At the height of their fame, Bud Abbott made more than Lou Costello. There was no jealousy in the pay difference. Why? Because Lou knew that there’s nothing harder than finding a great straight man in a comic duo. The straight man had to be convincing to an audience as to why they’d stick around with the funny guy. They weren’t merely schtick victims. Unfortunately Lucille Ball didn’t come to the same realization as Lou. For a dozen years she and Vivian Vance were the premiere female comic duo on I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show. Vivian looked like she’d get tempted by Lucy’s insane desires. When Vivian Vance expressed frustrations including traveling cross country to be with her husband, Lucy didn’t fight too hard to keep her a series regular. Ironically The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season covers Vivian’s slow move out of a fake house in Danfield, New York so she can stay in the real New York.
“Lucy and the Good Skate” returns the show to a family oriented story. Lucy wants mom time with daughter Chris (Candy Moore) so they strap on wheels for rollerskating. The problem comes later when Lucy can’t get the skates off. She’s got a dancing date lined up for the evening. There’s plenty of physical comedy as she can’t stop moving. However this season wouldn’t be about the kids. They’re also shuffled out of the scripts. “Lucy and the Plumber” begins the experiments of life without Vivian. Lucy needs to get her sink pipes fixed and hires a plumber. Turns out the guy looks just like Jack Benny. He always feels cursed by his lookalike face since nobody takes him serious as a violinist. Lucy enters him on a TV talent contest only to watch things fall apart. Another famous face makes a cameo as his assistant. What’s strangely interesting is Benny’s character is called Harry Tuttle. Sound familiar? That was the name of Robert De Niro’s plumber character in Brazil. Was Terry Gilliam referencing The Lucy Show in his dystopian vision of the future?
“Lucy Goes to Vegas” wasn’t filmed on location. Lucy and Viv spend their time in Sin City taking advantage of the free food at a casino’s lobby. They’re staying at a fleabag motel around the corner. To get high roller freebies, they dress up as rich women who are fighting the urge to gamble big. The pit bosses keep greasing them up until they have to take to the tables or blow their disguises. The duo is at their finest as they pull off their nutty scheme. “Lucy Meets Danny Kaye” has her force herself onto the star in order to score tickets for his show. He can’t help her, but he can hire her to be a background extra. Can she really not be the focus of the show?
“Lucy and the Monsters” is a creepy affair. Lucy and Viv go see The Eggplant That Ate Philadelphia. Lucy is so frightened afterward that she has to share a bed with Vivian. She ends up having a nightmare with Mr. Mooney (Gail Gordon) as Count Dracula and Sid Haig (Devil’s Rejects) as the Mummy. Amazing that the network censors had no problem with letting Lucy and Viv curl in up in bed together. Years earlier they forced Lucy and Ricky to sleep in twin beds on I Love Lucy. Lucy clutches a massive tent stake while next to her bedmate. This is almost an episode of The L Word. Imagine how Lucy and Viv would react to seeing Hostel or Human Centipede. They’d have a nightmare about being surgically connected to Mr. Mooney.
Since Vivian was away for a few episodes this season, there’s a four episode arc involving the Countess Framboise (Ann Sothern). “Lucy and the Countess” has her arrival. Turns out that this royal woman was Lucy’s childhood friend. When the Count dies, she returns home to stay with Lucy. Turns out the Countess isn’t rich, but Mr. Mooney thinks she’s loaded. She keeps up appearances in hopes that she can make a dime with her title. The issue with the Countess is how she makes Lucy the second banana. Sothern allows her character to be the queen of the scene. There are moments when Lucy is the one replacing Vivian in the duo action. The Countess did come back for a few more episodes in season four.
“Lucy and the Disc Jockey” is the final time Lucy and Vivian were roomies. Lucy forces Vivian to wake up early to guess the mystery sound on a radio show. They tear apart the kitchen in hopes of discovering the noise. This leads to the destruction of a major appliance, but they get the answer. Even though they win, only Lucy arrives at the radio station to collect the prize. However there is another winner. The disc jockey (One Day At a Time‘s Pat Harrington) sets up a tie breaker. Ultimately Lucy gets to guest DJ with Harrington having to leave her in charge of the radio station. Chaos ensues. There’s an audio cameo from Bing Crosby. Lucy goes completely solo for the second half of the show. There’s no emotional farewell or even one last comedy routine before the end credits roll.
