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Lucy Enters a Baking Contest

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MonaLucy, yes!! to what you said: "...today in modern sitcoms, many of the contemporary television sitcom writers borrow stole plots from them." I've often watched shows where I say out loud -- 'you took that right out of an ILL show!' I wish I could remember which one I saw a while back that had a barefoot couple tiptoing in sync around their house, looking for a prowler ala Lucy & Ricky in their country house. I half expected Fred & Ethel to pop out of the closet!

 

Anyhoo, it's good to know that they kissed & made up later on.

 

 

Vivfantoo, I was watching an old scene from the soap "Guiding Light" of two women tearing each other's dresses off each other just like Lucy and Ethel. "Hot In Cleveland" last season had some of the situations in their episodes borrowed from the "I Love Lucy" writers. Like the Betty White character going through Hollywood trying to find her idol, Robert Redford. I thought uh,oh Lucy Ricardo going berserk over a movie star.

 

The other thing is that the "I Love Lucy" writers borrowed some situations from classic films of the 1930's and 1940's. For one example, "First Stop" with the train shaking the shack that the Ricardos and Mertzes shared was used previously in the film "A Letter To Three Wives".

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Vivfantoo, I was watching an old scene from the soap "Guiding Light" of two women tearing each other's dresses off each other just like Lucy and Ethel. "Hot In Cleveland" last season had some of the situations in their episodes borrowed from the "I Love Lucy" writers. Like the Betty White character going through Hollywood trying to find her idol, Robert Redford. I thought uh,oh Lucy Ricardo going berserk over a movie star.

 

The other thing is that the "I Love Lucy" writers borrowed some situations from classic films of the 1930's and 1940's. For one example, "First Stop" with the train shaking the shack that the Ricardos and Mertzes shared was used previously in the film "A Letter To Three Wives".

And they even had Harpo RECREATE his mirror bit from a Marx Bros classic movie.

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I've always thought this episode was a dud, in fact, I just watched it earlier today and hardly laughed. On top of the script being a bit off, it seems like Lucy isn't totally present in some scenes, maybe distracted by everything going on in her own life.

 

I LOVE Bob and Madelyn, but I think the split was necessary for all three to grow as artists. It gave Lucy new writers and (mostly) new plots, it allowed B&M to work on other projects, allowing them to try some new and funky things. Change was a good and necessary thing here, I believe.

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It is well documented that Lucy was fed up with the same plots just rehashed all the time but that was more to do with gary hiring lousy writers whom he either knew or were cheaper but this was later on.

 

I believe 'lousy writer' thing happened much later. I think the 2nd season scripts are very solid for the most part. I can't think of a REAL duffer, at least compared with the bad ones of the following season. Bob and Madelyn did very little rehashing for "The Lucy Show" that I can recall. Their "Here's Lucy" work contains a lot, but their rehashed plots for HL were a breath of fresh air compared to the other offerings.

 

I love everything about "Baking Contest". Lucy was under a lot of pressure in 1964, responsible for Desilu and its highest profile product "The Lucy Show". The original script contained a pie fight finale, which with a room full of pies seems like what it was building to. Lucy objected to the pie fight and may have been brusque about it. She was not the 'people person' Desi was. Whatever happened in that meeting only Lucy, Bob and Madelyn know. I doubt Lucy would have quoted herself with the 'you're ruining my career' line. Bob and Madelyn have been mute on the subject. The ever-diplomatic Madelyn always stated the very plausible reason for leaving was her move to Indiana. Bob and Madelyn were not confrontational and the meeting probably ended unresolved with B/M concluding the worst.

There's a lot about this that does not make sense. They filmed several of the second season shows at the end of the first season before taking their break. This being the last episode shot for the 2nd season you would think B&M's 3rd season employment would have already been determined. It's too bad they couldn't have continued as script consultants, but their approach is so different than Josefsburg's, it probably would not have worked. I asked Madelyn once if she watched any of the subsequent Lucy Show episodes and she winced a little before saying 'they did too many musical shows'. This was before the "Desilu" book was published and she gave me the Indiana story. I started writing them with questions about their TLS work in the 70s and one of my questions was "What were your least favorite episodes?". I remember Madelyn saying "you seem to remember these shows more than we do" but mentioned the 'Baking Contest' episode which surprised me at the time. I don't know what happened to all these letters they wrote me. My filing system rivaled Lucy Carmichael's.

