The Ten Best THE LUCY SHOW Episodes of Season Two

Welcome to another Sitcom Tuesday! Today we’re continuing 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.

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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 to the chagrin of cantankerous banker Mr. Mooney.

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The Lucy Show stars LUCILLE BALL as Lucy Carmichael, VIVIAN VANCE as Vivian Bagley, GALE GORDON as Theodore J. Mooney, JIMMY GARRET as Jerry Carmichael, CANDY MOORE as Chris Carmichael, and  RALPH HART as Sherman Bagley.

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Season Two is an uneven year of firsts and lasts. It’s the first Lucy season shot in color, though the series wasn’t broadcast in color until Season Four. It’s also the first season to feature Gale Gordon as Lucy’s foil, Mr. Mooney. (Gordon had been a regular on Ball’s radio series My Favorite Husband and guest starred a few times on I Love Lucy.) He became a regular and would stay with Lucy until the end of Here’s Lucy in 1974, but the merit of his inclusion is still up for debate. Also, Season Two is the last season with Madelyn and the three Bobs on as the regular writing staff. As for the scripts, a handful of newbies were given the opportunity to write alongside longtime scribes Martin and Carroll, but the scripts are, in large part, very middling. However, Lucy is still given some very funny physical stuff to do — though it’s mostly in the first half of the year.  And while there are handfuls of both excellent and awful episodes, most of the season is average. My job was to decide which average episodes were able to honestly stand next to the few brilliant installments, making for a couple of tough decisions. But, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments as a whole. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.

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Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Two. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) Note that each episode this year was written by Madelyn Martin and Bob Carroll, Jr. They were assisted by various additional writers, whose names will be noted below. Martin and Carroll will henceforth be referred to as MM and BCJ. Each episode this year was directed by Jack Donohue.

 

01) Episode 32: “Kiddie Parties, Inc.” (Aired: 10/07/63 | Filmed: 06/06/63) 

Lucy and Viv hope to profit by throwing children’s parties. Disaster ensues.

Written by MM, BCJ, Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf

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I like the premise for this episode — Lucy and Viv throwing birthday parties for kids — because it opens up a lot of humorous possibilities. Fortunately, the writers do a fairly good job of infusing the script with a consistent amount of humor. Vivian shines in her bit with the balloons. Honestly, however, despite a few good gags, this is an enjoyable, but not brilliant episode.

02) Episode 34: “Lucy Gets Locked In The Vault” (Aired: 10/21/63 | Filmed: 05/16/63)

Lucy makes a deal in order to get a bank loan, but things don’t go as planned.

Written by MM, BCJ, and Bill O’Hallaren

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This is the first episode to introduce Mr. Mooney, and it’s important for viewers to see this one to understand exactly HOW and WHY he and Lucy Carmichael get off on the wrong foot. It makes Mooney’s character much more tolerable and relatable. The old bit of having two characters in conflict trapped together (freezer, locker, vault — you name it) usually provides plenty of laughs, and this one doesn’t disappoint.

03) Episode 35: “Lucy And The Safe Cracker” (Aired: 10/28/63 | Filmed: 05/23/63)

Lucy accidentally locks Mooney back in the bank vault and talks a reformed safecracker into trying to get him out.

Written by MM, BCJ, and Bill O’Hallaren

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This very funny episode continues from where the last one left off. Lucy and Viv on TV is a riot, and their bit in the candy store when the safecracker ties them up is hysterical. In fact, it’s one of the more memorable gags of the season. There’s a consistency to this script that elevates it above some of this season’s other entries — whose comedy relies on one single bit of unmotivated physical comedy. This one — A+.

04) Episode 41: “Lucy’s College Reunion” (Aired: 12/16/63 | Filmed: 10/03/63)

At a college reunion, Lucy and Viv steal the statue of the founder as a prank.

Written by MM, BCJ, and Tom Koch

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Lucy returns to her alma mater in this episode that has a lot of non-sappy heart. By that, I mean, there’s an honesty and a humanness about this installment that makes it incredibly appealing. There’s the typical Lucy physical shtick, but it’s well done and quite funny. It’s immensely enjoyable to see Lucy interacting with people from her past — it gives the Carmichael incarnation some much needed depth.

05) Episode 42: “The Loophole In The Lease” (Aired: 12/23/63 | Filmed: 09/12/63)

Lucy and Viv disagree as to who should pay to have the leaky ceiling fixed.

Written by MM, BCJ, Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf

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This is the best of The Lucy Show‘s Lucy vs. Viv episodes simply because it’s the funniest. When best friends feud on sitcoms, there’s generally some sort of contrivance, but this episode makes it palatable through humor. The scene with Lucy and Mooney outside Viv’s window is superb. Vivian cracks me up with the reveal that she’s been awake the whole time.

06) Episode 43: “Lucy Conducts The Symphony” (Aired: 12/30/63 | Filmed: 09/06/63)

Lucy turns hypnotist to cure a musician’s nervousness, but she ends up having to take his place in the concert.

Written by MM, BCJ, Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf

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The first half of the episode is pretty good, but the second half of the episode is brilliant. Lucy does a whole act, essentially in pantomime as she plays in and then conducts the symphony. It’s outstanding. One of Miss Ball’s greatest, and undiscussed television triumphs. It’s funny, it’s motivated, and it’s unbelievably well-rendered. Stellar work.

07) Episode 44: “Lucy Plays Florence Nightingale” (Aired: 01/06/64 | Filmed: 10/24/63)

Lucy tries her hand at nursing to get money out of the hospitalized Mooney.

