Debuting in 1951 and running six standard seasons, "I Love Lucy" is a television series that needs no formal introduction. Next to "The Honeymooners" it is THE go to example of the sitcom genre at its finest, inspiring many comedians over the years and imitators that pale in comparison. Lucile Ball is the titular Lucy Ricardo, the often scatterbrained, pipe-dreaming wife of long-suffering entertainer Ricky (Ball's real-life husband Desi Arnaz). Often joining Lucy's schemes and shenanigans is Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) who like Ricky often draws the ire of her stick-in-the-mud, tightwad husband, Fred (William Frawley). Formula at its best, "I Love Lucy" draws from a relatively simple cache of story skeletons, but is elevated to legendary status by witty dialogue, no holds barred absurdity, crowd roaring appearances by major guest stars, and above all, the comedy brilliance of not just Ball herself, but the cast at large, who beneath the humor exhibit some of the best natural on-screen chemistry ever captured for TV.
Despite "I Love Lucy's" status as an iconic series in American television history, Paramount saw fit to colorize three episodes of the series and release them here in perhaps one of the most pointless and artistically egregious releases of classic television ever. Likely sold to capitalize off the success of a holiday season airing, "I Love Lucy: A Colorized Christmas" takes a generally pointless clip show centered around Lucy and Ricky telling a story to their son, Little Ricky and commits one of the few unforgivable sins of filmed art by colorizing it. Also included are two fan favorite episodes, "Lucy's Italian Movie" and "Lucy Goes to Scotland." The quality of the latter two episodes are unequivocally top notch and despite the bastardized presentation, the sheer effort that goes into the latter episode, is astonishing for what was no more than a weekly, primetime sitcom. "Lucy Goes to Scotland" retains the classic series formula with the added twist of staging a very crowd-pleasing musical within the episode. All the players knock it out of the park with special nods to Frawley and Vance as a two-headed dragon eagerly awaiting a redheaded meal (trust me, when you see the episode, you'll get the context). "Lucy's Italian Movie" will be forever remembered for containing a classic "I Love Lucy" moment: the grape stomping. It's just as funny now as it was nearly 60-years ago.
Even if it had not been for the colorization, which I reluctantly admit is a huge step forward from the horror shows of the 80s, the very nature of the release is completely pointless. I'm sure there are "I Love Lucy" fans out there who will get this just to complete a collection or out of sheer curiosity, but there's no reason to shell out good money on three episodes, when a "best-of" disc exists and the seasons themselves are more reasonably priced. That leaves us with the colorization, which frankly may look eye-catching at a glance, but under close scrutiny, there's color bleeding and a loss of detail that at times gives the whole image or at least portions a blurry look. I find it wholly disheartening that the release is intended to hook new viewers, when the stunning black-and-white originals lose nothing without this useless technological tinkering. Thankfully the original black-and-white airings are included (it's also worth noting that the clip show episode doesn't have colorized flashbacks) and are the only thing that salvages this release as a complete wash. This is one release of a five-star program that shouldn't exist.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio color transfer is remarkably clear, but generally ugly as a whole. Colors are slightly unnatural looking and bleed into one another. Detail is completely sapped and the whole image has a slightly hazy, less sharp look to it. Keep in mind this is all a result of the intentional colorization, which after all is the selling point of the disc. The black-and-white episodes feature much more natural detail, feel crisp and sport solid contrast throughout.
The Dolby Digital English mono soundtrack won't wow anyone from a sound design standpoint, but like the image, it's a clean, crisp affair. Distortion is kept to a minimum as is standard aged audio hiss.
"I Love Lucy: A Colorized Christmas" is a highly questionably, ultimately pointless release; containing a marginally effective clip show and two random episodes isn't worth the asking price. To add insult to injury, the only real reason the disc exists in the first place is to market the show, presumably to new audiences via colorized episodes. I implore you to spend your money on any other "I Love Lucy" release but this. At most this is material that should have been presented as an "extra" on a complete series release, not a shelf-bought original. Skip It.