DVD Review: The Jackie Gleason Show In Color (Unreleased Episodes 3-DVD Edition)

Jackie Gleason liked things his way. When he was making The Honeymooners in 1955, he didn’t like to rehearse with the rest of the cast. He’d do one walk through for the cameras and he was done. The rest of the crew including Art Carney would work out their parts without their leader. Jackie’s variety show was a major hit for CBS who would do anything for their star. When Gleason moved down to Florida, he didn’t want to keep moving up and down the coast to make his TV show. So he had the network make his show in Miami starting in 1964. This city was still a bit of a resort. It was a few years away from getting the Miami Dolphins. But Gleason wanted to give America a sense of Miami before the Vice. And CBS let Jackie do his thing. The Jackie Gleason Show In Color: Unreleased Episodes 3-DVD Deluxe Edition contains 12 episodes from November 23, 1968 to April 19, 1969 from the Sun and Fun Capitol of the World.

The Jackie Gleason Show was a variety show with plenty of special guests making the trip down South to sing, dance and joke with Jackie. The guests on these 12 episodes include George Gobel (Hollywood Squares), Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Tony Bennett, Mickey Rooney, Groucho Marx, Florence Henderson (Brady Bunch), Red Buttons, Phil Silvers, Jan Murray, Nipsey Russell, Edie Adams and surprisingly enough George Carlin. Jackie is so wonderfully informal that he didn’t care if they were botching their witty banter. He didn’t mind if the audience knew he wasn’t the most professional of performers. He was having a fun time in Miami with his pals.

The big pull for the show was reviving The Honeymooners. While the original show didn’t do well in the ratings, the syndication reruns had a major following. Even though there were only 39 episodes, they never stopped running in major markets in the ’60s. It did as well as I Love Lucy. So fans got excited when Ralph and Norton joined forces on another weird get rich scheme. Art Carney played Norton. Their wives were played be different actresses. Sheila MacRae suffered Ralph’s mishaps as Alice and Jane Kean played Trixie. The Honeymooners were a part of the show whenever Art Carney was free. There’s 7 sketches on the 12 episodes including “Six Months to Live,” Alice’s Birthday Lawsuit,” “Hot Tip,” “The New Bowling Ball,” “Norton Moves In” and “The New Manager. These episodes haven’t aired in syndication so it’s good to get a chance to see the Kramdens in new to you (if you’re under 40) adventures.

The episodes aren’t complete. It appears the musical and dance numbers have been snipped which is fine by me since ultimately what matters are comedy routines and the star singers. Tony Bennett does “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Nipsey Russell comes back a few weeks after his first guest bit to do a fun duo act with Jackie. Fans of Frosty the Snowman and Microwave Massacre will relish the time Jackie Vernon breaks up Gleason.

The episodes on this set come from what was the penultimate season. Gleason would lose a lot of weight before the final season. Here is a chance to see Gleason at his finest and fullest.

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. The episodes are subtitled.

No bonus features.

Time Life presents The Jackie Gleason Show In Color: Unreleased Episodes 3-DVD Deluxe Edition. Starring: Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean. Boxset Contents: 12 episodes on 3 DVD. Released: May 16, 2018.

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