"I'm sure that anyone spending the time reading reviews of this Honeymooners Box Set, doesn't need any reassurance as to the show itself. What more needs to be said about Ralph and the gang? The great 39 episodes never fail to deliver. The Honeymooners remain the prime example of television comedy at it's zenith. The show, while serving as a wonderful time capsule of it's era, is astoundingly fresh, having aged beautifully. *********About the Box Set************As I read other reviews here I realize that there is some confusion regarding this set. It almost makes me believe that there is another box set floating around. Anyway, the one I am referring to was just released November 2003...(not sure why even Amazon has it listed as 2000). I see that others are complaining that the shows are not chronologically placed on the discs, but grouped thematically. While that would be a little annoying to me as well, such is NOT the case with the set I purchased...all are in the order that they were originally aired with the airdates given. Another complaint that I've seen posted is in regards to the quality of the transfers themselves. Once again, I can't imagine that these reviewers are seeing the same Box Set as I am. I am a rather picky viewer and try to stay informed...I've never seen the show look or sound better. Glorious Black and White. (I will attest to the fact that the episode "TV or Not TV" does not look or sound as good as the rest, probably inherant in the source material...not a biggie though). As far as extras...not much here. The Anniversary special included here is a shortened version and isn't all that informative or even necessary for that matter. Yes, it would have been nice to have more extras...interviews, commentary, bio's, etc..., but for the price of this set, you are getting the gold, which is the show itself. I think CBS/Paramount realized that people are becoming wary of large, expensive box sets, and aren't purchasing them. Case in point...Fox went all out in their release of Mary Tyler Moore Season One. Great packaging, loaded with extras, great transfers. Now they are claiming that it didn't sell enough to warrant their releasing of any further seasons. So fans are left hanging with a great Box Set of Season One...with no more to come. Ridiculous! ( Fans of that show have started a petition...if interested go to mtmshow.com) ******All in all, since the Honeymooners only had one season filmed, it could have been released with more extras, but with a show of this caliber it certainly stands on it's own merit. For under $40, to have the complete Honeymooners crisp on clear on DVD...how can you complain?"
Baby, you're the greatest.
Timothy Masterson | Brooklyn | 08/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having been born 24 years after the initial showing of the Honeymooners, I might not be the target audience that came to mind when this DVD collection was assembled. Funny is funny, however, and these "Classic 39" episodes of the Honeymooners are the funniest half hours ever shown on television and the greatest situation comedy of all time.You just don't see shows like this now. Nothing is this well acted or this well written. And nothing is just this funny. This is a husband and wife struggling to get by and they look like it, too. This "Friends" where the cast lives like millionaires. This isn't "Fraiser" where they work in some high-profile industry. Ralph drives a bus and Norton works in the sewer (an "underground engineer.") The Kramdens and Norton are real people and real neighbors.What made the show work so well was the actors. Jackie Gleason owns the material. He doesn't even have to say a word to provide a hilarious moment. Just watch him stew, his face contort while listening to his mother-in-law just prior to his famous blabbermouth rant.Audrey Meadows is perfect. When Gleason sets 'em up, Meadows' Alice knocks 'em down like no one else. Ralph: "The bills will get bigger & bigger, and I'll get less to eat. Then you know what I'll look like?" Alice: "Yeah, a human being." Episode after episode, she deadpans cut down and cut down with deadly accuracy.Art Carney's Norton should have his own statue in Washington DC. A terrific actor playing the part perfectly. Like Meadows, Carney has an uncanny chemistry with Gleason. You really can feel the history between the two characters, as if they've been best friends for long enough to be close friends and long enough to get on each others nerves all the time. Likewise, you get the same feeling between Ralph and Alice as well as Norton and Trixie, who -- played by Joyce Randolph -- is the perfect match for screwball Norton. And of course, there is every else that made the show so great. Bert Weedemeyer, Mr. Marshall, the Friendly Raccoons and Haaaaaarrrrrvy.Every episode has one belly laugh moment and at least a half dozen great lines. I'm buying two sets. One for myself and one for my - Brooklyn born and raised - dad for Christmas."
Excellent DVD package
Lewis Brague | Brockport, NY USA | 02/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The DVD package I received from Amazon was absolutely perfect! As others have noted, the 5 DVDs are individually packaged with a photo and a brief plot outline for each episode. The photo is of an actual scene from the specific episode and always one which is central to the plot. In addition, each episode is titled ("The Sleepwalker", "The Golfer", etc.)
Personally, I liked the fact that, after you have viewed an episode, the DVD brings you back to the Menu rather than beginning a new episode automatically. I think that I would have a tendency to just continue watching episode after episode and probably overdose.
