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Desi Arnaz giving his wife Lucille Ball a hug after they complete a scene to the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in August 1959.





The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour is a collection of thirteen black-and-white
one-hour specials airing occasionally from 1957 to 1960 (as opposed to
a thirty-minute regular series). The first five were shown as specials
during the 1957-58 television season. The remaining eight were
originally shown as part of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. Its
original network title was The Ford Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show for
the first season, and The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Presents The
Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show for the following seasons. The successor
to the classic comedy, I Love Lucy, the programs featured the same
major cast members: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William
Frawley and Little Ricky (billed as Richard Keith in his
post-Lucy-Desi acting assignments). The production schedule avoided
the grind of a regular weekly series.


Desilu produced the show, which was mostly filmed at their Los Angeles
studios with occasional on-location shoots at Lake Arrowhead, Las
Vegas and Sun Valley, Idaho. CBS reran the thirteen episodes under the
"Lucy-Desi" title during each summer, from 1962 to 1967 (1966-67 was
the first TV season in which all first-run primetime shows were in
color), after which it went into syndication.


Premise


Desi Arnaz was often questioned why he changed the format of I Love
Lucy, a weekly, 30-minute program produced at 25 new episodes a season
very successfully to the Comedy Hour format of one-hour specials shown
weeks or months apart. "You've got to change in this business. You
can't stand still. I'd rather make a big change while we are still
ahead. It would be ridiculous for us to wait until people got sick and
tired of the regular half-hour every Monday night. We have been the
luckiest show on the air, but we've worked for it. I have never worked
so hard in my life. And while I suppose it's not really for me to say,
I think I can honestly say that we have never done a really bad show
in six years" he noted at the time. He also noted the high stakes
involved for the cost per episode ($350,000) "they not only have to be
good, they have to be great. We're going to be in an awful spot with
these shows; they've got to be good".


Arnaz's determination to change scheduling formats went back several
years, as far back as 1954. "When I first suggested it, CBS wouldn't
listen. Last year (1956) again, they talked me into continuing with
the weekly half-hour. But this time (1957) I made up my mind."


Keeping the main plot line of the I Love Lucy program allowed Comedy
Hour to retain the main cast. It also allowed Arnaz to drop any hint
of continuity by releasing all of the I Love Lucy characters and
substituting them with celebrity guest stars. That concept, which
proved so successful during the program's Hollywood episodes in
seasons 4 & 5, was what Arnaz had in mind when he commented 'you can't
stand still'. Except for the main cast (Ball, Arnaz, Vance and
Frawley) only one character from I Love Lucy appeared on Comedy Hour;
Lucy's mother, as Little Ricky's babysitter, in 'The Ricardos Go To
Japan'. Arnaz believed the use of celebrity stars would allow him to
demand higher fees, take some pressure off of himself portraying Ricky
Ricardo and keep the 'Lucy' concept 'fresh' encouraging continued
ratings success. Although done during the last season of I Love Lucy,
the move to Connecticut allowed the writers to expand possible script
ideas as they had "used up every conceivable story line that could be
set in the tiny New York apartment'.


Not noted publicly at the time, Arnaz was suffering serious health
problems, and had been ordered by doctors to cut back on his work and
acting schedule. When he entered into negotiations with CBS, for a
seventh season of I Love Lucy, Arnaz insisted Desilu be allowed to
change to the hour format and a monthly production schedule. CBS
President William Paley would have sued Desilu had Arnaz's health not
been an issue but instead agreed to the change. Arnaz quickly found a
new sponsor for the 1957-1958 season: Ford Motor Company.[5]
Originally Comedy Hour was slated to produce 10 original episodes per
season. However, due to high production costs Arnaz cut that to 8,
then 5 episodes. Five were produced in season one (1957-1958) and
season two (1958-1959) then cut back to three in season three
(1959-1960).


Description and evaluation


During the final season of I Love Lucy (episode 14), the Ricardos,
soon followed by the Mertzes moved to Westport, Connecticut,
reflecting the growth of the suburbs throughout America during the
1950s. Ricky commuted into New York City where he now owned The Babalu
Club. A key part of the program's format was guest stars in each
episode, including Ann Sothern; Rudy Vallee; Tallulah Bankhead; Fred
MacMurray and June Haver; Betty Grable and Harry James; Fernando
Lamas; Maurice Chevalier; Danny Thomas and his Make Room for Daddy
co-stars; Red Skelton; Paul Douglas; Ida Lupino and Howard Duff;
Milton Berle; Bob Cummings; and, in the final episode, "Lucy Meets the
Moustache", Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams.


