Welcome to another Sitcom Tuesday! We’re continuing with my favorite episodes of I Love Lucy. Today it’s the ten best from Season Five. 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.
I say this every week, but this was another challenging bunch of episodes to pick. This time for a different reason; only seven episodes jumped out at me as being ALL TIME GREATS. Then there were about six others that I considered very good and possibly worthy of inclusion. But I had to narrow those six down to three. I did so, but as a result, this list may feature more surprises than usual. (I’ll list the three runners-up at the end.) Though this is not my favorite season, it still is I Love Lucy and every episode has its merits. 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, as I said, there might be a few surprises.
*All episodes this season were directed by James V. Kern and written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr., Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Five. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
1) Episode 129: “Lucy And John Wayne” (Aired: 10/10/55 | Filmed: 09/15/55)
Lucy may be arrested for stealing John Wayne’s cement footprints from outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre unless she returns them intact. But since the block has shattered, she’s faced with the task of duplicating the original.
John Wayne was probably the biggest guest star Lucy ever got on any of her shows until Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor appeared on a 1970 episode of Here’s Lucy. This episode continues the story begun in the previous episode, but features an overall stronger script. The story is a hoot and Wayne does well. For interested new fans, I would watch the previous episode first.
2) Episode 131: “Ricky Sells The Car” (Aired: 10/24/55 | Filmed: 09/29/55)
Ricky sells the car and purchases three train tickets– for himself, Lucy, and Little Ricky. But since he forgot to buy tickets for the Mertzes, their friendship is jeopardized. How are the Mertzes going to get home? Well, Fred decides to buy a motorcycle…
I’m including this episode primarily because it’s SO OVERLOOKED. This funny episode features three standout moments: the site of Fred and Ethel on their motorcycle, Ethel’s annoyance at finding Lucy massaging her husband’s neck, and Ethel’s fabulous line to Lucy about Fred: “Common sense has nothing to do with it; when I say he’s wrong, HE’S WRONG!” Despite an opening scene that goes nowhere and seems oddly out of place, this one makes my list simply because it deserves reexamination.
3) Episode 132: “The Great Train Robbery” (Aired: 10/31/55 | Filmed: 10/06/55)
Lucy is determined to catch a jewel thief who is rumored to be aboard the train. But her habit of pulling the emergency brake soon has both passengers and crew annoyed with her.
This wonderful episode features regular guest actor Frank Nelson as the exasperated conductor. Lucy pulling the emergency brake is, naturally, a riot, but the episode is packed with many great bits. My favorite is Lucy and the man who she thinks is the cop (but is really the jewel thief), who tells her to act sexy to distract the man with the gun (who she thinks is the jewel thief, but is really the cop). Her look is priceless. Great episode.
4) Episode 137: “Ricky’s European Booking” (Aired: 12/12/55 | Filmed: 11/10/55)
Ricky and Fred are going on a European tour with Ricky’s band, but they can’t afford to take Lucy and Ethel unless the wives come up with the money themselves. Lucy and Ethel decide to collect their fare by holding a raffle in aid of a bogus charity.
This episode begins the European arc, and while I wish the show didn’t rush off on another trip after only being in New York for four episodes, this episode is great. Lucy and Ethel create a bogus charity – “The Ladies Overseas Aid” – to get people to buy tickets for a TV they’re raffling off. But when the leader of the REAL Ladies Overseas Aid appears, Lucy and Ethel have to give away the money. Ethel’s reluctance is great: “Is she going with us?”
5) Episode 139: “Staten Island Ferry” (Aired: 01/02/56 | Filmed: 11/24/55)
To overcome Fred’s seasickness, Lucy and Fred decide to spend the day riding the Staten Island Ferry. But the seasick pills make them both groggy. Will they make it to the passport verification office in time?
