Welcome to another Sitcom Tuesday! We’re continuing with my favorite episodes of I Love Lucy. Today it’s the ten best from Season Four. 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 Four is probably I Love Lucy‘s strongest season. That’s quite an accomplishment given the consistent strength of this series. These 30 episodes are some of the funniest half hours ever shown on television. I feel comfortable enough to go out on a limb and say this is one of the funniest sitcom seasons of all time. Given the strength of the material, this was a difficult season to blog about. 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 Four. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
1) Episode 104: “Ricky’s Screen Test” (Aired: 11/15/54 | Filmed: 09/23/54)
After learning that she is to act opposite Ricky in his screen test, Lucy is determined to use the opportunity to get herself discovered.
This funny episode builds to a screamingly hilarious scene where Lucy tries to upstage Ricky in his own screen test. The highlight of the episode and my favorite line is when Ricky straps Lucy to the seat and she grits her teeth and utters her line: “Oh, that I could cut these ties that bind me!”
2) Episode 106: “Ethel’s Birthday” (Aired: 11/29/54 | Filmed: 10/07/54)
Fred asks Lucy to pick out a birthday gift for Ethel on his behalf. When Ethel opens the present early and detests it, Lucy and Ethel enter into their biggest feud yet.
A fan favorite, this classic episode features sharp dialogue and one of my favorite scenes ever — when Ethel opens Fred’s present and sees the atrocious hostess pants that Lucy has secretly picked out. This is a great introduction to the series because it showcases the amazing chemistry of Ball and Vance.
3) Episode 108: “Getting Ready” (Aired: 12/13/54 | Filmed: 10/21/54)
After deciding that they will travel by car to California, Lucy insists that the Mertzes join them. Now the only obstacle is getting an affordable vehicle – but Fred’s choice leaves much to be desired.
This is a very funny episode with some great bits. First Lucy and Ricky have to decide their mode of transportation to California. Then there’s an argument about the Mertzes coming along and whether or not they’ll pay for half the gas. But the best part? When the antique clunker that Fred has bought breaks down in front of the apartment building.
4) Episode 111: “First Stop” (Aired: 01/17/55 | Filmed: 11/11/54)
Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred are anything but happy as they end the first day of their drive in a rundown cafe outside Cincinnati. And if they think the food is bad, just wait until they see the room they all must share.
Another classic that features a hilarious scene with the Ricardos and Mertzes sharing a tiny shack that vibrates uncontrollably every time a train comes by. Again, great dialogue, great physical bits. Great episode.
5) Episode 113: “Ethel’s Home Town” (Aired: 01/31/55 | Filmed: 11/25/54)
Upon arriving in Ethel’s hometown, Lucy, Ricky, and Fred are shocked to learn that Ethel has told her family that she’s the one going to Hollywood to star in a movie.
This is one of my personal favorites as Ethel Mae Potter gets a chance to shine. Watching Ethel act high-and-mighty is a treat, but it’s even better to see Lucy, Ricky, and Fred get their revenge when they upstage Ethel Mae in her one-woman show. My favorite moment occurs after Ethel’s father tells Lucy and Ricky that Ethel Mae’s big in Albuquerque; Fred responds: “She’s big everywhere.”
6) Episode 114: “L.A. At Last!” (Aired: 02/07/55 | Filmed: 12/02/54)
After arriving in Hollywood, Lucy takes the Mertzes to the Brown Derby to hunt movie stars. Unfortunately, that means disaster for movie star William Holden, who’s sitting in the next booth.
This has consistently been voted as one of the best episodes of all time. In addition to being one of Lucy’s favorites, Jack Benny reportedly had a copy that he showed to his writers as an example of good writing. And love that quick cameo by Eve Arden, another Desilu star of Our Miss Brooks. A wonderful episode, deserving of it’s reputation.
7) Episode 116: “Lucy Gets In Pictures” (Aired: 02/21/55 | Filmed: 12/16/54)
Lucy manages to receive a bit role in an upcoming movie. But her scene — a death scene — is hampered by an uncooperative headdress.