And by the way, I think a pie fight would have been great, but I like the ending as filmed too.

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I found a script for "Baking Contest" that differs quite a bit from the filming but doesn't stray too far.

There are a few more references to Lucy forgetting to turn her oven on.

Viv doesn't come off as sympathetic; does not give the speech feeling sorry for Lucy. The pie switching is done by Lucy, Kathleen and Audrey but Viv does it too, so she redeems herself.  Having everybody do the switching was a good idea, because by that time, we the audience don't know whose pie is whose.

Unfortunately the page with "the black stuff" that describes Lucy baking her pie is a faint xerox copy and hard to read.

Lucy interrupts Mooney's meeting at the bank with TWO phone calls; and gets passed the secretary the 2nd time by claiming to be thelong distance call he had placed to Chicago and after the conversation and he hangs up, he realizes and says "I didn't place a call to Chicago!"

 

A note here:  For those of you who don't remember: in the OLDEN days, you didn't place a long distance call of any distance by direct dialing.  You called the operator who hooked up (via a Fuller Brush girl switchboard) a line from LA to Phoenix, then the Phoenix operator would hook up to Denver, Denver to Indianapolis, then Indianapolis to Chicago---fictional example.  Then the operator would call you back saying your call is ready.  Because of all of this, long distance calls were very expensive.  You didn't ever call just to chat.  Long after long distance rates dropped to pennies, my parents couldn't shake the notion of expensive long distance and  would wait until they got to my place in Portland to make any calls to Portland friends.  St. Helens (my home town: the "Danfield" of the west) to Portland was long distance.  A saw an ad in an old TV Guide advertizing "10! 10! 10!"  A 10 minute call from Portland to New York made after 10pm was ONLY $10 (a dollar a minute, which for Ethel Merman would mean she would just break even...)and I'm talking 1964 dollars, translating to $75 today.    I digress, but feel it's important to pass on this first-person oral history to keep things in perspective so it's not 'Gone with the Wind'.

 

As mentioned before, the episode ends with a pie fight free-for-all.....and really would that have been so bad?  As I stated in a previous post, I like the ending as is, but Lucy and Viv at odds in a room full of pies.  What other finale would you expect?  It feels like we're cheated a little.

The pie fight ending has little scripting:

It starts when Lucy accidentally flips the pie into Viv's face.

Viv: YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE

Lucy: I DID NOT.

(As per the script) VIV PICKS UP A PIE AND THROWS IT AT LUCY WHO DUCKS AND IT HITS MOONEY WHO IS JUST COMING OUT TO SEE WHAT'S GOING ON.  LUCY PICKS UP A PIE AND MISSES VIV, HITTING KATHLEEN.  KATHLEEN THROWS ONE AND GETS LUCY.  LUCY THROWS ONE AND GETS AUDREY, AND (perhaps this is the stage direction in the script that upset Lucy)

....YOU CAN WORK IT OUT FROM THERE.....FADE OUT.

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I found a script for "Baking Contest" that differs quite a bit from the filming but doesn't stray too far.

There are a few more references to Lucy forgetting to turn her oven on.

Viv doesn't come off as sympathetic; does not give the speech feeling sorry for Lucy. The pie switching is done by Lucy, Kathleen and Audrey but Viv does it too, so she redeems herself.  Having everybody do the switching was a good idea, because by that time, we the audience don't know whose pie is whose.

Unfortunately the page with "the black stuff" that describes Lucy baking her pie is a faint xerox copy and hard to read.

Lucy interrupts Mooney's meeting at the bank with TWO phone calls; and gets passed the secretary the 2nd time by claiming to be thelong distance call he had placed to Chicago and after the conversation and he hangs up, he realizes and says "I didn't place a call to Chicago!"

 

A note here:  For those of you who don't remember: in the OLDEN days, you didn't place a long distance call of any distance by direct dialing.  You called the operator who hooked up (via a Fuller Brush girl switchboard) a line from LA to Phoenix, then the Phoenix operator would hook up to Denver, Denver to Indianapolis, then Indianapolis to Chicago---fictional example.  Then the operator would call you back saying your call is ready.  Because of all of this, long distance calls were very expensive.  You didn't ever call just to chat.  Long after long distance rates dropped to pennies, my parents couldn't shake the notion of expensive long distance and  would wait until they got to my place in Portland to make any calls to Portland friends.  St. Helens (my home town: the "Danfield" of the west) to Portland was long distance.  A saw an ad in an old TV Guide advertizing "10! 10! 10!"  A 10 minute call from Portland to New York made after 10pm was ONLY $10 (a dollar a minute, which for Ethel Merman would mean she would just break even...)and I'm talking 1964 dollars, translating to $75 today.    I digress, but feel it's important to pass on this first-person oral history to keep things in perspective so it's not 'Gone with the Wind'.

