TITLE: HERE'S LUCY - SEASON ONE
DVD Release Date: August 25, 2009 (MPI Home Video)
Color / 1968-1969
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 720 minutes
Runtime of Special Features: approx. 138 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; English Subtitles
Special Features: New Episode Introductions; Making the Main Title; Meet the Carters feature; Let’s Talk to Lucy; Lucy and Desi Jr. Screen Tests; Treasures from Lucy’s Vault; Slide Show; Production Files; Original CBS and Syndication promos
In 1968, Lucille Ball, coming off from two (three if you count The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour as a show by itself) successful sitcoms on CBS, was ready to get back in the saddle again. Having just sold Desilu to Paramount Television and ready to send The Lucy Show into syndication, Lucille Ball was ready to try something new. She decided to start a new show where she was once again a mother, this time to teenagers, played by her own real-life children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr.
That doesn’t mean that Here’s Lucy was totally different from The Lucy Show, though. Really, it was more of a retooling with different names for the same old people. Gale Gordon was back as Lucy’s boss, but he was no longer Mr. Mooney, and was instead Harrison Carter, her own brother-in-law. Lucy and Harry didn’t work at a bank either, and instead worked at a very unusual employment agency, Carter Unique Employment Agency, which filled the most unusual jobs (and explained many of the bizarre plots of some of the episodes). She was still a widow in California and even had a friend named Viv played by Vivian Vance, although we only got to see Viv when she happened to be in town on this series. And her children, as previously mentioned, were played her real-life children Lucille Ball was noticeably older by the time that she came in to this series, but that didn’t stop the physical comedy by any means. It had definitely slowed down by this series, but it was certainly still there. This series focused on a lot of physical comedy with the help of special guest stars. The series began with quite a few guest stars, but by the end of the series, almost every episode had a “guest star of the week,” just as The Lucy Show did in the later years.
A few years ago, Shout! Factory released a collection of “The Best Loved Episodes,” and now, for the first time ever, we can enjoy this series as a full-season set, with MPI Home Video’s release of Here’s Lucy: Season One!
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The series kicks off with “Mod, Mod Lucy,” where Kim and Craig have a music gig, but when Kim loses her voice, which female relative will fill in for her? Jack Benny and Jackie Gleason guest star in “Lucy Visits Jack Benny,” where the Carters find that Jack Benny is a terrible innkeeper. In “Lucy the Process Server,” Lucy is given a job to serve a summons, but in the typical Lucy fashion, it isn’t going to be easy. Lucy is given the job of helping Shelly Summers (played by Shelly Winters) drop a ton of weight in “Lucy & Miss Shelly Summers.” Is Kim about to elope? That’s what Lucy thinks in “Lucy the Conclusion Jumper.” Lucy gets embroiled in an FBI plot in “Lucy’s Impossible Mission.” Eva Gabor plays a novelist who stays with the Carters to get peace in “Lucy & Eva Gabor.”
Kim and Craig want Lucy to have the perfect birthday in “Lucy’s Birthday,” but Craig wearing the wrong pair of pants causes a bit of chaos. Craig gets a chance to perform with Wayne Newton in “Lucy Sells Craig to Wayne Newton.” Kim gets her first job in “Lucy’s Working Daughter.” Van Johnson plays himself (and a look-alike) in “Guess Who Owes Lucy $23.50.” Lucy tries to find a date for Harry in “Lucy the Matchmaker,” and a computer matches him up with Viv--played by none other than Vivian Vance. The Carters may be about to strike it rich in “Lucy and the Gold Rush.” Lucy is no handywoman, as she proves in “Lucy the Fixer.”
