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 stopped.
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 so funny.
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.
The 31 episodes in this set are:
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.