|I Love Lucy|
|Created by||Desi Arnaz|
|Debut||October 15, 1951|
|Final Airdate||May 6, 1957|
I Love Lucy is a popular comedy, starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley. The black-and-white series originally ran from October 15, 1951 to May 6, 1957 on CBS. The show continued on for three more seasons with 13 one-hour specials, running from 1957 to 1960, known as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.
It was the most-watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and was the first to end its run at the top of the ratings (to be matched only by The Andy Griffith Show and Seinfeld), although it did not have a formal series finale episode. I Love Lucy is still syndicated in dozens of languages across the world.
Originally set in New York City, I Love Lucy centers on Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and her singer/bandleader husband Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), along with their best friends and landlords Fred Mertz (William Frawley) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance). During the second season, Lucy and Ricky have a son named Little Ricky, whose birth was timed to coincide with Ball's delivery of her son Desi Arnaz Jr. by Caesarean section in reality.
Lucy is naive and ambitious, with an overactive imagination and a knack for getting herself into trouble. Known for her fiery red hair, Lucy appears as a scatter-brained homemaker with the matchless ability to turn an ordinary household chore into a complete and unprecedented disaster. Yet, underneath the cover of her wild behavior and crazy antics, she honestly yearns for stardom. She longs to join her husband in show business, despite his refusal to cooperate. Fred and Ethel are vaudevillians and this only strengthens her resolve to prove herself as a performer. Unfortunately, she has few marketable performance skills. She does not seem to be able to carry a tune or play anything other than off-key renditions of such songs such as "Glow Worm" or "Sweet Sue" on the saxophone, and many of her performances devolve into disaster. However, to say she is completely without talent would be untrue, as on occasion, she is shown to be a good dancer and a competent singer.
Lucy's husband, Ricky Ricardo, is an up-and-coming Cuban American singer and bandleader with an excitable presonality. His patience is frequently tested by his wife's antics. When exasperated, he often reverts to speaking rapidly in Spanish. As with Lucy, not much is revealed about his past or family. Ricky's mother (Mary Emery) appears in two episodes; in another LUcy mentions that he has five brothers. Ricky also mentions that he had been "practically raised" by his uncle Alberto (who was seen during a family visit to Cuba), and that he had attended Havana University.
Lucy is usually found with her sidekick and best friend Ethel Mertz. A former model from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ethel tries to relive her glory days in vaudeville. Ricky is more inclined to include Ethel in performances at his nightclub because, unlike Lucy, she can actually sing and dance.
Ethel's husband Fred served in World War I, and lived through the Great Depression. He is very stingy and in irascible no-nonsense type. However, he also shows he can be a soft touch, especially when it comes to Little Ricky. Fred can also sing and dance and often performs duets with Ethel.
The Manhattan building they all lived in before their move to Westport, Conneticuit was addressed at a fictional 623 East 68th Street, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In reality, the addresses only go up to the 500s before the street terminates at the East River.
