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The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes(TV) (1955-1956)
Ralph Kramden is a New York bus driver who dreams of a better life. With his eccentric good friend, sewer worker Ed Norton, Ralph constantly tries crackpot schemes to strike it rich. All the while, his exasperated wife, Alice, is always there to bring him down to earth or to pick him up if he beats her to it. For as much as they fight, even dunderhead Ralph knows that she is the greatest and vice versa.
For more about The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes and the The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes Blu-ray release, see the The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 10, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, Joyce Randolph, Ned Glass, Anne Seymour
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The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes Blu-ray Review
"Now we can watch Jackie Gleason while we eat!"
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 10, 2014
Few television shows can claim to be larger than the medium. That doesn't mean that they expanded to the big screen like Star Trek; that means that they've evolved beyond simple entertainment and permeated the very atmosphere around them, become part of the culture and the popular jargon, a stalwart amongst its peers, a staple of reruns, memorable, quotable, lovable, unforgettable entertainment. In other words, it's a program that's evolved into a classic by every definition of the word. The Honeymooners, the 39-episode strong series born of a recurring sketch from The Jackie Gleason Show, is one such program that has become larger than the medium. It's perhaps the most impressive example of that accomplishment considering its relatively limited run, a run that, by today's standards, would equal about a season-and-a-half, a length that at the very best might place it in "cult" status with something like the short-lived and beloved Firefly. Yet 39 episodes prove to be more than enough to establish the program as one of the best in television history, a veritable laugh factory populated sparsely but with lovable characters, relatable scenarios, and endless humor. This is television at its very best, an example of the quintessential program, one for which there's no equal when one really gets down to the nitty-gritty, examining what it is that makes a show work and what it is it needs to find success.
The Honeymooners tells the humorous, scheming story of Ralph Kramnden (Jackie Gleason), a New York City bus driver who is always looking for the next angle to play, the next can't-miss opportunity to come his way. His dream is to strike it rich, but he always manages to instead strike out. He's a man with his family's happiness at heart. He dearly loves his wife Alice (Audrey Meadows) who efforts to keep her gregarious, sometimes short-tempered, but inwardly loving husband in line. She takes his jabs in stride and responds with sharp remarks of her own. She keeps up their ragged, small apartment as best she can. The Kramdens are frequently visited by their neighbors, the Nortons. Ed Norton (Art Carney) is a city sewer worker and Ralph's best friend, a man who is always ready to tackle the next idea but whose slower wit and smaller size keep him second fiddle to Ralph's physical and verbal dominance. Ed's wife Trixie (Joyce Randolph) is Alice's best friend and frequent visitor to the Kramden apartment.
It's nearly 60 years old but, other than a few out-of-date clothing styles and the medium's transition to color, The Honeymooners barely shows it age against modern television. The show, while lacking the physical scope and dramatic breadth of more modern fare, finds success in its focus and ability to do its thing with a grace, an evenness, and a consistency that few other shows have matched. It works as well as it does because of its relentless focus on character and characterization. The series boasts a small but relatable cast, depicting everyday people doing everyday things while dreaming of something larger, something bigger, something to allow them to escape the comfortable confines -- but confines nonetheless -- of their blue-collar middle class life and live the life of luxury that, for the Kramdens and the Nortons, is always only one successful scheme away. These are people who depict relatable realities, who share relatable relationships, who experience relatable highs and relatable lows. The Honeymooners is all about making its audience comfortable with the characters, bringing viewers not into an alien world but instead one filled with the same hopes and dreams, the same successes and failures, and the same attitudes and expectancies its audience brings to a watch, all with a humorous twist.
The show settles into a comfort zone of its primary location, the Kramden apartment. Though the show doesn't offer sweeping escapes and expansive sets here or elsewhere, there's a sense of place and comfort in the apartment, a stage that not only depicts with relative ease through its spartan simplicity the lives of its inhabitants but that allows for a blossoming development of character and action. With the relatively few locations, and the one primary, the show allows its actors to take center stage, so to speak, to allow their interactions, not their backdrops, to define the series. Even as the show largely remains planted in a single locale, it never feels frugal or cramped. On the contrary, it opens up an entire world built on the backs of the actors and characters who inside of it share rich and funny stories, accented by unforgettable physical gags. In essence, the minimalist sets and minimal locations allow for a broader sense of character comedy than might a show that sprawls well beyond the confines of character and the theatrical-inspired setting in which this program takes shape.