The end of Lucy and Viv as a comedy duo wasn’t nearly a jolt like the break up of Abbott and Costello. The fact that Viv popped up as a guest star in later episodes didn’t make it feel so traumatic. But it’s easy to see that Lucy was missing Viv on her show. She lacked that cohort in crazed plans. The show stopped being about two single moms. We just got Lucy versus Mr. Mooney with plenty of star power, Oddly enough, the ratings rose with the cast change. The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season gives us the duo’s last year as constant companions.
“Lucy and the Good Skate,” “Lucy and the Plumber,” “Lucy Tries Winter Sports,” “Lucy Gets Amnesia,” “Lucy and the Great Bank Robbery,” “Lucy, the Camp Cook,” “Lucy, the Meter Maid,” “Lucy Makes a Pinch,” “Lucy Becomes a Father,” “Lucy’s Contact Lenses,” “Lucy Gets Her Maid,” “Lucy Gets the Bird,” “Lucy, the Coin Collector,” “Lucy and the Missing Stamp,” “Lucy Meets Danny Kaye,” “Lucy and the Ceramic Cat,” “Lucy Goes to Vegas,” “Lucy and the Monsters,” “Lucy and the Countess,” “My Fair Lucy,” “Lucy and the Countess Lose Weight,” “Lucy and the Old Mansion,” “Lucy and Arthur Godfrey,” “Lucy and the Beauty Doctor,” “Lucy the Stockholder” and “Lucy the Disc Jockey.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. When these episodes originally aired on TV, they were broadcast in black and white. Luckily Lucy used color film. These transfers bring out the red in her hair. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The levels are fine since it’s all shot on a soundstage. The episodes are subtitled in English.
Lucy at the World’s Fair (28:34) is footage of her visit on Lucy Day at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Albert Fisher explains the action including pointing out himself in a couple shots. Host Tony Maietta is extremely thrilled to hear of her day in Flushing.
Mementos (1:42) lets Fisher show off various things Lucy was given on her big day at the World’s Fair. It’s nice to see cool stuff on TV that isn’t being pawned.
Lucy and Jack Benny (3:30) is an introduction by Tony Maietta. He explain how this was a special production for Lucy and Milt Josefsberg, the new script consultant. Turns out Milt worked for both Benny and Bob Hope. There’s a little fun action involving another visit from a plumber.
Meet Maury Gertsman is a text bio about the director of photography. He was part of Universal’s cinematography department before coming over to Desilu. He would go on to shoot Here’s Lucy.
The Danny Kaye Show (7:45) includes two segments from Lucy’s guest appearance. This was part of the deal to get Danny on her series. A sketch has Danny and Lucy as a married couple that have to fire a maid. The other piece is a short chat about how they met.
Lucy Goes International includes a BBC promo, international promos and demos of how she was dubbed in Japan and France. The BBC promo is only the audio portion with production stills illustrating the action. Another batch of has the film for when Viv and Lucy would talk about being on in other countries. The dub voices would put in the other language. Unfortunately the audio isn’t around so they are subtitled.
Meet Eddie Stevenson gives the bio of the show’s costume designer along with his sketches. Stevenson did the clothes for Citizen Kane and It’s a Wonderful Life.
Original Broadcasts includes the vintage openings, cast commercial and closings from the network broadcast. The only cast commercial is Chris explaining how she uses Lux soap to Vivian. This was used in season 2. You can watch the episode with these elements included. The black and white 16mm stuff gets spliced in with the color action.
Guest Cast gives the complete rundown of who appeared in what episodes and a short bio.
Production Notes gives trivia about the episodes. They disclose how the Vegas lobby sofa is the same one from the living room set.
Photo Gallery collects production stills from various episodes.
The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season displays a series in transition. Vivian Vance reduces her appearances as she phases to a guest star role. Lucy spends more screen time with famous guest stars. Mr. Mooney keeps up his tight economic control over Lucy. Think of this not as Vivian’s farewell, but saying “We can still be friends.
CBS DVD presents The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season. Starring: Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, Gail Gordon and Sid Haig. Boxset Contents: 26 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: November 30, 2010.
Tags: Bob Hope, Here's Lucy, I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball, Sid Haig, Vivian Vance