DVD review: The Honeymooners, color episodes, Collection One

”And awaaaaaaay we go!” Only this time, in color. After previously releasing several DVD collections of the so-called “lost episodes” of The Honeymooners—the rarely seen black-and-white videotaped sketches that were originally performed by Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and company as part of the various TV variety hours hosted by Gleason throughout the ‘50s and early ‘60s—MPI unveils its first color edition of The Honeymooners with a three-disc, nine episode collection of shows that first aired in the fall of 1966, as part of Gleason’s popular CBS Saturday night variety hour. These episodes are actually a reprise of The Honeymooners’ Trip to Europe, a series of skits originally performed on The Jackie Gleason Show during the 1956-1957 season, beginning with “In 25 Words or Less,” a revamp of the famous “Box Top Kid” sketch from ’56 in which Ralph Kramden (Gleason) and Ed Norton (Carney) win a contest that sends them overseas along with their wives. Besides being broadcast in color, there are notable differences between the 1966 episodes and the original Trip to Europe. These Honeymooners routines are not sketch comedies but full-fledged musical revues, complete with original songs—much in vein with the format Gleason introduced that season, when he moved production of The Jackie Gleason Show from

New York to Miami Beach, “the sun and fun capital of the world.” In addition, Sheila MacRae replaces Audrey Meadows as the long-suffering Alice Kramden, while Jane Kean takes over for Joyce Randolph as Norton’s wife, Trixie. Also along for the ride are The June Taylor Dancers, announcer Johnny Olsen, and surprise guest stars such as Bing Crosby. Still, there are enough trademark lines (“One of these days, Alice”) and classic putdowns to evoke memories of the original black-and-white Honeymooners, plus the always delightful Carney is back on board after being absent from the Gleason show the previous nine seasons. Whether you’re a Gleason fan, a Honeymooners aficionado, or one who yearns for old-time TV variety hours, The Color Honeymooners definitely belongs in your collection. The lone extra is The Great Gleason Express, a nicely-done featurette that tells the story of why Gleason decided to move his show to Miami Beach in 1966. There is, however, some inside humor for those who know their TV history. One of the episodes in this Color Honeymooners package is entitled “You’re in the Picture,” a reference, of course, to You’re in the Picture, the ill-conceived prime time game show Gleason hosted in 1961 … a show so bad, not only was it cancelled after one broadcast, but Gleason famously apologized for the debacle on live television the following week. Just goes to show that even the Great One wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself. Ed Robertson
edr@sidereel.com

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