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The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour: Quality Analysis


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Most will agree that the 13 hour shows, as a whole, don't live up to the greatness of the half hour "I Love Lucy" shows. Even some of the writers feel this is true. Obviously everyone may have different personal preferences, but here's my breakdown, in order of preference, of what I consider the best and weakest of these 13 shows; feel free to share yours.

 

FAVES:

 

"The Celebrity Next Door": Hands down my favourite. Not only is it the last time Lucy Ricardo wears her signature bun, but her interplay with Tallulah is terrific. The entire episode is well paced, funny, and energized, and does not feel in any way padded. All of the main cast, and Tallulah, have scene stealing moments. A tour de force.

 

"Lucy Makes Room for Danny": If only all crossovers could be this effective. An excellent showcase for both casts and a premise that makes full use of the extra 22 minutes. Plus it has Gale Gordon's welcome return to the Lucy stage.

 

"Lucy Hunts Uranium": It may have its critics, but it is exciting to see the cast and crew attempt something never before done with these characters. Although it feels very far removed from the small, sound-stage confinements of the early ILL episodes, and as a result not nearly as intimate, the chase scene is hysterically written and well shot. The proceedings leading up to it are admittedly a bit slow, but it's worth it for the payoff. One of the few eps where location footage provided something worthwhile to the show. MacMurray may not have been the best guest star for this outing, but the main cast is in fine fettle, particularly Vivian Vance, as Ethel has more lines than Lucy during the final act.

 

"Lucy Wants a Career": A nice and sentimental coda to the years long theme of Lucy wanting to get a job. Plus her final scene is brilliantly executed.

 

"Lucy Goes to Alaska": Not all together well paced, but excellent in individual moments. The hammock scene is very funny, the Freddie the Freeloader sketch (although padding) is beautifully done, plus Skelton's charm lends a lot to the proceedings. The ending relies too heavily on location footage, and is further proof that they took things a bit farther than they should've where Lucy's comedy was concerned. It's a shame they couldn't have made some more intimate hour long shows, but this ep. has its moments.

 

"Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havannah": It may be very far removed from the Lucy stories we've come to know, and the disconnect is jarring, but it is undeniably a change of pace. It's also the first showcase of how well Lucy plays off Ann Sothern, although it's unfortunate Vivian couldn't have been incorporated into the episode more.

 

"The Ricardo's Go to Japan": Decent overall, and refreshing for its lack of location footage (sans a few key spots). Cummings is very charming, but his appearance in a Japanese themed episode is rather puzzling on the whole. It's also nice to see one final appearance of Mrs. McGillicudy in the beginning. The ending scene is well done, and again one of the few LDCH's that didn't rely on stunts or stock footage, but just Lucy's talent.

 

LEAST-FAVES:

 

"Lucy Goes to Mexico": Not a bad episode, per se, but like many of these shows it's too jam-packed with sets, costumes and stock footage to be fully convincing. The lack of intimacy from the early outings is extremely apparent here. Chevalier is wonderful, however.

 

"Milton Berle Hides Out...": Has a few good moments, but too few. As another said, overproduced and under-written. The pacing is very off too, it never feels like a connected whole. The bucket dangling scene is horribly shot, with very obvious doubles, and the show they put on at the end is laughably bad.

 

"Lucy Goes to Sun Valley": Bland, despite the sexiness provided by Lamas. Too much location footage and too little emphasis on a decent script.

 

"Lucy's Summer Vacation": Although largely considered the worst of the bunch, I don't think it's worthy of the bottom spot. It has very little going for it, save for a few fun moments, and Duff & Lupino don't really gel with Lucy & Ricky. The conspicuous absence of the Mertzes is another glaring eyesore, and maybe the plot would've been better served with the 3 couples pitted against each other rather than just two. But we will never know what may have been. What did come to pass is just barely passable.