 

As mentioned before, the episode ends with a pie fight free-for-all.....and really would that have been so bad?  As I stated in a previous post, I like the ending as is, but Lucy and Viv at odds in a room full of pies.  What other finale would you expect?  It feels like we're cheated a little.

The pie fight ending has little scripting:

It starts when Lucy accidentally flips the pie into Viv's face.

Viv: YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE

Lucy: I DID NOT.

(As per the script) VIV PICKS UP A PIE AND THROWS IT AT LUCY WHO DUCKS AND IT HITS MOONEY WHO IS JUST COMING OUT TO SEE WHAT'S GOING ON.  LUCY PICKS UP A PIE AND MISSES VIV, HITTING KATHLEEN.  KATHLEEN THROWS ONE AND GETS LUCY.  LUCY THROWS ONE AND GETS AUDREY, AND (perhaps this is the stage direction in the script that upset Lucy)

....YOU CAN WORK IT OUT FROM THERE.....FADE OUT.

Oh I wish they'd filmed it that way! Would've been a much more satisfying payoff.

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I like this scripted ending too. I can see why Lucy would object, though. In Lucy's Q&A with the American Film Institute in the 1970s, the students seem dismissive of Lucy "pie in the face" humor. Lucy says she's only been hit with a pie three times in her entire TV career and I think she's right about that. The three times are early in her TV work: The Ballet, Ricky's Hawaiian Vacation, and The Diner (interesting that the latter two were produced within a month of each other). I think Lucy found this unsophisticated and wanted to a higher level of comedy.

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I like this scripted ending too. I can see why Lucy would object, though. In Lucy's Q&A with the American Film Institute in the 1970s, the students seem dismissive of Lucy "pie in the face" humor. Lucy says she's only been hit with a pie three times in her entire TV career and I think she's right about that. The three times are early in her TV work: The Ballet, Ricky's Hawaiian Vacation, and The Diner (interesting that the latter two were produced within a month of each other). I think Lucy found this unsophisticated and wanted to a higher level of comedy.

Understandable. It also would've been very reminiscent of the diner, what with the group pie fight.

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I don't why Lucy was getting all high and mighty about pie-fight comedy.  By the time of HL, there was nothing too illogical they wouldn't do to get a cheap laugh.  Lucy on talk shows at the time reminisced about the Three Stooges with a little bit of distaste: "Fine gentlemen (gentle?), don't get me wrong. But their comedy!!  I learned a lot....how to duck."  (and who says she's not witty?).  Simultaneous to this, when HL needed a laugh, they'd dump cold water, sometimes for no real reason, on Gale "Soggy Crotch" Gordon.  Or just bop him on the head with something.

 

Until this discussion, it hadn't occurred to me that we don't ever get a real pie fight in TLS or HL.  The closest is the "Airport Chase" HL, when Kim and Craig don chef's hats (why?) and wheel out a tray of pies to throw at the disarmed spies.   I admire "Airport" mainly because they were trying SOMETHING new, but it just doesn't work.  Like a lot of HL's: just not ENOUGH plot. Not that it's believable up to that point, but the pie throwing scene ruins whatever comic danger aspect they episode may have had going for it.

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I was re-watching this episode today, and I agree with the posters upthread who say that it seems a bit "off." The basic premise of the episode (i.e. that Lucy would enter a baking contest just because her friends make fun of her baking,) seems pretty silly - and Desi Arnaz was still producing the show at this point, I think he would have agreed. Vivian seems particularly out of character as well - throughout the episode, she is very condescending to Lucy in a way that just doesn't ring true.
 

In Kathleen Brady's biography, she writes that Lucille was not good at dealing with change. For example, when she realized that Lucie's nanny was being too permissive, she didn't know how to tactfully tell her that, so she drove her off by picking fights. I always wonder if that is what happened here with Bob and Madelyn here - where Lucy realized that it was time to hire new writers and to inject some fresh blood into the series, but just didn't know how to tell them that in a tactful way (hence the alleged outburst where she accused them of trying to ruin her career.)

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