This episode has a tremendous physical bit as Lucy, finally earning a bit role in a film, plays a nightclub singer who gets shot while wearing a headdress and descending down a giant staircase. Unfortunately the weight of the headdress makes this a struggle.
8) Episode 122: “The Star Upstairs” (Aired: 04/18/55 | Filmed: 03/03/55)
Lucy poses as a bellboy to gain entrance to movie star Cornel Wilde’s hotel room. But she accidentally gets trapped on the balcony and has no way to get down.
This episode has truly one of my favorite sitcom moments EVER when Ethel tries to distract Ricky from noticing that Lucy is dangling outside the window. Vivian Vance’s finest moment.
9) Episode 126: “Ricky Needs An Agent” (Aired: 05/16/55 | Filmed: 04/07/55)
Lucy pretends to be Ricky’s agent in an attempt to bluff a studio executive into signing Ricky for another movie. But things go awry when the executive releases Ricky from his contract.
Typical Lucy story. My favorite part of this episode is Desi. His fit when he begins breaking everything in the hotel room is a comic tour de force. But the best line occurs after Ricky’s left the room and Lucy is lying on the ground trying to pick up broken lamp pieces from under the sofa. The Mertzes rush in to see Lucy’s body on the ground, and Ethel shouts, “He killed her and tried to hide her body under the couch!” A sometimes neglected episode, this is a great episode from start to finish.
10) Episode 127: “The Tour” (Aired: 05/30/55 | Filmed: 04/14/55)
Ricky refuses to let Lucy tag along on his lunch with movie star Richard Widmark. Lucy and Ethel decide to take a bus tour of movie stars’ homes instead. But when Lucy passes by Widmark’s house, she is determined to retrieve a souvenir for herself.
The bit on the bus is hilarious and probably the strongest part of the episode. But there are plenty of laughs later on when Lucy gets stuck in Widmark’s house too. The best bit occurs when Fred and Ethel try to rescue Lucy by pretending to be doctors from the mental institution.
This is such a phenomenal season that I feel I must share three honorable mentions: “Lucy Cries Wolf”, “Lucy Learns To Drive”, “California, Here We Come”, and “Harpo Marx.” From New York, to Ohio, to Tennessee, to New Mexico, and then finally to California, this action packed season is filled with classics and forgotten classics — a true sitcom lovers delight.
Come back next Tuesday for the ten best episodes from Season Five! And check back tomorrow for my Wildcard Wednesday post!
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Funny to me that you list “Lucy Cries Wolf”. I find it to be one of the show’s most dubious entries — especially this far into the run.
Hi, TV Talking Heads! Thanks for reading and commenting.
I think “Lucy Cries Wolf” is inherently difficult to like because it plays up Lucy Ricardo’s established flaws in a way that feels extreme and disconnection-worthy. However, I don’t find anything she does actually unmotivated (these exploited traits have existed throughout the prior 99 episodes), and I’m therefore able to enjoy the expectedly comedic (and narratively tight) teleplay for the truthful, funny responses it provides to the rest of the principal players.
But stay tuned for a few more years when this blog comes to a close; I began here in 2013 with I LOVE LUCY and, as promised, I intend to circle back and cover the series once again — with more detail and an updated list (likely with some changes — I’ll probably choose 13 favorites per year!) that reflects my personal growth as both an author and a TV lover. I hope you’ll check back then!
It’s a flawed motivation for me. I never tire of her trying to get into show business because that’s the crux of the show. But jealousy or, in this case, trying to prove how much a man who has already more than proved how he loves you actually loves you rings false to me.
Lucy’s needy possessiveness may not be a flattering trait… but it’s been a part of her characterization since the first broadcast episode, when she dressed up as “Euncie” to keep Ricky from having a date with another woman. This idea was even reinforced in the following installment when she tried several tactics to connect with Ricky after fearing that he’d already lost interest in her. The list just goes on and on from there, so this motif is not unique to “Lucy Cries Wolf,” and I buy her behavior here because I’ve seen it before.
This had to be a tough season to not be able to include “The Fashion Show”.
Indeed, I think Season Four is the show’s comedic apex and the best representation of ALL its unique charms.