I have watched the first DVD many, many times and still laugh at it. The Color Honeymooners are just as good as the ones made in the 1950s, and they’re in lovely color complete with cheery musical numbers with professional dancers and good musical arrangements. It has been a long wait and I’m going to be the first to buy the next DVD, or next 9 episodes. Wish MPI would put them out a bit faster, though. They are light-hearted, fun and very funny, all shot on a stage in Miami Beach. Classic, true entertainment, bar none. I will keep these always and watch them over and over again, that’s how good I think they are.
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For all of you who truly love The Honeymooners, it is truly a shame that MPI holds the exclusive rights to this show. The DVD’s of the Lost Episodes are without question the worst home video releases of any TV show in history, with many episodes that are not actually lost but essentially lost to us, since MPI still hasn’t released them. Rumors have abounded about an eventual re-release of the Lost Episodes by MPI, which would finally give them the DVD treatment most other shows now get, with full season sets and extras truly worth watching. Now after two years since the release of the first volume of the Color Honeymooners, MPI is now releasing Color Honeymooners Vol. 2. For a MSRP of $39.99, we get a grand total of NINE episodes, which is the same number that was included on Vol. 1. For that amount of money, we should have gotten all 18 episodes from Volumes 1 and 2. It seems that we will have to pay through the nose to eventually own the complete Honeymooners, which will probably take until well after 2010.
As for the Color Honeymooners themselves, by and large they are a pale imitation of the black & white Honeymooners of the 1950′s. As much as I love this show, no one could come close to replacing Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden, especially Sheila McRae, who is truly abysmal in the role. The same can be said for Jane Kean as Trixie, who has no charm, no appeal, and like Ms. McRae, very little acting ability. As for Jackie Gleason, his portrayal of Ralph in the black & white episodes was without question a performance for the ages. In the color episodes, he is nowhere close to that level. Gleason was famous for his excessive lifestyle which unfortunately already started to take its toll on him by the time these episodes were done in the late 1960′s. As for Art Carney, his performance of Ed Norton never suffered. A few years ago on the first TV Land awards, the award for Greatest Second Banana went to Don Knotts as Barney Fife. No offense to Mr. Knotts, but he is not even in the same league as Art Carney as Ed Norton, who in my opinion is the most essential character in The Honeymooners. In the color episodes, his performance is every bit as great as it was in the 1950′s.
It is also truly sad that many of the color episodes were remakes of earlier and much better black & white versions. I find it hard to believe that Jackie Gleason would prefer to simply redo old episodes than have writers create all new stories for these characters. There is an episode of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour that features the Ricardos, the Mertzes and the Williams family from Make Room For Daddy. One can only imagine what might have been if the Kramdens and the Nortons could have met the Ricardos and the Mertzes.
Lastly, in spite of these complaints, one clear truth emerges. The sitcoms of today cannot touch classics like The Honeymooners or I Love Lucy. It is the reason why so many people prefer to watch episodes of shows they have seen many times rather than watch what passes for entertainment now.
I already own the first two Color Honeymooners DVDs and eagerly look forward to Volume 3 and beyond. But I was very disappointed that this edition skipped over the episode entitled “Life Upon the Wicked Stage”. It’s a remake of one of the best Lost Honeymooners offerings, which was titled “Songs and Witty Sayings”, where Ralph and Norton do a funny mind reading act. Unfortunately, while there were supposed to be 9 shows included here, MPI dropped this one. I called a rep from the company and was told that they had to delete the episode due to music rights issues. However, I noticed that this very show is aired on the cable TV at present. I would much rather have the show edited on DVD instead of not at all, and it’s my hope that MPI returns to it and includes it in a future volume.