Even after five seasons, I Love Lucy was one of the top TV shows
in the country. The show had consistently been tops in the ratings,
and it had won every award there was to win. One of the reasons for
this was that they changed to show in order to keep it fresh. When
they ran out of ideas for the New York based couple, they'd take them to
Hollywood (seasons 3 and 4) or off to Europe (season 5.) The well
had started to run dry by now though. There are only so many shows
that can be done concerning Lucy trying to get into Ricky's show or keeping
to a budget. Largely because of this (but also due to friction with
Desi about on screen credits for the show) Producer Jess Oppenheimer, who
was also head writer for the first 153 episodes, left at the end of the
fifth season. With the show on top of the heap, he urged Lucy and
Desi to stop while they were ahead.
They didn't of course, Lucy it was still a top rated show and the pressure
to keep it going was high. In the end they produced one more season of
shows before their crumbling marriage ended the program. (They would
come back for a series one hour specials though, and after that Lucille
Ball would have a show airing in prime time for the next 15 years or so.)
This final season surprisingly though, isn't a show in decline or a pale
shadow of its former self. Still vibrant and alive, the final season
of I Love Lucy is a fun and enjoyable romp.
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 apartment 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
In the sixth season, Lucy, Ricky, and the Mertz' are back in New York
after their European tour. The writers found themselves in the same
situation that they had earlier though. There really wasn't many new plots
that they could come up with. They overcame this obstacle the same
way they had in the past; by including guest stars. The season starts
off with a funny episode featuring Bob Hope. Lucy spots the entertainer
at a baseball game and pretends to be a hot dog vendor in order to get
the star to agree to preform at the club. Little does she know that
Hope has already agreed to be in the show.
Orson Welles appears early in the series too, but the best guest star
was easily George Reeves (Adventures of Superman). His appearance
at Little Ricky's birthday party was a highlight of the season. This
is one of those episodes where everything works just right, from the setup
of competing parties to Lucy dressing up as the Man of Steel when she thought
that Reeves wouldn't show up, this was a laugh filled show.
They also had the group take a trip to Florida (and Cuba where Ricky
finally gets to make fun of Lucy's speech for once) in the first half of
the season. They start the trip by carpooling with an odd lady (Elsa
Lanchester (Bride of Frankenstein)) whom the group suspects may
be a murderer after hearing a radio bulletin. This was another great
episode, and Elsa gives a wonderful performance.
Even with the trips and guest stars though the ideas for shows were
hard to come up with. In the second half of the season they tried
something a little different, they moved the cast out of New York City
and into the country. This sounds like an act of desperation, and
maybe it was, but it actually worked well. This created a lot of
new show ideas, and a couple episodes that are classic. Building
a Bar-B-Q is one such episode where Ethyl and Lucy put there husbands
to work making an outdoor grill. When Lucy thinks that she's lost
her wedding ring in the cement that they are pouring however, things get
a bit messy.
The best episode from this season however is Lucy Does the Tango.
Trying to boost their chicken's output, Lucy buys some eggs to plant in
the hen house. As luck would have it, just as her blouse is full
of smuggled eggs Ricky decides that he wants to practice the Tango for
little Ricky's PTA meeting. One of the funniest moments in the series,
this bit reportedly got the longest laugh from the studio audience of any
While this season sounds a little jumbled on paper and like they are
retreading shows that they've already done, in reality it works well.
There's still that spark of brilliance in a lot of these programs and each
one has a good share of laughs. Lucy was a true comedic genius, and
these shows are still outrageously funny 50 years after they originally
aired. A set that's definitely worth picking up.
The 27 shows from the sixth 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.
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 couple of the 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.
Like the other seasons, this set has a great number of extras. It is
a really nice package. There are promotional spots for the series, (including
a rare promo that CBS ran in 1951 to promote the series before it first
aired), excerpts from Bob Hope's 1956 Chevrolet special featuring Lucy
and the gang, 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. Each disc also comes with an episode of
Lucy's radio show, My Favorite Husband, four in all.
In addition to all of that, there are three commentaries. Lucy
and Superman is accompanied by the comments of Keith Thibodeaux (Little
Ricky), Doris Singleton (Caroline Appleby), and Steve Kay (Stevie Appleby).
Lucy Does the Tango has the thoughts of the writers Madelyn Pugh
Davis and Bob Schiller, and Country Club Dance has a commentary
by Barbara Eden.
This is another wonderful set of very funny shows. While most
shows would be limping along and resting on their laurels, I Love Lucy
was still fresh and funny. The audio and picture are excellent, and
there is a very comprehensive collection of special features on these discs
which make this an outstanding collection. This DVD set belongs in
every comprehensive library of TV comedy. Highly Recommended.