 

"Lucy Wins a Racehorse": I've never liked this one. This could've worked as a half hour show, as it would've allowed Betty Grable and Harry James to remain out of the proceedings. Their inclusion feels extremely forced, and had the writers been able to focus just on Little Ricky and the horse they may have had something. But as it is it's all over the place, and a badly shot ending (complete with unmatching double footage) only spoils the outing more.

 

"Lucy Meets the Mustache": If there's one episode I'll never watch again, it's this one. Edie Adams' song aside, there's not a worthwhile moment. Dour is the only word that comes close to accurately describing the show. Heavily padded, indifferently acted, this was no way for such an iconic series to end. It almost makes Laverne & Shirley's sad finale (minus Shirley all together and largely missing Laverne) watchable. Knowing what was going on behind the scenes only makes things more unpleasant. However, had the cast had a better story to work with, it may still have been worth saving. As it was, you can tell that all involved with the show had given up...even the characters.

 

 

 

Please feel free to agree, disagree, give more reasoning, etc.

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I'd have to say that my top three favorites in order would be:

 

#1 Lucy Wants a Career. Lots of great scenes there: Quin jokes at home, Lucy working the room trying to scare off the other Girl Friday wannabes, plus great physical comedy on Lucy's first day on the job. I also love the train station scenes. But best of all: Wakey Flakies!

 

#2 Lucy Makes Room for Danny, for all the reasons you mentioned :) . Watching this episode made me a fan of Gale Gordon; he was brilliant as the judge.

 

#3 The Celebrity Next Door. Talullah Dah-ling was excellent, but Ethel & Fred as the maid & butler was priceless. Especially the dinner scene with the big platter of chicken!

 

Least faves are Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havannah (although Lucy & Ricky drumming in the restaurant is cute), Lucy Goes to Mexico, & The Ricardo's Go to Japan. As you mentioned, VBagley, Mr Cummings charm helps to redeem this show but Ricky singing: Tokyo Pete? Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi.

.

The others fall in the middle for me in no particular order :)

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I'd have to say that my top three favorites in order would be:

 

#1 Lucy Wants a Career. Lots of great scenes there: Quin jokes at home, Lucy working the room trying to scare off the other Girl Friday wannabes, plus great physical comedy on Lucy's first day on the job. I also love the train station scenes. But best of all: Wakey Flakies!

 

#2 Lucy Makes Room for Danny, for all the reasons you mentioned :) . Watching this episode made me a fan of Gale Gordon; he was brilliant as the judge.

 

#3 The Celebrity Next Door. Talullah Dah-ling was excellent, but Ethel & Fred as the maid & butler was priceless. Especially the dinner scene with the big platter of chicken!

 

Least faves are Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havannah (although Lucy & Ricky drumming in the restaurant is cute), Lucy Goes to Mexico, & The Ricardo's Go to Japan. As you mentioned, VBagley, Mr Cummings charm helps to redeem this show but Ricky singing: Tokyo Pete? Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi.

.

The others fall in the middle for me in no particular order :)

 

 

Yeah, my order lists frequently shift, but that's the approximation of how I feel about them. I agree with all your comments too.

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For me. the best ep as you mentioned was "The Celebrity Next Door". Undeniably the best. The worst for me was the Milton Berle ep. Too many things going on and yeah the bucket scene was terrible. But the final scene to Lucy Meets The Mustache could have had a better finale. Btw, why did they stopped using some of Lucy's girlfriends before moving to the country like Caroline, Marion Strong, Marion Van Vlack, or Mrs. Trumbel? I think they could have helped the show a bit. I would have loved to see Lucy yapping it up with them.

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I agree with most of what you have to say. "Japan" and "Fernando/Sun Valley" have grown on me.

