Welcome to Sitcom Tuesdays! Last week’s post highlighted the ten best episodes from the first season of I Love Lucy. Today we’re continuing with the ten best episodes from the second season! Again, this is my favorite sitcom of all time and every single episode can be purchased on DVD.
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.
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.
First, a note about the second season. While my favorite season of this, my favorite series, is Season Four, Season Two wins the prize of having the highest volume of standout installments. As a result, this was the hardest ten to pick. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.
Here are my picks for the ten best episode of Season Two. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
*All episodes this season were directed by William Asher (except episodes #38, 39, & 40, which were directed by Marc Daniels) and written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, & Bob Carroll Jr.
1) Episode 36: “Job Switching” (Aired: 09/15/52 | Filmed: 05/30/52)
Ricky and Fred decide to teach their wives the value of a buck, so they agree to become househusbands for a week while Lucy and Ethel get jobs at Kramer’s Candy Kitchen. There, a speeded-up conveyor belt has both of them stuffing candies into their blouses, caps—and mouths.
Yes, this is the famous “candy factory” episode. This is truly a fantastic episode. Great story, sharp dialogue, and several outstanding physical bits. I’m going to go against the grain and say that Lucy and Ethel’s conveyer belt scene is the SECOND FUNNIEST scene in the episode. My absolute favorite in this outing would be Ricky and Fred’s disastrous attempts to cook chicken and rice for dinner.
2) Episode 40: “The Operetta” (Aired: 10/13/52 | Filmed: 05/23/52)
The Ricardos and Mertzes star in Lucy and Ethel’s women’s club operetta. Because there aren’t enough funds in the club account, treasurer Lucy decides to write and compose the show herself, paying for the costumes and scenery with a postdated check.
This was one of the cast and crew’s favorite episodes. Most of the story is a show-within-a show: the hilarious operetta that Lucy writes. My favorite moment occurs when Ethel, as the ingenue, Lily of the Valley, caps off her soprano solo with a no-holds-barred belt fest. I could see how Vance would be an ideal understudy for Ethel Merman in the ’30s.
3) Episode 42: “The Courtroom” (Aired: 11/10/52 | Filmed: 08/08/52)
On The Mertzes’ anniversary, the Ricardos give Fred and Ethel a new TV set. But when Ricky accidentally breaks the set while trying to adjust the picture, and angry Fred rushes upstairs and breaks the Ricardos’ TV. Soon both couples find themselves in court.
This funny episode features a number of great moments — chief being Lucy and Ethel’s individual testimonies on the stand.
4) Episode 45: “Lucy Is Enceinte” (Aired: 12/08/52 | Filmed: 10/03/52)
Lucy is delighted to learn she is pregnant—but how to tell Ricky? At lunch, he’s too preoccupied with work to listen to her, then it’s off to the club—where Lucy finds just the right moment and just the right way to tell him.
This is another famous episode. Lucy learns she’s pregnant. Of course, she’s been showing for some time, but the show finally addresses it. You’ve heard it all before– they couldn’t say the p-word, so they always said she was “expecting” or “going to have a baby.” The last scene is sweet and was re-shot (a rarity for Lucy) because Desi screwed up his dialogue. The second take was deemed less romantic than the first, and the first take was used.
5) Episode 48: “Lucy Hires An English Tutor” (Aired: 12/29/52 | Filmed: 10/24/52)
Lucy hires an English tutor so she and Ricky won’t give their yet-to-be-born baby bad speaking habits. The lessons are free, but Lucy does promise him a payback: he’ll get to sing at the club. Of course, she doesn’t tell Ricky this.
The only pregnancy show (of the seven) that SLAYS is this one, where Lucy and the gang take English lessons. Fred in his schoolboy outfit is particularly noteworthy. Conried is a frequent guest star, but this is my favorite of his many appearances. For fans of Lucy mocking Ricky’s English, this one is for you. Great fun.