Wally Cox plays an ex-con who quickly gets in trouble after Lucy gets him a job in “Lucy and the Ex-Con.” Is Harrison Carter a fink who is also about to murder Lucy? That’s what Lucy thinks in “Lucy Goes on Strike.” In “Lucy and Carol Burnett,” Lucy somehow manages to snag Carol Burnett for a school fundraiser. Lucy and Harry are the targets of terrorists at the airport in “Lucy and the Great Airport Chase.” Lucy finds the perfect man (Cesar Romero) in “A Date for Lucy,” but he may be up to no good. Craig gets a job at the supermarket in “Lucy and the Shopping Expert,” but Lucy and Kim could get him fired just as quickly. Lucy is forced to become an undercover secretary in “Lucy Gets Her Man.”
The Carters help Howard Keel capture a rare animal in “Lucy’s Safari.” In “Lucy and Tennessee Ernie’s Fun Farm,” the Carters help Ernie Ford turn his farm into an amusement park. The season ends with “Lucy Helps Craig Get a Driver’s License,” where Craig has no trouble getting his license, but Lucy has quite a bit of trouble with the employees at the DMV.
The packaging is nothing too exciting, but it is perfectly fine. The cover has a picture of Lucille Ball, Lucy Arnaz, and Desi Arnaz, Jr., but Gale Gordon is missing for some reason. He is seen on the cast snapshot on the back of the case, though. The set is presented in a standard DVD snapcase, with four discs inside. Episodes are listed inside the case, but there are no descriptions of any of the episodes. However, original airdates and the person that introduces the episode on this set are listed. Every disc has the same blue and orange artwork with the series logo on it. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-7, Disc 2 contains episodes 8-14, Disc 3 contains episodes 15-21, and Disc 4 contains episodes 22-24, as well as the special features.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set are nice, but the organization of the menus tends to be a little bit mind-boggling. On the main menu, we have the 3D animated Lucy standing in front of the blue curtain (like in the opening credits) with the strangest options I have every seen on the main menu of a TV on DVD set: Play With Introductions, Play Without Introductions, and English Subtitles. Basically, both of the first two options have the same function, with the exception of introductions being added in front of each episode if you select Play with Introductions. English Subtitles allows you to toggle the subtitles off and on. The menus are animated and have musical transitions within them.
No matter if you select Play With Introductions or Play Without Introductions, the next menu is the same. You get the same image of Lucy in front of the blue curtain with options of Play All, a list of episodes, and (on Disc 4) a Special Features option. Selecting an episode plays the episode immediately, and Special Features takes you to another menu (exactly like all of the previous ones) where the special features are listed on a series of three screens. There are chapters placed within each episode.
My biggest gripe about the menus is the awkward main menu. This is not the place to be choosing between playing episodes with or without an introduction. Rather, the episodes menu would be a more appropriate place. Oh well, it isn’t that big of a deal.
Video and Audio Quality:
It appears that some effort was definitely taken to restore these episodes, and produce a set with high quality video and audio. All of the episodes look great, and there really aren’t any trouble spots to be found on the set. There is very minimal grain and debris on the episodes, but you tend to expect that on a series that is over 40 years old (has it really been that long since 1968?). The audio is fine, for the most part, but the audio levels tend to fluctuate from episode to episode, and I did find a very annoying audio defect on some episodes. The defect is this very unusual high-pitched background noise. I don’t think that it was my personal audio setup, as I discovered this on every setup that I have. It only occurs on a few episodes, and usually doesn’t last the whole episode, but it does tend to be obnoxious. The episodes are presented in mono with English subtitles.