I love when Lucy and Fred get to work together. This episode gives them the most they’ll ever have to do together, and it’s great. Lucy does her groggy bit and it comes to a hilarious crescendo in the passport verification office. And Charles Lane is great as the crotchety official. A highlight of the season.
6) Episode 140: “Bon Voyage” (Aired: 01/16/56 | Filmed: 12/01/55)
When Lucy misses the boat to Europe, she does everything in her power to get back onboard– including being lowered on by helicopter.
To be honest, this episode is often considered a classic and it should be – the premise is very unique and highly entertaining. However, I can’t say it’s one of my personal favorites. Lucy is sequestered away from Ricky and the Mertzes for most of the episode, and she doesn’t get the chance to interact with them, which I think is a detriment to the comedy. But because the story is great, it firmly deserves it’s place in these top ten.
7) Episode 145: “Paris At Last” (Aired: 02/27/56 | Filmed: 01/12/56)
In Paris, Lucy unknowingly buys a painting from a con artist and later finds herself arrested for passing counterfeit money. Of course, that’s after trying escargot for the first time.
This is another episode that is often considered a classic. Similarly, this has never been one of my absolute favorites, and I couldn’t really tell you why. The story is good, the show is very funny, and there a couple of great bits. Fondly recalled by many is the bit in the police station where Lucy tries to communicate with the cop – by way of multiple translators.
8) Episode 147: “Lucy Gets A Paris Gown” (Aired: 03/19/56 | Filmed: 02/16/56)
Lucy pretends to go on a hunger strike until Ricky agrees to buy her a fancy designer gown. When Ricky learns that the hunger strike was a charade, he and Fred hatch a plan to teach their wives a lesson.
I think this is the best episode set in Europe (aside from the following one). The episode is uniformly funny, and it’s FANTASTIC to see Ricky and Fred get revenge on their wives for faking Lucy’s hunger strike. Ricky and Fred decide to box potato sacks and present them to their wives as the newest designer gowns. Lucy and Ethel eagerly put on their frocks and parade down the street. Hysterical.
9) Episode 150: “Lucy’s Italian Movie” (Aired: 04/16/56 | Filmed: 03/08/56)
When Lucy gets a small role in an Italian movie called “Bitter Grapes”, she seeks on-the-job experience by visiting an Italian winery, where she soon finds herself crushing grapes with an unenthused Italian woman.
This is one of the most well known episodes of all time and it’s a personal favorite. This is the “grape stomping” episode. I’m a fan of catfights and this episode gives us a dilly… Lucy and this big Italian woman (who doesn’t speak a word of English) get into a wrestling match in a vat of grapes. Just typing the words is hilarious. With a thoroughly unique premise, an engaging script, and dynamite performances, this is one of the series’s best.
10) Episode 153: “Return Home From Europe” (Aired: 05/14/56 | Filmed: 04/05/56)
On their flight home from Europe, Lucy tries avoid the fare for carrying on a 25 lb. cheese by passing it off as her baby. But when she learns that babies do not fly for free, she and Ethel must dispose of the cheese.
Here’s another one of the series’s best episodes. It is perhaps the laugh-out-loud FUNNIEST episode ever produced. Lucy wraps a 25 lb. cheese in a blanket and pretends it’s her baby. The nosy passenger next to her (played by future Lucy regular, Mary Jane Croft) provides necessary conflict as Lucy must continue to keep up the charade. (Croft asks, “What’s his name?” Lucy: “Cheddar. Err… Chester!”) But then Lucy must get rid of the cheese when she learns that it costs more to have a baby than to have a cheese.
The other episodes that I considered were “Lucy In The Swiss Alps”, “Lucy’s Bicycle Trip”, and “Lucy Goes To Monte Carlo.” All three are set in Europe and were produced near the end of the season. They are all very good and worthy of viewing. (As is the entire I Love Lucy series!)
Come back next Tuesday for the ten best episodes from Season Six, the last year of the half-hour episodes! And check back tomorrow for my Wildcard Wednesday post!