DVD Review: The Lucy Show: The Complete Series

There’s a constancy to the entire run of I Love Lucy. No matter what episode pops up on TV, the cast is Lucy (Lucille Ball), Ricky (Desi Arnaz), Fred (William Frawley) and Ethel (Vivian Vance). Lucy and Ethel would come up with a hair-brain scheme and Ricky and Fred would have to survive it. You don’t have to ask too many questions about where cast members have gone. When Lucille Ball returned to the world of sitcoms two years after the last hour-long I Love Lucy special aired, her The Lucy Show had familiar elements and massive changes over its successful run. She had her partner-in-crime sharing the screen with Vivian Vance for half the episodes. But their biographies had abruptly changed. The first time I saw an episode, it was like experiencing an alternate reality version of I Love Lucy. Even though it was a shock, Lucy was still Lucy which meant it was funny. But after watching a few episodes, the new show kept changing in both cast and Lucy’s focus. It helped to know which of the six seasons an episode was from to get a sense of who to expect besides Lucy. Over the decades, The Lucy Show has been obscured by iconic power of I Love Lucy. Now all six seasons have been gathered in The Lucy Show: The Complete Series to allow new fans of Lucy to get the whole picture of her hit sophomore series.

The first season was rather startling for TV audiences in 1962. Lucy Carmichael (Ball) and Vivian Bagley (Vance) are two single mothers sharing a house. Lucy is a widow which means zero chance of having Desi Arnaz cameo as her old husband. Desi was a producer for the first season, but didn’t need a stunt appearance since the ratings were high. Vivian was divorced, but her ex-husband was too lazy to ever visit which kept away any Fred reunions. The early ’60s was still a time when being a divorcee was a stigma. Vivian was a bold character as she raised her son Sherman (Ralph Hart) without a father. Luckily it was at a time before the internet so that trolls couldn’t have spread rumors that Vivian and Lucy were a secretly married lesbian couple. They were just friends looking out for each other and their children. Looking out for the kids was part of Lucy’s life with her blossoming teenage daughter Chris (Candy Moore) and curious son Jerry (Jimmy Garrett). Lucy doesn’t have a real job at first because she has a trust fund left by her late husband. She does have to battle her local banker ( It’s a Wonderful Life‘s Charles Lane) for her cash. She’s not too sensible on purchases like the time she bought a sheep. Most of the episodes are about Lucy and Vivian getting into trouble except they don’t have spouses to bail them out of sticky situations. They must rely upon each other. Dick Martin (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) is the hip next door neighbor who doesn’t mind helping out the neighbors. The second season would feature the arrival of an actor who would be Lucy’s foil for the next 11 years on TV. Gail Gordon (Dennis the Menace) took over the banker role for Lane. He brought a little more personality than the crotchety Lane as the dignified yet often flustered Theodore Mooney. He somehow encompasses both Ricky and Fred in his relationship with the ladies. Another big change that the home audience didn’t notice for a while was the show was shot in color. CBS was still holding out against hues so people didn’t know that someday they’d rewatch the episodes and see Lucy as a truly crazy redhead.

The third season would mark Vivan’s character missing for six episodes. In real life, Vivian had married and wanted to stay on the East Coast. The episodes were more about Lucy and Mr. Mooney. This change had less time for the kids on screen. This was no longer about two women surviving without husbands. Not many people survived for season 4. Vivian was gone along with her son. Unexpectedly Lucy’s daughter had been removed from the family portrait. Her son was reduced to two episodes. The trust fund must have dried up since Lucy was now having to take odd jobs at record companies, cinemas and movie studios. Plus more major stars are popping up including Milton Berle, Andy Rooney, Danny Thomas and Bob Crane. This leads into the fifth and sixth season when her son vanishes and she moves to Los Angeles to work at Mr. Mooney’s bank. The place has more stars than Planet Hollywood which allows her to enjoy nonsense with George Burns, John Wayne, Phil Silvers and Jack Benny. Vivian does visit a few times including for an encounter with Joan Crawford.

While the show was still Top 10 rated, Lucy pulled the plug on The Lucy Show in order to return the next season in Here’s Lucy. In a sense the new show was an extension since it had her causing trouble for Gail Gordon’s authority figure. The big difference is that the new show had her as mother to her real kids. She wasn’t able to have them written out of the show. That would have caused a messy Christmas dinner.

The Lucy Show doesn’t get the rerun love of I Love Lucy, but fans of Lucy should enjoy getting more adventures of her and Vivian. The Lucy Show: The Complete Series is the perfect holiday gift for that relative that loves Lucy, but hasn’t a clue that she carried on without Ricky. . The numerous bonus features that were part of the six individual season sets are included here. A causal fan will quickly get a sense of how The Lucy Show kept the icon a TV star in the ’60s after ruling the ’50s.

