Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week’s post is a companion to yesterday’s rerun of The Lucy Show‘s third season, and it’s part of our annual tribute to Lucille Ball, who was born 110 years ago this Friday (on August 6). So, in remembrance of this icon, I’m offering — for subscribers who comment below to alert me of their interest — access to two unused scripts from Ball’s second half-hour sitcom, the aforementioned The Lucy Show (1962-1968, CBS).
Now, I don’t currently have the teleplay for the first season episode that went into production before getting cancelled during rehearsals — “Lucy And Viv Fight Over Harry.” (Do you own a copy? If so, I’d love to read it!) But I do have two offerings that were submitted in 1964 — and evidently rejected — during the series’ third year, when Milt Josefsberg took over as head writer and opened the figurative door to freelance contributions (like those from Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson). The two scripts I’ve got are both cowritten by Sherwood Schwartz’s brother Al, a veteran from The Jackie Gleason Show who would also go on to write for Milton Berle, Red Skelton, both Green Acres and Petticoat Junction, Gilligan’s Island, and then eventually contribute to the first four seasons of Here’s Lucy. The first is titled “Lucy, The Quick Change Artist” and it’s dated July 24, 1964. Al Schwartz penned it with Howard Merrill, who had spent the last two years writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show, but it’s plot is something of a sitcom cliché (I Love Lucy did a variation of this idea back in 1952), as it concerns Lucy’s attempts to dissuade Chris’ 19-year-old beau after he falls in love with her, leading to a “quick change” climax where she simultaneously dons different costumes to appear glamorous for her new fella and haggard for Chris’. Having read it, I think I see why the script was rejected — although there’s some sharp dialogue (especially for Viv), it offers a second act set piece that’s amusing, but not grand enough by the standards of Season Three, which was indulging in BIGGER slapstick crescendoes (think: skating, skiing, etc). Additionally, the story hinges around age differences… and that’s never a topic any Lucy series wants brought up indiscriminately.
The second of these two submissions, “Lucy Goes Commercial,” which Schwartz wrote with Jay Burton (a big comedy-variety scribe, especially for Milton Berle, Perry Como, Dean Martin, and The Hollywood Palace — oh, and he also has two credits on Dick Van Dyke), is dated August 18, 1964, and claims similar issues. The story recruits Lucy and Chris to star in a commercial for hand lotion, only for Lucy to take Chris’ place — dressing up as a teenage girl — at the last minute. Like the above, this would have called attention to Lucy’s age — something she was always careful about doing — and there’s not a big enough pay-off to justify that fairly routine gag… even though every episode of The Lucy Show, particularly by this season, demands a worthwhile physical finale as validation for its very existence. Unfortunately then, without bolder comic shtick in some aggrandized finale, this simply isn’t a sample that caters to Lucy’s needs… at least, not in the way that Marshall and Belson immediately knew how to do.
That said… if neither of these scripts are clear winners, they’re still interesting reads, and Schwartz would eventually get to write for Ball on her next series. In fact, we can even see the seeds of one of his later entries — “Lucy, The Shopping Expert” (among his best Here’s Lucy‘s) — in the opening scene of “Lucy Goes Commercial.” Here’s an excerpt — I hope it aids your appreciation of Ball and her long TV career, which we celebrate here this week (and every week).
Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more sitcom fun!