Tag Archives: pilot

My Favorite Husband

27 Apr

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The radio program ILL was based on, MFH was- to take it even further back- based on the novels Mr. and Mrs. Cugat, the Record of a Happy Marriage and Outside Eden  written by Isabel Scott Rorick. MFH originally aired as a one off on CBS Radio July 5th, 1948, to fill air time before the new show Our Miss Brooks  was set to premiere. That “pilot” starred Lucille Ball and Lee Bowman as Liz and George Cugat. It received such positive feedback that CBS Radio decided to order a full series.

Bowman was unable to to do the series so Richard Denning took over as the husband and the last name was changed to Cooper to distance the couple from Xavier Cugat.  Gale Gordon got hired to play George’s boss and Bea Benederet played his wife, Iris. Bob LeMond, who was the narrator of the lost pilot ep of ILL, was the announcer on the show. The show was originally written by the same writers as Ozzie and Harriet but after about 10 episodes it was taken over by Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh, who of course we know later would write ILL.

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This show about a happily married, middle class couple aired 124 episodes from July, 1948 to the last one on March 31st, 1951.

CBS ended up turning MFH into it’s own TV show in 1953 starring Vanessa Brown and Barry Nelson and more closely mirrored the  early radio version of the couple, a well to-do bank exec and his social butterfly wife. It lasted two and a half seasons.

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ILL Trivia

16 Mar

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  • When the Network first reached out, they initially wanted a show more closely parallel to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s real life where the characters were both Hollywood stars. Lucy and Desi knew this plot line wouldn’t be relatable and the show became what it was, about a moderately successful orchestra leader and his housewife.
  • Originally, they were going to be named Lucy and Larry Lopez but no one liked the alliteration. Plus Lucy thought the letters A and R were good luck and they came up with the name Ricardo.
  • When first debating whether or not to take on this TV show, Lucy maintains that she had a dream in which her dear departed friend Carole Lombard came to her and said, “ Take a chance, honey. Give it a whirl.”
  • The Ricardo’s address was 623 E 68th St in Manhattan. However that maps them in the East River.
  • When the first episode aired, The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub, all of the cast and crew met at Lucy and Desi’s ranch to watch it together. They were nervous for it would go over with their audience until Vance’s husband, Phil Ober (the only one who hadn’t heard the jokes while rehearsing and filming) started laughing.
  • The show was a hit and never got lower in the ratings then the #3 spot. It was even the first show in history to end its run at the at #1. (Later The Andy Griffith Show and Seinfeld would share this same accomplishment.)
  • The cast had a tradition throughout filming the show that whenever someone would get a spontaneous laugh from the audience, they would be given a silver dollar. They even kept a chart on who was given a coin and how many.

The Lost Pilot Episode

23 Feb

The pilot of ILL was filmed on March 2nd, 1951 but wasn’t aired until April 30th, 1990. It wasn’t meant to be in the regular broadcast rotation and it got “lost.” Pepito the clown’s wife notified CBS that she had a copy that was given to the now late performer by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. The copy’s original titles and first few seconds were either damaged or missing but were reconstructed and the original announcer, Bob LeMond re-recorded his narration after 50 years.

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The pilot is really just the rough draft of episode 6- The Audion. There’s a lot of overlap so I wont go over the plot much but I will look at the major differences. This pilot episode opens, like mentioned, with narration unlike any other episode. It introduces who Ricky and Lucy are and pans over their apartment building. Then we see this giant hand open the window so it was really like a dollhouse but people live inside. Kinda funny, kinda strange.

Their bedroom set (which is common for pilots) is totally different from the rest of the show. And Lucy is wearing a size 5XL in pajamas it looks like. In reality, Lucille Ball was pregnant with Lucie while shooting the pilot.

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The conversation about Lucy asking for a part in his TV audition is almost word for word as in episode 6. Lucy even puts on another lampshade, although this one is huge and upside down.

Jerry comes over to talk to Ricky about the show. The pilot originally had side characters as Jerry and  Pepito who later were replaced by Fred and Ethel. I’m SO glad they brought in a friend for Lucy. She needs someone to bounce her crazy schemes and play off of. Other than Ricky, she only interacts with Pepito and it’s not enough!

