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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

'The Lucy Show' S6: Ending on a Hi-Larious Note

Discovering the plethora of gems on the recently released DVD set of the sixth season of "The Lucy Show" makes it one of the bestest sets of the year.

This awesome follow-up series to Lucille Ball's still mega-hit "I Love Lucy" (ILL) started out with Ball and ILL co-star Vivian Vance in TV pioneer roles as middle-aged single moms sharing a home. The impetus for the classic Lucy shenanigans was usually the perpetually cash-strapped Lucille Carmichael, played by Lucy, trying to complete a DIY project to save some green. 

One need not consult Nostradamus to predict that Lucy recruited BFF Vivian Bagley, played by Vance, to help with the project and that chaos ensued. An episode in which Lucy and Viv installed a shower was the best-known classic. Episodes involving converting their basement into a recreation room and installing a television antenna were equally good.

By the 1967-68 sixth season, "The Lucy Show" had followed the same course as "The Doris Day Show" from the same era. The big city had replaced the suburban/rural setting, the kids were long-forgotten, and the titular character had gone from single mom housewife to career gal similar to the path taken by America's sweetheart Mary Tyler Moore a few years later.

In the case of "Lucy," she had moved from a New York City suburb to Los Angeles. Her career consisted of being the secretary to banker Theodore J. Mooney, played by long-time Lucy co-star Gale Gordon. Mooney was Lucy's banker back east and episodes form that era often had Lucy begging for advances on the allowance for which her late husband had provided. 

The first nice surprise on reading the "Lucy" S6 synopses was that that season included many of my favorite episodes. One show in which Lucy designed an absurdly secure bank vault to convince Jack Benny to open an account was a classic. 

Another great offering had Lucy getting her photo in the newspaper after winning a contest during a sale that she had played hookey from work to attend. A scene in which Lucy tested the claim that dishes were unbreakable was one of the best of the entire series.

An clip show in which Vivian Bagley rode a bus from the New York area to California to nurse Lucy through a broken leg earned the award for the nicest episode of the season. Hearing these characters discuss first season exploits and once again seeing Lucy on stilts and Lucy and Ethel (oops Viv) trapped in a rapidly filling shower and maneuvering around on a roof was beyond words awesome. 

This episode also had a nice twist at the end and would have made an incredible series finale.

It is worth noting as well that Lucy really broke her leg while filming the sixth season of "Here's Lucy." This led to more on-screen humor related to her character having that temporary impairment.

Speaking of "Here's Lucy," a Where's Waldo-style game of looking for Lucy's real-life kids, and "Here's Lucy" co-stars Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr., in "Lucy" episodes is great fun. I am convinced that Lucie appeared in a few episodes that her IMDB page did not list.

The almost weekly appearance of big stars, many of whom were Lucy's personal friends, in S6 of "Lucy" was also a treat. This would become an even larger element of "Here's Lucy."

This roster of guest stars included Benny, Milton Berle, Robert Goulet, Sid Caesar, Ken Berry, Carol Burnett, etc. I also think that Art "Ed Norton" Carney had a cameo as a sewer worker in one a clip during the broken leg episode, but he was not credited for it.

The guest-star of the year award for "Lucy" S6 goes to Joan Crawford. I will allow readers to insert their own "Mommie Dearest" jokes.

I will not confess to the "Dearest" jokes that seeing Crawford clean her foyer and Lucy, while in character, break one of Crawford's crystal glasses brought to my mind. 

I will admit that the episode did get the wonderfully dark Blue Oyster Cult song "Joan Crawford" song stuck in my head. Any tune that starts with the lyric "Catholic school girls have thrown away their mascara" deserves classic status.

The Crawford episode, which included a guest spot by Vance, was entertaining and well-done despite being derivative of a 1966 "Beverly Hillbillies" Gloria Swanson episode. 

The "Lucy" and "Hillbillies" episodes had the main characters meeting the fading star under misleading circumstances that suggested that the celebrity had fallen on hard times. Wanting to help that diva without hurting her pride, the Clampetts and Lucy cast her in a silent film and repertory play respectively. 

Seeing real-life good friends Lucy and Crawford perform together was great, and Crawford really got into the spirit of the thing.

The gaggle of bonus features, which is very typical for CBS Video releases, on the S6 DVD set  deserve their own review. Space limitations requires asking that readers please take my word for this.

An absolutely positively must-see special feature was a 1968 clip of Lucy winning her second Emmy in a row for her role on "Lucy." She demonstrated her sincere love for her craft and genuine appreciation for her fellow television industry colleagues who gave her that honor. 

Seeing the Emmy directed at the people who produced television, rather than being geared to the American public, was very nice. 

This clip alone made me sad that there is no way that I will be able to share a glass of lemonade and piece of pie with Lucy. Among other things, I would have deeply loved to have told Lucy that an ILL scene in which she leads a flock of baby chicks around her Connecticut home is my all-time favorite television scene.

Lucy's then former husband Desi Arnaz deserves credit for the most unique feature in the S6 "Lucy" set. Desi apparently passed on his habit of saving copies of everything to Lucy because the DVD set includes a full S6 episode that was dubbed in Italian that was found in her archives. 

Aside from seeing Lucy speak Italian, hearing another actress' voice come out of her mouth is odd. The episode is subtitled in English, but I chose to watch the English version on the discs.

Another favorite special features was a "The Carol Burnett Show" skit in which Lucy and Carol played competing airport car rental company representatives who manhandled a hapless Tim Conway. Aside from the hilarious script and pitch-perfect performances, seeing the flubs in which a boom mic appeared at the top of the screen and the sets experienced technical difficulties was a nice look back at the days of live television.

Anyone with questions of thoughts regarding "Lucy" is encouraged to email me.