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.
Widowed Lucy Carmichael moves out to Los Angeles following her daughter’s graduation and roommate’s elopement. She sends her son off to school and gets a job working for the cantankerous banker, Mr. Mooney, who has also transferred out West. If Lucy was trouble in Danfield, just imagine what predicaments she’ll get herself into among the stars in Hollywood!
The Lucy Show stars LUCILLE BALL as Lucy Carmichael, GALE GORDON as Theodore J. Mooney, and MARY JANE CROFT as Mary Jane Lewis.
Following Viv’s departure, the series relocated to Los Angeles, shifting its emphasis from Lucy and her castmates to Lucy and her guest stars. Though an initial attempt to replace Vance with Joan Blondell proved unsuccessful, the series re-introduced Mary Jane Croft as Lucy’s new neighbor, Mary Jane Lewis. In less than half of the season’s 26 episodes, Croft filled in as Lucy’s friend, though she was never awarded the opportunity for big block comedy scenes, like Vance had been. As a result, Gordon’s role was beefed up, and the series decided to have Lucy work as Mooney’s secretary — part-time at first, and then later full-time. Lucy’s kids were all but dumped entirely — Jerry appeared in two of the 26 episodes — and the guest stars began to trickle in, becoming more prevalent in the series’ next two seasons.
In terms of quality, the California years are not nearly as good as the New York ones. And that’s the simple truth. With a new producer and a new director, Josefsberg continued to serve as script consultant, and though there wasn’t a permanent staff of writers, several teams contributed the majority of the scripts. After a handful of early episodes that attempted to show Lucy assimilating, the series floundered in the middle of the season with middling unfunny episodes, before it finally regained some of its humor near the end. Undoubtedly the weakest half-hour Lucy season yet, I couldn’t pick ten great episodes. But, I have picked eight 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.
Here are my picks for the eight best episodes of Season Four. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) Note that each episode this year was directed by Maury Thompson.
01) Episode 86: “Lucy And The Golden Greek” (Aired: 09/20/65 | Filmed: 06/03/65)
Lucy agrees to go on a double date with Mary Jane and her boyfriend. But Lucy’s date is a sheep-turned-wolf every time he hears music.
Written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson
As the first episode filmed in the new format, the series does a solid job in its introduction of Mary Jane. Similarly, Croft is sure to distinguish this character from her previous Lucy roles by adopting a looney character voice. The show airs on the sophisticated side whenever its stories involve Lucy dating, and its refreshing to see our heroine NOT being the crux of stupidity. This time, it’s guest star Howard Morris that gets that honor, and though the end is incredibly silly, this is generally a solid outing that establishes a new promising premise. (That was truthfully never to reach its promised potential.)
02) Episode 88: “Lucy And Joan” (Aired: 10/11/65 | Filmed: 06/17/65)
Lucy’s new neighbor Joan helps her woo another handsome neighbor, an airline pilot who happens to be celebrating his birthday.
Written by Bob O’Brien, Iz Elinson, and Fred S. Fox
In this, one of the saner and more “situational” of the Hollywood episodes, Blondell makes her first of two Lucy appearances. Briefly considered a possible replacement for Vance, she and Lucy did not get along AT ALL off-camera. On-camera, Blondell gets little to do, and has little chemistry with Ball. Lucy chases after Keith Andes, and there are several laugh-out-loud bits. The best has Lucy, in a far too tight dress, trying to hide for Andes’ surprise party.
03) Episode 90: “Lucy And The Countess Have A Horse Guest” (Aired: 10/25/65 | Filmed: 09/16/65)
Lucy and the Countess care for the latter’s inheritance: a pregnant racehorse whose stable bills have proved too costly.
Written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson
This episode, the first of three Season Four episodes to feature Ann Sothern, is the strongest of the bunch. The silly premise manages to produce several laugh-out-loud bits — particularly for Lucy and Gale. Interestingly, Bill Frawley makes his last acting appearance in a walk-on cameo as a stable cleaner. Lucy’s line following his exit is funny and poignant. But his brief moment overshadows the entire episode, a symbol of how far Lucy has come on television — and how much has changed.
