TITLE: THE HONEYMOONERS - CLASSIC 39 EPISODES (BLU-RAY)
DVD Release Date: May 6, 2014 (CBS Home Entertainment)
Color / 1955-1956
Number of Discs: 5
Number of Episodes: 39
Running Time: Approx. 1017 minutes
Running Time of Features: 165 minutes
Audio: English mono
Subtitles and Captioning: English and Spanish Subtitles
Special Features: Original Sponsor Spots (select episodes); Promos; Best Buick Yet Dealer Presentation; 60 Minutes Interview with Jackie Gleason; American Scene Magazine: The Adoption; 35th Anniversary Special; 50th Anniversary Special; Person to Person Interview
The Honeymooners is going to the moon (and to Blu-ray) with the CBS release of The Honeymooners - Classic 39 Episodes on Blu-ray Disc! The five disc set contains the one and only season of the classic Jackie Gleason sitcom, restored in high-definition and with some new special features.
Of course, The Honeymooners actually began as a series of skit of Jackie Gleason's previous series, The Jackie Gleason Show. In 1955, The Honeymooners became a standalone series that lasted for about 27 minutes each week. The difficulty of maintaining a weekly sitcom, though, simply wasn't for Gleason, so the series only lasted one season, and after that season was finished, the characters went back to being sketches on The Jackie Gleason Show. Many of the sketches of The Honeymooners from The Jackie Gleason Show have been released in a lost episodes collection from MPI, but the best known episodes of The Honeymooners are the ones from the actual season that the regular series aired, all 39 of which are included in this collection.
The series begins with "TV or Not TV," where we learn that sharing a TV is never a good idea. Ralph goes on a spending spree after finding a suitcase full of money in "Funny Money." In "The Golfer," Ralph wants to impress his boss with his golfing school, but he is going to need some work first. Ralph and Alice hire a maid in "A Woman's Work is Never Done." Ralph thinks he is going to die soon after he snoops around and sees something in "A Matter of Life and Death." In "The Sleepwalker," Norton has a problem that Ralph has to deal with. Ralph's latest get rich quick scheme doesn't work (surprised?) in "Better Living Through TV." A misunderstanding over a gift causes problems in "Pal o' Mine."
In "Brother Ralph," the only way that Alice can get a job is to claim that Ralph is her brother. Ralph's mother comes for a visit in "Hello, Mom." Ralph loses a Raccoon Lodge election by one vote in "The Deciding Vote," which causes him to place the blame on Norton. Ralph and Norton are eager to go fishing in "Something Fishy." In "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," Ralph sells a prized possession to buy Alice a Christmas gift. Ralph's costume idea doesn't work out quite as planned in "The Man From Space." In "A Matter of Record," Ralph is forced to do anything he can to get Alice back after he throws her mother out of the apartment. In "Oh, My Aching Back," Ralph tries to play hooky to get out of visiting his mother-in-law, but as it turns out, he ends up having a real injury.
In "The Baby Sitter," Ralph is furious when he finds out that Alice had a telephone installed. Ralph becomes a game show contestant on "The $99,000 Answer." In "Ralph Kramden, Inc.," Norton makes an investment that he is sure will make him rich. Ralph tries to prove that he is still youngish in "Young at Heart." Ralph's great new food idea is actually dog food in "A Dog's Life." In "Here Comes the Bride," the groom may be running away after Ralph provides some ill-conceived advice. A new neighbor is trouble for Ralph and Norton in "Mama Loves Mambo." A five dollar rent increase starts a fight in "Please Leave the Premises."
Alice wants to surprise Ralph for his birthday in "Pardon My Glove." In "Young Man With a Horn," Ralph tries to make some improvements with himself. Ralph tries to prove he is the boss of the household in "Head of the House." Ralph is summoned to the IRS office in "The Worry Wart." In "Trapped," Ralph witnesses a murder, and they may just be after him next. Ralph provides an acceptance speech for an honor he may not even get in "The Loudspeaker." In "On Stage," Ralph gets the starring role in a play. Ralph's big opportunity is taken by Norton in "Opportunity Knocks But." Trick handcuffs cause a problem for Ralph and Norton in "Unconventional Behavior."
