The Ten Best HERE’S LUCY Episodes of Season Four

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday, and our official one year anniversary! (Celebration coming tomorrow!) 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.

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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 bemused daughter, Kim, who constantly feels the fallout of her mother’s meddlesome ways.

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

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With the return of Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Davis to the series’ rotation of writers, Here’s Lucy is given a tremendous boost. Not only is logic reintroduced into the storylines, but the relationships between Lucy and her two (remember, Desi, Jr.  left last season) co-stars become more natural — Harry and Lucy begin to show each other more affection, and Kim is allowed to mature out of the typical teen stereotype. Unfortunately, the pair only contributes a little over one-third of the Season Four scripts, and the other episodes — headed by Milt Josefsberg, in his final season — are worse than ever. While I decried last year as the weakest for being too blah, this season contains the highest number of awful episodes. In this regard, it’s the most wildly uneven season of Lucy’s entire television career — with as many gems as there are bombs. (Also, note that there are more guest stars this year than ever before.) Anyway, 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.

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

 

01) Episode 73: “Lucy And Flip Go Legit” (Aired: 09/13/71)

Lucy leaves Harry to work with Flip Wilson, only to be fired before she can ask him about appearing in a little theatre production of Gone With The Wind. 

Written by Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis

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As the first episode of the new season, the crux of this installment’s comedy comes from a show-within-a-show sequence in which Lucy, Harry, Kim, and Flip Wilson do an outlandish parody of Gone With The Wind. Naturally, this episode will appeal most to both fans of the iconic film and fans of Mr. Wilson. One must understand that this is an incredibly broad installment — even for this series — and all of the performances are appropriately hammy. (As in a sketch comedy, as opposed to a sitcom.) If you know what to expect, this is a very funny episode.

02) Episode 75: “Lucy And Harry’s Italian Bombshell” (Aired: 09/27/71)

Harry tries to get in shape when his long-lost Italian flame from World War II writes that she’s coming for a visit.

Written by Fred S. Fox & Seaman Jacobs

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One of the funniest episodes this series has seen in nearly two years, this installment is blessed not only with an honest, yet wonderfully jokey script, but also with a guest appearance by the overly-Italian Kaye Ballard (who was currently appearing in The Doris Day Show). There are lots of laughs in this installment, but the biggest occurs after Harry is accosted by an Avon lady, and Gordon ad-libs a wonderful line that sends Lucy into hysterics. An absolute treat to watch; great episode.

03) Episode 76: “Lucy And Mannix Are Held Hostage” (Aired: 10/04/71)

After witnessing a bank robbery, Harry hires Mannix to keep Lucy safe, unaware that she’ll bungle the situation and get both she and Mannix captured.

Written by Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis

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Yes, Here’s Lucy does a crossover with Mannix! (Who would have thunk it possible?) In actuality, this is an excellent episode, with a smart script, tons of funny moments, and great performances all around. The hallmark of this excursion is the physical bit in which Lucy and Joe are trying to navigate their way to the telephone while being strapped back-to-back in two wooden chairs. Hilarious. (Incidentally, this was the first episode filmed for the new season, and the revitalized energy is almost tangible.)

04) Episode 79: “Someone’s On The Ski Lift With Dinah” (Aired: 10/25/71)

Lucy becomes star struck when she learns that Dinah Shore is staying at the same Colorado ski lodge as the Carters.

Written by Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis

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This is an entertaining 25 minutes. Dinah Shore is a low-key, pleasant guest star, and it’s unspeakably refreshing to have a performer who isn’t pushing to try and keep up with Lucy. There’s some nice physical bits with Lucy and her skis (as to be expected), but the episode doesn’t force any comedy. That is, things play out more organically, and, lo and behold, there are some nice laughs!  Okay, it does devolve into an opportunity for Dinah to sing a few tunes, but, hey, why would they hire Dinah Shore and not let her sing?

05) Episode 82: “Won’t You Calm Down, Dan Dailey?” (Aired: 11/15/71)

When Lucy is fired, she gets a job working as Dan Dailey’s secretary. Unfortunately, when she proceeds to drive him crazy, he and Harry scheme to return things to normal.

Written by Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis

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This is one of the better ‘Lucy acts a pest’ episodes, because both Dailey and the script are naturally funny. The final scene in which Dailey tries to scare Lucy off is the obvious highlight (as is the unforgettable sight of Gale in drag), but it’s also nice to have Harry reveal that he misses Lucille. So there’s a nice sentimental integrity that sort of justifies all the wackiness — and the annoying shortcomings in Lucy’s character (which are too readily apparent in Season Four).

