The Ten Best HERE’S LUCY Episodes of Season One

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today begins our six week coverage on the best of Lucille Ball’s third half-hour television series (fourth series altogether), Here’s Lucy (1968-1974, CBS), which starred Ball, Gordon, and her two real life kids, and began production following the sale of Desilu and conclusion of The Lucy Show (1962-1968, CBS). I’m thrilled to announce that every single episode of the series has been released on DVD.

Here'sLucy_S1_early

Widowed Lucy Carter works as a secretary at a Los Angeles employment agency for her stern brother-in-law, Harry,  all the while raising her two bemused teenagers — Kim and Craig — who constantly feel the fallout of their mother’s meddlesome ways.

hereslucy

Here’s Lucy stars LUCILLE BALL as Lucy Carter, GALE GORDON as Harry Carter, LUCIE ARNAZ as Kim Carter, and DESI ARNAZ, JR. as Craig Carter.

Heres_lucy_1968

This series is easy to write off as inferior, especially when compared to the dynamite work that Ball had already enjoyed on I Love Lucy, and even The Lucy Show. But, there’s still a lot of laughter to be had with this redhead when she’s surrounded by Gale Gordon, her most consistent of co-stars, and her two very own kids — Lucie and Desi, Jr. Their offscreen bond produces a great onscreen chemistry foreign to other domestic sitcoms of the era. It’s refreshing. What maybe isn’t so refreshing are the mediocre scripts, which seem to get sillier and sillier by the season — as the competition (The Mary Tyler Moore Show in ’70 and All In The Family in ’71) became sharper and more sophisticated. It won’t be until later in the series’ run when the quality of the material begins to improve and the stories become more logical and truthful. (This series is odd in that its better years come AFTER the halfway mark.) Meanwhile, the teens, talented though they both may be, are not quite up to the level of Ball and Gordon — especially in these early years — in which their overly presentational performances can prove grating. However, this first season, which is often cited as being similar in tone to The Lucy Show, contains several of Ball’s finest comedy moments, and I’m pleased to be able to present my picks for the best 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.

Hereslucy-header

Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season One. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) Note that every episode of this season is directed by Jack Donohue.

 

01) Episode 1: “Mod, Mod Lucy” (Aired: 09/23/68)

Lucy fills in for an ailing Kim as the vocalist at a Sweet Sixteen party that Harry has been hired to book.

Written by Milt Josefsberg & Ray Singer

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.24.38 PM

Admittedly, the opening episode was not one for which I had an initial fondness. The kids are especially painful, the story is moderately dull, and Lucy’s dubbing sounds nothing like her! But, it grew on me. Ball, who’s been accused of over-acting in this episode, clearly loves working with her babies, and her infectious vitality carries most of the episode. Also, the wonderful Doris Singleton makes a small welcome appearance in a role initially intended to be a regular. And though Lucy’s dubbing is bad, the song — Berlin’s “All Alone” — is hot, and the sequence pays off nicely. This a memorable and occasionally funny start for the series.

02) Episode 2: “Lucy Visits Jack Benny” (Aired: 09/30/68)

Lucy, Harry, and the kids get a lesson in penny-pinching when they stay at Jack Benny’s Palm Springs resort.

Written by Milt Josefsberg & Ray Singer

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.25.10 PM

And with this second installment, the series introduces its primary staple: guest-stars-of-the-week. Here it’s Jack Benny, who is always amusing in his appearances with Lucy (largely because she now had the same writers that were working for him back in the ’50s). Benny fans, rejoice, this is an excellent showcase for Jack. His established persona is the principal motivator of all the comedy. Lucy fans, rejoice, this is a funny and (especially for this series) well-written installment. And the surprise cameo by Jackie Gleason is a hoot — the only time the Queen worked with the Great One on a half-hour situation comedy. A classic!

03) Episode 3: “Lucy, The Process Server” (Aired: 10/07/68)

Lucy wreaks havoc after mixing up a bank deposit and a summons that Harry has asked her to deliver.

