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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > TV > Honeymooners "Classic 39" Episdoes Box (CBS/Paramount DVD)

The Honeymooners Classic 39 Episodes


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Episodes: A



Rivaled only by I Love Lucy, no television series of the 1950s was greater than The Honeymooners.  While Lucille Ball’s show began on radio, Jackie Gleason’s classic began as a series of skits on his own TV variety show.  DuMont, a television network that did not survive NBC and CBS, reached their peak by default with the show.  Live TV was being succeeded by shows recorded on film, kinescopes, and the new technology of videotape.  The only 39 shows that were shot on film were the same ones that circulated for decades before the older skits were syndicated in a then-new concept that has been played out in recent years: the Lost Episodes.


You have The Kramdens and The Nortons.  Ralph Kramden (Gleason) is a bus driver, while Ed Norton (Art Carney) works the city’s sewers.  That leaves Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows) and Trixie Norton (Joyce Randolph) as the housewives who have to pick up the pieces in all the nuttiness they have to face.


However, these 39 half-hours are what made the show a legend and kept it alive for generations of fans.  This nicely designed boxed set from Paramount contains all the shows (and a few extras) on 5 DVDs in the new half-centimeter type cases that are catching on in the DVD market.  The artwork is fun, something we do not always see on DVD.  The episodes (with highlights) are as follows:


TV or Not TV – Can Ralph survive Norton and Captain Video?


Funny Money – Should Ralph really spend money in a suitcase he found?


The Golfer – Can Ralph learn a game he never played in a day?


A Woman’s Work is Never Done – Can the Kramden’s afford a maid?


A Matter Of Life & Death – Ralph tries cashing in on a disease he might NOT have.


The Sleepwalker – Ed becomes the title subject.  Can the spell be broken?


Better Living Through TV – Ralph & Ed do an early infomercial!


Pal O’ Mine – The original ring-stuck-on-the-finger show.


Brother Ralph – Alice goes to work and tries to not make Ralph feel bad about it.


Hello, Mom – Ralph despises his mother-in-law enough to stay with the Nortons.


The Deciding Vote – Ralph & Ed battle over a lodge vote!


Something Frisky – Will the girls still go on a Lodge trip that excludes all wives?


‘Twas The Night Before Christmas – The Gift of Magi as a great Holiday episode.


The Man From Space – A costume contest is a riot in this brilliant show.


A Matter of Record – Ralph cuts a speech on vinyl when he over-bashes Alice’s mom.


Oh My Aching Back - Bowling throws Ralph’s back out, but other’s feel his pain.


The Baby Sitter – Alice secretly works the title job, but Ralph suspects cheating!


The $99,000 Answer – Ralph becomes a musicologist for a game show at any cost.


Ralph Kramden, Inc. – The guys go into business, with unexpected twists.


Young At Heart – Alice feels too old, until Ralph gets inspired to turn back the clock.


A Dog’s Life – Will The Kramden’s get a pet dog?


Here Comes The Bride – Has Ralph ruined a wedding with his big mouth?


Mama Loves Mambo – One dancing Latin resident in the building causes waves.


Please Leave The Premises – Ralph’s protest over a rent raise goes to extremes.


Pardon My Glove – Has Alice gotten bored enough with Ralph to get a male hooker?


Young Man With A Horn – An old instrument jolts Ralph into changing g his life.


Head Of The House – Ralph’s newspaper quotable might destroy his marriage.


The Worry Wart – Is Ralph in trouble with the IRS?


Trapped – Ralph witnesses a bank robbery and it may cost him his life!


The Loudspeaker – Will Ralph advance in rank in his Lodge?


On Stage – Ralph and Ed battle for roles in a Lodge stage production.


Opportunity Knocks But – Can Ralph become a bus company supervisor?


Unconventional Behavior – Can Ralph & Ed “train-it” to a Lodge convention in time?


The Safety Award – Ralph gets so excited about a driver’s safety award, he wrecks!


Mind Your Own Business – Ralph’s perpetually bad advice gets Ed fired.


Alice & The Blonde – The guys get a bit too friendly with a friend’s sexy wife.


The Bensonhurst Bomber – Will Ralph land up knocked-out on a boxing ring mat?