When these were originally shown, TV sets weren't as crystal clear as they are now, so I think they got away with it then. It wasn't until the DVD release that the use of doubles was so obvious. And the fact that there was no attempt to hide the wires in the Berle cement bucket scene, which is ridiculous anyway. Did the cement bucket operator really need Lucy's hand signals to move them to safety? The finale 'Them There Days" is one of the worst excuses for a show ever. It just meanders around with no focus. One of the few times they did something topical "And it's no wonder there's a western craze" referring to the inexplicable popularity of western shows on TV at the time. 11 of the top 20 shows that season were westerns; only 4 were comedies.

I saw "Lucy Makes Room for..." a long time before I saw Danny's hit show, and had assumed The DT Show was better than it was.

Ricky stops "Japan" dead in its tracks with his phonetic Japanese version of "Tokyo Pete". The whole Geisha house scene is funnier than I remember but seems haphazardly directed and under-rehearsed. The studio was at its peak so with running that, starring in these last three shows AND taking over their direction: no wonder Desi fell apart. These last 3 suffer from bad production values all around. As good or better than any other comedies of the time, but no longer the must-see, first rate productions of the previous two years.

Most will agree that the 13 hour shows, as a whole, don't live up to the greatness of the half hour "I Love Lucy" shows. Even some of the writers feel this is true. Obviously everyone may have different personal preferences, but here's my breakdown, in order of preference, of what I consider the best and weakest of these 13 shows; feel free to share yours.

 

FAVES:

 

"The Celebrity Next Door": Hands down my favourite. Not only is it the last time Lucy Ricardo wears her signature bun, but her interplay with Tallulah is terrific. The entire episode is well paced, funny, and energized, and does not feel in any way padded. All of the main cast, and Tallulah, have scene stealing moments. A tour de force.

 

"Lucy Makes Room for Danny": If only all crossovers could be this effective. An excellent showcase for both casts and a premise that makes full use of the extra 22 minutes. Plus it has Gale Gordon's welcome return to the Lucy stage.

 

"Lucy Hunts Uranium": It may have its critics, but it is exciting to see the cast and crew attempt something never before done with these characters. Although it feels very far removed from the small, sound-stage confinements of the early ILL episodes, and as a result not nearly as intimate, the chase scene is hysterically written and well shot. The proceedings leading up to it are admittedly a bit slow, but it's worth it for the payoff. One of the few eps where location footage provided something worthwhile to the show. MacMurray may not have been the best guest star for this outing, but the main cast is in fine fettle, particularly Vivian Vance, as Ethel has more lines than Lucy during the final act.

 

"Lucy Wants a Career": A nice and sentimental coda to the years long theme of Lucy wanting to get a job. Plus her final scene is brilliantly executed.

 

"Lucy Goes to Alaska": Not all together well paced, but excellent in individual moments. The hammock scene is very funny, the Freddie the Freeloader sketch (although padding) is beautifully done, plus Skelton's charm lends a lot to the proceedings. The ending relies too heavily on location footage, and is further proof that they took things a bit farther than they should've where Lucy's comedy was concerned. It's a shame they couldn't have made some more intimate hour long shows, but this ep. has its moments.

 

"Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havannah": It may be very far removed from the Lucy stories we've come to know, and the disconnect is jarring, but it is undeniably a change of pace. It's also the first showcase of how well Lucy plays off Ann Sothern, although it's unfortunate Vivian couldn't have been incorporated into the episode more.

 

"The Ricardo's Go to Japan": Decent overall, and refreshing for its lack of location footage (sans a few key spots). Cummings is very charming, but his appearance in a Japanese themed episode is rather puzzling on the whole. It's also nice to see one final appearance of Mrs. McGillicudy in the beginning. The ending scene is well done, and again one of the few LDCH's that didn't rely on stunts or stock footage, but just Lucy's talent.

 

LEAST-FAVES:

 

"Lucy Goes to Mexico": Not a bad episode, per se, but like many of these shows it's too jam-packed with sets, costumes and stock footage to be fully convincing. The lack of intimacy from the early outings is extremely apparent here. Chevalier is wonderful, however.