- Lucille Ball as Lucille Esermalda "Lucy" McGillicuddy Ricardo
- Desi Arnaz as Enrique Alberto "Ricky" Ricardo
- Vivian Vance as Ethel Mae Roberta Louise Potter Mertz
- William Frawley as Fredrick "Fred" Hobart Edie Mertz
- Keith Thibodeaux as Enrique Alberto Ricardo IV ("Little Ricky")
- Kathryn Card as Mrs. McGillicuddy - Lucy's mother
- Frank Nelson as Ralph Ramsey
- Mary Jane Croft as Cynthia Harcourt, Evelyn Bigsby, Betty Ramsey
- Jerry Hausner as himself
- Bob Jellison as Bobby
- Doris Singleton as Carolyn Appleby
- Shirely Mitchell as Marion Strong
- Elizabeth Patterson as Mrs. Matilda Trumball
- Michael and Joseph Mayer as Little Ricky as a toddler
- Richard and Ronald Lee Simons as Little Ricky as an infant
- Charles Lane as various characters
- Dick Reeves as various characters
- Barbara Pepper as varous characters
- Bob Smith as various characters
Primary Production TeamEdit
- Directors: Marc Daniels (33 episodes, 1951-1953); William Asher (101 episodes, 1952-1957); James V. Kern (39 episodes, 1955-1957)
- Producers: Jess Oppenheimer (1951-1956); Desi Arnaz (26 episodes, 1956-1957)
- Writers: Madelyn Pugh Davis, Bob Carroll, Jr. (1951-1960), Jess Oppenheimer (1951-1956), Bob Schiller, Bobn Weiskopf (1955-1960)
- Original Music: Wilbur Hatch (33 episodes, 1951-1954); Eliot Daniel (135 episodes, 1952-1957); Marco Rizo (1951-1957)
- Cinematography: Karl Freund (149 episodes, 1951-1956)
- Costume Design: Elios Jenssen (57 episodes, 1953-1955)
- Editors: Dann Cahn, Bud Molin
The opening familiar to most viewers, featuring the credits superimposed over a "heart and satin" image, was created specifically for 1959-1967 daytime network reruns, and subsequent syndication. In first-run broadcasts, the episodes opened with animated matchstick figures of Arnaz and Ball making reference to whoever the particular episode's sponsor was. These sequences were created by the animation team of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who declined screen credit they were technically under exclusive contract to MGM at the time.
The original sponsor was cigarette maker Phillip Morris, so the program opened wit ha cartoon of Lucy and Ricky climbing down a pack of Philip Morris cigarettes. In the early episodes, Lucy and Ricky, as well as Ethel and Fred on occasion, were shown smoking Phillip Morris cigarettes. Lucy even went so far as to parody Johnny Roventini's image as the Phillip Morris "bellhop" in the episode 30 "Lucy Does a TV Commercial". Since the original sponsor references were no longer appropriate when the shows went into syndication, a new opening was needed, which resulted in the classic "heart on satin" opening. Other sponsors, whose products appeared during the original openings, were Procter & Gamble for Cheer and Lilt Home Permanent (1954-1957), General Foods for Sakra (1955-1957), Ford Motor Company (1957-1958) and Westinghouse company (1958-1960).
The original openings, with the sponsor names edited out, were revived on TV Land showings, with a TV Land logo superimposed to obscure the original sponsor's logo. However, this has led some people to believe that the restored introduction was created specifically for TV Land as an example of kitsch.
The animated openings, along with the middle commercial introductory animations, are included, fully restorted, on the DVD boxsets.
Some especially memorable episodes:
- "Lucy Does a TV Commercial": Lucy is hired to act as the "Vitameatavegamin girl" in a TV commercial, to promote a health tonic that contains healthy amounts of vitamins, meat, vegetables, minerals — and a less-than-healthy dose of 23% alcohol. Lucy becomes progressively drunker throughout rehearsal, but gamely keeps on pitching the product, eventually leading to a completely flubbed live performance for "this stuff." In November 2001, fans voted this episode as their favorite, during a 50th anniversary I Love Lucy television special. TV Guide and Nick at Nite ranked it the second greatest television episode of all time, after the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust".
- "Job Switching": Lucy and Ethel get jobs packaging candy that is delivered on a conveyor belt. The work seems easy enough when they are shown what to do by their supervisor, but then the pace picks up and the women soon fall further and further behind. In desperation, they resort to comical means to try to keep up. The skit, a variation of an old vaudeville routine, has been parodied numerous times.
- "Lucy and Superman": Lucy tries to get George Reeves, star of the 1950s' Adventures of Superman TV series, to appear at little Ricky's birthday party. When she fails, she dresses up as Superman herself, only to have Reeves turn up in costume at the last minute and rescue her after she traps herself on the ledge of her apartment. As Superman brings Lucy back to the window of her apartment, Ricky is furious, and at one point yells, "...In all of the 15 years we've been married..." Then Superman says, "You mean to tell me that you've been married to her for 15 years?" Ricky answers, "Yeah, 15 years." Superman replies, "And they call Me superman!" Lucy is not pleased.