Written by MM, BCJ, Fred S. Fox, and Iz Elinson

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Though there are a few misses, most of this episode is a hit. Lucy coming to Mooney for an advance on her allowance was old hat even before they introduced Mooney. (Remember Charles Lane’s character from last season?) The hospital setting with Lucy and Viv allows for some fresh gags and the pair works quite well here. In general, the scripts are becoming far less organic than I Love Lucy‘s, but at least they’re still producing some genuine laughs.

08) Episode 48: “Lucy Teaches Ethel Merman To Sing” (Aired: 02/03/64 | Filmed: 10/10/63)

Ethel Merman comes to town incognito and Lucy recruits her to impersonate the star for a Boy Scout show.

Written by MM, BCJ, Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf

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Before The Lucy Show became a guest star parade in Season Four, Ethel Merman had the distinction of being one of the few celebrities to appear with Lucy Carmichael in Danfield. The premise? Well, it’s not very original, BUT Merman’s theatrical roots give her such a knack for comedy that the episode really works. Ball and Merman have great chemistry and are obviously both reveling in the opportunity to work with one another. Remind me one day to post the clip I have of them talking about this episode on Merv Griffin. Fascinating. 

09) Episode 51: “Lucy Takes A Job At The Bank” (Aired: 02/24/64 | Filmed: 01/16/64)

Lucy gets a job at the bank and wrecks havoc on the system.

Written by MM and BCJ

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This episode appeals to me because although Lucy is annoying here, it’s really not ENTIRELY her fault for the disaster that occurs. In this case, it’s Audrey’s for not properly explaining to Thelma WHY she was withdrawing her money. The ensuing run-on-the-bank bit is enjoyable, and the dynamic duo (Lucy and Viv — not Batman and Robin) masquerading as crooks is delightfully theatrical. The trapdoor bit is an adequate gag, but it really pays off in the end.

10) Episode 58: “Lucy Enters A Baking Contest” (Aired: 04/27/64 | Filmed: 03/26/64)

Lucy gives baking champ Viv some competition. Will there be a pie fight?

Written by MM and BCJ

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The script that allegedly ended a professional relationship between Lucy and her writers is merely a cut above adequate. Everyone comes off so mean-spirited here that the threat of a pie-fight is the only way to lighten up the show. BUT — it’s one of the most consistent and solidly written scripts, devoid of many of the previous entries’ uneven quality. In short: good, not great.

 

Other episodes that aren’t great, but were almost good enough to make the top ten are: “Lucy Goes Duck Hunting,” which would be great if it had more honesty, “Lucy And The Bank Scandal,” which has a good physical bit and some genuine laughs, despite a completely trite and unmotivated premise, “Lucy Decides To Redecorate,” which merely hinges on a superb sight gag, “Lucy Is Her Own Lawyer,” which features some laughs, but a bomb of a story, “Lucy Meets A Millionaire,” which is more smile-to-yourself funny than laugh-out-loud funny, and “Lucy Goes Into Politics,” which features Lucy and Viv in a better-than-mediocre physical routine.

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*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Two of The Lucy Show goes to…..

“Lucy Conducts The Symphony” 

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Come back next week as we look at the best from Season Three! And remember to tune in tomorrow for an all new Wildcard Wednesday post!

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5 thoughts on “The Ten Best THE LUCY SHOW Episodes of Season Two

  1. Pingback: BIRTHDAY BASH: The Redhead’s 103rd | THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!

  2. Hi,

    Just a question. What to do you mean by the following, extracted from your THE LUCY SHOW, Season Two coverage?

    “Lucy Goes Duck Hunting,” which would be great if it had more honesty

    • Hi, Nick! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I think the episode suffers from characterizations that don’t feel true to both what the series had already established, and more generally, logical human behavior. In other words: artificial, false, or without believability. It’s one of the first of (unfortunately) many times that Lucy Carmichael feels like a character instead of an actual human being.

      At this point in the run, reality is present more often than not, but the balance tips once the show transitions to California. Be sure to check out the rest of our posts on THE LUCY SHOW, if you haven’t already!

  3. Regarding Gale Gordon, I’ve read that Lucille Ball felt the Lucy character needed a strong male authority figure to play off of, as Lucy Ricardo had had in husband Ricky, and that this is why she thought Gordon would be a valuable addition to THE LUCY SHOW.

    Ricky loved Lucy, though, which made it believable that he would put up with her. Mr. Mooney never seemed to even like Lucy Carmichael, which made his devotion to her and willingness to tolerate her hard to fathom. She caused him nothing but trouble and, in later seasons, was an incompetent secretary. No matter how much of a pain-in-the-ass she was, though, he stuck by her. HERE’S LUCY, to an extent, got around that problem rather neatly by making Lucy and Uncle Harry (Gordon’s character in that series) in-laws. Lucy Carter’s late husband had been Harry’s brother. The familial connection made Harry’s ongoing interaction with Lucy more plausible. Besides, she was mother to his niece and nephew and Harry was willing to endure her for their sake, if none other, simply because he knew she had them to support.

    It’s true that no one could blow his stack like Gale Gordon. Yet, if you listen to (or watch him) in his role as school principal Osgood Conklin on OUR MISS BROOKS, you’ll notice that while he usually had one good explosion per show, MISS BROOKS got much more mileage — and equally big laughs — by having him underplay. Gordon was actually very good at that. Small, delicate gestures and contained reactions that made it that much funnier when he finally lost it and blew up. THE LUCY SHOW, in season two, did a reasonably good job of writing Mr. Mooney like that. It seems, though, that with each successive season, Ball’s writers tended more and more to have Gordon going at full-tilt from the very beginning. The result was that Gordon tends to come across as rather strident, spending far too much of his time bellowing at the top of his lungs.

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