I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy

If you have never seen an episode of I love Lucy, you have probably never owned a television. Still broadcast regularly around the world over a half-century after it originally aired, it is without question the most iconic sitcom ever created, and it remains beloved by millions for its wonderful cast and some of the most hilarious moments ever broadcast.

When Lucille Ball was approached by CBS to star in a television show in 1950, she only had one condition – that her Cuban husband be allowed to costar with her. The network refused and, undaunted, Ball and Arnaz proceeded to create the show on their own and offer the pilot to CBS. Sensing a hit, CBS picked up the show and the rest is history.

Debuting in 1951, I Love Lucy followed the comical adventures of a bumbling redhead named Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and her Cuban bandleader husband Ricky (Desi Arnaz). They rented an apartment in a New York City brownstone from Fred (William Frawley) and Ethel (Vivian Vance) Mertz. Not only were Fred and Ethel their landlords, but also their best friends (most of the time, at least).

Lucy and Ethel were partners in crime, always dreaming up a hare-brained scheme or another, while Fred and Ricky commiserated and tried to keep their wives under control – of which they were generally unsuccessful. In 1952, a new addition was added to the Ricardo family, a son named Little Ricky.

Everyone has their favorite episode and there are so many classics from which to choose. Lucy and Ethel landing a job in the infamous chocolate factory, Lucy learning how to stomp grapes in Italy, Lucy and Ethel stealing John Wayne’s cement footprints in Hollywood, Lucy’s run-ins with such Hollywood stars such as Harpo Marx, Superman, Orson Welles and William Holden, Lucy trying to raise chickens, bake bread, learn to drive, etc. The Ricardos and the Mertzes would take extended trips to Hollywood and Europe, and eventually relocate to the rural landscape of Connecticut.

Perhaps the most beloved episode involved Lucy being hired as a spokesperson for a product called “Vitameatavegamin,” a tonic that just so happened to have an alcohol content of 23%. As Lucy proceeded to film take after take of a commercial, in which she had to sample the product each time, she proceeded to get tanked – to hilarious results.

But when it comes to sheer number of viewers, no episode can surpass the one where Lucy gives birth to Little Ricky. Airing on January 19th, 1953, 71.7% of all television sets in the country were tuned in to watch the magic moment. The only show that has ever managed to surpass that number is when Elvis Presley made his singing debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.

I Love Lucy aired for six seasons, and ranked #1 in every season except for one (where it settled for #2). The show would win five Emmy Awards along the way. It was the first sitcom to be shot on 35mm film in front of live audience, utilizing three cameras – a technique that would remain a standard in the industry. It was almost always shot in sequence and with a minimum of retakes, a rarity at the time.

After its original run of 194 episodes, the show continued for three more seasons in an hour-long format as The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show (shown later in reruns as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour). Thirteen of these longer episodes were produced.

After I Love Lucy concluded, William Frawley and Vivian Vance were offered an opportunity to have their own spin-off series. The problem was the two despised each other off-camera and Vance refused. She would go on to star with Ball in The Lucy Show and later, Here’s Lucy, which each ran for six seasons, while Frawley landed a brief role in the sitcom My Three Sons.

Having divorced shortly after the conclusion of I Love Lucy, Lucy and Desi continued to run their own successful production company, Desilu, until 1962 when Desi resigned. Ball stayed on and Desilu continued to produce such iconic shows as The Andy Griffith Show, Star Trek and Mission Impossible.

America’s love for Lucy has yet to diminish and, if history is any indication, never will. The show holds up remarkably well fifty years later, in no small part to the comedic genius of the cast and their unmatched chemistry together on screen. It is probably safe to say that we’ve all loved Lucy.

What is your favorite episode of I Love Lucy? If you are a fan of this iconic sitcom, we would love to hear all of your thoughts and recollections in our comments section below, as we tip our hats to these four television pioneers.

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