Ralph gets into an accident on the way to receive an award for being the safest bus driver in "Safety Award." Ralph wants in on Norton's new job in "Mind Your Own Business." In "Alice and the Blonde," Alice and Trixie are feeling unappreciated after being ignored by their husbands. Ralph challenges a tough guy to a boxing match in "The Bensonhurst Bomber." Ralph becomes the new building janitor in "Dial J for Janitor." The series ends with "A Man's Pride," where Ralph tries to impress a former boyfriend of Alice's by pretending to run the bus company.
The episodes appear to be unedited, with some including some of the original sponsor materials as "alternate" versions. Runtimes are as follows:
1. "TV or Not TV" (26:09)
2. "Funny Money" (26:11)
3. "The Golfer" (26:11)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (26:57)
4. "A Woman's Work is Never Done" (26:11)
5. "A Matter of Life and Death" (25:09)
6. "The Sleepwalker" (26:07)
7. "Better Living Through TV" (26:08)
8. "Pal o' Mine" (26:10)
9. "Brother Ralph" (26:08)
10. "Hello, Mom" (26:09)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (27:00)
11. "The Deciding Vote" (26:09)
12. "Something Fishy" (26:08)
13. "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (26:08)
14. "The Man From Space" (26:09)
15. "A Matter of Record" (26:10)
16. "Oh My Aching Back" (26:09)
17. "The Baby Sitter" (26:10)
18. "The $99,000 Answer" (26:08)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (27:05)
19. "Ralph Kramden, Inc." (26:08)
20. "Young at Heart" (26:08)
21. "A Dog's Life" (26:08)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (26:50)
22. "Here Comes the Bride" (26:08)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (26:56)
23. "Mama Loves Mambo" (26:09)
24. "Please Leave the Premises" (26:08)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (27:01)
25. "Pardon My Glove" (26:08)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (26:58)
26. "Young Man With a Horn" (26:08)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (27:00)
27. "Head of the House" (26:10)
28. "The Worry Wart" (26:08)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (26:59)
30. "The Loudspeaker" (26:10)
31. "On Stage" (26:10)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (27:07)
32. "Opportunity Knocks But" (26:08)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (27:06)
33. "Unconventional Behavior" (26:08)
34. "The Safety Award" (26:07)
35. "Mind Your Own Business" (26:09)
36. "Alice and the Blonde" (26:07)
37. "The Bensonhurst Bomber" (26:07)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (27:06)
38. "Dial J for Janitor" (26:09)
39. "A Man's Pride" (26:09)
- Original Sponsor Materials Version (27:11)
This set comes packaged in a standard multi-disc Blu-ray case that also includes an outer cardboard sleeve. On the cover, there is a photo of Ralph (which is the same artwork used on the cover of the DVD artwork), and on the back, you'll find a few photos from the series. Inside the case, you'll find the five discs, all of which have the series title on a plain blue background. Episode titles are listed inside the case, but unfortunately (I'm guessing since there were so many episodes), there are no episode descriptions or air dates included on the packaging.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on this set are really nicely done, and take full advantage of the capabilities of Blu-ray. The main menu features a city skyline (I wouldn't necessarily call it the New York City skyline, it is more generic and nondescript), along with options of Episodes, Subtitles, and Special Features. The theme song loops in the background, seemingly forever, along with a few clips from episodes inside of a moon. When you select Episodes, you get a list of episodes on that disc, and as you go down the list, a screenshot of the episode pops up, along with the original air date. Selecting Subtitles will allow you to turn on the Subtitles, available in both English and Spanish. Finally, Special Features does exactly what one would expect: allows you to turn on Special Features. You can access any of the menus while playing an episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
While there seemed to be a significant improvement in some of these recent Blu-ray releases from CBS, something seems to be a bit lacking with this Honeymooners release. Perhaps there were lower production values used for this series when it originally aired (my best guess to explain what is going on here), but for some reason, there isn't as much of a pronounced improvement between this release and the DVD release from over a decade ago. There is still quite a bit of grain and debris in the video, and the lighting seems to be a bit off at times. And as is typical with this series, the audio is a very dull mono track. However, fans shouldn't be too discouraged... this does look at least as good as (or maybe better than in the eyes of some) the DVD releases, and certainly better than many poor quality airings that have been passed around in syndication over the years. And I don't place any of blame with CBS, as they have shown that they are capable of doing a great job with The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy. I certainly believe that they did remaster this to the same standards as those shows; it is just that they were likely dealing with a more challenging task with this series. Each episode has English and Spanish subtitles.
