TITLE: THE LUCY SHOW - THE OFFICIAL FIRST SEASON
DVD Release Date: July 21, 2009 (CBS DVD)
B&W / 1962-1963
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 30
Running Time: 773 minutes
Runtime of Special Features: approx. 80 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; Closed-Captioned
Special Features: New Interview with Lucie Arnaz; New Interview with Jimmy Garrett; Clips from "Opening Night" special; Vintage Opening and Closing Credits; Cast Commercials; Vintage Network Promos; Flubs; Cast Biographies; Production Notes; Vintage Merchandise featurette
Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance are back again! Following the end of the series I Love Lucy and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Lucille Ball wasn't quite ready to leave TV, but she couldn't continue playing Lucy Ricardo, the woman married to Cuban bandleader Ricky Ricardo, after her painful real-life divorce from Desi Arnaz. So, in 1962, Ball came together with fellow I Love Lucy co-star Vivian Vance to create the new series, The Lucy Show. Initially, the series contained a lot of the slapstick style comedy that fans of I Love Lucy remembered very well, and Ball and Vance played characters that were very similar to their characters on I Love Lucy. The series is also the first TV series that contained Gale Gordon as one of Lucy's co-stars, although he actually does NOT appear until the second season (Charles Lane plays a different character that fills his role for the first season).
The Lucy Show wasn't quite the same as I Love Lucy, though. No longer did Ball and Vance play Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz. Now, they were Lucy Carmichael and Vivian Bagley, two women sharing a home in Connecticut after each of them lost their husbands. Lucy was a widow (she did not want to play a divorcee because she did not want viewers to think she had divorced Ricky Ricardo, despite the fact that it was well-known that she had indeed divorced Desi Arnaz in real life) and Vivian was divorced from her husband, Ralph, who seemed to be somewhat of a deadbeat father. Lucy had two children, teenage daughter Chris (Candy Moore) and a younger son Jerry (Jimmy Garrett). Vivian had a son, Sherman (Ralph Hart), who was roughly the same age as Jerry. In many ways, it was like a 1960s version of the TV series Kate & Allie. The series was based upon the book Life Without George, although the series did have a rather major retooling in the fourth season.
The Official First Season marks the very first time that all 30 episodes from the 1962-1963 season have been released on DVD. Although there have been many public domain releases of the series over the years, they mostly contain episodes from the fifth season, and only two episodes from the first season have fallen into public domain. The four disc DVD set contains all 30 episodes with superb video and audio quality, and plenty of nice special features that are certain to please almost any fan of Lucille Ball.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The series kicks off with the October 1, 1962 episode "Lucy Waits Up For Chris," where Lucy's daughter Chris is out on a date and stays out a bit late--and comes home to embarrassment when Lucy is sitting there waiting for her. Lucy, determined to not embarrass her daughter again, decides to go to bed earlier next time, but even that plan backfires. In "Lucy Digs Up a Date," Lucy decides that the best way to find out about a man is to sneak around him and look at his driver's license, but she forgets that it is also important to give it back to him before he finds out it is missing. Lucy is furious with her banker, Mr. Barnsdahl (Charles Lane) and decides to take business elsewhere in "Lucy Misplaces $2000," but she is accidentally given $2000 instead of the $20 that is in her account! Nobody wants to mow the lawn, so Lucy and Viv decide to buy a sheep to eat the grass in "Lucy Buys a Sheep," but they weren't quite thinking of winterization plans for their new lawn mowing equipment. Is Lucy ready to go into space? She thinks so, in "Lucy Becomes an Astronaut." Nancy Kulp guest stars. Lucy takes a job as a secretary, but somehow ends up delivering contracts while wearing a kangaroo suit in "Lucy Is a Kangaroo for a Day."