The episodes on the set are all unedited according to the packaging, and I have no reason to doubt that. Each episode runs around 25:30, give or take a few seconds. Exact runtimes are as follows:
1. Mod, Mod Lucy (25:29)
2. Lucy Visits Jack Benny (25:29)
3. Lucy the Process Server (25:30)
4. Lucy & Miss Shelley Winters (25:29)
5. Lucy the Conclusion Jumper (25:30)
6. Lucy’s Impossible Mission (25:31)
7. Lucy & Eva Gabor (25:31)
8. Lucy’s Birthday (25:31)
9. Lucy Sells Craig to Wayne Newton (25:28)
10. Lucy’s Working Daughter (25:29)
11. Guess Who Owes Lucy $23.50 (25:30)
12. Lucy the Matchmaker (25:31)
13. Lucy & the Gold Rush (25:30)
14. Lucy the Fixer (25:31)
15. Lucy & the Ex-Con (25:30)
16. Lucy Goes on Strike (25:31)
17. Lucy & Carol Burnett (25:28)
18. Lucy & the Great Airport Chase (25:30)
19. A Date for Lucy (25:31)
20. Lucy the Shopping Expert (25:31)
21. Lucy Gets Her Man (25:30)
22. Lucy’s Safari (25:29)
23. Lucy & Tennessee Ernie’s Fun Farm (25:30)
24. Lucy Helps Craig Get a Driver’s License (25:31)
Every single episode on the set has a video introduction, complete with titles, called “Introducing Lucy.” In these introductions, we get a preview of the upcoming episode from a person involved with the series. On most episodes, we have an introduction by Lucie Arnaz or Desi Arnaz, Jr., but you’ll also find Joseph Ruskin, Peggy Rae, Wayne Newton, and Bruce Gordon on these introductions. They each last for about a minute or two, and talk a lot about actors in the episodes as well as the plots of the episodes. Just a word of warning though, sometimes there are spoilers to be found in these. They are run at approximately 1:20 or so. The persons introducing each episode are as follows:
1. Mod, Mod Lucy (Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
2. Lucy Visits Jack Benny (Lucie Arnaz)
3. Lucy the Process Server (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
4. Lucy & Miss Shelley Winters (Lucie Arnaz)
5. Lucy the Conclusion Jumper (Lucie Arnaz)
6. Lucy’s Impossible Mission (Joseph Ruskin)
7. Lucy & Eva Gabor (Peggy Rae)
8. Lucy’s Birthday (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
9. Lucy Sells Craig to Wayne Newton (Wayne Newton)
10. Lucy’s Working Daughter (Lucie Arnaz)
11. Guess Who Owes Lucy $23.50 (Lucie Arnaz)
12. Lucy the Matchmaker (Lucie Arnaz)
13. Lucy & the Gold Rush (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
14. Lucy the Fixer (Lucie Arnaz)
15. Lucy & the Ex-Con (Bruce Gordon)
16. Lucy Goes on Strike (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
17. Lucy & Carol Burnett (Lucie Arnaz)
18. Lucy & the Great Airport Chase (Lucie Arnaz)
19. A Date for Lucy (Lucie Arnaz)
20. Lucy the Shopping Expert (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
21. Lucy Gets Her Man (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
22. Lucy’s Safari (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
23. Lucy & Tennessee Ernie’s Fun Farm (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
24. Lucy Helps Craig Get a Driver’s License (Desi Arnaz, Jr.)
The remaining special features are on Disc 4. In “Meet the Carters” (14:23), where Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. talk about the beginning of the series and how it got started. “Let’s Talk to Lucy” (11:15) is a brief radio program where Lucy interviews her co-star from Here’s Lucy (although he was her co-star from The Lucy Show at the time of the interview), Gale Gordon. Some Lucy fans may hate me for saying this, but they both have a very high opinion of themselves as heard in this interview! They especially seemed to have this view that if somebody important thought that you weren’t any good at acting, then they should give up because they “obviously” just weren’t meant for the profession. I guess when you were as successful as they were at the time, you have a right to think of yourself like that, but it would be unthinkable for any actors to think of themselves so publicly in this way today. “Making the Main Title” (2:41) is a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to make the title sequence, but I should warn you now, that if you ever have seizures, skip this feature, as it contains some rapidly flashing lights in it which gave even me a headache. Still, it is an enjoyable feature. Screen Tests (13:26) are very enjoyable to watch, even though they aren’t screen tests for this series. Actually, they are screen tests for Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. for the 1968 film “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” “Slide Show” (3:17) is just a bunch of photos from the series, the first season in particular, which some music in the background.