Written by George Balzer & Phil Leslie

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.26.32 PM

This particular installment, more than any other in this first season, seems like it could have been written for Lucy Carmichael. (Heck, it probably did begin as an idea for Lucy Carmichael!) As it is, there’s nothing really new about the story — Mooney Harry sending Lucy on a mission, Lucy bungling the job, causing trouble in a department store, digging through garbage; these are all Lucy hallmarks. It just so happens that this episode, though not-so-original, is one of the funniest of the season. And any episode that finds work for the HYSTERICAL Reta Shaw is a cut above the rest!

04) Episode 10: “Lucy’s Working Daughter” (Aired: 12/02/68)

Lucy can’t help but offer a helping hand when Kim gets her first official job working as a sales clerk at a dress shop.

Written by Bob O’Brien

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.28.28 PM

Lucie Arnaz is a very talented performer, and her instincts are often gold. However, adjusting to television appeared to be a challenge, as she (and Desi, Jr.) are often overacting to the point of distraction in these first few episodes. In this one, however, which is one of the first to focus on Kim, she does quite well. This is obviously a good thing, because the relationship between Lucy and her kids gives the series its necessary warmth (especially since it doesn’t get it from the Lucy/Harry dynamic), so the better they do, the better the series is. Make no mistake, however, this is Lucy’s episode; from the fashion show to the nasty customer, she’s as funny as ever!

05) Episode 12: “Lucy, The Matchmaker” (Aired: 12/16/68)

Lucy tries to find Harry a date via a computer matchmaking service, which ends up selecting her old friend Vivian.

Written by Milt Josefsberg & Ray Singer

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.29.52 PM

Vivian Vance, Lucy’s best partner-in-crime, makes her first of six visits to Here’s Lucy in this installment, which revolves around Lucy trying to find a mate for Harry through a computer — a gigantic menacing computer — matchmaking service. Who else should be the match but Vivian? The relationship established between Harry and Viv here is quite amusing and gives several big laughs, but the best part of the installment is the pure joy that washes over the screen when Lucy and Viv reunite in the restaurant. They are TV’s best couple, romantic or otherwise, and whenever they share scenes, especially after having been apart for moths, it’s utter magic.

06) Episode 14: “Lucy, The Fixer” (Aired: 01/06/69)

While working at Harry’s house on a Saturday, Lucy and her brother-in-law attempt to fix his faulty electric wiring.

Written by Milt Josfsberg & Ray Singer

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.34.22 PM

This is undoubtedly the best episode of Lucille Ball’s post-I Love Lucy career. I’ll repeat it again for emphasis. This is undoubtedly the best episode of Lucille Ball’s post-I Love Lucy career. It’s so simple — Lucy and Harry tear apart his living room while trying to find out why the lamp won’t turn on. It’s pure Laurel and Hardy, with Lucy and Gale performing expert physical comedy that will have you both laughing your you-know-what off and dropping your jaw in pure amazement. Okay, we have to sit through a dull opening act with the kids, but the entire second act — hot damn. If I were to show one episode of Here’s Lucy to a potential new fan, it would be this one, solely for her performance. This is brilliant comedy — the best thing Ball ever did in her TV life after playing Mrs. Ricardo.

07) Episode 19: “A Date For Lucy” (Aired: 02/10/69)

Lucy’s handsome and debonair date to a swanky party turns out to be a notorious jewel thief.

Written by Fred S. Fox & Seaman Jacobs

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.38.27 PM

Episodes in which the Lucy character dates have an automatic appeal. For one, these stories play up Lucy’s femininity, and as a source for comedy, that’s always a plus. Secondly, they give her new people off which to react. And thirdly, they bring a welcomed sophistication to both the character and the series. Here, Lucy’s love interest is a jewel thief who looks a lot like Caesar Romero (one of the best meta jokes in the series). The bit at the party with Lucy, the diamonds, and the shrimp sauce is just riotous. This is an excellent episode — one of the best of the series. Such fun!

08) Episode 20: “Lucy, The Shopping Expert” (Aired: 02/17/69)

While Lucy decides to teach Kim the fine art of grocery shopping, Craig gets a secret job at the supermarket.

