The Ten Best HERE’S LUCY Episodes of Season Three

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today, we’re continuing our 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's Lucy Season 3

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.

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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.

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Season Three, despite having the most buzz-worthy episode of Lucille Ball’s television career (save the episode where Lucy Ricardo has Little Ricky), is probably my least favorite of the entire series. The notable installment I’m referring to is the infamous guest appearance of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, which kicks off the season in an exciting way. Unfortunately, while a few other episodes manage to be funnier than the premiere (which was written by old Lucy scribes, Carroll and Davis), none come even close to matching the excitement. And that’s the problem with this year (Burtons or no Burtons) too many episodes are just BLAH — instantly forgotten ten minutes after viewing. And with Carroll and Davis not regularly returning to the fold until the next season, we’re stuck with a year of inferior scripts by mediocre writers. Also, for fans of Desi, Jr., this is his last season, and he appears in about half of this year’s installments. (His presence makes little difference to the success of the scripts, however, so it’s all rather moot.) Interestingly, this TV season saw the premieres of both The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977, CBS) and All In The Family (1971-1979, CBS), making this collection of episodes look painfully out-of-touch. However, I was able to — shockingly — pick 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.

Lucy

Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Three. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)

 

01) Episode 49: “Lucy Meets The Burtons” (Aired: 09/14/70)

Lucy mistakes Richard Burton for a plumber and gets in figurative hot water when Elizabeth’s Taylor’s ring gets stuck on her finger.

Written by Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis | Directed by Jerry Paris

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In addition to Burton and Taylor, the biggest guests on any Lucy series ever, this episode sees the return of two of Ball’s original writers — providing a script with more finesse than our redhead’s seen in a while. Even though the premise is a trite jumble of previous Lucy plots, the excitement over the teaming of these great celebrities elevates all of the performances and carries the episode well beyond the realm of most installments. This is EVENT television, and even if it’s not excellent, it’s an absolute treat to watch. (It won’t be MVE, but this is an episode that newbies should watch too.)

02) Episode 50: “Lucy, The Skydiver” (Aired: 09/21/70)

Lucy’s reverse psychology to keep her kids from dangerous hobbies lands her to boasting about taking up skydiving.

Written by Larry Rhine & Lou Derman | Directed by Herbert Kenwith

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This silly episode is largely memorable because of the well publicized site gag of Lucy parachuting in through the roof. Yes, Lucy goes skydiving; clearly the writers are trying to think of new physical bits for our redhead, and for a series (and a season, in particular) in a creative rut, it’s no wonder that they’ve turned to spectacle in search of comedy. Though not without its laughs, this episode pretty much makes this list exclusively for its imaginative story and outlandish shtick.

03) Episode 53: “Lucy, The Crusader” (Aired: 10/12/70)

Lucy leads a protest against a manufacturing corporation that makes it difficult for her to return Craig’s defective new stereo.

Written by Milt Josefsberg & Al Schwartz | Directed by Herbert Kenwith

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There are two principle reasons for this episode’s relative success over the others in the season. First and foremost, this episode features a coherent, logical, and focused premise. It’s not a string of gags (or a string of musical numbers); it’s a motivated story in which our protagonist has a clear objective. (You’d be surprised how many episodes come up lacking here.) Secondly, everyone in the episode — including the ever amusing Charles Nelson Reilly — is allowed to be funny. Again, not a laugh riot, but a comparative storytelling triumph.

04) Episode 55: “Lucy, The American Mother” (Aired: 10/26/70)

While Craig’s latest school project is a home movie starring his family, Lucy panics after leaving money in a returned library book.

Written by Larry Rhine & Lou Derman | Directed by Jack Donohue

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What distinguishes this episode from being like many of the other installments this season — forgettable — is the block comedy scene at the end of the second act in which Lucy wreaks havoc at the library while trying to retrieve money stored in a returned book. This simple premise, coupled with Craig’s filmmaking B-plot (or rather, the A plot), makes for a refreshing scene that blends both stories, and shows Lucy off incredibly well. It’s the best part of an otherwise mediocre installment.

05) Episode 56: “Lucy’s Wedding Party” (Aired: 11/02/70)

While Harry’s out of town, Lucy hosts a big Greek wedding at his house. But Lucy must think fast when Harry returns home early.

Written by Sam Perrin & Ralph Goodman | Directed by Jack Donohue

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Essentially, all the Greek dancing and chanting is little more than a mildly amusing time waster. I, a sitcom watcher who wants to laugh frequently, am not charmed by superfluous gags like these. Fortunately, this episode makes up for its gimmicky transgressions with a nicely timed scene in which Lucy tries to hide the guests from Harry, who has returned home unexpectedly. Lucy really sells the tension, and thus the comedy, and we’re just waiting for it to blow up in her face. Very good. (Finally, some worthy comedy!)

06) Episode 59: “Lucy And Jack Benny’s Biography” (Aired: 11/23/70)

Lucy takes on the parts of all the women in Jack Benny’s life when he dictates to her his autobiography.