My DVD package has the 39 episodes in chronological order(from 1-39) with episodes 1-8 on DVD #1, 9-16 on DVD #2, etc. The 5th DVD has episodes 33-39 and also has Special Features. The Special Features(which I have not viewed yet) consists of two items: 1) The Honeymooners Anniversary Special, and 2) Original series opening and closings not seen since 1956. As I have stated, I have not seen the Special Features yet, so I do not know what #2 is but just in case you're wondering: each one of the 39 episodes on this DVD set DOES begin with the little musical intro and the announcer's voice that fans are so used to hearing before the start of the show.
In all honesty, I don't think I would change anything at all about this DVD set. For me, it is perfect! As I have said to my wife and 6 yr. old daughter, I don't think I would want Ralph Kramden as a neighbor what with all the yelling he does, but it sure does amuse me watching it on a TV show! All the best to you and I hope this review has helped in some way.
~* An Indepth Review from a Loyal Fan ~*
Tara Plumeri | East Hampton, CT | 01/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""They called him "The Great One" and for many, the name didn't begin to do him justice. He was a man of large appetites and even larger talents. He was a multiple pack-a-day chain smoker and enjoyed an adult beverage or two. He refused to fly and traveled everywhere by private train car. At the height of his popularity, he was the highest paid television star in the history of the medium and millions watched his variety show every week. While he was a god of the small screen and the nightclub stage, big screen mega-stardom eluded him. From critical acclaim (he was Minnesota Fats alongside Paul Newman in The Hustler) to saccharine cult clamor (he's one of the few good things about the deaf mute mush of Gigot) his Tinseltown appearances further proved that only the glass teat was able to properly channel his larger than life persona into a true mirror of his humor and heart. Sadly, for most in our new power generation, he is the foul-mouthed sheriff from Smokey and the Bandit or the ludicrous big wig who buys his son a black man as a gift in The Toy. But Jackie Gleason was so much more than a curse word filled hick or a rich racist. He was a superstar before there really was such a nomenclature. He was a Renaissance man in a world filled with teeming mediocrity. His creative legacy begins and extends infinitely with the formation of what, for many, is the foundation for all situation comedies: The Honeymooners. Now thanks to Paramount, we get the classic "39" episodes from the one and only season of this comedic zenith to have and to cherish. It is television history in a digital format. It is Jackie Gleason's undeniable gift preserved in everlasting posterity.
The Honeymooners got its start as a sketch as part of The Cavalcade of Stars in 1950. Over the course of the next five years, the segments grew in popularity. Hoping to capitalize on their success, Gleason crafted a standalone half-hour sitcom around the adventures of the Kramdens and the Nortons. Debuting in 1955 and only lasting one 39-episode season, The Honeymooners was never a huge ratings triumph and Gleason returned to the variety show format. But something odd happened. Over the course of the decades in reruns and reverie, The Honeymooners' cult developed into a universal legion of devoted followers. Even with the release of "The Lost Episodes" in the mid-'80s (from Gleason's own private collection), fans and scholars still returned to the Classic 39 to experience comedic perfection at its most sublime.
The setup of the show is simplicity itself. Ralph Kramden is an overweight, loudmouthed, hard-working bus driver for the Gotham line in New York City. He lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn with his kind-hearted, put-upon wife Alice. They've been married for 15 years and it seems like every day of their time together has been a struggle. Money is tight, Ralph is full of get rich quick schemes that always seem to fail, and though he protests about being the boss of his home, it is Alice who saves the situation and the day most of the time. Ralph's best friend is Ed Norton, a ditzy soul who works in the New York sewers. His wife is the ex-burlesque dancer Trixie. The Nortons live on credit and cockeyed optimism, playing happy-go-lucky larks to the Kramdens dark depressives. Ed and Ralph love to bowl, shoot pool, and attend The Loyal Order of Raccoons Lodge where they are both very active members. Alice and Trixie are also gal pals, both in their domestic drudgery and husband-hampered existence. But these married couples sincerely love each other and express their emotions freely and openly.
There is no need to discuss underlying themes or the social significance of the Kramdens and the Nortons. All one has to understand is that, 50 years since it first hit CBS airwaves and traveled into the homes of America, The Honeymooners is still hysterical, laugh out loud funny in a way that most modern sitcoms wish they could to tap into. Sure, there is chauvinism and politically incorrect values in abundance running throughout The Honeymooners. But just like Archie Bunker's bigoted beliefs or Al Bundy's off-color remarks, this is a show that actually attempts to illustrate a certain class of human being (in this case, the low end, near poverty blue collar worker) and celebrate their strengths while laughing at their larger than life faults. Ralph Kramden is basically a good hearted humungous who just can't control himself. His rants are not based in anger but anguish and he truly adores his wife and friends. In this lowly bus driver from Brooklyn, Jackie Gleason managed to create the archetype for sitcom husbands for years to come. There is a little Kramden in every Fred Flintstone, Dan Conner, and Homer J. Simpson who bully and bombast their way through life. It's not difficult to see from where their humor arises. Gleason proved that size didn't matter (it didn't hurt the physical comedy, though): it was the performance and the person that counted.