Written by Milt Josefsberg & Al Schwartz

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.38.46 PM

What is most unusual about this episode is that there are two simultaneous stories that brilliantly converge at the climax. (Am I watching Seinfeld? Just kidding, I KNOW I’m not.) Craig gets a job at the supermarket, following a brilliant scene in which Uncle Harry attempts to lecture him on the birds and the bees, while Lucy takes Kim grocery shopping. I don’t have to tell you that Lucy in the supermarket means that there will be hijinks — cans, melons, whipped cream — you name it! However, in addition to the uncharacteristically advanced storytelling, there are several excellent physical bits and lots of character-driven comedy. Another of the series’ best!

09) Episode 21: “Lucy Gets Her Man” (Aired: 02/24/69)

Harry’s old army buddy recruits Lucy to pose as a stenographer to help catch a possible counter-intelligence spy.

Written by Fred S. Fox & Seaman Jacobs

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.39.48 PM

Sitcoms of the ’60s have an incredible fascination with spys. (The physical embodiment of this phenomenon: Get Smart.) Unfortunately, the first season of Here’s Lucy has three episodes that revolve around national/international intrigue. Each has their merits, and all three were up for inclusion on this list. But I could only pick one. I chose this episode for three simple reasons: Victor Buono, Gale Gordon’s outrageous disguises, and the enjoyable silliness of Lucy dictating sinister-sounding greeting cards. (You can read about those other two episodes below.)

10) Episode 24: “Lucy Helps Craig Get A Driver’s License” (Aired: 03/17/69)

Lucy almost costs birthday boy Craig his driver’s license when she tags along for his exam at the DMV.

Written by Milt Josefsberg & Ray Singer

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.43.03 PM

The unique appeal of Here’s Lucy, as opposed to other the Lucy series, is that we get to see her interacting as a MOM to two teenage children. The fact that they’re her own — well, that’s the cherry on top. There’s a sweetness in seeing Lucy meddle in her children’s lives (as opposed to the guest-star-of-the-week’s) and the simpler the premise, the more likely the comedy will be genuine. In this installment, which boasts a great guest appearance by the amusing Jack Gilford, Lucy interferes during Craig’s driving test. Everyone is in rare form here, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments in this clever, fluid, and fast-paced installment.

 

Other episodes that narrowly missed the above list include: “Lucy, The Conclusion Jumper,” in which Lucy thinks Kim is going to elope with a classmate, “Lucy And Eva Gabor,” in which the Green Acres star appears as a saucy novelist, and “Lucy Sells Craig To Wayne Newton,” which features some nice musical numbers, but only a few laughs. The two other enjoyable spy episodes include: “Lucy’s Impossible Mission,” a farcical ultra-’60s satire of Mission: Impossible, and “Lucy And The Great Airport Chase,” the only single-camera episode of the season, which is set in and around and airport and was originally written for the final season of The Lucy Show. ALSO, several seasons of this series have episodes that are so bad that they’re hilarious. This year it’s “Lucy’s Safari,” which, though ridiculous, has a hysterical bit where Lucy goes slow-motioned.

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.42.33 PM

 

*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season One of Here’s Lucy goes to…..

“Lucy, The Fixer”

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.33.13 PM

 

 

Come back next Tuesday for the best from Season Two! And tune in tomorrow for another Wildcard Wednesday post!

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “The Ten Best HERE’S LUCY Episodes of Season One

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

  2. I’m curious what your thoughts are on Lucy’s Birthday. I thought that it had a well-written script based on this show’s standards.

    • Hi, Charlie! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I think “Lucy’s Birthday” is unspectacular, overshadowed by installments this year that boast stronger comedy.

  3. I’ve always been a fan of “Lucy, the Shopping Expert”. As you stated, very Seinfeldish in it’s execution. Plus, everything seems to make sense.

  4. I love Here’s Lucy with her real wonderful talented kids. So neat. The real too funny stuff like the wall torn up made me nervous though. Lucy and her kids really dance great and are beautiful. Like most of the shows. Watch them late every night. <3 thanks for them. Love the shows.

Leave a Reply