Dial J For Janitor – Can Ralph handle a 2nd job with great benefits in his building?


A Man’s Pride – An old rival for Alice has made it big, but Ralph will show him!




These shows were produced for the 1955-1956 TV season and it remains one of the greatest single seasons in TV history.  It is incredible how rich, consistent, an original these shows are.  Nothing quite like this had ever been seen before and it is also the most imitated show in TV history, from The Flintstones to groundbreaking series like All In The Family, The Simpsons, The Sopranos and an endless string of imitators.  When Warner Bros. was doing animated shorts (Merrie Melodies, Looney Tunes) for theaters at the time, they even created a brief series called The Honeymousers!


The most amazing thing in watching these again is how DVD reveals nuances in the timing and performances that make all the funny points funny all over again.  The Sitcom has been a popular, but sickly watered-down and highly childish form on TV since the 1980s.  These earlier shows were based in a certain sense of reality that really shows how regressive current TV is.  Even when the show came back in color, and on videotape in a series of hour-long musical shows, it never got as bad as what we get now.  It would also be fair to argue that The Honeymooners was a cut in realism above many such shows until the 1970s.


Part of the reason is that the brilliant writers never moved away from the basics of good storytelling and great gags.  It is also important to point out that, especially with all the other women who played the wives before and after these shows, the chemistry between these four is unbelievable!  You cannot cast a television show any better than this one.  A few have equaled it, like The Avengers, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but this is very, very rare.  These all add up to many superlatives about the show, but they only scratch the surface.  The Honeymooners is a classic you need to see every episode of to believe, especially in this DVD set.


The full screen, black and white image is often very clear, but DVNR (digital video noise reduction) is mistakenly used, which causes unnecessary image shimmering and freezes parts of images too long, making the set look cheaper than it really was.  This remains one of the best-filmed monochrome series in TV history and the film elements have survived extremely well.  There is some second generation material in early shows and more work needs to be done on cleaning scratches and artifacts here and there, but the results here will surprise you.  Hopefully, the remaining restoration will be taken care of when High Definition versions of the shows are commissioned, which will be unbelievable if done right.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good, but not at the higher kbps (kilobits-per-second) rate we are spoiled with on A&E DVDs, but they are often on the clean side just the same.  There is so much sound in some shows, a simple stereo upgrade would be an interesting idea, but a thicker mono would even be better.  You will have to turn up your volume a bit more than usual.


Extras include “the DVD version” of The Honeymooners Anniversary Special, which offers the thoughts of the cast and crew on the show’s 35th anniversary.  This version runs under 22 minutes and does not replace the older, poorer-quality clips with new ones, but Audrey Meadows hosts and the thoughts shared are great.  There are no commentaries, or stills sections featuring the endless book and memorabilia, but there are promos that were worked into the beginning and end credits of the show that promoted sponsor Buick.  Part of this may have been in response to the huge hit sponsorship DeSoto and Plymouth had with Groucho Marx original You Bet Your Life, which you can compare to the extras on that DVD boxed set (reviewed elsewhere on this site), but this material has not been seen since 1956.


An amusing highlight of these credits, beyond a different announcer for the opening credits, and Gleason plugging Buick in person before the end credits role has to do with the art those credits roll over.  There is a terrific stickman interpretation of Gleason, instead of a black background, as those credits role.  Stickmen are now commonplace, but the original stickman was the creation of Leslie Charteris for his novel series The Saint.  It was not a hit TV show at this point, though the RKO studios did use the stickman on their B-movie series of the character.  It is amazing how close to that stickman this Gleason stickman is.  It is something to see.


Gleason, who was a motion picture veteran at this point, was also responsible for a series of hit albums of which he wrote a surprising majority of.  This even included Top Ten, #1 and million-sellers for Capitol Records.  In a great in joke, there are gags about Ralph and music throughout and this particular season caused a peak of album sales (seven in all, believe it or not, including a Christmas album), and the theme of this series remains one of the most well know ever made.  The Honeymooners is a priceless addition to all serious DVD collections and after getting them so good like this, you will never be able to watch them on regular, cable, or satellite TV again.  We look forward to the Blu-ray and also recommend the later videotaped color series, which you can read more about at this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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