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.
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 Lucy production.
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.
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.