“The Jackie Gleason Show: In Color”

Unreleased Episodes

Amos Lassen

From 1966 to 1970, “THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW” was taped in color in Miami Beach, Florida. Jackie entertained the audience with his classic characters, celebrity guest stars, and hilarious sketches – including the beloved Honeymooners.

This DVD contains 4 never-before-released episodes unseen for almost 50 years including 3 unreleased “Honeymooners” sketches. Gleason’s show delivered an hour of entertainment every week consisting of singing, dancing, and lots of comedy and guest stars (Milton Berle, Red Buttons, George Carlin, Nipsey Russell, Phil Silvers, Florence Henderson and Frankie Avalon among others).

It featured the comedian’s most indelible and legendary creation — Ralph Kramden — as well as a gallery of characters he himself created and fine-tuned. But most memorably, Gleason and Art Carney revived their “Honeymooners” roles, with Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean added as the new Alice and Trixie. The chemistry between Gleason and Carney was as wonderful as it was back in the 50s, but Ms. MacRae and Ms. Kean lacked the earthiness and warmth of their predecessors.

Since variety TV shows are a rare commodity nowadays, it is fun to look back at Gleason and the weekly show built around him. The show became a casualty when CBS decided to modernize its programming and many shows and the Gleasons, Skeltons, and “Beverly Hillbillies” were eventually replaced with Archie Bunker, Maude and hipper programs.

Three of the four episodes featured are fairly mediocre and Gleason is fun to watch. But the shows are all incomplete, each 50-minute episode hacked to around 42 minutes and this is never explained.

The show was done in Miami Beach y so that Gleason could play golf year-round. Gleason played his many various characters.

The first episode featuring Phil Silvers in wonderful. Gleason’s introduces Silvers as one of the all-time great comedians, and star of television’s all-time funniest comedy, obviously referring to Sgt. Bilko. Unfortunately the episodes are not well chosen. Red Buttons appears on two shows, doing virtually the same thing. Edie Adams does a kind of half-baked nightclub act, complete with celebrity impersonations that are embarrassing and a very young George Carlin is featured but his standup is far from his best since he had to adapt to the family show-like atmosphere.

The Honeymooners segments are okay, but they’re all slight variations of sketches done better in the past and feel tacked on. Gleason chain-smokes his way through hosting duties and really seems to be enjoying himself most of the time, and that enjoyment is passed along to the viewing audience.


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