This is my first post for situation comedy Tuesday! On these days, I will talk about some of the various sitcoms in my collection. To begin, I would like to go through and share with you all my votes for the best episodes by season for the many shows in my collection. We start in 1951 with the first season of I Love Lucy, my favorite sitcom.
In I Love Lucy, Lucy Ricardo, a zany New York housewife, desperately wants to get into show business, but her Cuban bandleader husband, Ricky, has his hands full trying to dissuade her. Also getting caught up in their shenanigans are the Mertzes, the Ricardos’ landlords and best friends. A constant parade of predicaments, life with Lucy is never easy, but always fun.
Why is I Love Lucy my favorite? It’s simple: The show is consistently funny. Every episode will make you laugh-out-loud . Sure, there are a few duds here and there (like the Mertz-less Season One episodes). But every single episode will make you laugh at least once. After the show quickly found its footing in early 1952, it never declined in quality, as so many series often do. I can say with all confidence that it is the best sitcom of the 1950’s. The stories are original, the characters are three-dimensional, and there is unbelievable continuity for a series of this time period. It will always be a classic. And it honestly deserves to be.
I Love Lucy stars LUCILLE BALL as Lucy Ricardo, DESI ARNAZ as Ricky Ricardo, VIVIAN VANCE as Ethel Mertz, and WILLIAM FRAWLEY as Fred Mertz.
Here are my picks for the ten best episode of Season One.
*All episodes this season were directed by Marc Daniels and written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, & Bob Carroll Jr.
1) Episode 01: “The Girls Want To Go To A Nightclub” (Aired: 10/15/51 | Filmed: 09/15/51)
It’s the Mertzes’ 18th wedding anniversary. Ethel wants to go to the Copa, but Fred wants to go to the fights. It’s the men against the women, and when neither side agrees to cave, Lucy and Ethel announce that, while the boys go to the fights, they will go to the Copa–with dates of their own!
This was the first aired episode of the series, but the second one produced. The producers made the right decision. This episode introduces the characters, and while the second act is a tad outlandish, it is absolutely hilarious. You’ll laugh yourself silly!
2) Episode 18: “Breaking The Lease” (Aired: 02/11/52 | Filmed: 01/05/52)
The Ricardos and Metzes feud after a fight escalates over the late night noise in the former’s apartment. Determined to move away from their nasty landlords, Lucy and Ricky do everything in their power to convince the Mertzes to let them out of their lease.
This episode, the first of many Ricardo v. Mertz episodes, is a classic not only among viewers, but is reportedly one of Lucille Ball’s favorites as well. You’ll enjoy it.
3) Episode 19: “The Ballet” (Aired: 02/18/52 | Filmed: 01/11/52)
Ricky is hiring a ballet act and a comedy act for his new show at the club. Lucy’s desire to perform in one of Ricky’s shows takes her to a ballet class led by a drill sergeant instructor, and later alongside a goofy clown who repeatedly pies her in the face while teaching her his routine.
Lucy’s ballet shtick is classic – one of this series’s best physical bits. The episode also features an old, but still hilarious, comedy routine that has Lucy getting pied in the face over and over again. While the climax of the show is a bit of a letdown, the episode is otherwise strongly crafted with many excellent moments.
4) Episode 22: “Fred And Ethel Fight” (Aired: 03/10/52 | Filmed: 01/30/52)
Lucy’s plan to reunite Fred and Ethel after a fight backfires when, after reuniting the Mertzes, she and Ricky wind up in a heated argument of their own. After Ricky walks out, both he and Lucy scheme to get the other one to come back and apologize.
The beginning where Fred and Ethel are arguing is the best part of the episode for me. Things take a somewhat predictable turn when Lucy and Ricky get into it themselves, but the episode continues to produce laughs. The beginning though? Hysterical!
5) Episode 24: “The Gossip” (Aired: 03/24/52 | Filmed: 02/15/52)
After Ricky and Fred chide their wives for gossiping, the men and women take a bet to see who can go without gossiping the longest. Ricky and Fred decide to create a false piece of gossip in order to trick their wives and win the bet.
