I was rereading these brilliant season 4 plot lines. We're a clever bunch!
Here's a little different what-if take on season 4
Hedda Hopper's column Feb. 5, 1965:
"It's official. Vivian Vance has turned in her resignation and will not be a regular when "The Lucy Show" begins its 4th season next fall. However, in a happy turn of events "Vivian Bagley" will be back for a limited run.
Desilu has offered Vance a very lucrative deal to return for the first 13 episodes of the new season which will be a story arc chronicling her meeting and marrying new character "Vern Bunson" with the promise that many episode will center more on the lovey-dovey couple with little involvement from Lucy Carmichael.
Doubling the enticement, if the couple clicks, is the possibility of her own "Viv & Vern" spinoff, which Vance would produce in partnership with Desilu.
Story outlines for the 13 episodes have been completed which will include the courtship, wedding and the tearful parting of Lucy and Viv, sure to be a ratings winner for CBS (last episode in the arc "Viv Is Enciente"). Vance signed her contract, which puts her new salary on par with the series star and studio head Lucille Ball with the proviso that she waive casting approval.
Desilu wanted her new co-star to be a surprise but Vance picked up little pieces of information from the gossip-mill. She heard the name "Fred" and the fact that the actor just completed 5 seasons of a hit sitcom on ABC. Naturally she thinks it will be tall, dashing and age-appropriate Fred MacMurray who recently quit "My Three Sons". *.
When the cast sits down for the first table read of "Viv Meets Vern Bunson", she blows a gasket when the actor hired to play Vern walks in, a completely different My Three Sons "Fred" than she was expecting.
Vance's contract is iron-clad so she'll make the best of it but has nixed the idea of a V&V spinoff unless her real-life husband, New York based bon vivant John Dodds can replace Frawley as Vern. Vance's weekly 3000 mile commute has afforded the couple little time together. Vance adds: "You can't have children long distance". Dodds: "U-u-u-u-u (spider voice)"
*This part is based on fact. MacMurray's My Three Sons ABC contract WAS for 5 years (1960-65) and he wanted to walk but was talked into returning by CBS who offered him a sweetheart deal: all of his scenes for the entire season would be filmed in 3 months. Then the cast would do their scenes after MacMurray's departure which accounts for the show's clunky feel, post 1965.