I Love Lucy is my all time favorite television show and it has been for years. Since I was small, I have been laughing at Lucy’s antics and the older I get, the funnier they are.
I Love Lucy originally aired in 1951. For the last 50+ years, it has been a staple of television and I do not foresee it going away any time soon. It starred Lucille Ball, her husband at the time Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley. There was much tension of the set and sometimes it amazes me how it never came through in the actual show. Lucille Ball came up with the I Love Lucy premise as a chance to save her marriage. She had been married to Cuban bandleader Arnaz for over ten years, but because of their careers, they spent little time together. I Love Lucy was based on a radio show starring Lucille Ball and Richard Denning. Denning wanted to be in the television show, but Ball pushed for Arnaz. The studio execs felt the public would never buy them as a couple. At the time, interracial marriages such as theirs were not openly accepted. Using her own money, Lucy decided to take her show on the road. She and Desi toured doing I Love Lucy bits in theaters to rave reviews. Only when it was well received did CBS agree to let Desi star as Lucy’s husband. But even working together could not save Lucy and Desi’s marriage. While their love for each other is apparent in many scenes, the show could not save their marriage and they ended up divorcing in 1960. However, they remained friends until Desi’s death in 1986.
There were other sources of tension on the set besides Lucy and Desi’s marriage. William Frawley was known as a heavy drinker and he and Vivian Vance were not at all close. After I Love Lucy ended, they were given a chance to do a “Fred and Ethel” spinoff. Although he despised working with her, Frawley saw dollar signs and agreed to the deal. However, Vance had no interest in ever working with Frawley again and squelched the deal. Vivian also had a bit of a beef with Lucy. In the show, Lucy was portrayed as the young, beautiful wife with the handsome husband, while Vivian was portrayed as much older and married to balding, middle-aged man. In actuality, Vivian was only two years older than Lucy was and hated the “frumpiness” character.
Despite all this, I Love Lucy set the bar for sitcoms. Watch any episode of Will and Grace, Everyone Love Raymond, or Friends and you are bound to find many episodes that are in part, based on an I Love Lucy episode. They did it first and better than anyone else has been able to do it since then. They also used groundbreaking innovations that would change the way sitcoms were done. They insisted on shooting the show in front of a live audience on 35 mm film (so it could be preserved and shown later). They also used the famous three-camera technique, still a standard in filming today.
For all the love I have for I Love Lucy, I never cared for the actosr in any other show either before or after I Love Lucy. I didn’t care for The Lucy Show – in fact, Lucille Ball kind of irritated me in that role. And I didn’t care for Frawley as Bub on My Three Sons. To me, a magic happened when those four actors and the writers came together on the set of I Love Lucy that could and never would happen again.
Whew, that being said, I think I am going to go pop in my DVDs of my favorite Lucy antics – their trip to Hollywood!