Various Artists

A TV Christmas Present: The Honeymooners/I Love Lucy

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This numbered and limited-edition CD of seasonal hijinks was initially issued as a "gift" to retailers, the media, and was also offered on a consumer level in the form of a mail-order premium for purchasers of the The Honeymooners: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (1955) and I Love Lucy: The Christmas Special (1956) home videos. Although the disc runs under a half-hour, this collection of soundbites highlights much of the enduring wit and charm that ultimately defined both television series. The I Love Lucy Christmas episode originally aired on Christmas Eve 1956. Indeed, the show's premise was original, centering on the Fred Mertz character (played by William Frawley) purchasing a dud of a Christmas tree only to have Lucy further louse it up by "trimming" it. However, as was common practice for episodic television, the narrative is unraveled through a series of flashbacks from previous installments. One particularly heavily relied-on show is the touching and whimsical "Lucy Goes to the Hospital" from 1953. Because so much stock footage was used for the holiday effort, I Love Lucy: The Christmas Special was not offered in syndication and was rarely re-broadcast prior to the existence of cable networks such as Nick at Night or TV Land. A home-video edition -- featuring some disturbing revisionist colorization -- was released in late 1989. By contrast, The Honeymooners: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas -- first broadcast on Christmas Eve 1954 -- is a completely original installment of the timeless pioneering comedy. This warmhearted tale is loosely based on O. Henry's Gift of the Magi. In the spirit of the season, the Ralph Kramden character (Jackie Gleason) sells his prized bowling ball in order to give wife Trixie (Audrey Meadows) what he describes as a "one-of-a-kind" Christmas gift. The only problem is that the upstairs neighbor, Mrs. Stephens (Anne Seymour), has already given her the same item. In a rare and stirring -- yet not wholly improvised -- moment at the end of the show, the four lead actors step out of character to wish the in-studio and nationwide audience a heartfelt merry Christmas. The final track includes a rarely re-broadcast tag from I Love Lucy. It was inserted after the final act of the respective episodes that aired during the week of Christmas in 1951 and 1952. After a brief product shot from the Phillip Morris Tobacco Company, the program sponsor, the primary cast from I Love Lucy cheerfully sing "Jingle Bells" and bid their viewers warm wishes for the Yuletide.