06) Episode 83: “Ginger Rogers Comes To Tea” (Aired: 11/22/71)

After inadvertently insulting a disguised Ginger Rogers at a film festival, Lucy is both excited and embarrassed to learn that the dancing star has left behind her purse.

Written by Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis

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I’m a Ginger fan. Lucy’s a Ginger fan. Who isn’t a Ginger fan? This highly amusing episode, which boasts an original premise, is largely exceptional because of our knowledge of the two actresses’ history. Lucy and Ginger worked together in the ’30s at RKO, and their friendship, which extended throughout both of their lives, is evident on the screen. Shot multi-cam but without an audience, there is a claustrophobic feel to the episode that sometimes becomes obvious, but because seeing these two together is such a treat, all complaints are rendered null and void — especially when there’s a solid script.

07) Episode 91: “Lucy’s Replacement” (Aired: 01/17/72)

When Harry replaces Lucy with a computer, she takes a job working in a strict steno pool. Both soon find the new arrangements less than desirable.

Written by Fred S. Fox & Seaman Jacobs

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This episode, once again, benefits from a softening of the relationship between Lucy and Harry, as they mutually learn that the grass isn’t so greener on the other side. Mildly topical, the episode involves Harry replacing Lucy with a big gaudy computer. Naturally, the thing doesn’t work properly, but the supposed comedic meat of the episode — Lucy falling behind in the steno pool — is only mildly amusing. It’s the strength of the premise that elevates this installment. Though not by Davis and Carroll, the evolving interplay between Lucy and Harry is a major benefit to the series.

08) Episode 92: “Kim Moves Out” (Aired: 01/24/72)

Lucy’s over-protectiveness gets out of hand when Kim finally decides to move out and get her own place.

Written by Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis

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Coming a few weeks before the truly horrendous attempt to spin Kim off into her own series, this episode serves as a much better showcase for Lucie Arnaz, who, though a bit overused this season (as opposed to the following two), has proved herself to be a gifted comedian — if given the right material. Lucy’s interfering is endearing when it relates to her children because it’s relatable, but it’s also satisfying to see Kim and Harry teach her a lesson. This is a nicely plotted episode with heart that doesn’t infringe on the comedy.

09) Episode 94: “Lucy’s Punctured Romance” (Aired: 02/07/72)

Kim and Harry scheme to break up Lucy’s new romance after the pair are led to believe that the bachelor is a notorious alcoholic and womanizer.

Written by Fred S. Fox & Seaman Jacobs

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This episode is darn near hysterical, and it’s such a change of pace, because not only do we have Lucy with a genuine love interest, but we have a celebrity NOT playing himself. Finally, a match with both chemistry and comedic chops. (However, not surprisingly, this character is a one-episode wonder.) Also unusually, the laughs comes from Gale, Lucie (and even Mary Jane), who make clowns of themselves as they scheme to turn Bob off Lucy, who, in this rare occasion, is NOT the one acting ridiculously. This switch, coupled with some truly riotous gags (in which Lucy does get to participate), make for a very funny and much appreciated installment.

10) Episode 95: “With Viv As A Friend, Who Needs An Enemy?” (Aired: 02/14/72)

After walking out/being fired, Lucy is incensed when her friend Viv, who’s thinking of relocating to Los Angeles, takes her now vacant place.

Written by Bob Carroll, Jr. & Madelyn Davis

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In the last episode of any Lucy series to feature Vivian Vance, the 62-year-old veteran performer turns in a great performance. Unfortunately, the script, hinged upon the idea that Viv would apply for the position that Lucy just left, doesn’t work like it should — leading to a resolution that, returning the series to its earlier season roots, lacks any logic. However, while not a storytelling triumph, it’s magical to see Lucy and Viv together again, and this episode (a fan favorite) is memorable simply for that alone.

 

Other honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the list above include: “Lucy And The Mountain Climber,” which guest stars network-hopping Tony Randall, “Lucy And The Astronauts,” in which Lucy once again gets involved in aeronautics, “Lucy Makes A Few Extra Dollars,” which features an obnoxiously stale premise but a few laughs, and “Lucy Helps David Frost Go Night-Night,” which features a comedic climax in the middle, as opposed to the end, of the episode. The “so bad, it’s hilarious” award goes to “Lucy And Candid Camera,” which features an interesting premise, but is simply too campy to be taken seriously — that musical number, oy!

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

“Lucy’s Punctured Romance”

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

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2 thoughts on “The Ten Best HERE’S LUCY Episodes of Season Four

  1. Another great analysis! As a die hard fan I remember always being happy and somewhat relieved when the episode was a “good one.”

    • Hi, John! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, this season is very hit and miss. Fortunately, the ratio of good to bad is much improved in the final two seasons!

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