The Honeymooners is one of the most iconic and important series in the history of television. Given, it only lasted for 39 episodes over the course of less than a year (October 1955-September 1956), but in the course of that time and in the years since it ended, the impact that it has had remains fully evident. It is well-known that it is the source material for The Flintstones, and there is no denying it had to have had at least some influence in the creation of All In The Family. It has also been spoofed by countless other TV series since its end, and even remained so popular that it apparently has a new reboot in the works, with famed actor Damon Wayans Jr. executive producing.
As if all of that is not enough to show its place in America’s (and the world’s) television pantheon, the show remained so popular following its short run in the late 50s that the cast was brought back in the late 70s for four live specials recorded at a studio in Miami Beach, Florida. Those specials — Second Honeymoon, Valentine Special, Christmas Special, and A Christmas Carol — have each seen their own standalone releases over the years, but have not been collected into one set. That is until last month. MPI Home Video, which also has released the original series in full on DVD, released those four specials on DVD March 22 in a two-disc collection. The set is another win for any devotee of The Honeymooners. That is due in no small part to the stories featured in each special. This will be discussed shortly. The bonus content that accompanies the collection makes for its own positive and will be discussed a little later. The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection. All things considered, they make the collection a must for any fully devoted fan of The Honeymooners and even any casual fan of the iconic series.
MPI Home Video’s recently released DVD collection, The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection is an impressive presentation that will appeal just as much to the most devoted fan of The Honeymooners as it will to the series’ more casual fans. The set’s success comes in part through its featured stories. Second Honeymoon is funny in its own right as Ralph (played then by a much older Jackie Gleason) thinks Alice (played by a much older Audrey Meadows) is pregnant when he finds a knitted warmer for his bowling ball and a pair of knitted mitts that Alice had made. Ralph is not smart enough to realize that the holes in the ball warmer are for the holes in his bowling ball. The rest of the time, Ralph leans how to put a diaper on a baby, even thinking a list titled “Mother’s Diet” is a list of what Alice is eating for herself and the baby that does not exist. Gleason’s acting chops are just as sharp throughout the episode as are those of his longtime partner, Art Carney, and their female counterparts. Watching this hilarious story unfold and climax at a meeting of Ralph and Ed’s lodge meeting makes for so many laughs from beginning to end. It is a story that itself has been spoofed so many times by so many other shows, including The Flintstones and other sitcoms.
Another great example of the importance of the stories is that featured in Valentine Special. Ralph gets suspicious of Alice when he finds a list of phone calls that she has taken during her time as an operator. Seeing the names, he thinks Alice is cheating on him. The discovery of a life insurance policy, and Ed mentioning how everything was playing out like an episode of Kojack (which was nearing the end of its run when this special was recorded — it ended in 1978) does not ease Ralph’s nerves any more, especially when Alice has Ralph lay on the floor face down in order to measure him for his new surprise Valentine’s Day gift. The whole thing is yet another fully engaging and entertaining comedy of errors that thrives in its physical and verbal comedy. It shows even to this day that it is possible for comedy to be enjoyable without going full blue. When these two episodes are considered with the two Christmas specials that are also featured in the set (the Christmas Carol story, by the way, is clearly the inspiration for the story at the center of A Flintstones Christmas Carol), the whole of the stories makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.
Going back to the matter of how the stories manage to show that it is possible for comedy to work without going full blue, one of the bonus features included in the collection proves that even more. The bonus in question is an episode of the series’ reboot from 1967 in which Alice is played by Sheila MacRae. The episode’s story centers on women’s liberation. The writing was clearly an attempt by those behind the cameras to try to make the show relevant to the times, but it sadly fell flat. All of the humor was so opposite of the topics and writing on which the original series rested. It is a clear example of the importance of the collection’s bonus content. That is because it allows viewers to see the contrast of the original series to at least one of its reboots.
On a similar note, Jane Keane, who plays Trixie in the featured specials, is featured in a behind the scenes featurette in which she speaks of Gleason’s apparent dislike of working with MacRae because she was so starkly different than Audrey Meadows. Keane mentions specifically as an example, that Gleason did not like that MacRae wanted to make Alice softer than the portrayal made so famous by Meadows throughout her own career. In comparing the two women, Meadows really is better than MacRae. That is just this critic’s own take on that discussion. This bonus is yet another example of the collection’s overall bonus content.
The two skits that spoof The Honeymooners further show the bonus content’s importance because they show how far the show’s impact reached even long after its original end. One of the skits features Ralph and Alice as an interracial couple, Ralph being black and Alice being white. It shows that the show’s influence even reached into the social climate of the time yet was not preachy in that fashion. The other skit, featured in an episode of The Hollywood Palace, features Ray Bolger alongside Meadows as Ralph and Meadows once again as Alice, except in this case, Alice is the bus driver and Ralph as the stay-at-home spouse. It is a subtle social statement even here, but not overly preachy, thankfully. If anything, it makes for its own share of laughs. When this and the other skit are considered along with the other noted bonus content, the whole of the set’s bonus features makes its overall importance clear. It adds its own share of engagement and entertainment to the overall presentation, making the viewing experience that much more enjoyable.
Moving from the bonus content, there is one more item to note in examining this collection’s overall presentation. That item is the set’s packaging. The collection’s two discs each sit inside the standard size DVD case on their own “plates.” This protects the discs from marring one another, and in turn ensures their longevity. Those responsible for this packaging item are to be commended for going that route. In similar fashion, the smart packaging also means the collection will take up the same amount of space on any rack as any DVD case containing just one disc, making for even more aesthetic appeal. When all of this is considered along with the positives of the stories featured in each of the set’s specials, and with the bonus content that accompanies them, the whole makes this collection a fully engaging and entertaining presentation.
MPI Home Video’s newly released The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection is a thoroughly enjoyable presentation. Whether one is an established fan of the series or more casual, there is plenty for viewers on both sides to appreciate, beginning with the specials’s stories (and the cast’s work presenting them live on stage). The stories and the cast’s work presenting them make for so much engagement and entertainment, showing that the show still had some gas left in the proverbial tank, even nearly two decades after it had ended its initial run. The bonus content that accompanies the collection adds to the engagement and entertainment because of the secondary level of content that it brings. It really leads to so much discussion through everything presented. The set’s packaging rounds out its most important items. It is ergonomic, which is appealing for any physical media fan. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this collection. All things considered, they make the set one of the best of this year’s new DVD/BD box sets for grown-up audiences.
The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection is available now. More information on this and other titles from mpi home video is available at:
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