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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » I Love Lucy - The Complete Fourth Season
I Love Lucy - The Complete Fourth Season
Paramount // Unrated // May 3, 2005
List Price: $54.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted April 25, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Show:

I Love Lucy is a show that a lot of people take for granted.  It has been on the air constantly since it's first run in the early 1950's, both in the US and abroad, and just about everyone has seen the show.  Because of it's ubiquitous nature, it is easy to forget how good the show actually is.  Ground breaking for its time, this program is still able to get laughs from modern audiences over 50 years after it was first created.  The fourth season of the show is a delight, and takes the Ricardos and the Mertz across the county to Hollywood, when Ricky gets a role in a Hollywood film.
 
I can't imagine anyone who can read English and has internet access not knowing about I Love Lucy, but in case that rare individual is reading, here's a brief synopsis:  I Love Lucy is the story of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.  He is the leader of a small band of some repute in New York, and Lucy is always trying to get a part in one of his shows, sure that if she can only get on stage, fame won't be far behind.  In a nearby appartment live their best friends and landlords, the Mertz; Ethyl and Fred.  It's often the boys against the girls as one side cooks up some hair-brained scheme or other, but both sides get their share of comeuppance.

In this fourth season the producers tried something that really hadn't happened before in sit-coms.  They gave the show some continuity.  They were forced to do this two years ago when Lucy turned up pregnant, but then went back to the regular episodic nature of the show the following season.  This season they decided to tell a bigger story through out the course of the year, and even continued the story into the next season.  While each episode was still a self contained story, they formed part of a bigger story arc that is even more enjoyable when you can watch them in order.

This is the season where the Richardos and the Mertz's travel across the country to Hollywood so Ricky can film a movie.  The season starts off in New York, where Ricky has attracted the attention of an agent from Hollywood and is offered a part in a movie.  So they buy a car and the four friends (little Ricky is being looked after by Lucy's mother) take off for California.  After a few shows where they travel across the country they arrive in the capitol of glamor: Hollywood.

The concept for this season was really inspired.  After nearly 100 episodes that they filmed in the first three seasons, they had pretty much run out of new things to do with the characters. Sure, they were still the top rated show in the country and could have stayed on the air for years without changing the formula, but this story arc was able to make the show feel new and fresh, while still retaining the aspects that made it so popular in the first place.

It was a risk, making a big story arc like this.  Would people be able to keep track of what was going on week after week?  If someone missed an episode, would they be confused and just tune out?  Today it's obvious that viewers are able to follow shows, but back then it wasn't common knowledge.  (Which is odd since movie serials had worked well for nearly 40 years by the time these shows were filmed.)

Viewers, of course, did stick with the show and they were rewarded for their patience.  After they get to Hollywood, about half way through the season, Lucy and company run into a whole slew of movie stars over the course of their stay.  These guest stars always played themselves, and must have thrilled audiences back in the 50's.  Ironically, Lucy is now much more famous than the people she brought on to her show as guest-stars.

The cast is very comfortable in their roles by this time, and everyone is at the top of their game.  They creates some wonderfully funny shows in this season.  One of the highlights for me was seeing Harpo Marx appearing without his brothers.  (And no, he doesn't talk.)  When Lucy's near sighted friend from New York shows up wanting to see some stars, Lucy decides to accommodate her by dressing up as some celebrities.  As luck would have it, just as Lucy has dressed up as Harpo, Ricky brings the real Harpo home.  A funny show, especially when Lucy and Harpo reenact the mirror scene from Duck Soup.

Another great show is L.A. at Last.  When they finally arrive in Hollywood, Lucy goes out to eat at the Brown Derby where she finds that William Holden and Eve Arden are in the next booth!  This episode includes the hilarious scene where Lucy, in disguise, has William Holden light her cigarette and he accidently lights her fake nose.

If you haven't seen I Love Lucy in a while, you really should try it out.  Before the DVDs started coming out, I hadn't seen the show since I was in middle school, over 20 years ago.  I was astonished how well crafted and down right funny they were.  They've held up very well over time and are still very enjoyable.

The DVD:


The 30 shows from the fourth 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, not seen since the mid-50's.

Audio:

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. Two of the shows (Ricky's Contract and Lucy Learns to Drive) 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.

Video:

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.

Extras:

This set has a great number of extras. It is a really nice package. There are promotional spots for the series, text biographies on the guest stars, 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,) and the original openings.  There is even the script for the first scene of Over the Teacups, the play that everyone attends in the episode Ethel's Birthday.  Each disc also comes with an episode of Lucy's radio show, My Favorite Husband, five in all. A really complete package.

Final Thoughts:

Another great season.  The trip out to California was fun, but once they arrive in LA the show really picks up steam.  It is great fun seeing stars from the 50's make appearances.  Rock Hudson, William Holden, Richard Widmark, Van Johnson, and even columnist Hedda Hopper make appearances, among many other.  There is a reason that I Love Lucy was the #1 show in the country this season (for the third year in a row!)  Check out these discs and find out why.  Highly Recommended.

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