 

"Milton Berle Hides Out...": Has a few good moments, but too few. As another said, overproduced and under-written. The pacing is very off too, it never feels like a connected whole. The bucket dangling scene is horribly shot, with very obvious doubles, and the show they put on at the end is laughably bad.

 

"Lucy Goes to Sun Valley": Bland, despite the sexiness provided by Lamas. Too much location footage and too little emphasis on a decent script.

 

"Lucy's Summer Vacation": Although largely considered the worst of the bunch, I don't think it's worthy of the bottom spot. It has very little going for it, save for a few fun moments, and Duff & Lupino don't really gel with Lucy & Ricky. The conspicuous absence of the Mertzes is another glaring eyesore, and maybe the plot would've been better served with the 3 couples pitted against each other rather than just two. But we will never know what may have been. What did come to pass is just barely passable.

 

"Lucy Wins a Racehorse": I've never liked this one. This could've worked as a half hour show, as it would've allowed Betty Grable and Harry James to remain out of the proceedings. Their inclusion feels extremely forced, and had the writers been able to focus just on Little Ricky and the horse they may have had something. But as it is it's all over the place, and a badly shot ending (complete with unmatching double footage) only spoils the outing more.

 

"Lucy Meets the Mustache": If there's one episode I'll never watch again, it's this one. Edie Adams' song aside, there's not a worthwhile moment. Dour is the only word that comes close to accurately describing the show. Heavily padded, indifferently acted, this was no way for such an iconic series to end. It almost makes Laverne & Shirley's sad finale (minus Shirley all together and largely missing Laverne) watchable. Knowing what was going on behind the scenes only makes things more unpleasant. However, had the cast had a better story to work with, it may still have been worth saving. As it was, you can tell that all involved with the show had given up...even the characters.

 

 

 

Please feel free to agree, disagree, give more reasoning, etc.

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  • 2 weeks later...

From start to finish I like Celebrity Next Door... I like moments of all the rest... Love the airplane sceen with Lucy and Red... Who's flying the plane? Don't tell the Department of Motor Vehicles, but I am... How much flying time have you had?.. A little over 3 hours... Like the horse on the stairs sceen with Harry and Betty James..My we certainly heard a lot about you.. Apparently it's all true... What horse?? What stairs.. What HOUSE??? The Mexico one is cool too.. Love that White 58 Buick Convertable..(ever notice the antennas on the rear deck point the wrong way?).. Un, Duh, Twa...A hand knit sweatter.. the hand's still knitting it... The Japan one is good.. Fred has some good zingers... Bathtub in the livingroom??.. I like only the skating scene in the Fernando Lammas one... when she is in the air from his spin.. the look on her face and the way she blinks her eyes.. My left ankleeee oohhh..I LOVE the chase sceen with Fred McMurry.. love that box flipping onto his head.. nevertheless I still like them better than alot of other shows.. it may be a piss poor LUCY.. but it is still a lot better than some other stuff on the air.

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  • 2 months later...
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I've said this a thousand times but here we go again . . . my all time fave is The Danny Thomas one, followed by Celebrity Next Door.  My least fave is the Mexico one with Chevalier, haven't seen it in years and second least fave is the Havana one.  The scene of Lucy IN BED with Thomas cracks me up every single time I watch it, Lucy has a chance to shine again with something we never thought we'd ever see.

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I've said this a thousand times but here we go again . . . my all time fave is The Danny Thomas one, followed by Celebrity Next Door. My least fave is the Mexico one with Chevalier, haven't seen it in years and second least fave is the Havana one. The scene of Lucy IN BED with Thomas cracks me up every single time I watch it, Lucy has a chance to shine again with something we never thought we'd ever see.

Havana will forever be my favorite LDCH. It's sentimental, a great way to show how Lucy and Ricky met. I know in ILL they tell of Ricky coming over to USA alone and the countless different ways they met. But all these mushy episodes are my favorite. Certain scenes just get me, because you know behind that character and script, every loving word, kiss, hug, action, etc were true.

