At the end of its first season, I Love Lucy was one of the highest
rated television shows in the country. The show was being seen in
9,500,000 homes with an estimated 23,400,000 viewers each and every week.
With numbers like that, you'd think that there would be celebrations and
back patting all around. You'd be wrong. There was a lot of
consternation going into the second season for one simple reason: Lucile
Ball was pregnant.
When they heard about it, the network, the sponsor (Phillip Morris,)
and the ad agency, all were aghast. Back in the 50's, you just couldn't
show a pregnant lady on TV, much let her be the star of the show.
They wanted to continue the show, but not show Lucy's expanding waist.
That would mean only filming her from the shoulders up in the latter part
of her pregnancy. But producer Jess Oppenheimer, Desi Arnaz and Lucy
all wanted to use her pregnancy in the series. There was a lot of
comedy to be mined there, and the network's solution really wouldn't work.
Not with a physical comedienne like Lucy. The producers and the sponsors
went around and around. Phillip Morris finally decided to let them
do one or two shows about the pregnancy. The producer and Dezi didn't
like that compromise.
Finally, Desi wrote a letter to the chairman of the board of Phillip
Morris. He explained that they had given PM the highest rated show
in the country. But if PM wanted to tell him what NOT to do, he wanted
them to tell him what he should do also, and take full responsibility for
the ratings if they tanked. After that the objections from the sponsor
But there still was the network to deal with. That is where the
Oppenheimer come up with a brilliant idea. They would arrange for
a priest, a minister, and a rabbi to read each of the scripts and attend
screenings of the completed shows. If they gave their approval, how
could the public complain? The network loved the idea. Oppenheimer
his writers could work her 'condition' into the scripts, and they created
some of the most memorable episodes of a TV sitcom ever.
This second season has some fantastic episodes, some real funny stuff.
They opened the season with one of my all time favorite episodes, Job
Switching, where the women and men agree to switch jobs for a week.
This show has the famous candy factory scene, but just as funny are the
scenes were Ricky and Fred are trying to cook.
This episode is a perfect example of why Lucy worked so well.
First of all, Lucille Ball is a very funny lady. She really knows
how to play a scene. When she first starts at the factory, Lucy is
given a job in the chocolate dipping room, having told the supervisor that
she's an expert at this task. She looks at the other woman working
in the room, someone who obviously knows what she's doing. This lady
is swirling a mound of chocolate with one hand, keeping it on the work
area and well mixed, while dropping centers to be covered with the other
hand. Lucy looks at what her coworker does, and emulates the motions,
but she doesn't understand what the outcome should be, so chocolate starts
spreading everywhere. And that is a key point: She doesn't
just start a lobbing chocolate around, she tries to emulate an expert,
without an expert's knowledge and skill. Put in the same situation,
most of us would probably do the same thing, which is why the scene is
The other reason this show is still fondly remembered over fifty years
after its start is because of the tight writing. The show was always
logical. Everything that happened made sense in a weird sort of way.
This grounding in reality made Lucy and her situations seem familiar, or
at least possible, and that added to the comedy. Again, Job Switching
offers a great example of how this adds to the humor. Lucy and Ethel
end up wrapping chocolates as they go by on a conveyor belt. As the
candy goes by faster and faster, they start to get behind. They stuff
the candies in their mouths, down their shirts and in their hats.
When the supervisor comes in to check on them, she finds a the belt free
of unwrapped chocolate. She compliments the women at being able to
keep up, and orders the belt to go faster. It makes perfect sense,
it is self explanatory, and it is very funny.
Another show classic show from this season is Lucy is Enceinte.
This is another favorite of mine because of the touching ending.
At the beginning of the show, Lucy goes to the doctor's and finds out that
she's expecting. She is overjoyed at this prospect of course, and
can't wait to tell Ricky. She has been imagining for years how she'll
sit on his lap, gently cradle his face and give him the happy news.
But every time she tries to tell him she gets interrupted. Finally
she goes to the club when Ricky is performing and asks the host to give
him a note. The anonymous note asks Ricky to sing "We're Having a
Baby, My Baby and Me" as a way for a lady to tell her husband that they
are having "a blessed event." Ricky asks the couple to come up on
stage, and when no one does, he sings the song as he wanders through the
club asking the patrons if they are the lucky couple. When he gets
to Lucy, she nods and he passes on. Then Ricky stops, realizing what
she did, and looks back. She nods again. He rushes to her side
and through tears of joy tells him that she is expecting. Desi is
noticeably overcome with emotion and even forgets what his next line is.
