Welcome to another Sitcom Tuesday! We’re continuing with my favorite episodes of I Love Lucy. Today it’s the ten best from Season Three. 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.
Season Three is an excellent season. One word to describe these 31 episodes is consistent. This is perhaps the most consistent season of the fairly consistent series. Interestingly, if you ask most Lucy fans what their favorite episode is, chances are you’ll get an episode from any other season but this one. I suppose the strength of the season clouds the episodes from standing out. To use a metaphor, it’s difficult to find diamonds in Season Three when every episode appears to be a gem of some sort. However, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.
*All episodes this season were directed by William Asher and written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, & Bob Carroll Jr.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Three. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
1) Episode 69: “Lucy And Ethel Buy The Same Dress” (Aired: 10/19/53 | Filmed: 09/17/53)
Lucy and Ethel unknowingly buy identical gowns for their appearance on a televised revue for their women’s club. They both agree to return them to the store and buy different ones, but during their performance, each is wearing the original gown.
This episode automatically gets points for featuring an extremely fun rendition of Cole Porter’s “Friendship”, which Lucy sang in the movie version of Du Barry Was A Lady. But the solid script makes this episode a real joy to watch. Like a normal Lucy episode — loads of laughs!
2) Episode 72: “Lucy Tells The Truth” (Aired: 11/09/53 | Filmed: 10/08/53)
When Ricky and the Mertzes wager that Lucy can’t go a full day without telling a lie, her husband and friends feel more than a bit stung by her unabashed honesty. But Ricky has a plan…
The funniest scene in this episode takes place in the first act. Lucy and Ethel go to Carolyn’s to play bridge with her and Marion Strong. Lucy gets brutally honest and tells each girl what she thinks of her! It’s wonderfully written and performed. The original ending featured Ricky being audited and Lucy’s honesty biting him in the butt, but Desi forced the writers to come up with a new ending, which, although well-liked by fans, I find to be average. But because of the strong first act and a half, this one is a classic.
3) Episode 74: “Redecorating The Mertzes’ Apartment” (Aired: 11/23/53 | Filmed: 10/22/53)
When Ethel is too ashamed to have the club meeting in her apartment, Lucy decides that she and Ricky are going to redecorate the Mertzes’ place by painting the walls and reupholstering the furniture.
This episode is non-stop laughs. The bit where Lucy hacks open Fred’s chair never fails to crack me up. Honestly though: feathers, fresh paint, and an electric fan… one of Lucy’s worst ideas ever! Again, a really strong script with great performances. (I can say that for 98.5% of these episodes.)
4) Episode 75: “Too Many Crooks” (Aired: 11/30/53 | Filmed: 10/29/53)
Madame X, a mysterious female burglar, has been prowling the neighborhood nightly, and both Lucy and Ethel think the other is the crook in question.
This episode is a winner because of Vivian Vance. She is hysterical (as usual) as she desperately tries to get Lucy’s fingerprints. My favorite moment is the awkward conversation where Lucy and Ethel refuse to leave their fingerprints on anything in the apartment. Interestingly, the script originally featured Madame X getting away, but Desi decided a happier ending would fit better.
5) Episode 79: “The Million Dollar Idea” (Aired: 01/11/54 | Filmed: 11/26/53)
Lucy and Ethel go into business making salad dressing. Their advertising on a local TV show looks like a success, but when Ricky finds that they’re losing money on each jar, the girls have to find a way to get their customers to cancel their orders.
A parody of daytime commercials, both TV spots are hilarious. Lucy shines at first as the silly housewife who loves the salad dressing, but she slays later as the tramp who detests the product and urges buyers to, “Cancel! Cancel!” The girls work so well together, and never is that more evident than in this episode.
6) Episode 81: “Charm School” (Aired: 01/25/54 | Filmed: 12/10/53)
Lucy and Ethel are upset that Ricky and Fred don’t seem interested in them. After seeing how they react to a friend’s beautiful and poised date, they enroll in charm school.
This episode features Natalie Schafer, who later went on to play Mrs. Howell in Gilligan’s Island. The script builds and builds, but the funniest moment, one of the series’s best sight gags, is Ethel’s reveal in the tight leopard print dress.
7) Episode 86: “Home Movies” (Aired: 03/01/54 | Filmed: 01/28/54)
When an advertiser agrees to make a pilot for a potential music TV show starring Ricky only, Lucy, Ethel, and Fred make a movie of their own – a Western.
Of course the funniest part of this episode is the film that Ricky shows to the producer, which unbeknownst to him, Lucy has edited to contain, not only Ricky’s singing, but the home movies of Little Ricky, and the Western that Lucy and the Mertzes shot as well. Ricky’s absolute horror is hilarious. And Fred’s, “I got wind of it!” can make me laugh on command.
8) Episode 87: “Bonus Bucks” (Aired: 03/08/54 | Filmed: 02/04/54)
Lucy and Ethel both lay claim to a dollar bill that is worth $300. But a bigger problem soon emerges: how to get the dollar bill back from the dry cleaning.
This is a script that moves like a train — it never stops. It’s a typical sitcom plot, actually. The Ricardos and Mertzes must obtain something that was taken by mistake. Often it might be a stamp or a letter or a check, in this case it’s a “Bonus Buck”, a dollar bill that is worth $300. This story is expertly handled here and the episode is a fan favorite.
9) Episode 89: “Lucy Is Envious” (Aired: 03/29/54 | Filmed: 02/16/54)
Lucy and Ethel put on airs to impress Lucy’s old college chum and are tricked into donating $500 each to her charity. To get the money, the girls wind up on the Empire State Building playing women from Mars in a publicity stunt that shocks the country.
Jess Oppenheimer, the creator of I Love Lucy, said that this was his least favorite episode because he felt Lucy and Ethel’s choice to dress as Martians on top of the Empire State Building wasn’t motivated. I disagree; the series has consistently shown Lucy as a schemer, and when Lucy is desperate, she’ll do whatever it takes. The Martian bit, which occurs about 2/3 into the episode, is a riot. It might be my favorite scene from the third season.
10) Episode 92: “The Diner” (Aired: 04/26/54 | Filmed: 03/18/54)
The Ricardos and Mertzes decide to go into business together and open a diner. But after a feud, the couples split the counter in half. Lucy and Ricky run “A Little Bit of Cuba” and Ethel and Fred operate “A Big Hunk of America.”
“A Big Hunk of America.” The title alone is hilarious. This episode ends in a pie fight. This is a classic routine, and fortunately this is the only time that Lucy does this bit — which makes it special. The best moment occurs when both couples vie for the business of a drunk customer. When the Mertzes slash their hamburgers to one cent, Lucy and Ricky give the man a dollar and tell him to ask for a hundred hamburgers!
Come back next Tuesday for the ten best episodes from Season Four! And check back tomorrow for my Wildcard Wednesday post!