Indeed, it all comes back to those characters, and The Honeymooners is proof that it's what's on the inside that counts, superseding production values and winning over its audience with its core characters and the people who portray them. Certainly, the series belongs to Jackie Gleason, whose gregarious, occasionally mean-spirited, easily angered, but inwardly soft and caring Ralph Kramden rates as one of television's finest characters. Gleason's performance is full and gleeful, dominating both physically but also emotionally, entertaining with his wildly uneven exterior -- often simply shouting aloud the musings of his inner voice that most would love to speak but are too fearful or polite to state -- and physical timing and comedic capabilities but also pleasing with a tender underbelly. Audrey Meadows' Alice is wonderful in the supporting role. Her timing is every bit as good as Gleason's, delivering her sharp and playfully spiteful retorts to hugely humorous effect. Art Carney's Ed Norton plays the part, in effect, of the sidekick, the series' somewhat naive secondary in a style and presentation not wholly dissimilar to The Andy Griffith Show's Barney Fife. He is in many ways a reflection of Ralph, albeit one that's sometimes the opposite reflection. Both are loud and scheming, though Norton is smaller and less imposing, not so capable of forcing his will on the situation, unlike Alice who doesn't allow Ralph's size to sway her response to his ways.
The following episodes comprise the "Classic 39" and are broken down by disc for this Blu-ray set. Episodes available with original sponsor materials are noted as such.
The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes arrives on Blu-ray with a steady, slightly flawed, but generally gorgeous and consistently revelatory 1080p transfer. The 1.33:1 aspect ratio -- which places vertical black bars on either side of the 1.78:1 display -- preserves the series' original technical parameters. Generally speaking, the series looks beautiful. Grain is largely even and organic, never too spiky and providing an oftentimes breathtaking film-like texture. Detailing is superb. Audiences will appreciate not simply generally solid facial and clothing textures but also the detailed nuances on wallpaper, appliances, wood trim, furniture, and props around the Kramden apartment. The grayscale shading is even, drifting a little darker in some spots and lightening up in some of the infrequently softer shots. Black levels are satisfyingly deep. Episode one is awash in dirt, white speckles, vertical lines, stray hairs, and other imperfections. Generally speaking, however, such flaws become significantly fewer and further between in later episodes, most of which, aside from the stray blink-and-miss eyesore, are barely perceptible. Overall, this is a gorgeous transfer and likely the best looking most anyone will ever see the show.
The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes features a basic, no-frills LPCM 2.0 lossless soundtrack. It performs admirably, conveying dialogue with effortless crispness, placement, and authority. Audience laughter is surprisingly nuanced and detailed; the track picks up muffled coughs and delivers the ebbs and flows of laughter -- from scattered chuckles to exuberant guffaws -- with commendable detail, even in the absence of wider, immersive placement. Opening title narration and music are cramped and slightly muddy. Sound effects enjoy solid presence and detail. The track is one of simplicity, conveying the series' sonic needs with little trouble but, of course, never enjoying the precision and wider spacing of modern tracks.
The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes contains supplements on four of the included five discs.
The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Name a show that was a huge success in its day and remains a fan favorite many decades later. Name one with universal appeal, tremendous wit, strong characters, superb acting, and relatable situations. If The Honeymooners didn't come to mind, then it's time to see why it should. The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes is an exceptional release, not nearly so jam-packed with extras as the I Love Lucy Season One release but nevertheless a must-own set for the classic television aficionado or the first-time fan. The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes receives my highest recommendation.
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The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes Blu-ray, News and Updates
• CBS: Rawhide, Taxi, Petticoat Junction, and The Beverly Hillbilli... - April 28, 2014
Next month, CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Media Home Distribution will bring to Blu-ray three classic TV shows: The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 and The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1. All three will be available for purchase on May 6th.
• The Honeymooners: Classic 39 Episodes Blu-ray Trailer - April 3, 2014
CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution have sent us a new trailer for their upcoming Blu-ray release of The Honeymooners: Classic 39 Episodes. The release will be available for purchase on May 6th.
• The Honeymooners: Classic 39 Episodes Blu-ray Detailed - March 6, 2014
Paramount and CBS Home Entertainment have detailed the Blu-ray release of The Honeymooners: Classic 39 Episodes. The 5-disc set features all 39 full-length series episodes meticulously remastered in high definition. Ralph, Alice, Ed and Trixie make their Blu-ray ...
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