DVD Review: The Lucy Show (The Official Fifth Season)

The penultimate season of The Lucy Show hinted at what was next for Lucille Ball. She wasn’t merely an actress on a sitcom. She was the head of Desilu studios which had become a prime-time powerhouse with Star Trek and Mission: Impossible hitting the airwaves and Mannix in development. The problem with success in TV is that Lucy would be losing money on the new shows until they hit syndication. And there was still a chance the network would cancel the shows without enough episodes to make bank. She could be left with a major debt if the trio flopped. Lucy knew she’d have to sell Desilu, but she wanted to keep control of her own sitcom. She needed to come up with a new series. How could she change things up without destroying the dynamics of her hit series. The Lucy Show: The Official Fifth Season contains a hint of Here’s Lucy.

The Lucy Show by this point was all about Lucy working at a bank with Mr. Mooney in sunny Los Angeles. Every few episodes, Mr. Mooney (Gale Gordon) would deal with a major star’s finances. Lucy’s showbiz dreams caused havoc. There has to be a limit on how much mayhem you can cause at a bank before the Fed investigates. What could Lucy do for an occupation in a new show? “Lucy, the Baby Sitter” introduces Lucy to the concept of a unique employment agency. She goes there to prove she can work a job without Mr. Mooney’s help. They land her a gig to babysit three little ones. What they don’t warn her that she’s watching apes. It’s a fun time to watch the redhead face off with chimps. Mary Wickes plays the owner of the chimps and would go on to be Clara Simpson on Here’s Lucy. Lucy’s path was set to be a future employee at Carter’s Unique Employment Agency. But she’d first have to finish out her time at Mr. Mooney’s bank.

“Lucy and George Burns” reminds us of a time when George Burns was merely old and not elderly. While he’s talking his finances with Mr. Mooney, Burns wants Lucy to be his new female sidekick. Can she really give up life at the bank for a gig in Vegas? “Lucy and the Submarine” is another outlandish time. Mr. Mooney goes off for his naval reserve gig. Lucy sneaks on the base in disguise to get him to sign vital paperwork. She gets trapped on a submarine. Nowadays this episode ends with Lucy being sent to Gitmo. “Lucy and the Ring-a-Ding-Ding” is the classic tale of a stuck ring on the wrong woman. In this case Mr. Mooney foolishly lets Lucy try on a ring he bought for his wife. It won’t come off. He gets Lucy blitzed on muscle relaxants to see if it helps. It only helps things get out of control. “Lucy Goes to London” sticks her on a cross country flight next to Mr. Mooney. He can’t take it. The stewardess is Pat Priest (The Munsters). “Lucy Gets a Roommate” and “Lucy and Carol In Palm Springs” brings on Carol Burnett as her new roomie. The duo end up taking a quickie vacation in the desert. According to some sources, Joe Pesci (Goodfellas) is part of the band at the hotel. But he doesn’t quite look like a member.

“Lucy Gets Caught Up in the Draft” gets her dressed in a Marine uniform. There’s a big cameo from Jim Nabors. What’s interesting is that Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was shot on Desilu’s backlot. “Lucy and John Wayne” stars the Duke. Mr. Mooney needs Lucy to get some bank papers to the icon. Lucy wants more than a simple delivery. She has lunch and visits Wayne’s movie set. Both turn into disasters. The iconic TV guest star Joseph Ruskin plays Wayne’s frustrated director. “Lucy and the Monkey” features a guy in an ape suit. Not as good as the real chimps. “Lucy and the Efficiency Expert” expects Phil Silvers to straighten out the bank’s systems. Mr. Mooney loses it when Phil takes a liking to Lucy.

“Viv Visits Lucy” makes another return of Vivian Vance to the show she quit. This time she returns to Hollywood looking for a kid that’s runaway to the Sunset Strip. It’s an excuse for Lucy and Viv to dress up like hippies and do dumb dances. “Lucy Meets the Law” is important since it allowed Claude Akins to play a comic cop. A decade later, Akins would become immortal in the role of Sheriff Lobo. He thinks Lucy is a major shoplifter. “Lucy Meets Sheldon Leonard” lets the big time TV show producer enjoy time in front of the camera.

