DVD Review: The Jackie Gleason Show In Color (Unreleased Episodes)

You can always tell how powerful an entertainer is by the lengths a network goes to please them. Lucille Ball had her show fully funded instead of waiting for syndication. Fred McMurray was able to record all his screen time for My Three Sons in a week or so while the cast had to slog through months of filming. Rosanne got Tom Arnold made into a co-star. Jackie Gleason outdid them all when he got CBS to let him move his variety show from New York City to Miami Beach. Nearly two decades before Miami Vice, Gleason and Art Carney were the kings of the beach city that was just coming into its own. They had just been awarded the Miami Dolphins football team when Gleason arrived with his TV crew, dancers and famous guest stars. The Jackie Gleason Show In Color: Unreleased Episodes contains four episodes from the series taped in the sunshine capitol of the world.

Even though Gleason had moved way off the normal map for showbiz, he was able to attract plenty of big names to sing and guest star in skits. On the four episodes here, the famous pals include Frankie Avalon (the duo made Skidoo together), Red Buttons, Phil Silvers, Jan Murray, Nipsy Russell, Milton Berle, Florence Henderson, Edie Adams and surprisingly enough George Carlin. Although it should be pointed out that Carlin was rather clean cut as he did his monologue. He wasn’t in hippie mode performing seven words with Jackie in the wings. Nipsy is his always smooth poetry style cool as he yucks it up with Gleason. Milton’s visit gets weird when Gleason gets into a high chair for a big baby moment. The episodes appear to be missing a few segments which were probably musical numbers. But luckily the guest stand up comedy routines are complete. Edie Adams sings “Cabaret” and breaks out a fun Zsa Zsa Gabor impersonation.

The big part of the show was the return of The Honeymooners. This was the major reason Art Carney was on the show so he could once again play Norton to Gleason’s Ralph Kramden. While the original series only lasted a season, it had been a massive hit in syndication with the 39 episodes always somewhere on the dial. The idea of fresh hijinks with the duo was what made this show must see viewing. There was a big change in the female leads as Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph weren’t part of the revival. Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean filled in as Alice and Trixie. MacRae changed a little bit of the dynamic since she was about as tall as Gleason. She could have knocked Ralph straight to the moon. Three of the episodes feature Honeymooners sketches which were based off previous scripts. The big difference is now they were in color. “Six months to Live” has Ralph read a doctor’s note thinking it’s about his health. “Alice’s Birthday” is what a wife does to make sure her forgetful husband remembers to give her a gift. “Lawsuit” is the time Ralph sued his bus company over an accident on the job. It’s great to see Jackie and Art get another go at these classic scripts. It’s kinda like seeing them perform Shakespeare again.

The Jackie Gleason Show In Color: Unreleased Episodes gives a sense of what Jackie did down in Florida as he pioneered the city he enjoyed so much. You sensed he was enjoying his time there as each episode his tan gets richer. That’s the one thing you don’t get from shooting in New York City.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer looks good for a show that was shot on standard definition video in the 60s. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. Since it was shot in a large space with a studio audience, there’s a little bit of a stage echo.

No bonus features.

Time Life presents The Jackie Gleason Show In Color: Unreleased Episodes. Starring: Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean. Boxset Contents: 4 episodes on 1 DVD. Released: February 6, 2018.

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