Archive | January, 2017

S1E4: Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her

30 Jan

Aired Nov 5, 1951

Plot: When Lucy reads a murder mystery and Ethel tells reads her her fortune, Lucy becomes convinced Ricky is trying to off her.

Let’s Get Into It: This was the first filmed episode of ILL but due to “post-production technical difficulties” it was aired forth.

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It opens with Lucy reading The Mockingbird Mystery and she’s so engrossed in her book she doesn’t even notice she’s dipping in her chips in cold cream.  Ricky and Lucy get ready for bed and in this era married couples slept in twin beds (on TV) but in these episodes they were pushed together! This was before Little Ricky made his appearance and before it was undeniable that Ricky and Lucy were having S.E.X and the network made them push the beds apart.

The next morning, Lucy is still reading her flying book when Ethel comes in. Ethel’s hair isn’t in it’s usual style here and I think she looks really great. She tells Lucy she learned to read tarot cards and Lucy’s response is that she doesn’t believe in that stuff. Well, she will 3 episodes later… Ethel can barely look at the cards, they’re so scary! They say Lucy is going to die. Lucy then overhears Ricky talking to her agent about “getting rid of her” and getting a gun, not realizing he is talking about his nightclub act and is convinced Ricky is going to kill her.  Which last night, when Ricky was mocking murdering his wife (like he suggests the husband does in her book, Ricky already said a gun was “too noisy” so Lucy has nothing to fear there. lol)

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Ricky writes down a list of the dog’s names and every time the names are read back Helen’s and Ann’s switch order. Hm… Plus is there a gay joke in ILL? One of Ricky’s potential future partners is Theodore?? Progressive Ricky.

This episode really does feel like the “pilot” since it sets up Ethel as the landlord and Jerry as Ricky’s agent. Plus you can tell this show is shot more like a play; when Lucy is running from Ricky, you can see her unclip the frying pan so that it “falls.” Plus Desi, not as familiar with being on camera, has a couple of goofs. When he walks over to answer the phone, he walks too fast and a camera is unable to move out of view. You can see it on the right side of  your screen. Later he stand up to fast causing the camera to cut off half his face and jumps up to adjust.

Ricky confides in Fred that he is worried about Lucy and Fred’s answer is to drug her! Wha? Fred ‘occasionally’ just drugs his wife? Not cool. This was such a different time! So Fred hands Ricky a sedative that Lucy sees him put in her drink.

Let’s break down this scene. Lucy doesn’t just straight out ask Rick, hey whaddya doing? Communication isn’t their strong suit. So she sets both drinks on the table and asks him to dance. When they do the camera swings too far and you can see the bedroom on the left side of the shot. Then Lucy switched the glasses and Ricky secretly switches them back. What do you think Ricky was thinking when he either saw or assumed Lucy switched the drinks? Did he think she knew there was a sedative in there and just didn’t want to go to sleep? Or did he know that she thought he was trying to murder her and what? I don’t even know what he was thinking! Well he switches them back and so she supposedly drinks from the poisoned cup but watch closely and you’ll see Ricky actually picks up that glass.

Lucy isn’t taking this lying down so she and Ethel run over to the club to confront Ricky. She finds out the list of girls (and Theodore) are actually dogs but listen closely and you’ll hear the trainer call one of them “Yorky.” Also keep your eyes on Ethel. Lucy yawns, now that the sleeping pill is kicking in, but Vance in reaction to seeing Lucy, yawns as well! She’s the cutest.

MFH Connection: Based on the MFH episode titled “The Wills.”

Familiar Faces:
Jerry the Agent (Jerry Hausner) becomes a semi-recurring character but he also is responsible for the crying Little Ricky Voice. When he’s not crying, he remains Jerry except for in Lucy Does a TV Commercial, suddenly his name is Joe.

The Best of ILL

26 Jan

Around 5 years ago, Paramount Pictures released The Best of I Love Lucy DVD with 14 top episodes of the series. Most of them coincide with IMDb ratings except but 4, so I’m going to go over the fan rated eps first and follow up with the DVD stragglers.