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Also I’m so glad they nixed Pepito. His act is… not good. That baby cry thing? Ooof it’s awful! He is the weirdest clown ever. And when he crashes his bike, it looks like he jumps off the back and the bike just splits suddenly into two pieces and then he slowly lays down.

I would never go see Pepito’s act but I’m starting to get the appeal of Desi Arnaz. He plays the congo so passionately, it’s like when someone is so passionate about something they get you to like it. Does that make sense? Watch when they first show Ricky in the club. He doesn’t like playing with his wedding ring on and he forgot to take it off before they started filming. He quickly slips the ring off and puts it in his pocket without missing a beat.

Skipping around, I have always liked the Cuban Cabby song. Does he sing that again later in the series?

Back at the Ricardo’s apartment, Pepito is resting and somehow the bike is back together. He sees if he can ride it around the apartment and Lucy moves a piece of furniture right in his path which is enough to completely lose his balance and go flying through wall. So Lucy takes his spot in the audition.

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Pay attention to Ricky when he asks Lucy if she can play that “thin.”  He tries so hard not to laugh at her response of “What thin?” and even breaks a little and stumbles over his next line.

And the episode finishes with the same great pie line!

 

 

S1E6: The Audition

13 Feb

Aired Nov 19, 1951

The Plot: Lucy fills in as a clown in Ricky’s club act

Let’s Get Into It: I’m sure I’ll talk about this further in depth someday but people always assumed Lucille was such a natural comedienne because physical comedy looked like it came so naturally to her. In reality she worked very hard. But opening scenes like this one, where Lucy puts on Ricky’s Congo drum and immediately falls to the floor is so simple and yet so funny.  It’s a testament to her talent that it looks so easy.

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We get a peek inside the Ricardo’s bathroom! This is the first time  we see this set and I can only think of one other time we come back here. Lucy is trying to convince Ricky to put her in his act and this is such a cute scene for these two. We get to see them set up the entire premise of the show but they are being silly and lovey with each other. Lucy is making faces in the mirror as Ricky shaves and Ricky is cracking jokes. Very endearing.

To prove how good of an addition she would be, Lucy dons a lampshade and a fur shall. Why the lampshade? What does it add to her “costume?” And what exactly is her costume? Well the lampshade doesn’t convince Ricky and it’s still a no.

We see Ricky at rehearsal and Boffo the clown bites it on his bike act. His breaks supposedly lock up but both times the actor just jumps off the bicycle. Instead of taking him all the way home to Staten Island, Fred who’s at rehearsal for some reason, takes him back to the Ricardo’s apartment where Lucy comes home and finds him. He tests out his bike again and flies right through the kitchen door! How much is that gonna cost?

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So Lucy takes his spot and gets to be in the show- not that Ricky approved this, of course. She puts on the weirdest voice but her whole act is hilarious and iconic. Ricky, for his part, plays right along and their banter is fun. Are they making sex jokes? Ricky asks to see her credentials and if she has any experience and her reactions are perfectly hysterical!

Ricky’s show was so important because it was an audition for a TV show (hence the title) but Lucy is so funny, she’s the one offered the contract to which Ricky is less than thrilled. He comes home (notice the door is still broken) and gives Lucy the same speech from the morning. He wants her to clean the house and cook for him and bring him slippers and be a mother to his children. With that, Lucy tells Ricky she has a surprise for him. Ricky’s face lights up before Lucy tells him she’s baked him his favorite pie! Ha.

Notes:

Ethel is not in this episode. This episode is a remake of the pilot when the Mertzes weren’t characters, instead the sidekicks being Jerry the Agent and Boffo the clown. Jerry’s part just got rewritten for Fred and Ethel got left out.

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An audience goer snuck in a camera and captured some color footage of the crew filming. It’s super weird to me to see the Tropicana in full color. Which I guess is pink!

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

Familiar Faces:

The Network Execs there to review the show are Jess Oppenheimer on the left, CBS exec Hal Hildon on the right, and in the middle is the man who greenlighted Lucy and Desi’s real life audition, Harry Ackerman. (Oppenheimer’s voice is also heard in Lucy Does a TV Commercial and an extra in The Tour.)

Bennett Green plays a stagehand in this episode. He is Desi’s stand in. He has a lot of background parts in 21 episodes.