Sixty years ago on this date on a Monday evening, the granddaddy of television sitcoms premiered over CBS—though many in the industry didn’t think the series would amount to anything other than capitalizing on Lucille Ball’s radio success in My Favorite Husband. Sitcoms were certainly nothing new to TV by that time—you had a lot of radio-to-boob tube transplants like The Life of Riley, The Aldrich Family, The Goldbergs, Beulah, Burns & Allen, etc.—but I Love Lucy ushered in what we now recognize as the popular TV form today. It established so many of the basic concepts—studio audiences, three-camera set-ups, etc.—and broke ground in other areas: for example, Lucy and husband Desi Arnaz’s insistence that they film the series essentially created what couch potatoes like myself revere as “the rerun.” (The Arnazes, because they took a pay cut to cover the expense of filming I Love Lucy but insisted on ownership of the series as compensation, made out like bandits when
went into syndication.) ILL
You can find more about this landmark series over at Edward Copeland on Film…and More, but I wanted to eat up a little bit of bandwidth over here to sort of come clean and admit that I’ve really been wrong about I Love Lucy in the past. I think because of its popularity and revered place in TV history I’ve always had a tendency to kind of dismiss it and run it down, the way some critics are prone to do when they are helpless to do anything about the love people have for a show except treat it with contempt and disdain. A lot of my friends feel the same way; if I had a nickel for everyone who’s ever said to me “I never liked that show but I always thought Desi Arnaz (or William Frawley, depending on who I’m talking to) was funny” I’d be living the high life in retirement right now. The show’s exposure on The Hallmark Channel, Me-TV and other outlets has allowed me to revisit some of those old reruns (I did a lot of Lucy watching during the centennial celebration of Lucille Ball) and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I laugh at just about everybody and everything on that show. There’s a reason why I Love Lucy is treasured and why it still runs on TV like tap water—it’s timeless comedy, pure and simple.
When TV Guide put together its list of 50 Best Shows of All Time in 2002, there was a rather spirited debate among the staff at the magazine (according to critic Matt Roush) over which series should take the top spot, Lucy or Seinfeld (which ultimately came out as Numero Uno). Had it been my decision, I would have given I Love Lucy the tap because Jerry Seinfeld once remarked on an episode of that self-titled sitcom that he had never seen an episode of Lucy, something to which I have always called “shenanigans.” (I’d also move The Dick Van Dyke Show, my all-time favorite sitcom, up much higher—but this is Lucy’s day, we’ll let her enjoy it.)
As luck would have it, my BBFF (which stands for “best blogging friend forever,” but is pronounced “buh-biff”) Stacia of She Blogged by Night fame is also celebrating an anniversary today—a natal one, and while I can assure you she has not reached the six-oh mark like I Love Lucy, modesty (not to mention threats of physical pain through violence) bids that I not reveal her age…Mrs. Shreve did not raise any foolish sons. (Not that I’m suggesting you look at this post from last year and do the math, you understand.) Nevertheless, the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear staff and I want to wish her the happiest of birthdays, and if I could figure out a way to bake a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll sheet cake for everyone, I would do it in a thrice.
So if you find a little spare time today, mosey on over to SBBN and wish Stacia a happy one. “For duty and humanity!”