November 25, 2022

#08-258: I Love Lucy

Cast members William Frawley (Fred), Desi Arnaz (Ricky),
Vivian Vance (Ethel), and Lucille Ball (Lucy) (Wikipedia)

Note: A scrappy redheaded comedienne dominated the "Golden Age of Television." Meet Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy fame.

Get Ready: Have you ever gotten yourself into a difficult situation where, the harder you tried to get out of it, the worse it got?

I was born during America's "Golden Age of Television," which lasted from 1947 to 1960. One of the most enduring shows of that era starred a scrappy redhead and her Cuban-bandleader husband. I'm talking about Lucille Ball and her then-husband Desi Arnaz in the show I Love Lucy (with a catchy theme song performed by Arnaz and his orchestra). It aired from 1951 to 1957.

Often the shows were broadcast live, or at least filmed in front of a live audience. Many of them took their sensibilities from the previous dominating medium: radio.

In the show, Arnaz plays the Cuban bandleader and club owner "Ricky Ricardo." In every episode his wife Lucy gets herself into a predicament and tries to hide it from Ricky--which just makes things worse. When Ricky gets wind of the problem, he scolds her--in his Cuban accent--with the catchphrase: "Lucy! You got some 'splainin' to do!"

Lucy's accomplice in these capers is her pliable neighbor Ethel Mertz, who's married to grumpy old Fred Mertz. The Mertzes are also the Ricardos' landlords in their apartment building in New York City.

A number of plots in the show's 180 episodes show Lucy trying to escape the humdrum life of a middle-class housewife by appearing onstage with Ricky or somehow otherwise being involved in the glamorous world of "show biz."

In one episode, she's the spokeswoman for a health tonic called "Vitameatavegamin." She repeatedly flubs the name, requiring many tries; since the "tonic" is 23% alcohol, she soon ends up completely drunk, for great comic effect.

In another episode, she and Ethel take a non-showbiz job at a candy factory, where a speedy conveyor belt gets ahead of them as they try to wrap the chocolates on it, and finally start shoving them in their mouths trying to catch up. The men, meanwhile, make a huge mess in the Ricardo's kitchen trying to prove that a housewife's job is easy. (In 1996, this episode was ranked #2 in a list of "100 Most Memorable Moments in TV History.")

In fact, I Love Lucy was the most-watched show in the U. S. in four of its six seasons. Season 2 is especially noteworthy for following Lucy through her pregnancy with "Little Ricky"--a storyline made necessary by the fact that Lucille Ball really was pregnant with Desi Arnaz's baby. Many of the topics that season had been "taboo" for American TV audiences, so the show broke a lot of ground.

After the series ended, Ball continued to be popular in later sitcoms and starring roles on Broadway. She was also the first woman to run a major television studio: she and Arnaz had founded Desilu Productions, which produced such popular television series (which led to movies) as Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. an accomplice
  2. capers
  3. a catchphrase
  4. a conveyor belt
  5. flubs
  6. grumpy
  7. humdrum
  8. pliable
  9. a predicament
  10. scrappy

  1. device for moving goods in a factory
  2. helper in doing bad things
  3. boring
  4. repeated expression
  5. energetic
  6. bad-tempered
  7. silly activities
  8. bad situation
  9. messes up
  10. easily convinced

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 25, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. b; 2. g; 3. d; 4. a; 5. i; 6. f; 7. c; 8. j; 9. h; 10. e