6) Episode 62: “Lucy Is Matchmaker” (Aired: 05/25/53 | Filmed: 04/24/53)
Lucy plays matchmaker when she meets a friend of the Mertzes who happens to be an eligible bachelor. His line of work? He’s a lingerie salesman, a fact that just might get her into trouble when her matchmaking efforts inevitably backfire.
This is risque for a Lucy episode! The funniest bit occurs near the end when–and I’m going to give a tiny spoiler–Ricky and Fred see Lucy and Ethel come out of Eddie’s room wearing negligees. Huge and deserved laugh. Just the sight!
7) Episode 63: “Lucy Wants New Furniture” (Aired: 06/01/53 | Filmed: 05/01/53)
Lucy tries to hide some new furniture she bought without Ricky’s permission in the kitchen. Discovering his wife’s extravagant purchase, Ricky insists that Lucy pays for it from her allowance, forcing her to do her own hair and make her own clothes.
This is a personal favorite. A seemingly typical episode features smart writing and one of the best sight gags from this entire series. Lucy is forced to forgo the beauty parlor and give herself a home permanent. Unfortunately she leaves it on too long and comes out looking like Gwen Verdon in Chicago. Or, as Fred quips, Little Orphan Annie.
8) Episode 64: “The Camping Trip” (Aired: 06/08/53 | Filmed: 05/08/53)
Lucy fears that she and Ricky don’t have enough in common, so she decides to pursue one of his interests: camping. Ricky and Fred don’t want her or Ethel horning in on their summer retreat, so Ricky decides to take her on a “trial run” in the woods and make her life miserable. Guess whose life is made miserable?
This is another fan favorite. Lucy goes camping with Ricky, but secretly takes Ethel along with her. The bit where Lucy “shoots” a duck is a riot.
9) Episode 65: “Ricky And Fred Are TV Fans” (Aired: 06/22/53 | Filmed: 05/22/53)
With Ricky and Fred glued to a boxing match on television, Lucy and Ethel’s attempts to get their husbands’ attention lead to comical misunderstandings with the cops, who are convinced that Lucy and Ethel are “Pickpocket Pearl” and “Sticky-Fingers Sal.”
This episode plays in near realtime. The plot snowballs and features several hilarious bits. My favorite moment occurs on the roof when Lucy and Ethel are trying to cut the wires and they are surprised by the dumb cop who’d been trailing them. “I think it’s the medium-sized one.” Lucy’s scream is priceless.
10) Episode 66: “Never Do Business With Friends” (Aired: 06/29/53 | Filmed: 05/29/53)
A tug-of-war ensues when the Ricardos sell their washing machine to the Mertzes: it breaks down (of course) and the Ricardos won’t take it back after buying a new one. Ricky’s wise father was right: never do business with friends.
Another classic in the Ricardo v. Mertz stories. This is the only time that we see the Mertzes’ kitchen. Not only is that scene great, with the water shooting out of the defective machine, but the ending with the gang on the walkway will floor you.
Because this season features so many dynamite scripts, I’m going to list seven other episodes that didn’t make the cut, but are worth checking out: “The Handcuffs”, “Redecorating”, “Lucy’s Showbiz Swan Song”, “Lucy Goes To The Hospital”, “Lucy Changes Her Mind”, “No Children Allowed”, and “The Indian Show.”
32 episodes were produced for this season. Five of those were shot at the tail-end of production on Season One. Another episode, “Ricky’s Life Story” was pre-empted and aired at the beginning of Season Three. To accommodate Lucy’s pregnancy, Desi decided to re-air several first season shows. After all, the number of TV owners grew each year. Each rerun began with a NEW scene where the cast would reminisce about something that happened in the past. These scenes are very special and a number of them were included on the DVD release. Fascinating to think that it was Desi Arnaz who invented the rerun!
Come back next Tuesday for the ten best episodes from Season Three! And check back tomorrow for my Wildcard Wednesday post!