Lucy pretends to love classical music for a man in "Lucy the Music Lover," but it all backfires when she has trouble staying awake at a concert. A family crisis is looming when the TV goes out in "Lucy Puts Up a TV Antenna," but Lucy could be roasting on an open fire when she gets on the roof to install a new antenna and gets stuck in the chimney. Lucy (and Mr. Barnsdahl) is on edge, worried about Viv suing her, after Viv trips on one of Jerry's roller skates in "Vivian Sues Lucy." Lucy decides to buy Viv a new mattress when she goes out of town in "Lucy and Her Electric Mattress," but when Viv comes home early and Lucy has to order a new mattress, where will Viv sleep? In "Together for Christmas," Lucy, Viv, and the kids spend their first Christmas together, but they have considerable difficulty reconciling their holiday traditions. Lucy's sister is having trouble with her marriage, so she decides to intervene by having the couple get remarried in a formal ceremony in "Lucy's Sister Pays a Visit." The young couple in this episode may look familiar: Janet Waldo plays Lucy's sister and Peter Marshall plays her husband.
In "Lucy and Viv Are Volunteer Firefighters," the duo decides that firefighting might be their call--that is, assuming that they don't set the fire station on fire. One bathroom isn't enough for five people, so Lucy and Viv do their best in the hilarious episode "Lucy and Viv Put In a Shower." In "Lucy and Viv Become Tycoons," Lucy and Viv begin a caramel popcorn business in their home, but they don't anticipate zoning problems and police officers knocking on the door! Lucy and Viv decide to take a few lessons in self-defense in the episode "Lucy and Viv Learn Judo." Chris gets a job as a soda jerk, but somehow, Lucy ends up doing her job in "Lucy Is a Soda Jerk."
The fire department needs new uniforms, and Lucy is determined to doing it by collecting newspapers in "Lucy Drives a Dump Truck." When the Cub Scouts troop led by Lucy and Viv build a replica model of the White House out of sugar cubes, Lucy manages to set up a appointment to personally present it to President Kennedy in "Lucy Visits the White House." But everything goes wrong when the model collapses on the train! Has Lucy found the formula for youth or has she just lost her mind? Find out in "Lucy and Viv Take Up Chemistry." Lucy and Viv realize how "square" they are when they chaperone a trip for Chris and her friends to the beach in "Lucy is Chaperone," so can they prove to the kids how cool they are by doing a performing of "Big Girls Don't Cry" on the beach? Or will that just make matters worse? Lucy and Viv foreshadow hostile soccer moms of the future when they are ejected from Jerry and Ralph's Little League baseball game in "Lucy and the Little League," but you'd better bet that Lucy isn't going down without a fight. Lucy decides to buy a boat for summer pleasure in "Lucy Buys a Boat," but before anybody can set sail, they have a lot of work to do.
Like many CBS DVD releases, the packaging is perhaps the weak point of the set. The set utilizes a standard DVD case, just like every other CBS DVD product does, but unlike most other CBS DVD products, this set has a cardboard sleeve on the outside of the case. It doesn't make much of a difference, though, as the artwork on the cardboard sleeve is exactly the same as the artwork on the plastic case on both sides. The cover art for the set has a snapshot of Viv and Lucy from the episode "Lucy Puts Up a TV Antenna," along with smaller pictures from other episodes, with a red and blue background. Inside the case, we have the four discs (with no artwork, of course, aside from the series logo on a gray background), and the sides on the inside of the case list all of the episodes, along with original airdates and brief descriptions. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-7, Disc 2 contains episodes 8-15, Disc 3 contains episodes 16-23, and Disc 4 contains episodes 24-30. Special features are scattered throughout all four discs, but the majority of them can be found on Disc 1 and Disc 4.
Menu Design and Navigation:
With the disappointing packaging that is the standard CBS DVD style, one would assume that the menus would also be the standard (i.e. dull) CBS DVD style menus. However, that assumption is ENTIRELY incorrect! The menus on this set are very nicely done! We begin on Disc 1, where we find Lucy hitting a TV, and Viv and Lucy (as stick figures) show up on the screen, while Lucy says, "Well THERE you are. Where have you two been? I thought my set was on the blink." It very much says it all--fans have been waiting for this set on DVD and wanted to know where the series has been! After that, the menus are the same on each disc, with an animated stick figure of Lucy and Viv inside of their animated living room holding up a sign that gives options of Play All, Episode Selection, Bonus Features, and Set Up. Normally I'd say that these are all self-explanatory, but on this set, they actually have more than what one would anticipate!