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#1 Lucy Does a Commercial. (S1E30)
I don’t think anyone is surprised to see this top the list. Lucy gets accidentally drunk and recites a hilarious monologue on the health elixor Vitameatavegamin. Some people cite this as Ball’s fav episode but others say the perfectionist actor hated the complicated speech.

#2. Hollywood at Last  (S4E16)
AKA L.A. at Last. To be honest, there’s aren’t a lot of ‘top rated’ episodes that coincide with my personal favs but this one does. I adore this episode and can’t wait to delve further into it. Ethel cutting Lucy’s spaghetti with nail scissors, William Holden getting hit in the face with that cake. setting her nose on fire and dunking it in her coffee. It’s brilliant and Ball at her finest.

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#3 Job Switching (S2E1)
This is the other of course on the list. Lucy and Ethel stuffing chocolate in their mouths, hats, down their blouses may be the most iconic scene in the whole series.

#4 The Great Train Robbery (S5E5)
Lucy convinced herself that their neighbor on the train back to NY is a jewel thief and has to stop the train. I think Ethel, Fred and the conductor (played by friend of the show Frank Nelson) make this episode really worth the watch.

#5 Lucy’s Italian Movie(S5E23)
Yup! Lucy tries her hand at wine making and gets into a ridiculous brawl with fellow grape stomper. One of the episodes it really would have been worth to see in color.

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#6 The Freezer (s1E29)
Season one is truly the best season. There are a bunch of S1 episodes that I still laugh out loud to that get left off the list but this one earns it’s spot. Everyone will recognize Lucy with her frozen tears and eyelashes.

 

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#7 Lucy and John Wayne (S5E2)
Oh boy was I happy to see this one rated so high. My father is the biggest John Wayne fan and he recorded this and the previous episode Lucy visit’s Grauman’s on VHS because of Wayne’s appearance and I watched them over and over again. Lucy tries to steal the ultimate souvenir and the Duke is a total peach about the whole thing.

#8 Lucy Thinks Ricky is trying to Murder Her (S1E4)
The very first filmed episode makes the list! Lucy quotes Jess Oppenheimer’s favorite line from the whole show “Ever since we said ‘I do,’ there are so many things we don’t.”

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The whole gang: Elmer, Ma, Sam & Eunice

#9 The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub (S1E1)
And the first ever aired episode! I really do love the first season.

#10 Lucy and Superman (S6E13)
Lucy is the best mom ever when she gets Superman to come to Little Ricky’s birthday party but in case he’s a no show, she dresses up like him and ends up locked out on the window ledge.

S1E3: The Diet

23 Jan

Aired Oct 29 1951

The Plot: Lucy wants to be in the show! Ricky promises Lucy that if she can fit into the costume of the previous dancer, she can be Sally Sweet.

Let’s Get Into It: Ohhh boy! Would this episode ever fly in 2017?? Ricky flat out tells Lucy that she is “too fat” to be in the show! Half in gest but it is still a little bit shocking in this day and age. Plus Lucy tells her actual weight!  132lbs. I don’t you’ll ever hear that nowadays.

It starts with the foursome sitting around after dinner counting how many oysters everyone ate. How many did Lucy buy?? The boys alone ate 34! Lucy declares that she hasn’t gained a pound since she got married and the rest of the bunch challenge her, bring out the bathroom scales and lean in to see the number. Again, 132.

Well wouldn’t you know it, right then and there Ricky’s agent Jerry phones to say his dancer quit “to get married” which I guess is a valid excuse in 1951. And Lucy now a “wonderful singer and dancer” compared to what she said about herself 1 week ago, wants the part. She goes to the audition and meets the original mean girls. The other gals auditioning. Lets be honest, they’re super rude but I loved their outfits! Those high wasted shorts with the buttons? I want them.

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Lucy tries on the size 12(!) costume that too small and busts out of it, ripping it at the seams, even the sleeves are in pieces which made me laugh. How fat are her forearms? Ha! If she fixes the costume and can fit into it, she can have the part. (If she’s the one sewing it, can’t she let out the seams a little? I know I wouldda.)

