So you've got a Blu-ray player, and you're loving the high-definition splendor of "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey." Even an oldie can look awesome when "Star Trek" makes the effort to re-create special effects in high-def.
But what about older vintage shows? This week's interesting test case finds three sitcom classics hitting high-def today. CBS/Paramount is releasing Blu-ray Season 1 sets of "I Love Lucy" and "The Andy Griffith Show," plus all "Classic 39" episodes of "The Honeymooners" shot on film rather than broadcast live.
All three series look gorgeous on a recent big-screen TV of 1080p resolution (with crisp lossless audio for suitable equipment). They're in black-and-white, of course -- the way they were made -- but the visuals now pop off the screen with fresh depth. The sound, too, has a "liveness" that pinpoints individual laughs, especially in "The Honeymooners," shot at Manhattan's 1,000-seat Adelphi Theatre.
But bonus features are where these sets really shine, especially for die-hard fans most likely to buy at their initial price point of $130 list (discounts as low as $75 each).
"Lucy" is the star here, with many of Season 1's 35 episodes viewable three ways: full original broadcast, with 1950s commercials/credits; '50s rerun with wraparound scenes; or familiar heart-on-satin version. Superb extras from previous DVD sets are retained. The unaired "live" pilot (sans Fred and Ethel) has been restored to "video" sheen from a 35-mm kinescope. Fresh for Blu-ray: newly discovered makeup/costume test footage, in which Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz look delightfully like the lovebirds they wouldn't be for much longer. And a two-
episode commentary from an old Criterion laserdisc provides a frank history of the show, as told by Lucy, Desi, their writers and others from its historic production.
"Andy" fans also get some of their 32 episodes with original commercials, which Griffith and co-stars present in character. Sharp HD extras include "The Danny Thomas Show" episode that introduced Andy Taylor, and 1985's "Return to Mayberry" TV movie with nearly all the original cast.
"The Honeymooners" has a special surprise. New-to-disc extras include the 1966 "The Jackie Gleason Show" hour with Audrey Meadows and Art Carney restaging their '50s "Adoption" episode as a videotaped musical. A true curio features Gleason and cast in an extended slides-and-audio-tape presentation from series sponsor Buick to its dealerships. Also fun: Gleason's 1984 "60 Minutes" profile (with interview outtakes!), plus 35th and 50th anniversary "Honeymooners" specials.