When you select Episode Selection, you get a menu that lists four (in a few cases three) episodes per screen, complete with an episode snapshot. Arrows at the bottom of the screen will guide you through the selections. Once you select an episode, you get a menu for the individual episode. On this menu, you can play the episode, select a scene from the episode, view the credits for the episode, and go to Set Up (which I'll talk about a bit more briefly). There are chapters placed at several appropriate places throughout the episodes, and not just at commercial break spots.
The Bonus Features selection gives you a musical transition to a new menu where you can see all of the special features categories listed on screen. The categories vary from disc to disc, but are mostly the same, with Flubs, Guest Cast, Special Footage, Original Broadcast Elements, Meet Special People, and Production Notes on all four discs. Flubs will list all of the individual flubs from that disc, with a brief description on the right side of the screen. Guest Cast will take you to a list of all of the episodes on the disc, where you can select an episode and then see a list of guest stars from the episode (and more, which I'll talk about a bit later). Special Footage is where you'll find all of the video special features that don't really fall in to any of the other categories, such as the interviews and series promos. Original Broadcast Elements has submenus that allow you to view Original Opening Credits, Cast Commercials, and Original Closing Credits for the episodes that have them, which is a majority of them. Meet Special People is where you can read brief biographies about the stars, writers, and producers of the series. Finally, Production Notes is where you can find all of the fun facts and trivia from the series.
The final option on the Main Menu sounds like one that you'd usually ignore, but in this case, you definitely shouldn't. That would be the Set Up option. This is often used for alternate languages and subtitles on a lot of DVDs, but not here. On this set, it is used to allow you to choose whether to watch the episodes as they originally aired ("Vintage" mode) or as a clean sponsorship free version ("Normal" mode). This is a very nice option to have on any DVD set!
Video and Audio Quality:
After seeing the many, many public domain releases of this series, these episodes look great! The episodes were remastered from the original film negatives, and as a result, show very few flaws in quality. Still, there is some grain and debris to be found on the set, but it isn't a very significant issue. I have seen both public domain versions of the series as well as official syndicated versions, and the presentation quality of the episodes here far exceeds that. It doesn't look quite as glorious as the episodes on the I Love Lucy DVD sets did, but it certainly looks almost as nice. The special features, however, tend to be in rough shape at times. One of these special features, in particular, would be the vintage footage. As previously mentioned, you can watch most (though not all) episodes as they originally aired (with original credits and cast commercials) through an option on the individual episode menu or by Set Up on the main menu. As a result, if you are watching an episode in "Vintage" mode, you'll see a noticeable drop in quality for the credits and the cast commercial closing tag at the end of each episode. It isn't a big deal, though, as this was material that was not exactly intended to be preserved anyway. The audio is presented in mono (what else?) and closed-captioning is available on every episode.