She diets and exercises and wrestles with Butch, Fred’s dog (never to be seen or mentioned again by the way… and don’t somewhere down the line when Little Ricky adopts his dog say no pets are allowed in the building?? )  Anyway, she wrestles for table scraps and ultimately rents a “human pressure cooker” to lose those last remaining lbs. I always wondered how much that thing cost to rent. Ricky is adamant the replacement dancer must fit into the costume because he doesn’t want to shell out the bucks for a new dress, but does he know how much she’s spending on this contraption?

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She fits into the dress! I actually like the costume. It’s this bright green color in real life. Although what is going on with that head piece? Lucy gets to be in the show… with no rehearsal? She doesn’t need it apparently and it’s a fun number. It was lifted from Lucy and Desi’s vaudeville act and I like to watch Ricky’s face while they’re dancing.

And while Lucy is rolled away on a stretcher from exhaustion and malnutrition, we see her point to Ethel to let out the Mean Girl dancer who was supposed to preform tonight. So you’re telling me Lucy literally tied up and kidnapped a woman?? Think that girl is coming back for tomorrow’s show? Don’t think so. So Ricky’s back at square one!

MFH connection: This episode is based “My Favorite Husband” episode titled”Iris and Liz’s Easter.”
Familiar Faces: 
The piano player who’s shoulder Lucy briefly looks over is Marco Rizo, Arnaz’s childhood friend from Cuba! You’ll also see him in Ricky Loses his Voice, The Diner, The Dancing Stars, The Passports, and Second Honeymoon. 

Little Ricky Is Born and so is the Re-Run

19 Jan

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Happy birthday to both Desi Arnaz Jr and Little Ricky, who were born January 19th 1953.

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NOT Desi Jr.

Some people still think Little Ricky IS Desi Jr. but the child we know as LR is played by Richard Keith.  Someday I may talk further about both of these two men, but I wanted to focus  more on Lucy’s pregnancy. Or rather, what her pregnancy meant for the show and with that, the future of television.

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The writers of ILL were forbidden by Standards and Practices for using the very offensive term “pregnant.” The closest they came was titling one episode “Lucy is Enceinte” and another “Pregnant Women are Unpredictable” both of which would not be seen by the audience at home. In order to maintain it’s wholesomeness over such a delicate topic, each episode involving Lucy’s “condition” was reviewed by a priest, minister and rabbi. They covered all their bases! And while Lucy wasn’t the first expectant woman on TV, people certainly were interested in her story. 44 million viewers tuned in to watch the grand entrance of the newest Ricardo. More people watched that than the swearing in of President Eisenhower the following day.

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But here’s where her pregnancy changed television. Arnaz was already adamant that they shoot the show on 35mm instead of the standard kinescope because he didn’t like the look that kinescope produced. Film was permanent and ultimately, re-playable. So when Lucille Ball had to take time off for maternity leave, instead of losing their place in the Monday night line up, the crew took a handful of previously shown episodes, shot a new little opener to explain what was up and played the filmed episode. And thus the re-run was born!

The episode “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” was scheduled for Jan 19th 1953 as was Ball’s Cesarean section. At first Jess Oppenheimer wanted to match the Ricardo baby’s gender to the Arnaz baby but ultimately decided that either way, the Ricardo’s would have a baby boy. Desi told Jess that this might be his only chance of having a son, since of course in 1953 they’re weren’t gender reveal parties. But when Desi Jr. came into the world, Desi called Jess and told him, “Lucy followed your script. Ain’t she something?” Oppenheimer, in his biography states he replied, “Terrific! That makes me the greatest writer in the world!”

 

S1E2: Be a Pal

16 Jan

Aired Oct 22 1951

The Plot: Lucy gets fed up that Ricky ignores her in the morning so she tries to keep the romance alive.

Let’s Get Into It: It starts out with Lucy and Ricky having breakfast and I swear that toaster has more scenes than Little Ricky ever does over the course of the show.

