The Colour Honeymooners Vol. 4

The final season of Jackie Gleason’s last regular TV gig is a sad degradation from the original heights of the classic Honeymooners, which ran from 1966 to 1970. Taken in the form of a variety show, the bloated program starts off with gaudy, stumblebum musical numbers courtesy of the June Taylor Dancers then segues into a weird American tourist odyssey with loudmouth bus driver Ralph Kramden, not overly bright best friend Ed Norton (the ever-stalwart Art Carney) and their wives Alice and Trixie (Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean). The hook is that they’re touring the nation promoting a movie for which Ralph and Ed wrote a song, but what we get are tired sentimentality and bloated, "twilight of old Hollywood” production values. There’s hardly a funny line in any of the shows, which doesn’t stop the studio audience from collapsing in hysterics at the slightest noise — that "applause” sign must have been working overtime. Gleason is in fine form but Carney looks like he’d rather be somewhere else and the apathetically selected wives (pretty much all you can call them) have less force than their counterparts in the good old days. And dear lord, do these people sing. A bad song with smug lyrics is part of every show, and it just makes you cringe to see Gleason knock himself out over every awful lyric. You can’t say that an enormous amount of effort went into these shows but as executed by people whose day and sensibilities were about done, it demonstrates why All in the Family would be the necessary development it was. Extras include an interview with Jane Kean and a 1973 special with the cast that’s about the best thing on all three discs. (Shout! Factory)