Jackie Gleason and Art Carney return to their most famous characters
in the second set of The Color Honeymooners. This three disc
set presents eight entire episodes of the Jackie Gleason show from 1966-67
featuring the Honeymooners. Though these hour-long shows are derived
from the Honeymooner episodes from the 50's and padded with song and dance
numbers they're still worth watching. Gleason is wonderful, as always,
and Art Carney still retains all of his charm. Even though they aren't
quite as enjoyable and the black and white episodes, each installment offers
some good laughs.
Background: 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
This set: This DVD set presents
eight consecutive Honeymooner episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show (taking
up where the first set left off) from the first season in Miami, 1966-67.
Unlike the first set, where the Kramdens and Nortons both won a trip around
the world and each episode took place in another country, the shows in
this set are not connected and don't have any continuity. Some of
these episodes were inspired by the 50's TV series, taking the plots and
many of the gags and expanding them to fill an hour time slot. Because
of this these episodes feel padded. A lot of the new material doesn't
work well either.
Each 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.
Jackie Gleason never liked to rehearse; he thought that it ruined the
spontaneity and natural feel of a show. Because of this these shows
aren't polished. The actors are sometimes unsure of where to move
to next and more than a few times lines are flubbed. This was true
of the 50's series too, but back then it was almost expected and added
to the humor. By 1967 however standards had gone up, and watching
these today is surprising to see actors stumbling over lines or looking
around for their stage mark. There's something about the transition
to color that makes these mistakes look worse than they did in black and
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
Audrey Meadows was, she just had trouble outshining the star of the show,
which is understandable but regrettable. Kean overacts a bit, rolling
her eyes with every other line and basically acting like she's in a play
rather than being a real person.
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.
There are some great moments in this collection too. In the March
4th, 1967 episode, Rififi, Brooklyn Style, featured a Pert Kelton
as a guest star (appearing as Alice's mother.) Kelton was the very
first Alice, first playing the role in 1951. She was black-listed
by CBS during the McCarthy era, and was replaced by Audrey Meadows in 1952.
Her appearance here is a lot of fun, and Gleason's comments at the end
of the show about Kelton seem truly heartfelt.
The episodes in this collection include:
Run, Santa, Run (12-17-66): Ralph and Ed try to make some
extra money by taking a job as Santa and his elf. Unbeknownst to
them, they're really taking bets for a bookie.
King of the Castle (1-7-67): When Ralph tells Norton
to stand up to his wife, Trixie, she moves in with Alice and Ralph finds
himself living with Ed.
Movies are Better than Ever (1-14-67): Ralph takes Ed and
the girls out to a movie for Norton's Birthday. When the sewer worker
ends up winning a color TV set, things get ugly. Ralph insists that
the set is his since he bought the tickets.
Without Reservations (2-4-67): Stanely, Alice's brother,
convinces Ralph and Ed to buy a hotel along the proposed route of a new
highway. When the highway's path changes it leads to trouble.
Rififi, Brooklyn Style (3-4-67): Ralph is in charge of
collecting money for a present for the boss' daughter and buys her an expensive
watch. Alice and her mother find it and assume its Alice's birthday
present. Instead of admitting that he forgot about his wife's birthday,
Ralph cooks up a crazy scheme to get out of the mess.
Ralph Kramden Presents (3-18-67): Ralph Kramden and Ed
Norton try to get two TV stars, Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, to show
up at a Raccoon Lodge Meeting.
Flushing Ho (4-15-67): When money gets tight, the Kramdens
and the Nortons decide to move in together and rent a two bedroom apartment
Sees All - Knows All (4-22-67): A fortune-teller looks
into Ralph's future and tells him he'll kill someone within a week.
He moves in with Ed to protect Alice and so that his buddy can keep an
eye on him. The question is: Will Norton survive the week?
These eight shows (which run about 45 minutes each) are presented on
three DVDs, a trio of episodes on discs one and three and a pair on disc
two. They come in a clear, single width keepcase with a single page
that holds the two extra discs. A very nice looking package.
Note: For some reason the episode from 2-11-67, Life
Upon The Wicked Stage, is not included in this set.
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. Given the technology of the time (1966) it's
about what would be expected for a TV show. Very watchable, but not
Unfortunately there are no bonus items on this disc.
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 me 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.