You can hear a someone off stage yell "Sing the baby song!" before Ricky
launches into the tune. Lucy cries through the rest of the scene.
It is incredibly touching to see their honest emotion.
An interesting story about that scene is that Ricky obviously goofs
the lyrics to his song as he passes Lucy. After it was finished,
the director announced from the booth that they'd have to do the scene
again. The crowd erupted with boos and catcalls telling him to use
that take, obviously moved by the genuine emotion in the performance.
The director was wise enough to see that they were right, and that the
take that was broadcast.
There are many, many great episodes in this season. All of the
shows dealing with Lucy's pregnancy are funny, but Lucy Goes to the
Hospital, the show where Ricky Jr. is born is another favorite of mine.
By coincidence it was first aired the day that Lucy's child, Desi Jr.,
was actually born. The Camping Trip and The Handcuffs
are also great. The season closer, Never Do Business With Friends,
is a funny show and a great way to end the season.
The 31 episodes in this set are:
The Anniversary Present
Vacation From Marriage
Ricky Loses His Voice
Lucy Is Enceinte
Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable
Lucy's Showbiz Swan Song
Lucy Hires an English Tutor
Ricky has a Labor
Lucy Becomes a Sculptress
Lucy Goes to the Hospital
The Inferiority Complex
The Club Election
The Black Eye
Lucy Changes Her Mind
No Children Allowed
Lucy Hires a Maid
The Indian Show
Lucy's Last Birthday
The Ricardos Change Apartments
Lucy Is Matchmaker
Lucy Wants New Furniture
The Camping Trip
Ricky and Fred are TV Fans
Never Do Business With Friends
The 31 shows from the second season come on five DVDs which are packaged
in slim cases enclosed in a slipcase.
It should be noted that these are not the syndicated versions of the
program that have been airing for years. In 1958, CBS ordered 4 minutes
cut out of every episode to add more time for commercials. These
cut shows ran 20:45. They didn't want to go to the expense of reediting
the whole show, so they made the cuts at the beginning and ending of scenes.
This sometime edited out information that was important to the plot.
This set presents the shows in their full length. Though I did not
check every episode those that I did check ran between 24-25 minutes.
The two channel mono English soundtrack is pretty good. Given
the technology at the time, it is not surprising that there isn't a large
dynamic range to the sound. This isn't a big deal in most episodes,
but the musical numbers sound fairly flat. The dialog is very clear
though, and easy to understand. There is a low level of hiss and
loud noises distort sometimes, but neither of these things are distracting.
There are no English subtitles.
There is also a Spanish audio track which was recorded when the show
was first sold abroad years ago. A few shows are missing this track,
but all episodes do have a Spanish subtitles available. I spot checked
the Spanish tracks, and they sounded a little worse than the English audio.
They were a little more scratchy and had less range. It is interesting
to note that there isn't a laugh track with the Spanish audio, at least
in the sections I listened to.
The restored black and white full frame picture is excellent for a show
this old. I Love Lucy was filmed instead of taped, and there
is some grain to the picture, but the image is very sharp and clear.
The contrast is also superb, and there is a good range of gray tones.
The blacks are more a very dark gray than absolute black, but this is a
minor quibble. These are fantastic looking shows.
This set has a great number of extras. It is a really nice package.
There are restoration demos, tag scenes that the network would put on after
the show (Merry Christmas greetings, appeals for charity donations etc.,)
production notes, audio excepts from producer Jess Oppenheimer's book about
the show, lists of mistakes that were made in the shows (with clips highlighting
the errors,) guest cast bios, and the original openings. While Lucy
was recovering from childbirth, CBS reran some of the earlier shows and
filmed short introduction sequences. "Remember the time when Lucy..."
that type of thing. Several of these are included also. Each
disc also comes with an episode of Lucy's radio show, My Favorite Husband,
five in all. A really complete package.
This season of shows has some of the best comedy ever aired on television.
There are many memorable episodes, and literally hundreds of laughs.
The newly restored full length shows look wonderful, and the DVDs have
ample extras. This is a must buy for fans of classic TV comedy.
DVD Talk Collector's Series.