 

But the drum number and the drunk jail scene win it for me for that episode. Celebrity Next Door and Danny Thomas follow though! Those were the comedic gold for the LDCH.

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From start to finish I like Celebrity Next Door... I like moments of all the rest... Love the airplane sceen with Lucy and Red... Who's flying the plane? Don't tell the Department of Motor Vehicles, but I am... How much flying time have you had?.. A little over 3 hours... Like the horse on the stairs sceen with Harry and Betty James..My we certainly heard a lot about you.. Apparently it's all true... What horse?? What stairs.. What HOUSE??? The Mexico one is cool too.. Love that White 58 Buick Convertable..(ever notice the antennas on the rear deck point the wrong way?).. Un, Duh, Twa...A hand knit sweatter.. the hand's still knitting it... The Japan one is good.. Fred has some good zingers... Bathtub in the livingroom??.. I like only the skating scene in the Fernando Lammas one... when she is in the air from his spin.. the look on her face and the way she blinks her eyes.. My left ankleeee oohhh..I LOVE the chase sceen with Fred McMurry.. love that box flipping onto his head.. nevertheless I still like them better than alot of other shows.. it may be a piss poor LUCY.. but it is still a lot better than some other stuff on the air.

Considering they had done 180 of these, it was amazing they could still think up more comedic situations to put her in, and one hour long ones too!

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I'm nearing the end of my ILL in order viewing and am going to do these 13 next. I tend to only watch parts when I watch them now. Caught the first one on Hallmark once and they edit out the whole drum number. WTF, that is the best part.

Can't wait! Your "reviews"/observations are always insightful and an entertaining read! Bring 'em on! ;)

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

My episode in order project continues with the LDCH.

 

I have to admit I don’t think I have ever watched all of these all the way through on DVD since I got the set years ago. My memory of so many episodes is off the years (and VHS taped) versions I got from Nick at Night. I also have not watched any of these in their entirety in a very long time so this will be a good critique on how they play overall.

 

Havanna-Once you see this with the extra 15 minutes put back in it flows so much better. Jokes make sense and it doesn’t feel as stilted. I knew the big thing missing all along was the Hedda opening and you need that. If they had come back from doing the half hours and went straight into the cruise shot the way it airs now on TV it would have been really jarring.

 

I don’t know how Lucy can manage to look young and old at the same time. The hair down makes her younger but she looks a lot older in the face. She looks younger in the face in the present day wrap around scenes than on the boat except when she smiles and then that takes so many years off her. Viv on the other hand with the side swept bangs and longer hair is gorgeous. This is one time when she looks way better than Lucy.

 

I’ve always liked this episode and forgot how good certain parts were. A flashback story was a good one to have for the series and it made good use of the 75 minutes. The only thing that gets repetitive for me is chasing Rudy around the boat. In fact I really just don’t like any scene he is in. The drunk scene at the end is great and it’s a toss up if I like this one or the LS version with Ann better.

 

The one big production number is a good inclusion and doesn’t seem too forced remembering that part of the reason for these episodes was to play more like a special so you give it the bway pass that they would just break out in song. The club scene is one of my favorites in the whole ½ hour and hour series. The shrill Lucy we were left with at the send of Season 6 has reverted to a sweet character again. Desi plays his younger version of Ricky very sweetly and I love how when he buys the violets that is what breaks Lucy from her indifference. The interplay here between them from the sweetness at the table to the dance to the passion in the drum number is done very well. We missed this in the last half of the sixth season. You see how the characters could develop what is essentially a love at first sight meeting. Now Carlos and Susie over there I have no idea how that went so fast, but who cares I want to watch Lucy and Ricky fall in love. My most favorite part at the end of the drum number is the little looks they give each other. It’s sort of a good job honey, we did that wonderfully. This is yet another time when just some of it can’t be acting.