Ricky is reading his paper and ignoring Lucy as she talks and talks but that scene where he kisses the grapefruit goodbye honestly elicited an audible Ha from me. Ethel comes in and helps herself to the breakfast leftovers and I think she looks super cute here, even with her hair in curlers. She convinces Lucy, with the help of the book of the week selection, that in order to win back Ricky’s affection, she should dress up for breakfast.

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Glamorous Lucy is a total knockout! Ball was 41 years old already when ILL aired but she’s still got it. Ricky, totally dense, walks on outta there and off to work. That little bit where she calls Ethel is funny, but wouldn’t the phone still be ringing in Lucy’s ear while she’s carrying on that conversation? I still like it though; its clever and charming enough to overlook the possible goof.

So Lucy’s next plan is to “Be A Pal” and she takes over Ricky’s poker night with his buds. This is the first appearance of Richard Reeves as Hank. (see bottom of page for our familiar faces.) Also watch Frawley’s hands on the poker table. His hand tremors from his alcoholism are already apparent in this scene. My favorite part of the episode is when Lucy sneaks of peaks of Ricky’s card when she’s dealing them out!

Surprisingly, being a pal doesn’t work. And so she takes on the mother role and dresses up like Carmen Miranda and decks the whole apartment out like a scene from Havana. Again, where does she get these costumes and decorations?? The rents a freaking DONKEY! and Children! Who’s children are they?? Neighbor kids? The same kids from the Lucy plays Cupid episode?

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Also out of character, Lucy at one point says she has 2 left feet  and as a singer, sounds like she’s a bull moose trying to pull its foot out of the mud. Hmm…. in the very next episode (which we’ll get to) she says she’s a “wonderful” singer and dancer.

Notes:

Lucille Ball asked Carmen Miranda for permission to dress up like her and lip sync the song, “Mama  Yo Quiero.”

Familiar Faces:

Hank is played by Richard Reeves.You’ll later see him playing all different characters throughout the course of the show but he’s probably the most recognizable as Bill Foster in The Gossip. He also has bit parts in  The Publicity Agent, Lucy is Enceinte, The Indian Show, Equal Rights, The French Revue, and Tennessee Ernie Hangs On. 

Charlie, fellow poker player, is Tony Michaels who is later the laundry man in Bonus Bucks. 

 

The One and Only Lucille Ball

12 Jan

In middle school (7th or 8th grade) I had to do a biography on someone- didn’t matter who- so of course I picked the fabulous Ms. Ball. It was a long book; I forgot a good chunk of it. I’m not going to rewrite her bio. But I did want to shine a light on her life away from Lucy Ricardo.

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She was born Lucille Desiree Ball on Aug 6th 1911 in  (yes) Jamestown,NY. Her mother sent her off to the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts as a way to split Ball up from her ne’er-do-well boyfriend! Ball turned that opportunity into a modelling career that was sidelined when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

She eventually made the move to Hollywood to start her acting career, got bit parts and signed with MGM. She was “Queen of the B’s” for a while until she was cast as Liz Cooper in My Favorite Husband, which we alllll know became our favorite show ILL.

Ball met Desi in 1940 while working on a Broadway show Too Many Girls.  They’re first meeting was not love at first sight. Lucy was in costume, wearing raggamuffin clothes and had a black eye. It wasn’t until the next day that they started to click and they married on November 30th 1940. (As a gal that’s dated a couple guys younger than her- and always gets flack for it- I want to point out that Desi was 6 years younger than Lucy!)

It’s no secret that their marriage was a rocky one. Lucy first filed for divorce in 1944 but the couple reconciled. Their first child, Lucie Desiree Arnaz was borth July 17 1951. Only months before the first episode of ILL would air and thirty-six years to the day before yours truly was born. (July 17 is also the day Disneyland would open for the first time in 1955!)

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Second child, and widely anticipated-thanks to the show, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV was born on Jan 19th 1953. Just a couple months after the airing of the very last Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, the couple divorced on May 4th 1960. Lucy and Desi remained friends and worked together at their company Desilu productions until Desi resigned in 1962. Ball bought him out and became head of the studio and one of the most powerful women in Hollywood.

