Welcome to another Sitcom Tuesday! Today we’re starting our series on the best episodes of The Lucy Show. This was Lucille Ball’s third situation comedy. (I’m counting The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour as a separate series, even though it was essentially a reformatted continuation of I Love Lucy.) Every single episode is available on DVD.
Lucy Carmichael, a widow with two children, lives with her divorced best friend, Vivian Bagley, and her son. Lucy’s schemes lead the two friends into various predicaments — all with comic complications.
The Lucy Show stars LUCILLE BALL as Lucy Carmichael, VIVIAN VANCE as Vivian Bagley, JIMMY GARRET as Jerry Carmichael, CANDY MOORE as Chris Carmichael, RALPH HART as Sherman Bagley, and DICK MARTIN as Harry Conners.
After a two year absence in which she got divorced, starred in a Broadway musical, remarried, and filmed two movies with Bob Hope, Lucille Ball returned to television with The Lucy Show, a sitcom designed to last a single season and generate revenue for Desilu, which she was still running with her ex, Desi Arnaz. (In fact, Arnaz served as executive producer for the first 15 of Season One’s 30 episodes.) Lucy brought back four of the five writers who worked on I Love Lucy and coaxed the also remarried Vivian Vance out from Connecticut to star as her cohort. Though it was decided to make Lucy a widow, Viv was the first regular divorced character on American television. Up to their old hijinks again, Lucy and Vivian truly made some more magic in this first season — the only full post-Ricardo season which I can honestly say hits highs with the same frequency as I Love Lucy. In fact, several of Ball’s best television moments come from this collection of episodes. 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.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season One. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) Note that each episode this year was written by Madelyn Martin, Bob Carroll Jr., Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf. Each episode this year was directed by Jack Donohue.
01) Episode 7: “Lucy Is A Kangaroo For A Day” (Aired: 11/12/62 | Filmed: 08/30/62)
Lucy takes a secretarial job to buy Jerry a bicycle for his birthday.
This episode is most appealing because it takes a simple and motivated premise into unexpected territory — providing Lucy with SEVERAL bits of excellent physical comedy. In addition to the trauma of the typewriter, Lucy’s bout with the water machine is hilarious. And while the final bit is so crazy with Lucy showing up to the restaurant in a kangaroo suit, it at least makes some sense, and Ball sells it incredibly well.
02) Episode 9: “Lucy Puts Up A TV Antenna” (Aired: 11/26/62 | Filmed: 09/20/62)
Lucy and Viv decide to put up their own TV antenna.
This is one of both Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance’s best television moments. The scenes on the roof are unbelievably hilarious — incredibly brilliant. My absolute favorite bit occurs when Lucy gets stuck in the chimney and Vivian tries to use the ladder to teeter-totter her out. Vivian sits on her end of the ladder and it breaks in half! I’m laughing just thinking about it.
03) Episode 11: “Lucy Builds A Rumpus Room” (Aired: 12/10/62 | Filmed: 09/27/62)
Lucy and Viv both promise their dates a home-cooked meal, but neither is willing to share the kitchen.
I thought this was one of the strongest scripts from the first season. It arises from a very logical premise — both women have promised their dates a home cooked meal. What to do? Though that takes up most of the episode, the story lives up to its title when they follow neighbor Harry’s suggestion to build a rumpus room. Another great bit of physical comedy occurs when the ladies glue themselves to the walls just as the coal man makes his delivery.
04) Episode 12: “Lucy And Her Electric Mattress” (Aired: 12/17/62 | Filmed: 11/08/62)
Lucy buys Vivian an electric mattress for a surprise.
This episode, again, gives Lucy SEVERAL bits of physical comedy to do. Everyone recalls the part where Lucy walks on stilts to get to the top of the bunk bed, but my favorite scene is actually Lucy on the crazy vibrating bed. The moment where she uses the mop to try a row herself back to the cord so she can unplug it is hilarious. Vivian also shines in the bunk bed scene with Lucy.
05) Episode 13: “Together For Christmas” (Aired: 12/24/62 | Filmed: 10/18/62)
‘Tis a season full of folly when Lucy and Viv decide to spend Christmas together.