Next, we have a series of special features that are collectively entitled “Treasures from Lucy’s Vault.” The set goes back into time a bit on “I Love Lucy Home Videos” (11:10), where we see some color home videos of the cast of I Love Lucy “on the road” during the filming of an episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. These, of course, are silent videos, and are very candid as well. “Lucy at LAX” (6:04) gives some extended footage shot for the episode “Lucy and the Great Airport Chase,” but don’t be mistaken into thinking that these are edited scenes. Actually, it is just a bunch of silent footage used for the episode. “The Chase” (4:49) is a 1965 home video of Lucy and her husband, Gary Morton, from a vacation that they took in 1965 to Monte Carlo. “Lucy the Model” (1:35) gives us even more home videos of Lucy, doing a little bit of modeling on home video. Finally, “Golfing with Gleason” (4:59) is special footage of Gary Morton and Lucille Ball on a golf outing with Jackie Gleason. It is nothing all that exciting, but certainly nice to see.
In the next leg of the special features, we have “Production Files,” where we get to see many Here’s Lucy related documents, but rather than just putting text on the screen, these are also read to us by Wanda Clark, who was Lucille Ball’s personal secretary from 1963 up until Lucille Ball’s death. It may not make sense at first, but it is actually very clever--having her secretary read the press releases to her! The first one is a “17 Years of Lucy” press release (3:10), where the series is announced, naturally. “Here’s Lucy Production Info” (1:45) is a press release very similar to the first one, but focuses more upon what the series is about and who is involved with the series. The “Lucille Ball Biography” (8:53) is a rather lengthy press release that gives the very detailed biography of Lucille Ball, at least up until the time that the biography was written (1968). There are similar biographies for Gale Gordon (3:16), Lucie Arnaz (2:30), and Desi Arnaz, Jr. (2:43).
Finally, we have some promos. We start out very simple with a network promo from CBS (1:01) where the series is just advertised in general, but the next set of promos is what is most interesting. Syndicated Promos (14:48) gives a syndication promo (these appear to be from the late 70s or early 80s) for EVERY SINGLE EPISODE from the first season of the series! These are very interesting to see! The only thing that was unusual, though, was the promo for “Lucy Gets Her Man.” This promo did not include any series titles, narration, or background music, leading me to think that this is most likely some preproduction version of this promo. You can actually see a very slight decline in video quality on these compared to the episodes, which again suggests that the episodes were nicely remastered. The only bad thing about these promos is that they are presented in production order, rather than the airdate order of the episodes themselves. It also would have been nice to have them on the discs with the episodes rather than being all together on the special features menu.
It appears that Lucy fans win, once again! Just a few weeks ago, we had an excellent release of The Official First Season of The Lucy Show, and now MPI counters that with an excellent release of Lucille Ball’s third series. This set has received the amount of respect that any Lucille Ball series deserves on DVD, and as is often the case, MPI has done an excellent job with another series. While I personally enjoy The Lucy Show more than this series, this series is also very enjoyable, and is actually a lot funnier than The Lucy Show was in the later seasons. In a sense, it was a way to rejuvenate The Lucy Show (which could have just as easily been renamed Lucy and Mr. Mooney’s Celebrity Encounters in the later years) with fresh story ideas that, while they may include celebrities, also have hilarious plots. I really enjoyed the acting of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. in this series as well. Certainly, the series may have some bizarre story lines that would never actually happen in the real world (especially like the one in “Lucy & Carol Burnett”), but a lot of Lucille Ball’s best comedy came from unrealistic plots. That was just what had to be done to make her very successful comedy style work the way that it worked.
MPI seems to be committed to releasing all six seasons, and there couldn’t be better news for fans. Given MPI’s track record, I expect future sets to be consistent and just as good as this set, if not better. I also hope that the introductions continue on the future sets, as that is one of the nicest features on here. There is no way around it, this is an excellent set with very little room to complain, and the few minor complaints that I do have about it are meaningless compared to all of the positives. Any fan of Lucy will definitely want to own this, and fans of classic TV in general are certain to appreciate this as well.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 08/04/09
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