There are plenty of special features on this release, including many that were not included on the DVD release. These begin with original opening credits and sponsor advertisements on a small number of episodes, as mentioned in the episodes section. Other special features can be found throughout the set.
On Disc 1, you'll find Promos (1:07), which is pretty much what it sounds like: a pair of promos for the series. I'm not sure if these were for the original run or for later runs of the series, but I'm guessing later since there aren't any CBS identifiers here. But honestly, I don't know.
On Disc 2, you'll find "Best Buick Yet Dealer Presentation" (20:53) is slide show (i.e. still photos with audio, like those really old film strips) prepared for dealers to introduce them to the new Buick lineup... for 1956. Essentially, these introduced the dealers to the new features available on Buick cars (over 200 color combinations!). While most of the talking is done by the narrator here, occasionally the cast members chime in to talk about what they love about the new Buick lineup.
On Disc 3, you'll find a 60 Minute interview with Jackie Gleason (15:15). It was done in 1984 (about three years before his death) and it is a pretty standard interview where he just sits down and talks about his career, with a burning cigarette in his hand the entire time. There are also interview outtakes (22:55), which gives us even more footage of Gleason from this same interview.
On Disc 5, you'll find perhaps one of the best special features: "American Scene Magazine: The Adoption" (52:38). This is of particular interest for many reasons. This was basically a musical version of the classic episode, "The Adoption," but it was done in 1966, almost a decade after the final episode of The Jackie Gleason Show. Also, this was the very last appearance of the characters on screen in black and white. Of course, it was fall 1966 that every network went to color, and when there were regular appearances of the characters again on CBS.
There are two anniversary specials included: 35th Anniversary Special (21:55) and 50th Anniversary Special (42:00). The first one was done shortly after Jackie Gleason's death, and is hosted by Audrey Meadows. It includes plenty of interviews with cast and crew, along with archive interviews from the 60 Minutes interview. Of course, a lot of what we have here is clips from the episodes. The 50th anniversary special is hosted by Kevin James, who was a big star on King of Queens at the time. This one gets a lot more involved in the history of the entire series, and since most of the cast and crew had died by the time of this interview, took a different approach in interviews, by interviewing those whom the show had inspired. That includes people such as Tom Hanks, Carol Burnett, Dennis Franz, and John Ritter. But it is important to note that not all of the cast members are missing here, as one was still alive when it was produced: Art Carney was very much present in this one. Once again, Jackie Gleason appears in archive footage from those same 60 Minutes interviews.
Finally, the set ends with "Person to Person" (10:39), but this is not quite the Edward R. Murrow hosted version that we're used to. In fact, Jackie Gleason fills in for Murrow in this episode, and Gleason is not the subject of the interview, but rather the one doing the interview, and he interviews an actual New York bus driver. It's a fun interview, if not a little politically incorrect at times. But it gives a nice look at the life of a New York City lower middle class family of the time, something that we typically only see in fiction. After seeing this, I'm very much interested in knowing what happened to the family featured here. I even tried to Google them to find out more, but their last name is Reilly, which is of course a very common name.
CBS picked a perfect trifecta of releases to give Blu-ray treatment to, and since this is The Honeymooners, it is especially great to have all of the Classic 39 Episodes in one release. Given the special features alone and (for those who may notice it) the improvement in the quality, this is certainly an improvement upon the original DVD release (which wasn't much different from the complete series VHS release... by the way, this has to be one of the only series out there that EVER got that treatment on VHS). Of course, that set was released during the infancy of DVD, and honestly, I feel like it is worthy of getting a DVD re-release as well but most fans of the series will certainly want this Blu-ray release. Between this release and VEI's "as close to complete as we're likely going to get" lost episodes release (which does not really need a Blu-ray release, since you can only do so much with fuzzy kinescopes in the first place), I think that fans of "the great one" are sure to be satisfied. I think that for the foreseeable future, this will be known as the definitive release of this series, and while it still could use perhaps a few more special features, it does better than the previous VHS and DVD releases.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 05/22/14
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