Welcome to another Sitcom Tuesday! We’re finishing up with my favorite episodes of I Love Lucy. Today it’s the ten best from Season Six, the final 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. With KEITH THIBODEAUX as Little Ricky.
Compared to previous weeks, this was a much easier list to make. The standout episodes from Season Six tend to shine a bit brighter than the other episodes in the season. Some fans consider this season to be the weakest, and I have to agree that the first half produced fewer great episodes than a typical I Love Lucy season. However, the show was tremendously funny in the second half of the year, when the Ricardos and Mertzes moved to the country. I’m one of those fans who, for the most part, adored these episodes and thought the move infused the show with new energy and fresher stories. Some of these country episodes are my absolute favorites of the entire series, so despite a weak beginning and a lackluster finale, this is a VERY enjoyable season. After all, I Love Lucy was one of the few shows to go out as #1 in the ratings. And this list will show you why. 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.
*The first 13 episodes this season were directed by James V. Kern, and the second 13 episodes were directed by William Asher. All episodes were written by Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr., Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Six. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
1) Episode 159: “Off To Florida” (Aired: 11/12/56 | Filmed: 09/13/56)
After losing their train tickets, Lucy and Ethel hitchhike to Florida with a woman who they soon believe is a hatchet murderer.
This episode, though featuring minimal Ricky and Fred, is one of the series’ funniest. Elsa Lanchester plays a woman whom the girls hitchhike with to Florida. But a radio report leads them to believe that she is an escaped hatchet murderess. Similarly, she believes Lucy is the hatchet murderess. Lucy and Ethel trying to change a tire is a riot, but the scene in the coffee shop is priceless. Very enjoyable episode.
2) Episode 164: “Lucy And The Loving Cup” (Aired: 01/07/57 | Filmed: 11/01/56)
Lucy gets a giant trophy stuck on her head on the night Ricky is supposed to present it to jockey Johnny Longden.
Silly idea, but fairly well-executed. The best part of the episode is Lucy on the subway. The nonchalant way she pretends to read the paper while having the trophy on her head is hysterical and the bit where she accidentally insults the cop to his face is a crack-up. Though the last scene lets down the episode a bit, this is one of the first half of the season’s best.
3) Episode 166: “Lucy And Superman” (Aired: 01/21/57 | Filmed: 11/15/56)
Lucy and Carolyn Appleby plan to throw their sons’ birthday parties on the same day, so Lucy one ups her by promising that Little Ricky’s party will have Superman George Reeves.
Yes, another special guest star episode! (This would become the M.O for her later series, but it’s not overdone here.) Everyone remembers the bit with Lucy on the ledge and Superman coming to save her. That’s great. But my favorite stuff is the rivalry between Lucy and Carolyn Appleby, which is resumed after an almost two-year absence. Love the cattiness between the ladies. Another funny episode.
4) Episode 167: “Lucy Wants To Move To The Country” (Aired: 01/28/57 | Filmed: 12/06/56)
Lucy wants to move to the country and Ricky puts down a deposit on a house. But when Lucy changes her mind, she and the Mertzes try to get the money back.
Asher resumed directorial duties with this episode, the one that launches the Ricardos’ move to the country. While the idea of Lucy and Ricky leaving Fred and Ethel is sad (even though the Mertzes will move with them in Episode 171), the final scene where Lucy, Ethel, and Fred pretend to be gangsters to get Ricky’s deposit back is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series.
5) Episode 172: “Lucy Does The Tango” (Aired: 03/11/57 | Filmed: 02/07/57)
Ricky and Fred are fighting about the chickens’ inability to produce eggs, so Lucy and Ethel decide to buy eggs and put them under the chickens. But things are soon complicated…
This is considered one of the series’ classic episodes. Lucy hides a bunch of eggs in her blouse when Ricky surprises her by demanding that they practice their tango for the PTA show. Naturally, the end of the dance leads to one of television’s longest laughs of all time. This scene, the best in the episode, occurs in the middle of the show. The second half never lives up to the first, but it still manages to be quite funny — all those damn chicken thieves!