Written by Milt Josefsberg & Ray Singer | Directed by Herbert Kenwith

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This installment, shot without a live studio audience, is more like a Jack Benny episode than a Lucy episode. But that’s typical of all of Benny’s appearances on Lucy’s shows. With writers who had previously written for Benny, much of the comedy is routed away from Lucy and deferred to him. If you’re a Benny fan, like I am, this can be a treat, and a nice change of pace. Exclusively Lucy fans may feel a bit alienated, however, so this episode is only recommended for fans of BOTH performers.

07) Episode 61: “Lucy Loses Her Cool” (Aired: 12/07/70)

Lucy must go 24 hours without losing her temper in order to win a game show prize, but her friends and family have been hired to complicate her chances.

Written by Milt Josefsberg & Ray Singer | Directed by Herbert Kenwith

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Like a lot of episodes this season, there’s little originality in the premise. Lucy has been on Art Linkletter before (see Season Four of The Lucy Show) where she was challenged to be silent for 24 hours. That was one of the better episodes of that season, and this slight modification, in which Lucy is challenged to go 24 hours without losing her temper, is the comedic highlight of this season. The ensemble is great here, trying to get Lucy to crack, and the biggest laugh in the installment (for me) is the brief interaction between Mary Jane and Harry in the grocery store: “She knows I can’t stand you!” Funniest episode of the season.

08) Episode 70: “Lucy And Carol Burnett” [a.k.a. “The Hollywood Unemployment Follies”] (Aired: 02/08/71)

Lucy bumps into Carol Krausemeyer at the Unemployment Office and the pair decide to put on a musical revue to raise money using all of their out-of-work  friends.

Written by Ray Singer & Al Schwartz | Directed by Jack Carter

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Burnett’s final appearance in a Lucy series, this episode, like her first appearance on Here’s Lucy, is little more than an excuse for a variety show. However, there’s some imagination here, as the story launches from the pair meeting in the unemployment office (with Richard Deacon). Additionally, the musical numbers — saluting old Hollywood — are both well done and funny. (Some of the best of the series.) Comedically, however, the best scene has Carol threatening to seduce Harry if he doesn’t back their show. Absolutely riotous!

09) Episode 71: “Lucy Goes Hawaiian (I)” (Aired: 02/15/71)

While Harry and Lucy are hired as cruise directors, she competes with her old friend Vivian for the affections of the handsome captain.

Written by Milt Josefsberg, Al Schwartz, & Ray Singer | Directed by Jack Donohue

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My regular readers know that I’m usually less receptive to the single-camera Lucy episodes, but this episode, in addition to being original (in both story and location) sees the always welcome return of Miss Vivian Vance, who proves to be just as funny as ever. It’s been a long time since Lucy and Viv fought over a man, and frankly, the competition is both amusing and dramatically satisfying — even if it is all handled in a lightweight fashion. Just a nice change of pace!

10) Episode 72: “Lucy Goes Hawaiian (II)” (Aired: 02/22/71)

Still abord ship, Lucy, Harry, and the gang decide to put on a Hawaiian themed musical show for the passengers.

Written by Milt Josefsberg, Al Schwartz, & Ray Singer | Directed by Jack Donohue

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The second half of the Hawaiian cruise two-parter devolves into what too many Here’s Lucy episodes become — a variety show. But, like the Burnett sequence above, this is one of the most memorable. Surely both the Hawaiian theme and the inclusion of Viv help to make the numbers stand out, but even Lucy, Lucie, and Desi are all at the top of the game — turning in musical performances, that, unlike most times, keep me entertained in a satisfying capacity.

 

Other honorable mentions that didn’t make the list above include: “Lucy Cuts Vincent’s Price,” in which Price mistakes Lucy for an actress in his new horror movie, “Lucy’s Vacation,” in which an awfully mundane premise about Lucy hoping for time off is given some spark, “Lucy And The 20-20 Vision,” which has an amusing scene of Lucy and the kids trying to make Harry think he’s going blind, and “Lucy And Aladdin’s Lamp,” which seems more appropriate for a ’60s sitcom than one now definitely in the ’70s. The “so bad, it’s hilarious” award is back and goes to “Lucy And Ma Parker,” which is a campy riot thanks to Carole Cook, a pair of midgets, and a truly horrendous script.

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

“Lucy Loses Her Cool”

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

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3 thoughts on “The Ten Best HERE’S LUCY Episodes of Season Three

  1. Pingback: Regrets . . . I’ve Had A Few | THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!

  2. I agree that this isn’t the best season, and I mostly agree with your picks. I personally would have put Lucy’s Vacation on the list. I also found Lucy Meets The Burtons to be overrated, but still funny.

    • Hi, Charlie! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I find “Lucy’s Vacation” largely routine and unspectacular, but not a misfire like so many others this year. As for “Lucy Meets The Burtons,” I too find it overrated, but I’ve had a change of heart since 2014; if I were making this list today, I would select it as the MVE, as I do think it’s the most memorable of this troublesome season.

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