04) Episode 100: “Lucy And Art Linkletter” (Aired: 01/10/66 | Filmed: 11/11/65)
As a contestant on Linkletter’s show, Lucy must go 24 hours without talking. But the show is determined to make that difficult for her.
Written by Iz Elinson and Fred S. Fox
This is one of the funnier episodes of the season, and Doris Singleton (Carolyn Appleby from I Love Lucy) is in on the action, playing the woman hired by Linkletter’s show to trick Lucy into talking. There’s an extended bit of pantomime in the office, and an erratic scene in Lucy’s apartment at the end. Incidentally, this premise was slightly adapted for a Season Three episode of Here’s Lucy. After an extended string of poor or mediocre episodes, this one is a delight. Still, though, nothing as good as what was being produced back in Season One.
05) Episode 101: “Lucy Bags A Bargain” (Aired: 01/17/66 | Filmed: 10/21/65)
Lucy wreaks havoc when she moonlights at a department store to pay off her dinette set.
Written by Harry Taylor and Howard Ostroff
Again, this episode gives Lucy several physical bits to do — most of which involve props. Ball is very good in scripts like these, even though they largely feel like several gags strung together. But as there are plenty laughs and a motivated premise, this is a cut above most episodes being produced around this time. Oh, and several solid character actors add to the fun too!
06) Episode 103: “Lucy And The Soap Opera” (Aired: 01/31/66 | Filmed: 12/09/65)
Lucy harasses the head writer of her favorite soap opera, hoping to convince him not to write out her favorite character.
Written by Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson
Okay, many fans consider this one of the worst episodes of the entire series. The reason that they often cite is the incredibly stereotypical scene in which Lucy disguises herself as a Japanese gardner. But as offensive as the sequence undoubtedly is, the premise of the episode is original, and more importantly, there are moments of genuine humor. In a season as sparse as this, laughs trump everything else. So while this is a silly episode with an unfortunate moment, it’s memorable, and stronger than most of the other Season Four installments. (I know some will disagree, but I’m just calling ’em as I see ’em!)
07) Episode 105: “Lucy Dates Dean Martin” (Aired: 02/14/66 | Filmed: 01/06/66)
Lucy has a date with Dean Martin’s stunt double, but when he gets called away on a shoot, the real Dean Martin agrees to substitute.
Written by Bob O’Brien
Lucille Ball later cited this as her favorite Lucy episode ever. And while she has excellent chemistry with Dino, and is blessed with a script that has an enjoyable premise and a higher quota of laughs, this is NOT the best episode of Lucy’s TV career. It may, however, be the best of the season. It’s logical, it’s fun, it has a big star, and everyone involved gets humorous moments. It’s an enjoyable episode in a season of less-than-enjoyable episodes.
08) Episode 109: “Lucy, The Gun Moll” (Aired: 03/14/66 | Filmed: 02/10/66)
Lucy impersonates a mobster’s girlfriend at the behest of the FBI.
Written by Bob O’Brien
Robert Stack and Bruce Gordon, stars of Desilu’s The Untouchables, guest star in this very funny outing, playing an FBI agent and a gangster, respectively. Lucy is excellent doing double duty as both Lucy Carmichael and Rusty Martin. She croaks a memorable rendition of “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” and, as Rusty, plays one of the funniest scenes of the season. The nods to this canceled crime drama are hilarious, making for a sort of self-referential episode. It’s quite effective, as the script is consistent with laughs.
Other episodes that I couldn’t honestly present as outstanding, but do manage to be mildly enjoyable include: “Lucy, The Stunt Man,” which is the first and most motivated of the three Ironman Carmichael shows, “Lucy Helps Danny Thomas,” which is annoying and incredibly unoriginal, but still manages to provide some laughs, “Lucy Goes To A Hollywood Premiere,” which features several big stars in small gratuitous cameos, “Lucy And Clint Walker,” which is the most honest and unassuming episode of the season, and “Lucy, The Superwoman,” which many fans hate because of its ridiculous premise (taken from a Gilligan’s Island reject), but happens to actually be funny.
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Four of The Lucy Show goes to…..
“Lucy Dates Dean Martin”
Come back next week for the best from Season Five! And remember to tune in tomorrow for an all new Wildcard Wednesday post!