- "L.A. At Last": Lucy, Fred, and Ethel have lunch at The Brown Derby, where Lucy accidentally causes a waiter to heave a pie in William Holden's face. Later at the hotel, Ricky has a surprise for her. He has brought one of her favorite actors to meet her — none other than William Holden. Fearing that the actor will recognize her, she puts on a disguise that includes a putty nose which catches on fire when she lights a cigarette. This episode was reportedly Lucille Ball's favorite episode.
- "Lucy and Harpo Marx": While living in Hollywood, Lucy is visited by Carolyn Appleby, a friend who is under the impression that Lucy knows numerous celebrities. After Lucy and Ethel get Carolyn's glasses away from her, Lucy pretends to be various stars. Meanwhile, Ricky and Fred invite Harpo Marx to the Ricardos' apartment. When he shows up, Lucy is disguised as him; seeing the real Harpo, she hides in a kitchen doorway. Harpo is perplexed when he sees what he thinks is his reflection, forcing Lucy to mimic his every move to avoid detection. This was a tribute to Harpo and Groucho's famous mirror scene in the Marx Brothers comedy classic, Duck Soup.
- "Lucy Does the Tango": The Ricardos' and the Mertzes' chicken business isn't doing very well. Lucy and Ethel come up with a scheme to fool the boys into thinking the hens are laying lots of eggs by smuggling some, hidden underneath their clothes, into the henhouse. On one such trip, Ricky insists that he and Lucy rehearse their tango number for a local benefit. Unbeknownst to Ricky, Lucy's blouse is filled with chicken eggs.
I Love Lucy managed to never drop out of the top 5 throughout its entire run. With season one finishing at #3, seasons two, three, four and six finishing at #1 and season five finishing at #2. Overall, as a Top 30 series, I Love Lucy has an average rating of 52.7.
In 2001, Columbia House Television planned to release the entire I Love Lucy series in chronological order on a single DVD every six weeks, with episodes ranging on the DVD from four to seven. Before they could reach season five, they finally ended gradual subscriptions in 2005, several months before season five bcame available in retail. Columbia House Television then began to make season box sets available instead of these single volumes.
CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released all six seasons of I Love Lucy on DVD in region 1, as well as all 13 episodes of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (dubbed as The Final Seasons 7, 8, & 9). Bonus features include rare on-set color footage and the Desilu/Westingtonhouse promotional film, as well as deleted scenes, original openings, and interstitials and on-air flubs. The DVD releases feature the syndicated heart opening, and offer the original broadcast openings as bonus features. The TV Land openings are not available on these DVDs.
In Australia, the first three seasons were finally released in Region 4 on August 3, 2010 by CBS, distributed by Paramount.
List of releases:
- I Love Lucy - Season 1 (nine seperate discs labeled "volumes", first volume released July 2, 2002, final volume released September 23, 2003)
- I Love Lucy - 50th Anniversary Special (one disc, released October 1, 2002)
- I Love Lucy - Season 1 (nine volumes in box set, released September 23, 2003)
- The Complete 1st Season (released September 23, 2003)
- The Complete 2nd Season (released August 31, 2004)
- The Complete 3rd Season (released February 1, 2005)
- The Complete 4th Season (released May 3, 2005)
- The Complete 5th Season (released August 16, 2005)
- The Complete 6th Season (released May 2, 2006)
- The Final Seasons 7, 8 & 9 (released March 13, 2007)
- The Complete Series (released October 23, 2007)
- I Love Lucy: The Movie and Other Great Rarities (one disc, released April 27, 2010)
- The Best of I Love Lucy (2 discs: 14 episodes, released in June 2011 in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the series and Lucille Ball's 100th birthday; sold exclusively at Target)