Ball remarried on November 19th 1961 to Gary Morton, to whom she was with until her death April 26th, 1989.

 

The First Episode! The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub

9 Jan

Aired Oct 15 1951

The Plot: It’s Fred and Ethel’s wedding anniversary! Ethel wants to go to a nightclub but Fred wants to go to the fights so to make the boys jealous and give in, Lucy tells them they’ll get dates and go to the club without them. The boys, instead, get their own dates- Lucy and Ethel in disguise.

Let’s Get Into It: For the very first scene of the very first episode, I was a little surprised it had the girls in aprons and head kerchiefs just scrubbing the dishes. Not very glamorous. And of course, while their doing chores, the boys are lounging around in the living room. Oh boy, this show is really from a different time.

Anyway it’s the Mertz’s 15 year anniversary. (which I am pretty sure the math doesn’t add up! I know in a later episode it’s their 25 year anniv. and this show did not run for 10 years…) Edit: research is saying it’s their 18th anniversary. I heard 15 clear as day. Hmm…

So the Mertzes, well really Lucy and Ricky on their behalf’s, fight over the big day plans. William Frawley cracks me up in this scene. Watch how excited he gets when Lucy yells Ethel wants a divorce!

In an effort to make the boys jealous, Lucy says she and Ethel will get dates to take them to the nightclub instead and whispers the names of the lucky winners into Ethel’s ear. I wonder what Ball is really whispering because it sure doesn’t look like “Little Boy Blue and Peter Cottontail.”  But her line of “a boy and a dog” always cracks me up. L, I can relate!

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My date more often than not!

The boys go downstairs to the Mertz’s apartment and Ricky is quite worried about these “dates” but all Fred can do is talk about the fights. He talks out loud of getting steaks first with raw onions all over it. Raw onions?!? Not even cooked onions?? Fred, no. Ricky decides to get their own dates and give the girls a taste of their own medicine. How weird is it that this show, which can’t even show the married couple (on the show and in real life) sleeping in the same bed, but they can all go out on dates with other people? 

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In the end it doesn’t really matter because Lucy and Ethel are set up to be the boys’ dates. They dress up as total weirdos and knock on the Ricardo’s door. HOW do Ricky and Fred not recognize their own wives?? At one point Fred even says “I’d know my own wife wouldn’t I?” You would think so, pal. Lucy is wearing a wig, painted on freckles and blacked out a couple teeth. Ethel is pretty much only wearing glasses and yet, total strangers to their husbands. And Lucy has a freaking costume shop in her closet. She always has a costume on hand for any occasion.  But the boots she wears in this scene are awesome! They’re kinda like Doc Martins and I would wear them today. The gals chase their husbands around to gross them out and you’ll notice that Ethel never actually kisses Fred. I don’t think Vance ever kissed Frawley in the history of the show- they disliked each other that much! #mertzkisswatch

In the end the Ricardo’s kiss and make up (the Mertzes hug) and they all get dressed up and go… to the fights. Happy anniversary Fred and Ethel.

Notes:

This was the first aired episode but it actually filmed second. The first filmed ep was “Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her” which is episode 4.

This was one of the re-run episodes when Ball was pregnant in season 2. They filmed a special intro then with Ethel babysitting  (uhhh even though Ricky is home?!)  and she comes into the living room and switches the channel on the boys watching the fight. The three sit back and reminisce on when they disagreed about the fights from this episode and the rest of ep 1 plays.

Since the show is filmed more like a play, they didn’t allow many reshoots. At one point Desi flubs a line and says “I wonder why they wanted us to meet us…” and they all just rolled with it. Desi flubs a  lot.

The last scene of the gang at the fights was filmed in the studio bleachers after the audience went home.

Quotes:

Lucy: “Ever since we said ‘I do,’ there are so many things we don’t” ::  Jess Oppenheimer said this was the funniest single line in the history of ILL!