The Lucy Show marks the time when Lucy was preparing for her next transition. She couldn’t stay at the bank since there’s not much funny about math. Mr. Mooney couldn’t top the humor found in Mr. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies. It only made sense that she could find more comic material working unique temp jobs.

The Episodes
“Lucy and George Burns,” “Lucy and the Submarine,” “Lucy, the Bean Queen,” “Lucy and Paul Winchell,” “Lucy and the Ring-a-Ding-Ding,” “Lucy Goes to London,” “Lucy Gets a Roommate,” “Lucy and Carol in Palm Springs,” “Lucy Gets Caught Up in the Draft,” “Lucy and John Wayne,” “Lucy and Pat Collins,” “Lucy and the Monkey,” “Lucy and the Efficiency Expert,” “Lucy’s Substitute Secretary,” “Viv Visits Lucy,” “Lucy, the Baby Sitter,” “Main Street U.S.A.,” “Lucy Puts Main Street on the Map,” “Lucy Meets the Law,” “Lucy, the Fight Manager,” “Lucy and Tennessee Ernie Ford” and “Lucy Meets Sheldon Leonard.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the details in Lucy’s hair. They also show that Lucy isn’t exactly young enough to pass for a hippie gal on the Sunset Strip. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are fine for when things get musical. The episodes are subtited.

“Lucy in London” (54:17) was a special that aired on October 24, 1966. Lucy arrives in swinging London to get a wild one day tour from Anthony Newley. This is how we toured the world before Anthony Bourdain arrived on the scene. This is the follow up to “Lucy Goes to London. This special hasn’t been seen since original broadcast. The episode has a special features section including outtakes, notes and a gallery.

Lucy In London Revisited (28:56) gives the royal treatment to the English special. She really did have fun making the special actually special.

Affiliates Sketch (3:35) promotes the upcoming ’66 season with fun on an airplane between Lucy and Gale.

The Victor Borge Comedy Theatre (8:29) is an early version of the airplane sketch used in “Lucy Goes to London.” Lucy and Gale do the roles in 1962. Desi Arnaz directed the scene. Victor’s show wasn’t picked up by the network.

CBS Promo (1:04) pitches the upcoming season of The Lucy Show as disasters on the way. It’s a rough transfer from a tape.

Smile Pretty (1:33) is the raw footage of Lucy that was used for the new opening. Lucy works her eyes and lips on the camera.

25 Years of Savings Bonds (7:33) is a Department of Defense Special hosted by Lucy about the reason behind Savings Bonds. It features a lot of vintage footage including a younger Lucy.

Lucy Wins An Emmy (2:15) for The Lucy Show. The size of the podium is huge. Lucy didn’t think she was going to win since it’d been over a decade since her last victory for I Love Lucy.

Bloopers (1:31) have Lucy blow lines with the apes. Even Gale botches a few lines.

Original Broadcasts include the vintage openings and closings that included the sponsor’s products for several episodes.

Guest Cast breaks down the actors that appeared on the show with short bios.

Production Notes give historical facts about the fifth season. This was the year that Desliu was also producing Star Trek and Mission: Impossible.

Photo Gallery features dozens of photos from behind the scenes and promotional advertisements.

The Lucy Show: The Official Fifth Season gives a fine presentation to the overshadowed series. Finally fans who weren’t born in 1966 can now see “Lucy In London.” That alone should be the reason to grab this for your relative that’s part of the Cult of Lucy.

CBS DVD presents The Lucy Show: The Official Fifth Season. Starring: Lucille Ball, Gale Gordon, Vivian Vance and John Wayne. Boxset Contents: 22 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: December 6, 2011. Available at Amazon.com

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