Lucy does a fantastic pantomime bit in the opening of this episode. This particular script builds and builds to a hilarious climax involving Grace Foster, the milkman, and her jealous husband. Funny episode!
6) Episode 25: “Pioneer Women” (Aired: 03/31/52 | Filmed: 02/22/52)
Another bet! This time the men and women bet to see who can go without modern conveniences the longest. Nothing before 1900 is permitted, and while Ricky and Fred have to shave the old-fashioned way, Lucy and Ethel have to cook the old-fashioned way– with disastrous results!
This is the infamous giant piece of bread episode. Lucy puts in too much yeast and the bread shoots out of the oven and nails her to the cabinet. A fun episode with an original premise; it is highly enjoyable!
7) Episode 29: “The Freezer” (Aired: 04/28/52 | Filmed: 03/21/52)
Lucy and Ethel go behind their husbands’ backs to purchase a home freezer from Ethel’s uncle. To christen the new appliance, the girls decide to buy a bunch of meat. Disaster occurs when an unaware Lucy purchases two whole sides of beef. How do they get rid of it?
This episode is a definite classic. The scene where Lucy and Ethel go to a butcher’s shop and try to hock meat from a bassinet is hysterical. Of course, the end where Lucy gets locked in the freezer is one the series’s most memorable moments. By now, the show has definitely hit its stride. This episode is a stellar example of the best of 1950’s television.
8) Episode 30: “Lucy Does A TV Commercial” (Aired: 05/05/52 | Filmed: 03/28/52)
After successfully manipulating her way into a commercial on a television show of Ricky’s, Lucy gets drunk rehearsing with a health tonic that unbeknownst to the crew is made up of 23% alcohol.
On I Love Lucy‘s 50th anniversary special, this episode was voted the best of all time. Yes, it’s the VITAMEATAVEGAMIN episode! A hilarious sequence built around the audience’s own knowledge of the alcoholic content meets the director’s instance that the commercial be repeatedly rehearsed is dynamite–especially in the hands of Lucille Ball, who improvised part of the bit after an accidental screw-up. The only negative for this fabulous episode is the absence of Vivian Vance as Ethel. Though in the original script, the character was removed, and her stuff was given to Fred. That aside, this is a MUST WATCH.
9) Episode 33: “Lucy’s Schedule” (Aired: 05/26/52 | Filmed: 04/18/52)
Lucy’s tardiness for a dinner date with Ricky’s boss inspires Ricky to put Lucy on a time schedule. Of course, she, with the help of Ethel and the boss’s wife, decide to teach him a lesson.
This ordinary episode is a fan favorite. It is notable for including Gale Gordon, who worked with Lucy on her radio series, and would go on to co-star with her in The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, and Life With Lucy. Wonderfully structured, this is a strong offering and a great representation of pre-Little Ricky Lucy.
10) Episode 35: “Ricky Asks For A Raise” (Aired: 06/09/52 | Filmed: 05/02/52)
When Lucy bluffs to help get Ricky a raise, his boss decides to let him go. Lucy and the Mertzes decide to show the management just how valuable Ricky is by reserving every table and canceling at the last minute.
The season finale offers Ball, Vance, and Frawley a chance to play many different characters. Fred dressed as a woman is a particularly outstanding moment–just the sight. A strong show with a lot of laughs, it is a great episode to understand the zaniness of the characters and the writing.
35 episodes were produced and you’ll notice that nine of my ten favorites come from the second half of the season. I implore you to remember, especially with this series, that every episode is practically a winner. There were many more great episodes produced this season. Was the second half of the season better than the first? Undoubtedly. But you really can’t go wrong with an I Love Lucy. If you’re looking for a place to start, here are ten episodes that should have you laughing in no time!
Come back next Tuesday for the ten best episodes from Season Two! And check back tomorrow for my Wildcard Wednesday post!