While it would be foolish to try to review each of the episodes in the Classic 39 separately, a quick overview of some of the shows many highlights goes a long way to explaining the lasting appeal of this series. It's interesting to note that of the 39 episodes offered, almost 1/3 are certified classics with the other 2/3s being merely great. There is not a flat or false show in the bunch, and the titles listed below are just a sampling of the specialness to be found on the DVD set.
"TV or Not TV": Since The Honeymooners were already a part of several previous Gleason television shows, they arrived fully formed and honed to perfection when this, the premier episode of the standalone series, made its debut. Indeed, some jokes were so "inside" (the whole "to the moon, Alice" bit) that it took the audience a while to warm up to them. Still, the sight of Norton donning his Captain Video space helmet and cheering along with his TV idol makes this episode a must see, as does Ralph preparing his "snacks" for an evening viewing, laying them out in true "Homer Simpson" style.
"The Golfer": Art Carney's necessity and superiority as a sidekick was never underestimated by the creators of The Honeymooners, and they jumped at the chance to showcase this versatile actor. Here, Carney's golf lesson to Ralph is pure comic genius, a well-timed combination of physical humor with hilariously corny old jokes. Gleason gets a good couple of belly rolls in, but it's Norton's waggle and "addressing" of the ball that people remember most. Ralph's final declaration of his "big mouth" is also classic. Gleason could really bellow such lines.
"Better Living Through Television": Exploring the still virginal medium was always a safe bet for the scriptwriters of early TV, and nothing sparked their satire more than commercials. Like Lucy's drunken drone through an advert for Vitameatavegamin, Ralph and Ed's handy dandy kitchen helper spot is another clear example of expert actors essaying characters under extreme circumstances. Ralph's trademark "homina-homina-homina" stammer is in full effect here, and Gleason's deer in the headlights looks and uncomfortable body language are just fantastic.
"Brother Ralph": Gleason has often been called the king of the slow burn, the incremental building up of rage until his entire rotund body explodes in anger. And no episode highlights this well paced volcano better than "Brother Ralph." From the moment Alice's bachelor boss steps into the Kramden home and asks her "brother" Ralph for a date with "the dish," Gleason is on maximum simmer. When he does finally explode, it is funny and touching at the same time. Like many of Ralph's outbursts, this one is wholly based on his undying love for his wife.
"The Man from Space": Because of his size, Jackie Gleason was the ultimate sight gag. With a simple pratfall or an undulation of his ample hips, he had audiences rolling in the aisles, so adding a crazy costumed element to his human humoresque seems only natural. The best part about this showcase for Gleason's goofiness is how Norton is also ridiculed. His fancy French nobleman outfit underlines his hysterical lowbrow nature in a wonderful way, and it makes Ralph's homemade fiasco that much more comically crude.
"The $99,000 Answer": Oddly, this is not an episode filled with huge laughs or complicated jokes. As with many of the best Honeymooner episodes, it centers on Ralph's inflated sense of self and eventual humiliation at the hands of his own ego. When people look for reasons why, overall, this show is a much-heralded classic, they tend to overlook episodes like this in favor of the gut busters filled with mega-moments of mirth. But in this, a more character driven show, we learn a great deal about the Kramdens and the Nortons, and the insights help turn them even more lovable and familiar.
"Young At Heart": Gleason's gift for broad physical comedy, combined with the show's wistful theme of recapturing one's youth, makes this another prime example of why The Honeymooners was so successful. Even with the awkwardly unrealistic "hep cat" teens at the beginning, the pure comic genius in the "Hucklebuck" dance sequence and Gleason's mastery of roller-skating shakiness more than make up for it. And with the final speech at the end, a beautifully written paean to the melancholy march of time, we have the touching topping to this tasty treat.
"Mama Loves Mambo": For some reason, Gleason and the gang always worked smarter with an unintentional foil for their foolishness. In this case, the bachelor/dancer next door instigates a string of stupendously funny outbursts from Ralph, each gag building on top of the other until, in a very simple speech, the stranger provides a wonderful comeuppance. But the added twist of having the boys act refined and gentlemanly leads Trixie and Alice to the realization that they like their men blue collar. It's sweet vindication for two guys who never seem to catch a break, not even in their own house.