The set contains a disclaimer warning of potential edited episodes, but I honestly believe that this is inaccurate information. The episodes all appear to be unedited and a few songs (as well as references) to songs are left in, including the hilarious version of Lucy and Viv singing "Big Girls Don't Cry." The episodes generally run around 25:50 in the "Normal" mode, but there is great variance for runtimes in the "Vintage" mode, sometimes totaling close to 27 minutes! Runtimes for each episode are as follows (normal runtime is shown first and vintage runtime, if available for the particular episode, is shown second):
1. Lucy Waits Up for Chris (25:49/26:37)
2. Lucy Digs Up a Date (25:47/26:45)
3. Lucy Is a Referee (25:46/not available)
4. Lucy Misplaces $2000 (25:51/26:44)
5. Lucy Buys a Sheep (25:48/27:03)
6. Lucy Becomes an Astronaut (25:50/26:04)
7. Lucy Is a Kangaroo for a Day (25:44/26:33)
8. Lucy, the Music Lover (25:45/25:59)
9. Lucy Puts Up a TV Antenna (25:44/27:00)
10. Vivian Sues Lucy (25:45/26:40)
11. Lucy Builds a Rumpus Room (25:47/27:01)
12. Lucy and Her Electric Mattress (25:49/26:05)
13. Together for Christmas (25:46/26:32)
14. Chris's New Year's Eve Party (25:45/26:01)
15. Lucy's Sister Pays a Visit (25:49/26:04)
16. Lucy and Viv Are Volunteer Firemen (25:46/26:39)
17. Lucy Becomes a Reporter (25:45/26:59)
18. Lucy and Viv Put in a Shower (25:46/27:01)
19. Lucy's Barbershop Quartet (25:46/26:59)
20. Lucy and Viv Become Tycoons (25:43/26:37)
21. No More Double Dates (25:46/26:32)
22. Lucy and Viv Learn Judo (25:46/25:55)
23. Lucy Is a Soda Jerk (25:47/not available)
24. Lucy Drives a Dump Truck (25:45/26:41)
25. Lucy Visits the White House (25:48/not available)
26. Lucy and Viv Take Up Chemistry (25:44/26:57)
27. Lucy Is a Chaperone (25:48/not available)
28. Lucy and the Little League (25:45/not available)
29. Lucy and the Runaway Butterfly (25:46/26:01)
30. Lucy Buys a Boat (25:47/26:38)
Where do we even start here? Well, why not start with the Introduction? On Disc 1, we have an "A Message From CBS DVD" (1:09), which has a colorized animated Lucy and Viv turning a crank to scroll a special message from CBS DVD on the screen, explaining everything that can be found on the set. This isn't really much more than CBS DVD giving itself a pat on the back for this set, but in all honesty, they actually deserve one anyway for putting out such an excellent DVD set this time. So I'm totally fine with this.
Next on Disc 1, we have "Let's Talk to Lucie" (19:51), where we have an informal interview with Lucille Ball's daughter, Lucie Arnaz. While Lucie was not a regular in this series (she did play Lucy's daughter on the later series Here's Lucy), she played a recurring role as a friend of Chris, Lucy Carmichael's daughter on this series. This was more or less her acting debut, although she tends to do more to preserve the legacy of her mother than acting these days. One of the things addressed in here was the always-persistent question, was Lucy difficult to work with? And Lucie Arnaz doesn't beat around the bush--she certainly could be at times. "Seven Wonderful Nights" (3:24) is a preview of the CBS 1962 lineup, hosted by Lucille Ball, although mostly it is just an extended clip of the first episode of the series. This was actually a part of a larger 30-minute special that CBS affiliates aired in 1962 to promote the fall lineup. It would have been nice to see the whole thing, but then again, the entire presentation would have focused on a lot of non-Lucy material, plus there may have been rights issues with showing clips from some series. "Premiere Promo" (1:02) is the commercial that was used for the premiere episode of the series on CBS.
On Disc 2, we have a "CBS Mini-Promo" (0:08), and boy, do they mean it when they say mini! This is a very brief eight-second promo that CBS used in 1962 to remind viewers of when the show was on. Truthfully, it probably took you longer to read that to read this paragraph!
Over to Disc 3, we have a promo for the TV series Fair Exchange (0:50), where Lucille Ball appears as herself in the commercial. Interestingly enough, this promo features the same footage that we saw right before the main menu of Disc 1 of Lucy hitting the TV, so now we know where the DVD producers obtained that footage. The series starred Eddie Foy Jr. and Victor Maddern, and the promo was from spring of 1963.