 

Continuity-Not one bit of continuity matches the ½ hours. Marion Strong was the one that set Lucy up on a blind date. Ricky came over with his whole band by plane I believe to Miami. He never worked one day for Valle. Lucy I don’t buy was ever a secretary but hey you gotta make a story with guest stars so lets throw it all out the window.

 

The Celebrity Next Door- I think this episode really feels like a double episode of ILL. The PTA was there in the ½ hours and Lucy is still putting on shows with them. There is a lot of believability to this script. In that area of CT it is not uncommon to have a famous person move in next door. Well now days it’s not, not 100% sure for the 50s.

 

The set-The dining room table has gotten bigger, it’s not the round table we had in the ½ hours. Also there appears to be some sort of hallway or something between the main living area and the kitchen. When Ethel is listening at the door she goes through another door to get into the kitchen. This setup was not evident in the ½ hours.

 

Hair- I think Lucy decided to cut her hair in phases as it is shorter than the previous episode but it is not yet that really short cut that comes in the Uranium one. She can still get it back into the bun, but you can make out the length at the end when she has it down in the suit of armor. In the final stage production she has all her bangs pushed back to fit under the hat. I would think this would age her but it doesn’t. Viv’s hair is just wonderful. There is one scene where the sides are pulled back a little more and it makes her look very young.

 

Wardrobe- I like Lucy in Victorian era garb. Same with her Juliet dress from Season 6, it really does a nice job on her figure. The armor always bothers me. I fear that Lucy really could have set herself on fire with that stunt. Was that stunt done in front of the audience? I know they just pumped smoke into the suit but I’d be afraid to choke. Lucy wears 2 suits in this episode. The one for the paint scenes I call her Forever Darling suit as she wore it a lot on that movie junket. The other is the debut of the grey suit with black trim. The suit that can transcend decades, shows and husbands.

 

I always wonder what Bette Davis would have been like in this role. I think Tallulah was marvelous and just doing her thing added so many more laughs. The line delivery was so good. I wonder if the way she played the rehearsal scene in the show was how she did the actual rehearsal of the show as we know she had everyone on edge that week.

 

Random Observation- When Ethel is running down all the plays she saw Tallulah in she mentions Rain. Viv did this show back in Albuquerque and got some good notices for it.

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I really don't care for.the Danny Thomas one or Paul Douglas or Ida and Howard or even the Kovacs one.... Oh and the Milton one blech! As far as.I'm concerned after Milton is punched for.being a hum wrecker the episode is.over for me :)

Not liking the Danny Thomas one could get your Lucy fan licence revoked you know.

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Maybe I'm wrong and probably off the topic but I think I read somewhere that Desi wanted to film these hour long episodes in color but because of how expensive it was they decided not to. I wonder if by actually filming them in color, maybe they could have given the show a whole new look. Television was changing more shows were experimenting in color and video taping was being introduced. We'll never know.

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I think around the Charm School" episode I read that Desi wanted to film the series in color or film a few to experiment, can't remember exactly. It would have been nice if he would have at least filmed one or two. I know other shows at the time filmed a few eps in color to test them. Btw, whatever happened to those color test episodes? I read that "Burns and Allen" filmed a couple of eps in color.

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I think around the Charm School" episode I read that Desi wanted to film the series in color or film a few to experiment, can't remember exactly. It would have been nice if he would have at least filmed one or two. I know other shows at the time filmed a few eps in color to test them. Btw, whatever happened to those color test episodes? I read that "Burns and Allen" filmed a couple of eps in color.

What he should have done was tie three or more eps together as he had done before and release them in theaters, in color.  You know, some of the BEST episodes like maybe some about having the baby or the best ones like Vita and the chocolates, some Hollywood ones together as well as some of the European ones, then some in the country later on, a whole series of films that would have done well and the cost would not have been important if they were released in theaters.

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