6) Episode 174: “Lucy’s Night In Town” (Aired: 03/25/57 | Filmed: 02/21/57)
The Ricardos and the Mertzes go into town for dinner and a show, but Lucy realizes the tickets she bought were for the matinee.
Not only do we get to hear songs from the Desilu-backed musical The Most Happy Fella, but this is a vintage Lucy episode where the plot builds and builds and builds. First Lucy realizes the tickets are for the wrong time and tries to stall, then there are only two available seats left, then they must decide who gets to go in when, then more mayhem ensues with mixed-up purses and sardine-style seating. An example of the show at its consistent best.
7) Episode 175: “Housewarming” (Aired: 04/01/57 | Filmed: 02/28/57)
Lucy feels left out when Ethel and Betty Ramsey become good friends, until she gets the impression that they are secretly planning her a surprise party. Or are they?
Another episode where the first half is better than the second. There are some great one-liners, especially by Ethel, who DOMINATES this episode. The scene with Lucy, Betty, and Ethel is a laugh-a-minute, and the best of the episode. The second half, with Lucy anticipating a surprise party that never happens, is more sad than funny. Though the ending is sweet, I would have preferred a funnier conclusion. Still though, a well-written episode with many fabulous moments and wonderful performances.
8) Episode 176: “Building A Bar-B-Q” (Aired: 04/08/57 | Filmed: 03/14/57)
Lucy loses her wedding ring while building an outdoor barbecue. The girls must deconstruct and reconstruct the barbecue before Ricky finds out.
A typical, wonderful Lucy story that returns the show to some of its physical roots. A well-crafted episode with great performances and great dialogue. Ethel is a hoot when Lucy drags her out to take apart the barbecue and search for her ring. But everything about this episode is tops. (A favorite exchange, upon seeing the mess that Lucy and Ethel made when they put the barbecue back together – Fred: “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” Ricky: “Never mind about your relatives!!”) Hilarious.
9) Episode 177: “Country Club Dance” (Aired: 04/22/57 | Filmed: 03/21/57)
The Munsons’ hot cousin charms the husbands, but not the wives, who are determined to get their men more interested in them.
A lot of people consider this a reworking of Season Three’s “Charm School”, but I’m here to tell you that though both episodes concern the wives attempting to be more attractive for their husbands, the episodes are very different. Barbara Eden is great as the hot blonde cousin, and the entire cast, with Ralph and Betty Ramsey thrown in for good measure, is uniformly great. A very funny episode that would have made a much stronger series finale than the one we got.
10) Episode 178: “Lucy Raises Tulips” (Aired: 04/29/57 | Filmed: 03/28/57)
Lucy and Betty Ramsey are raising tulips for a flower competition, but Lucy accidentally destroys Betty’s garden with her new lawn mower. So she decides to replace the tulips with waxed ones.
This is the second-to-last episode, and as far as I’m concerned, this is one of the funniest episodes of the ENTIRE SERIES. Betty Ramsey’s presence gives Lucy and Ethel more things to play, and I wish we’d gotten to see more of that before the series ended. With some great physical gags, a fabulous story, and Ricky as the schemer who mows over Lucy’s tulips and also replaces them with waxed ones, this episode is a neglected classic. One of the series’ best and a personal favorite of mine.
Though the first half of the season was subpar for Lucy (but great when compared to other shows), and the finale was unusually average, this is a great season with so many hilarious episodes and moments. I wish we got another year of country episodes, but that wasn’t to be. Fortunately, this wasn’t the end of the Ricardos and the Mertzes. They returned in an hour-long series called The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show. This was later called The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in syndication. But we’ll talk more about that next week!
Come back next Tuesday for the five best episodes of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. And tune in tomorrow for another Wildcard Wednesday post!