Growing up I lived with a mother and father who ate, slept and breathed Ralph and Ed Norton’s antics, did nothing but quote the series over and over, and as a plus, my dad’s threats to us as kids were always greeted with the preamble: “Remember: the life you save, may be your own.” Growing up, I learned to absolutely love every inch of “The Honeymooners” (save for the lost episodes that stunk like a rotten lizard) and subsequent my purchase of the “Classic 39” on DVD, I made it a ritual of watching it every six months non-stop.
I’ve held true to this tradition since. It’s a bond I share with my parents that not even mild fans of the show really understand. Jackie Gleason’s stint as a poor man trying to find that one lightning bolt to propel him in to wealth is a premise that’s always reflected the stance of the impoverished and the working class. Gleason’s blue collared Joe is still the quintessential model to this day.
This edition of “The Jackie Gleason Show” features color episodes of Gleason’s variety series in “Sunny Miami Beach” (!!!) where he entertains his celebrity pals and indulges the audience. Gleason knows what his fans want, and he offers them some gem from his repertoire that grants him some big applaud. One of his big fan services is his truncated staging of the “Six Months to Live” episode of “The Honeymooners,” easily one of my all time favorites.
He also has a good time with Edie Adams, Red Buttons, and Milton Berle, and also stages some fun musical numbers, along with some of his own classic showmanship. This edition of the DVD series isn’t the best that the show has to offer by far, but it is fun seeing Gleason doing what he does and loves.
Berle does a bang up job playing off of Gleason with the fat jokes and gas, while Adams is a one woman show taking her classic impersonations with some hearty laughs from the audience. A fine compliment to the Jackie Gleason show is the Best of Harvey Korman. One of the unsung heroes of the classic TV show, Korman was never quite as credited as Tim Conway or Burnett herself. Korman is a classic straight man, and someone whose comic delivery is filled with subtle comic ticks. As we saw with “Blazing Saddles,” Korman’s comedic persona is different, but still as laugh out loud hysterical as Conway’s, or Vicky Lawrence.
“The Best of Harvey Korman” features four episodes with Harvey Korman taking the spotlight or doing something that helps him steal a scene from Burnett or Conway; if you’ve ever seen the show that’s a Herculean feat. On the downside there are only four episodes in this collection which makes it feel like something of a backhanded compliment for Korman and fans of his.
Korman had so many years on the Carol Burnett show, it’s a shame we don’t see much more of him and his skits and or moments singled out for the sake of a compilation on DVD. I think Korman has pulled off so much more than what the DVD kind of implies.
There’s so much more of Korman here either reacting to others or making people break character, rather than showing off what he was capable of. He is legendary for breaking character quite often and cracking up during some skits shared with cast mates, so I think in the long run this should have been a compilation or clip show a la the SNL DVD’s with the best of Chris Farley and Phil Hartman.
However there are some good classic segments including the Old Folks, and Korman slipping and falling inspiring a laugh from Burnett. I wish this was a better DVD, but if you fancy yourself the hardcore fan of the series, this should be a solid purchase.