"Young Man with a Horn": Like "The $99,000 Answer," this is a small, subtle script about people and their dreams. Ralph is not trying to "get rich quick" or "pull one over on Alice." Indeed, there is a great deal of heartfelt self-reflection in this show. All the meanness and stubborn qualities that Ralph exemplifies are washed away as a desire to better himself takes front and center. Audrey Meadows' vital contribution to the show's balance is highlighted here, as she turns Ralph's defeat into a very sweet moment of compassion and support. Her undying love keeps a maudlin show from turning defeatist.
"The Worry Wart": If Gleason was indeed the king of the slow burn, he was also the crown prince of the irrational, anxiety filled obsession. There are more moments of table slamming, unreasonable eruptions, and frightened fat man stammering than in any four or five episodes of the series, but Gleason never overdoes it. Indeed, he uses the growing fear to even more fully flesh out his character. We learn that Ralph is basically an honest man who loves his country and wants to make sure he hasn't cheated it. Such a noble, patriotic sentiment is typical of The Honeymooners.
"Trapped": In one of the few instances where the real world of life in New York City meshes with the fantasy land of Kramdenville, crime invades the little apartment in Brooklyn. True, the counterfeiter episode "Funny Money" had a couple of toughs threatening Ralph, but the main focus of that show was the spending of the cash. Here, the threat is the main theme and it's both creepy and comic. Thankfully, this is also one of the few episodes where Ralph's cowardly cringe is tossed aside and he stands up for himself. His confidence (and fighting skills) helps cut the dire tone of the circumstances.
"Unconventional Behavior": Setting the standard for over-the-top comic set pieces, Gleason and Carney's work here as handcuffed train travelers represents the duo's camaraderie and acting command in all its glory. One view of this episode and the reasons why Kramden and Norton are considered a classic comedy pairing become crystal clear. Each works off the other perfectly and are individually given solo moments to shine. Though it seems like every sitcom before or since has done a trapped with a partner routine, somehow this talented twosome makes the old standard work.
There are many lasting legacies to be found in The Honeymooners. One can't help but look at any stocky television sitcom lead and not instantly think of Ralph Kramden and his appetite challenged physique. Whenever the wacky neighbor wanders over from next door to illuminate the proceedings with his or her own particular brand of outrageousness, Ed Norton and his cashmere vest over white T-shirt stylings can't be far behind. There is a little of Alice Kramden's temperance in every comedy mom and Trixie's perky persona can usually be located somewhere amongst the colleagues and associates. But beyond the small screen, Jackie Gleason's little show that could continues to resonate with a society brimming with unfulfilled husbands, put-upon wives and outdated social stigmas. If The Honeymooners teaches us anything, it's that beyond all the stereotyping and unfashionable fist waving, love is the true tie that binds...love and laughter. Anyone who is a fan of television comedy will be shortchanging their education if they don't immediately make this Gospel according to Ralph one of their must own DVD treasures. It's not everyday that a show like The Honeymooners comes along. As a matter of fact, it's as rare as Ralph skipping a meal, or Norton refusing one. Comedy doesn't get much better than this. How sweet it is, indeed."
From DVD Verdict"
Raymond J. Alstrom | Victoria, TX | 04/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This video set will take you "to the moon". Pay no attention to the negative reviews of this Classic 39 Episodes set. The video is perfectly acceptable for digital, and the sound is not "inferior". OK, so you have to turn the sound up on the first episode "a little"... it's not THAT bad. OK, so there are some white vertical stripes in the first episode... it's not THAT bad and I'm not sure I would've even noticed, nor paid attention had I not been looking for these flaws as a result of reading these reviews. Over-all, the video is wonderful in all areas, brightness, contrast, sharpness and the audio is noise-free, no hum, wow, flutter... just clean sound. Even in action scenes there are no noticeable "pixel artifacts" (those little trails folloing a moving object trying to play "catch-up"). Quit picking the quality to pieces. It's unwarranted. As of this writing the Amazon price (which includes free shipping) comes to $37.49. This comes out to less than a buck an episode of the Classice 39. Open the box, insert a disc and you're instantly transported back to 1955 to one of the greatest TV comedies ever to grace the airwaves. It's amazing how side-splitting the comedy and laughter can be without the use the four letter words, nor three letter (s-e-x) situations. Today's sitcoms could learn a thing or two from this timeless series. Don't hesitate to pick up the Classic 39 Episodes despite the flaws mentioned in some of these reviews. Remember, it's part of the ambience to watch The Honeymooners in all its black & white 1955-era video quality. Someone mentioned that the "laughter" of the live audience was "annoying". Nothing could be further from the truth. It lends to the over-all experience. Have you ever gone to an empty theater and watched a movie, versus a theater full of people reacting to various themes with laughter? As I keep saying "it lends to the ambience!" Take yourself on a nostalgic trip back to the golden age of comedy and buy this copy of the greatest TV show ever!"