On Disc 4, we have "Opening Night Clip #1" (4:41), where we get to see a clip from a one hour special that CBS used to promote their 1962-1963 lineup. In this clip, you get to see Lucy dancing with the "men of CBS," including Danny Thomas and Andy Griffith. The only question I have, though, is where was Dick Van Dyke and Buddy Ebsen? In "Opening Night Clip #2" (5:05), we get to see a comedy routine performed by Lucy and Lou Krugman from the very same special. We have an interview with Jimmy Garrett, who played Lucy's son Jerry, in "Let's Talk to Jimmy" (15:00), where he talks about working with the cast and growing up on the Desilu lot. In "Collecting the Memories" (3:46), Jimmy Garrett and interviewer Tony Maietta discuss memorabilia from the series, and it is amazing to see what all they had! The ones that I found most intriguing was a comic book based upon the series, as well as a board game. How many sitcoms get that kind of attention during their first season these days? We have a "Photo Gallery," where I expected to find a dozen or so pictures, but instead found a total of ONE HUNDRED pictures. There are a total of eleven "Clippings," where we see print advertisements for the series.
We have "Flubs" on every disc. Basically, these are essentially bloopers (sometimes not exactly unintentional) that were left intact on the series. The hope was that viewers would never notice, and in the days where everybody had to watch everything as it aired on their tiny TV screens, they wouldn't. In the era of DVD players and DVR where we can freeze-frame and zoom in on virtually anything, on our enormous 50-inch LCD TVs, we can EASILY spot these things. These are very fun to watch! The ones that we have on each disc are as follows:
"Bedroom Art" (0:14) – Art appears on the wall in Viv’s bedroom, then it suddenly disappears.
"Director's Chair" (0:09) - A director's chair appears in the background that has the name "Lucy" on it.
"Good Catch" (0:16) - Mr. Barnsdahl's glasses fly off as he is running, but he catches them.
"Elephant Man" (0:13) - Elephant trainer appears in the background during a scene.
"Magic Paneling" (0:29) - Wall paneling suddenly appears without anybody actually putting it up.
"What's His Name?" (0:15) - Lucy accidentally calls Johnny the postman by the actor's real name.
"Open Door Policy" (0:18) - Refrigerator door is left slightly ajar throughout an entire scene.
"Too Hot to Handle" (0:16) - Lucy takes a hot pot off of the stove with her bare hands, but the intense heat of the pot doesn't seem to bother her hands.
"Too Many Pups" (0:12) - Dogs enter the living room from every corner, despite having only one door in the living room.
"Baseball Bob" (0:16) - Writer Bob Carroll, Jr. is seemingly everywhere at the baseball game.
"Broken Glass" (0:13) - Lucy and Viv break some glass, but the shattering noise occurs a few seconds after it is actually broken.
Next, we have the "Guest Cast" features, which can be found on each disc. They may not sound impressive, but if you dig in there, you find a list of guest stars from every episode and a brief text biography. So yes, on "Lucy Becomes an Astronaut," you get a brief biography of Nancy Kulp, but did you ever want to know anything about that actress that played "woman on bench?" Or "man in background?" Yes, they are all there! They include a mini biography for every last guest star that ever appeared on the series, no matter how major or minor they may seem. I love when DVD sets go to such extremes!
We have "Original Broadcast Elements" available on each disc, but honestly, these are best left ignored. You could sit down and watch a bunch of opening credit sequences, closing credit sequences, and cast commercials from this menu, but why do that when you can use a menu option and watch the entire episode with all of these elements left intact? The promos presented are mostly for soap (Swan dishwashing liquid, Lux beauty soap, Wisk laundry detergent, and VIM laundry detergent, specifically), but there are also a few Jell-O and Dream Whip dessert-topping promos to be found. Now, why do some episodes have these elements intact and others do not? Initially, I assumed that some may be in poor condition, but it appears that actually, some of the episodes did not originally have a dedicated sponsor for the episode. According to the "Production Notes" (which I'll talk a little bit more about very shortly), the episode "Lucy Is a Soda Jerk," for example, did not originally have any sponsor. Other episodes that do not have original broadcast elements include "Lucy Is a Referee," "Lucy Visits the White House," "Lucy IS a Chaperone," and "Lucy and the Little League." All of these were taking from 16mm prints (as opposed to the 35mm negatives used for the episodes themselves), so the quality of them suffers, on some more than others.
