The Color Honeymooners – Collection 1

Join The Honeymooners as they take their famous ‘Trip to Europe’… and this time they travel in color. Originally performed during the 1956-1957 season over eight shows, their journey now is introduced by the 1954 ‘Box Top Kid’ sketch, revamped as the new ‘In 25 Words or Less’ in which Ralph and Ed win their trip. The Jackie Gleason Show kicked off the 1966-1967 season by bringing back The Honeymooners, but with a few changes: the show was in color, musical performances were added and, in addition to Art Carney returning as Ed Norton, Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean joined the cast as Alice and Trixie. The Color Honeymooners Collection 1 includes nine, one-hour episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show digitally re-mastered and unedited. Included are Gleason’s glamorous Glea Girls, The June Taylor Dancers, Sammy Spear &His Orchestra and announcer Johnny Olson.

Editorial review of The Color Honeymooners – Collection 1 courtesy of Amazon.com

In 1966, Jackie Gleason’s television variety show added a new hour-long sketch that reintroduced audiences to one of America’s favorite families–the Kramdens and their neighbors the Nortons, whom Gleason immortalized as The Honeymooners in the 1950s, first on his variety series, and as its own program. For this all-color incarnation, Gleason reunited with Art Carney as pal Ed Norton, while Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean were the new Alice and Trixie, respectively. The Color Honeymooners also added musical numbers to the sketches, but aside from these new features, it was the same old Honeymooners, as seen in this four-disc set, which preserves the nine-episode “Trip to Europe” story arc.

 The Color Honeymooners - Collection 1

It’s actually a revised version of the “Box Top Kid” sketch from The Jackie Gleason Show circa ’56-57, which finds Ralph consumed with contest fever after his brother-in-law wins an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe through a write-in contest. After Norton pens a slogan for Flakey Wakey, Ralph is granted first prize–but must first prove that he’s lost weight from eating the product. This spins into an eight-part story which takes the Kramdens and Nortons to Europe, where they cause havoc in the great cities of the Continent, as well as on an African safari. The sketches are balanced out by a number of musical bits, including performances by the June Taylor Dancers, the Glea Girls, and other regulars and guests.

The real question for Honeymooners fans is: do the color episodes hold up when compared to the originals? And the answer is, in a way, no: Gleason and Carney are older and a bit slower in regard to timing and performance, and MacRae and Kean, while pleasant, can’t touch Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph as Alice and Trixie. And the musical and production numbers, while eye-catching, weigh down the humor at the core of the sketches. But there’s still plenty of chemistry between Gleason and Carney in their best-loved roles, and if you’re a die-hard Honeymooners/Gleason fan, you’ll probably want to add these episodes to your collection.

The four-disc set includes all nine unedited episodes from the story arc, as well as the featurette “The Great Gleason Express,” which chronicles the star’s process of moving his show from New York to Miami Beach (“the sun and fun capital of the world,” lest you’ve forgotten) via a lavish train, with plenty of stops along the way to cater to his fans. The featurette is rounded out by an interview with Gleason’s widow, Marilyn Taylor Gleason. –Paul Gaita

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