to the taste and take
away from your fat little waist."
He wins the contest, and since both Ralph and Ed worked on the slogan,
the PR company decided to award both men a trip around the world for two.
(How nice of them!) In the words of Jackie Gleason, and away we go....
They group goes all over the world, getting into trouble where ever
they end up. Traveling by ocean liner, the boys fall overboard on
the way to Paris, Ralph gets in trouble for passing counterfeit money,
they get captured by Russians and all other sorts of misadventures occur.
By the time they're heading home, the girls are barely speaking to their
husbands, but that doesn't last for long.
When compared to the 39 episodes of The Honeymooners that we
all know and love, this set isn't nearly as entertaining. This series
of shows is based on Honeymooner skits that Gleason originally did in the
50's that have been expanded to fill an hour time slot. Because of
this these episodes feel padded. A lot of the new material doesn't
work well either.
episode starts with a dance number, most of them end with a musical number
and there are songs sprinkled through the episodes themselves. These
songs really bring the momentum to a halt and ruin the flow of the comedy.
Added to that is the fact that Gleason and Carney can't really sing, they
recite the songs more than actually sing them. While MacRae and Kean
do have good voices, it's not enough to make up for the others.
You can almost pick out the scenes that were added to fill out the time
slot too. These are often only tangentially related to the main plot
and most of all they aren't that funny. They'll go a long way to
set up a joke that's only mediocre.
Art Carney and the Great One himself are also getting older at this
point. They are very talented actors and Gleason's expressions are
still priceless, but their timing wasn't as solid as it was a decade earlier
and they had more trouble playing the more outrageous scenes and making
The supporting actresses, Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean, were competent
in their roles but they didn't have the chemistry with the leads that Meadows
and Randolph had. MacRae never seemed to be Gleason's equal the way
Jane Meadows was, she just had trouble outshining the star of the show,
which is understandable but regrettable.
That's the bad news. The good news is that even with these flaws,
the shows are funny. Each episode has a few good laugh-out-loud moments,
and Jackie Gleason is a joy to watch. If they could have tightened
these shows up a bit by cutting them down to half an hour they would have
been much better. As it is, they are good, but flawed.
These nine shows (which run about 45 minutes each) are evenly distributed
among three DVDs. They come in a clear, single width keepcase with
an single page that holds the two extra discs. A very nice looking
I was a bit disappointed in the two channel mono sound on this set.
There is a fair amount of distortion especially in the musical numbers.
The high notes and loud sections just don't make it. The dialog is
easy to understand for the most part, though the voices do fade when people
turn away from the microphone. Since this show was filmed on a large
stage, there is some echo when the stage is mostly empty though this isn't
a problem when the sets fill up the area. These problems are most
assuredly on the masters and not due to the mastering of the DVD, but it
effects the quality of the presentation none the less. There are
The full frame color picture looks fine for a show this age, but not
great. The image is very soft and indistinct. There's quite
a bit of color bleeding with all the brightly colored clothes, and some
light chroma noise too. People with larger displays may be bothered
by the edge enhancement that was added to the picture, and there's a bit
of digital noise too. Given the technology of the time (1966) it's
about what would be expected for a TV show. Very watchable, but not
The only extra is a 10-minute featurette entitled The Great Gleason
Express. This short documentary talks about Jakie's move to Miami
and the fourteen car private train he hired to take the cast and crew of
his show to their new location. There's a lot of film of the train
ride itself, along with an interview with Gleason's widow. A nice,
if a bit short, bonus item.
This show hasn't aged as well as the 'classic 39' Honeymooners episodes,
but it's still funny. The song and dance numbers don't really add
anything to the show, and the introductions, dressed up and quaffed models
announcing the stars, is laughably gaudy by today's standards. Even
though these shows feel padded there are great moments in each episode
that make waiting through all the other stuff worth it. Hardcore
Gleason fans like myself will be happy to own these, but the more casual
fan will be happy with a rental. They don't have the replay
value of the more well know Honeymooners shows, but they are still fun.