The Color Honeymooners Collection 2
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(Feb 26, 2008)
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The Color Honeymooners (a/k/a The Jackie Gleason Show), a top-rated comedy/variety program aired, from the sun and fun capital of the world Miami Beach! on Saturday night from 1966-70 on CBS-TV. This long-running series marked the final weekly TV show for The Great One.
Reprising their famous characters from The Honeymooners, the cast was led by Jackie Gleason (Ralph Kramden) and Art Carney (Ed Norton). Newcomers Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean played long-suffering wives Alice and Trixie. Like popular variety series of the time, the show s format was a clever combination of new comedy sketches coupled with classic Honeymooners bits. Plenty of big name guest stars and a generous helping of singing and dancing rounded out the hour.
Regulars included Gleason s glamorous Glea-Girls; the June Taylor Dancers; Sammy Spear and His Orchestra, and announcer, Johnny Olson.
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And how sweet they are too.These sketches were all basically remakes of shows done a few years before now in colour,and of course with the added musical accompaniment.But they didn't disappoint then and they don't now.The classic 39 Honeymooner episodes filmed in 1955/56 had been going strong in syndication since they went off the air.In some markets they would run both back to back,to great success.Furthermore Gleason himself knew that there would be the inevitable comparisons from those older shows to the newer ones and he made sure he gave the audiences both live in Miami Beach and at home his level best.And he succeeded in spades.
It all started back in late 1963 when Gleason happened to mention to a New York columnist that he sure wouldn't mind doing future shows in a sunnier and more golf oriented climate,like California(Gleason was an avid golfer).This caught the eye of the PR man for the Miami Beach tourism board one Hank Meyer who jumped right on it to invite Gleason and his entourage down to perform their shows in their fair city.After some some speedy negotiations it was all set and Jackie and his crew trained it southward into Miami Beach the following year.
Miami Beach rolled out the red carpet for the troupe who had the new Jackie Gleason auditorium set up especially for his show.Basically what the home audience saw then and now is a glorified stage show.It was taped on a Friday night live,edited for the hour format,and broadcast the next night nationwide.Jackie also got a myriad of other perks such as his home and attached office looking directly out onto a local golf course.And of course his infamous golf cart built to look like a small Rolls Royce and loaded to the nines with every kind of liquor imaginable.But what he got in perks Miami Beach gained 100 fold.Every broadcast started out with those famous words that are still remembered well today:"From the sun and fun capital of the world,Miami Beach...",as the camera quickly comes in toward the shoreline on crystal blue waters.The tourism bucks Miami and indeed all of Florida made on his show are really incalculable.
For about seven years The Jackie Gleason Show again reigned supreme in its' Saturday Night timeslot until the early seventies when about that time the head of the CBS network discovered a new term called "demographics".It didn't matter how high your ratings were(Jackies' were always high) but only if you fit that 18-34 year old age group that the TV gurus now believed they should be paying the most attention to.They felt Gleasons' show wasn't in the "loop",as it were, and cancelled it.
But that was about four years away at the time of the airing of the shows that are on these three discs.All of which have been transferred quite well with the odd few film flaws but pretty much all inherent in the product.Like the previous Vol.1 these shows have been cut down to varying degrees.These shows would have run closer to the 55 minute mark when first aired,while each of these rarely hit 50 minutes and most well under.From what I can tell they have mainly excised the opening banter where Gleason would come out and talk to the audience before going into the sketches.Whether this is what MPI is doing or the way the film now exists I can't say as MPI so far has refused any correspondance I have thrown their way regarding this very subject.If I ever find out I will certainly let you know immediately.
In conclusion this new release of the Honeymooners sketches from the colour era of The Jackie Gleason Shows are pure delights.There are only eight epsidoes in this release,one less from the previous volume and there are no special features whatever.However each and every sketch is sure to please those old enough to recall the series when it first aired or any new fans of the Great One.
The writers managed to improve the original scripts, and had the benefit of Broadway quality musical numbers - well, not exactly Lerner and Lowe, but nothing they wouldn't bend an ear to. The four performers sing sometimes in four-part harmony and add dance steps.
It seems that, just as in the '50s, they got better and better. The first few revivals in 1966 showed that perhaps their timing was off, along with the naturally expected slight drop in energy - 10 - 12 years is significant to physical actors - just as it is with professional athletes.
But these theatrical professionals got in the groove, got relaxed, and it is noteworthy that Sheila MacCrae really adapted well to the character that Audrey Meadows developed. She seemed almost a star-struck understudy in some of the MPI Volume One material - here, she does just fine.
"Without Reservations", I can say with a echo of the title, is much better than its' black and white antecedant, which had some uncharacteristic second-rate slapstick. Gleason and Carney flow as well as in the previous decade, and the laughs flow. Another remake, perhaps twice as good with the older and wiser (?) leads is "Movies Are Better Than Ever", a reworking of the 1955 "Kramden Versus Norton".
Another 1955 sketch revived for '60s color is "One Big Happy Family", title changed to "Flushing Ho" - a good script, with a predictable plotline about the families moving "uptown" and living together as long as the boys behave. Well, that was unlikely. Has some qualities of the "Classic 39", though, typically, has some tired slapstick, found in abundance throughout the live sketches, but very rare in those masterpieces filmed as a separate series: Ralph applies a fork to a problem toaster and Norton decides connect to the power source as a display of "teamwork" which was noticeably missing since the four moved in together, or at least since the *two* moved in. The current flows and Gleason does "electrocution" schtick. Not funny in 1955 *or* 1967. 2008? Should have been deleted.
I surely understand why a fan demands the kinescope editions, especially the musicals, which have quite mysteriously found a hiding place (maybe on the backseat of Ralph's bus). But these color renditions are very entertaining...even poignant considering that the characters are still stuck in neutral as wanna-be entrepreneurs; Alice still hasn't kept up with the Nortons, who have curtains on the kitchen windows.
Yes, and possibly 100% of longtime fans prefer Meadows and Randolph to MaCrae and Kean. But those fans should not turn away from collections like these.
I thought that a small booklet would have been great, especially with cast credits and histories, and with data regarding the songs.
Video and audio quality superb.
How Sweet It Still Was!!!!!
The June Taylor Dancers seem to slow down the episode for me, I can not wait for Jackie Gleason to come on stage. Fortunately DVDs can fast forward. The additional breakaways from the script to allow Jackie & Ed to try and sing a number can also be annoying. It is just padding to stretch the 30 minute script to an hour, neither one can sing, and the lyrics usually lack whit. Jackie was trying to recreate a musical stage show.
MPI has also seen fit to edit the episodes! Jackie Gleason's closing segment is either truncated or removed altogether. I guess comments about next weeks show (which was not always a Honeymooners show) were there and MPI did not want to tell you what you would not see.
After all of this complaining, I STILL RECOMMEND THE DVDS! In their imperfect form they still bring back good memories of watching these on CBS. I am glad they have finally come out on home video.
I do wish there was some explanation for the cast change. We all love Audry Meadows, Sheila is a little more stiff in her performance, but she does deliver a "New York Wife" performance better that Audry.
Most recent customer reviews
very nostalgic for me... loved that show !!
Too bad they decided to jazz things up with musical numbers and dancing.Read more
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