Yes,MPI has finally started its’ release of the Jackie Gleason Show.This set gleans its’ material from the 1966-70 series which was filmed in colour.It contains the “Trip To Europe” series first done back in the late 50s.It’s an updated and I think just as good version as its’ black and white counterpart.
This was the first(Gleason) show series to be shot in colour and Gleason certainly makes effective use of the medium as is evidenced by the myriad of coulourful costumes worn by both cast and crew.
Now before I go any further I think for the sake of those that have read the above “review” by Mr.Gaita I should clarify two essential points.
Firstly is that this set is a three disc set,with nine episodes.
Secondly these are NOT hour long sketches nor are the entire shows one sees here an hour long.Indeed no Honeymooners sketch in any Gleason show(excluding specials of course) were ever one hour in length.The running time of these shows range anywhere from 46-49 minutes…in total.
What has happened is,for whatever reason,MPI has CUT Gleasons’ entire opening monologue sequence.What we get is everything AFTER that,i.e. the Honeymooners sketch and,if time permitted because sometimes it didn’t,Gleasons’ closing words,thank you to the audience and introduction of the cast.The cutting of the opening is certainly not a make or break situation but it is VERY disappointing and the big reason I gave this set a star less than it should get.
With that aside let’s get back to the review.I must say that I never saw any of Gleasons shows in colour because I simply didn’t own a colour set until years later.Only the more financially well to do in my neighbourhood had colour sets and those I did see sported this terrible reddish-greenish blury picture.I was quite happy to stick with my B&W.
MPI has done a pretty good job in presenting these shows but not a great one.The clarity is fine but the film just shows its’ age much more than it should and I think a better job could have been done to bring it up to the standard of other shows from that same time.
As far as Gleason,Carney,Kean and McCrae are concerned I just can’t say enough about them.The two principles are right on top of their form the entire way through.Their chemistry is immediately apparent and they know their characters inside and out and the fun they have with each other spills out to us(and the live audience then).Kean and McCrae of course are no slouches in their departments considering the big shoes they had to fill.Remember the so called Classic 39 were still on TV at this time and everyone who watched THIS show were intimately familiar with that one.There were unfair comparisons then and there are now with their counterparts Meadows and Randolph.In my oppinion there is and never was any comparison at all.No one could take Meadows and Randolphs’ places and both Kean and McCrae knew this from the get go.So they did THEIR thing not imitations,which would have fallen as flat as a pancake had they attempted to do so.Therefore the new dynamic they brought to their parts blended nicely with Gleason and Carneys roles.This oppinion has never been a popular one with hardcore fans of the Honeymooners,but it’s one I’ve never waivered from since those years when I first saw them.
I must also give a special mention to the June Taylor dancers.I had forgotten but seeing these talented people again after almost 40 years is a pleasure in itself.They were a hard working bunch of hoofers to be sure and I invite viewers to pay special attention to the dancing in the Irish segment of this series.The footwork would make even Michael Flatley jealous I’m sure!
This is Vol#1 of what I hope will be a total release of all the Honeymooners sketches from this show of this period.I believe there are somewhere around 33 sketches left to be released,if this is MPIs’ plans that is.Remember also that NOT every Jackie Gleason show had a Honeymooners sketch.Like Jackies’ early 50s shows the sketches done on this particular series could be of various lengths also,if as I say there was one done at all.
Lastly I should mention that this series(The Trip to Europe) has been the only one previously syndicated and released on TV.On TV it also included a sketch called “King of the Castle”.This had them back home and some events that happen after the trip.MPI must have thought this particluar segment didn’t warrant inclusion because it wasn’t technically part of the “trip”,so I’m sure it will be released on a future set.
In conclusion I would certainly recommend this set to any Honeymooners fan and having said that this set should not be relegated just to “die -hard” fans of the show,as the editorial “review” states.Nothing could be further from the truth.These shows are light,true to the Honeymooner format and an experience the whole family can enjoy.And come to think of it that’s exactly who were watching and enjoying them back…
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As noted in the Amazon.com synopsis, these are segments from Jackie Gleason’s CBS variety show in 1966. They are hour-long, musical (!) “Honeymooners” segments in which the Kramdens and the Nortons travel to Europe and have various adventures.
While I enjoyed these episodes and am glad I have more “Honeymooners” in my DVD collection, I nevertheless get the impression that this is where Gleason’s comedic style, as with Lucille Ball’s in the 1960′s, started to calcify. The black-and-white “Honeymooners” seems more “authentic,” if you will — you really get the sense that this is a couple barely making ends meet. By contrast, in the color eps, you can see Gleason and Carney really playing to the crowd. Every time a familiar bit of shtick comes, the audience goes crazy — a precursor of the whooping and hollering yahoos you hear on live-audience sitcoms these days.
And in the B&W eps, Gleason is far more believable as a pale, manic, barely-getting-by bus-driver. It’s kind of hard to identify with the Kramdens when each episode begins with a splashy production number, and once-pale Ralph sports a Miami tan.
Lastly, some of the writing is a bit open-ended, such as the episode where Kramden and Norton are stranded at sea. (Spoiler alert here.) In one scene, they’re in a lifeboat; in the next and final scene, there’s a quick wrap-up where their rescue is barely mentioned. They get all sorts of press coverage for their Flakey Wakey trip and hardly anyone even notices a rescue at sea?
This is nit-picking, I know, and again, I am glad to have the DVD. Still, some of these sore points tend to stick out. If you’re enough of a “Honeymooners” fan, though, you’ll probably overlook these problems.
Video quality is excellent. There’s only one “extra” feature, but it’s an interesting mini-documentary about “The Great Gleason Express,” in which Gleason took himself and his crew on a heavily-publicized cross-country train tour to move his TV show from New York City to Miami Beach (“the sun-and-fun capital of the world,” as announcer Johnny Olson intones at the start of each episode).
Growing up during the 1960s, “The Jackie Gleason Show” was for me one of the best variety shows ever…and I truly loved the shows with the “Honeymooners.” We’re talking about the shows that had Sheila MacRae (Alice)and Jane Kean (Trixie), plus Sammy Spear’s orchestra and the June Taylor dancers added to the mix as the gang embarks on their European adventure – I can recall seeing a number of the episodes when they first aired.
Kudos to MPI for fantastic remastering, but unfortunately with just one extra (the too-short “Gleason Express” vignette), I am kind of disappointed. Next time, please include more extras!!!