The videos is 1.33:1 full frame. The first season is black and white while the remaining seasons are in color. It’s nice to finally see Lucy with red hair. The transfers are sharp. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The levels are set for maximum Lucy voice. The episodes are subtitled for seasons 2 to 6. The first season is Closed Captioned.

Lucille Ball Comedy Hour (51:47) is Lucy’s first solo comedy special that aired at the end of the second season of The Lucy Show. She plays herself as the head of her production company. Gail Gordon is a beancounter from a bank holding the company’s debt. The only chance she has of saving herself is to get Bob Hope as her guest star. She chases him around the world and into a soundstage.

A Note about Color (1:28) explains why the show was originally broadcast in black and white.

Let’s Talk to Barry (10:27) is an interview with Barry Livingston who played Mr. Mooney’s son. He also appeared on My Three Sons with William Frawley (Fred Mertz). The veteran actor taught Barry how to cuss. Frawley used Barry and his brother Stanley to sabotage Vivian Vance’s work on the neighboring Lucy Show soundstage. He chats about growing up with the Desilu and Paramount backlots as his playgrounds. Barry’s still acting and was on Mad Men.

Lucy and the Merm (3:41) explains how this was supposed to be a one episode guest shot. The producers realized they had more episode that one show could fit. They figured out how to extend this into a second episode.

Let’s Talk to Carole (24:27) is an interview with Carole Cook. She was a guest star on numerous episodes and Lucy’s pal. Her experience with the firepole is a warning to all.

Clip from CBS The Stars’ Address (3:17) has Lucy and Viv dressed up as mailman to promote the new season.

Opening Night (4:25) are more clips from a CBS special hyping the new season. The first is Lucy doing “Slowly I Turned” with Phil Silvers. The second is a musical number with Lucy pleading for her General Foods sponsor to stick by her new show.

Recovered Cast Commercial (0:39) was supposed to be with the first season. Vivian Vance pushes Jell-O butterscotch pudding on Lucie Arnaz (Here’s Lucy).

Vintage allows you to watch the original black and white openings, cast commercials and closings with the normal color episodes. The ads allow Candy Moore more screen time as Lucy’s daughter while she pitches Lux soap. You can also watch these elements separately.

Meet Jess Oppenheimer is a text feature about how the executive producer of the Comedy Hour had been producer and head writer on I Love Lucy.

Guest Cast gives brief bios on the various actors that pop up on episodes.

Production Notes give trivia about episodes along with odd bits of paperwork. Turns out the actor who played Little Ricky had his cameo cut from an episode.

Photo Gallery is packed with pics from the set.

Vintage Elements includes original opening sequence and closing credits with product placements. Also, Cast Commercials. Lucy doesn’t plug the sponsors.

New Interview with Lucy Arnaz gives background on the show from Lucy’s real daughter.

Seven Wonderful Nights is a clip from CBS’s fall line up preview for 1962.

Premiere Promo for the season launch.

Clips from Opening Night is from the special to promote the 1962-63 season on CBS.

Let’s Talk To Jimmy is TV son Jimmy Garrett recapping his time on the show.

Collecting The Memories goes through the merchandise created for the first season.

“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.

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

Keep Smiling (1:42) is the raw footage of Lucy posing for the opening montage.

Special Footage (1:39) are the trims from when the 35mm was getting up to speed from the Jack Benny episode.

Youth Appreciation Week (2:02) are two radio PSAs made by Lucy.

Lucy Goes Italian (25:33) is “Lucy Gets Her Diploma” as it ran in Roma. They have a whole new opening credit sequence. Gives a sense of what it would be like if Fellini directed her.

Original Broadcasts has the vintage openings and closings. Included are sponsor spots for Pepsodent, Phase III deodorant, Wisk, Lux and Toni.

Fashions by Stevenson is a text essay about the background of designer Eddie Stevenson. It shows his sketches with the finished wardrobe.

The Carol Burnett Show (3:13) is a sketch with Carol and Lucy as feuding car rental agencies at the airport. They beat up Tim Conway. This was from the first season of Carol’s show.

Meet Jack Baker speaks of the show’s choreographer. He went on to work on Here’s Lucy.

Lucy Wins An Emmy (2:16) has her beat Marlo Thomas in 1968. Frank Sinatra calls her name.

Funny Outtakes (3:54) are the few flubs left from the show.

Here’s Lucy promo (1:09) for the DVDs of Lucy’s next season.

CBS DVD presents The Lucy Show: The Complete Series. Starring: Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, Gail Gordon & Dick Martin. Boxset Contents: 156 episodes on 24 DVDs. Released: November 15, 2016

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