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Thursday, May 3, 2018


One of my favorite variety shows as a kid was "The Jackie Gleason Show."  It was bright, colorful, funny, and fun, one of the best of a TV genre that is pretty much obsolete now but kept whole families entertained back in the 60s. 

I'm happy to say that a fresh look at twelve episodes from the show, thanks to Time-Life's 3-disc DVD set THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW IN COLOR: DELUXE EDITION, finds Gleason's brand of comedy just as funny and appealing today as it was then, and perhaps even moreso since it now comes with a bracing blast of pure, blissful nostalgia. 

The sets and costumes are a blast of color all by themselves (after all, more and more people at the time were buying color TVs) but it's Gleason's deliciously down-to-earth wit and breezy interplay with his guests, made up of the top names in comedy at the time, that make these shows such a delight to watch.

Each show kicks off with Gleason's crowd-pleasing catchphrase "How sweet it is!" and his jokes about bandleader Sammy Spear's outrageous attire (a bit Johnny Carson would repeat nightly with Doc Severenson), after which he entertains the live audience by bringing out each guest one at a time, trading uproarious comedy barbs with them for awhile, and then leaving them alone to perform their acts.

These guests include such names as Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, George Burns, Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Nipsey Russell, Sid Caesar, Jackie Vernon, Alan King, Jack E. Leonard, and Jan Murray. 

Also appearing with their stand-up routines are comics such as a very young George Carlin, Slappy White, Victor Borge, and some I've never even heard of.

Musical guests aren't as frequent on the show as the comics, but the ones we do see include the likes of Tony Bennett, Florence Henderson (pre-"Brady Bunch"), Frankie Avalon, Edie Adams, Robert Goulet, and Frank Sinatra, Jr.

Best of all, Gleason's late-60s variety show was the home of the classic color episodes of "The Honeymooners", with Jackie as blue-collar bus driver Ralph Kramden, Art Carney as his sewer-worker friend Ed Norton, Jane Kean as Norton's wife Trixie, and Sheila MacRae ably taking over the role of Ralph Kramden's loyal, long-suffering wife Alice. 

This DVD set offers seven "Honeymooners" sketches which haven't been seen since first aired--"Six Months To Live", "Alice's Birthday", "Lawsuit", "Hot Tip", "The New Bowling Ball", "Norton Moves In", and "The New Manager."  Each one is a prime example of the show's great writing and acting, resulting in some truly groundbreaking comedy, tinged with heartfelt pathos, that's still amazingly good.

The picture quality is fine considering the age of the shows.  Completists may chafe at the fact that all of the numbers by the June Taylor Dancers which normally opened each show have been snipped as well as anything else that might impede the comedy and songs.  The first disc was previously released as a single-disc DVD which we reviewed HERE.

Whether you're looking back in fond nostalgia or just discovering these shows for the first time, THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW IN COLOR: DELUXE EDITION is a laugh-packed jaunt down Memory Lane that you're sure to get a kick out of. 

Type: DVD/3 Discs
Running Time: 496 mins.
Rating: N/A
Genre: TV DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 (4:3)
Audio: Stereo

Captions: English


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