Meet Special People is a special feature that should sound familiar to Lucy fans, as this was also on the I Love Lucy DVD sets. Basically, here, we get to see text biographies of stars on the series. On Disc 1, we have Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, and Dick Martin. On Disc 2, we have the Desilu team, including Desi Arnaz (executive producer for the first half of the first season), Elliott Lewis, and Jack Donohue. On Disc 3, we have Ralph Hart, Candy Moore, and Jimmy Garrett. On Disc 4, we have Bob Schiller & Bob Weiskopf, as well as Madelyn Davis & Bob Carroll, Jr.
Finally, every disc has a "Production Notes" feature, which is one that I would probably tend to just ignore if I didn't know better. It sounds like something completely useless, but when you actually go in to them, you find a lot of fun facts and trivia within them. For example, we find out this interesting tidbit related to "Lucy Is a Soda Jerk." At one point in time, Lucille Ball DID work at a soda fountain, but she was fired from the job because she forgot to put bananas in the banana splits. I won't spoil all of these, because that'll take away the enjoyment of these! You basically navigate through several screens of information by using the Enter key on your DVD player remote.
Despite how great these special features are, there is a LITTLE bit of room for improvement. For example, there was an episode from the first season that was rehearsed but never produced called "Lucy and Viv Fight Over Harry." In the "Production Notes,"they actually have a snapshot of the cover from that script. What would have been really nice, however, would have been a full copy of that actual script, perhaps as a PDF that could be viewed on a computer. Or maybe rehearsal footage would be a nice touch, although things like that are not so common for series this old.
Commentaries on episodes would have been nice as well, perhaps not on a lot of episodes, but maybe a handful of them. Lucie Arnaz could have provided commentary, as could the actors that played the children. Or maybe even Desi Arnaz, Jr., as he was often on the set and would perform a warmup show for the audience each night on the show.
"Well THERE you are. Where have you two been? I thought my set was on the blink." That, as previously mentioned, is what Lucy says as she hits the TV and two animated stick figures of Lucy and Viv show up on the screen. And it can also be seen as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that it took WAY too long to get this classic TV gem on DVD! The series I Love Lucy overshadows this series far too often. In reality, it is a great show by itself, and would probably be much more well-known if not for I Love Lucy. The series was definitely groundbreaking for the 1960s (two women living together, one of them divorced, and no "man of the house") and honestly, is funnier than I Love Lucy at times. In a way, we get to see Lucy unrestrained in this series. Would Ricky Ricardo ever let her install a shower? Or would he ever let her buy a sheep to mow the lawn? In this series, she has nobody to stop her with her crazy ideas, although she did have some crazier ideas on I Love Lucy.
The only time I have ever watched this series prior to this DVD release was when a local TV station was airing I Love Lucy, and they had a syndication package that included the first season of this series as well. The quality of the series amazed me, and it is even more enjoyable to watch on DVD. I'm very anxious for any upcoming seasons of the series, and I certainly hope that the DVD releases are as good as (if not better) than this one! I don't think anybody will be disappointed with this set, and for any fan of Lucille Ball, there is no excuse to not own this. There are many Lucille Ball fans that are not familiar with her TV work outside of I Love Lucy (mostly because nobody really airs any of it, and it has never been released aside from the public domain DVDs), and I think that they will be impressed to see that there is indeed a great series that she did besides I Love Lucy. This set, of course, is only the beginning, as MPI Home Video will soon be releasing the first season of her third television series, Here's Lucy, which should be an equally impressive set for Lucy fans. I certainly believe that any classic TV fan will thoroughly enjoy this set!
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 07/06/09
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