I’m not a sucker for holiday shows because I never prefer sentimentality over comedy. Fortunately this episode has plenty of comedy and a surprisingly fresh story. Lucy and Viv decide to stay in Danfield this year and spend Christmas together — but they soon learn that they have VERY different traditions. The scene with the dual Christmas trees is SO reminiscent of “Lucy And Ethel Buy The Same Dress,” and fortunately the build-up is just as motivated.
06) Episode 15: “Lucy’s Sister Pays A Visit” (Aired: 01/07/63 | Filmed: 10/26/62)
Lucy tries to patch up a squabble between her sister and brother-in-law so she can plan a “real” wedding.
Lucy does her drunk bit for the third time on one of her primetime series, but this time — Vivian gets to join in on the action as the two disastrously try to ice the wedding cake. It never quite reaches the level of “Lucy Does A TV Commercial,” but it definitely is on par, if not better, than the scene with Ann Sothern in the Cuban jail in “Lucy Takes A Cruise To Havana.” Incidentally, this episode was produced the week of the Cuban missile crisis!
07) Episode 16: “Lucy And Viv Are Volunteer Firemen” (Aired: 01/14/63 | Filmed: 11/29/62)
Lucy organizes an all-female volunteer fire brigade.
This is a very talky episode — never a bad thing in my book, especially if it’s funny. Fortunately, it is funny, and there are several physical bits to supplement the action. The first has Lucy regular Carole Cook coming down the fire pole with a look of hysterical fear. The second — and the best part of the episode — occurs at the end with all the girls in the firetruck going to save Grandma Sutton’s cat.
08) Episode 18: “Lucy And Viv Put In A Shower” (Aired: 01/28/63 | Filmed: 12/13/62)
Lucy and Viv try to install a shower after Lucy insults the plumber.
This is one of those episodes that, if you haven’t seen it, but are a Lucy fan, you’ve probably heard about. Like “TV Antenna,” this episode gives Lucy and Viv a big block of “home repair” style physical comedy. In later years, Lucy liked to tell the story of how Vivian saved her from drowning during the filming of this episode. Production notes aside, it is one of the series’ strongest and funniest installments.
09) Episode 20: “Lucy And Viv Become Tycoons” (Aired: 02/11/63 | Filmed: 01/10/63)
Lucy, Viv, and Viv’s boyfriend, Eddie, decide to market Viv’s special caramel corn.
This episode features a story that keeps trucking along. Lucy and Viv go into business selling Viv’s caramel corn. (Remind anyone of “Aunt Martha’s Old-Fashioned Salad Dressing”?) The last scene is the funniest with the cop coming by to see if they’ve been violating the zoning laws by conducting business out of the home. Lucy sitting on the popcorn machine while it was popping is just classically funny. It’s a solid entry.
10) Episode 30: “Lucy Buys A Boat” (Aired: 04/29/63 | Filmed: 03/28/63)
Lucy and Viv’s new boat makes up in leaks what it lacks in sails.
This is another, along with “TV Antenna” and “Shower,” that really should deserve to be classified among the ladies’ best sitcom work. Though the entire episode is funny from start to finish with several excellent beats, the script builds to the scene with Lucy and Viv trapped on the boat — arguably the funniest of the episode. Great, great, great physical comedy.
Several shows that deserve honorable mention from Season One include: “Lucy Digs Up A Date,” which finds Lucy and Viv hard-up for dates to an upcoming dance, “Lucy, The Music Lover,” which continues the Lucy is “man-hungry” theme, “Chris’s New Years Eve Party,” which has Lucy doing a Chaplin impersonation, “No More Double Dates,” which features a solid script but little chemistry between the girls and the boys, “Lucy And Viv Learn Judo,” which gives Lucy and Viv some nice physical stuff, “Lucy Is A Soda Jerk,” which is solid, if not stellar, and “Lucy Is A Chaperone,” which is the most delightfully ’60s episode of the season.
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season One of The Lucy Show goes to…..
“Lucy Puts Up A TV Antenna”
Come back next week for the best from Season Two! And remember to tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!