Comedy Hour episodes focused on Lucy's interaction with the celebrity
guest stars. Although still a key character, Ricky isn't a major part
(of the episodes) and has less interaction with Lucy. Nearly every
episode features his not allowing her to do something, which allows
Lucy to interact with the guest stars to confound Ricky. Ricky's
'manic' personality has changed as well, and by the last episode
(filmed in April 1960) is more subtle, almost depressed and he appears
tired. His contributions are generally low-key (with the exception of
the 'Berle' episode). Fred and Ethel are featured in fewer plot themes
after the move to Connecticut, although Ethel does help Lucy carry out
her schemes. Although noted in "I Love Lucy" as the main reason they
were able to afford moving to Connecticut, the joint Ricardo-Mertz egg
business is only mentioned once. Fred assumes his role as Ricky's band
manager. As noted Arnaz had each episode written to 'stand alone' in
order to expand themes and plots using celebrity guests. He also
expected those guest stars to have significant screen time. Arnaz,
Vance and Frawley all had their dialog and screen time reduced a great
deal compared to I Love Lucy. This reduction was not well received by
Vance, who considered leaving. Frawley, however, was happy with the
reduction which gave him more time to attend to his other interests.
New friends from the I Love Lucy Connecticut episodes, the Ramseys (or
the Mortons), were not in the Comedy Hour cast and are only mentioned
2 times in it, each as baby-sitters for Little Ricky. Besides the
Mertzes the only character from the I Love Lucy show to appear on the
Comedy Hour was Lucy's mother (who appeared briefly in episode 12 (the
'Japan' episode)) as Little Ricky's babysitter. Little Ricky is used
more but is still a minor character. Most feature him playing the
drums, coming and going (examples include The Celebrity Next Door and,
in several, off to school or some other function) and has no friends,
unlike the 6th season of I Love Lucy, where a few are noted (Little
Ricky Gets Stage Fright, Little Ricky Learns to Play the Drums,
several of the Connecticut episodes, etc.) and no plot theme centers
on him. Also the Ricardos do not interact with any neighbors in
Westport (the Celebrity Next Door is the exception, although Bankhead
appears in only that episode and features Lucy's only work with the
PTA) and the town, a major plot theme in season 6 of ILL is hardly
mentioned except in passing.


Comedy Hour episodes were one hour. Production costs estimated to be
$340,000 per episode. Arnaz had originally proposed to run 10 episodes
(one per month) but the high production costs forced Desilu to taper
this to 5 episodes each in the 1957-1958, 1958-1959 seasons and only 3
in the final season (1959-1960). Arnaz had signed Debbie Reynolds to
appear in a season 4 episode to be broadcast in January, 1961 and had
been preparing to produce 3 specials for the 1960-1961 season. Ball
and Arnaz divorced in May, 1960. After the final Lucy-Desi program the
two never worked together again, although Arnaz executive produced the
first 15 of The Lucy Show episodes before leaving Desilu Productions
in 1962.


For the 1957-58 and the 1958-59 seasons of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz
Show, the ratings were very good. However, by the start of the 1959-60
season, with the habit of viewing Lucy broken up every few months,
being broadcast on different nights as well as the obvious tension
revealed between Ball and Arnaz (due to their real-life marriage
unraveling), viewers of the specials dropped and it was no longer a
major hit in the ratings. Critics commented on the lackluster quality
and poor scripts. The casts performances were also panned. The
interaction between Ricky and Lucy, a major element of the original
programs success, was not up to par (reflecting Ball and Arnaz'
personal problems). Because of their personal problems (and Desi
spending more time trying to maintain the Desilu "empire"), the live
studio audience was replaced with a laugh track by the final season
(although both Milton Berle and writer Bob Schiller stated in The Lucy
Book by Geoffrey Mark Fidelman that for the ninth season premiere
show, "Milton Hides Out at The Ricardos", a live audience was brought
in for some of the scenes to give a sense of timing). In the
penultimate episode of the series, titled "The Ricardos Go to Japan",
Lucy appeared on screen red-eyed due to her crying during the
arguments between herself and Desi (although not seen on-camera due to
the show being filmed in black and white).


In the making of the last episode, Ball and Arnaz did not speak
directly to each other except when their characters were required to
do so. The series filmed its final episode on March 2, 1960 and
divorce proceedings started the next day. In the final episode, Edie
Adams chose to sing "That's All", later commenting that she personally
chose the song, unaware of the magnitude of the Ball-Arnaz marital
woes or the pending divorce, and Ball's look of anguish and sadness
was obvious in the finished airing of the episode. Adams stated that
the mood on set was tense and sad. And, although it had not been
publicly announced, most of the cast and crew knew it would be the
program's last episode. This could also be why the program did not
have a unique final episode.


Critics have generally regarded the series as a rather pallid
continuation of I Love Lucy, with not enough of the original show's
brisk pace and memorable sketch-work, and an excessive use of
celebrity guest-stars. Still, many fans enjoy the series because of
the cast, which remained intact from the original. The Lucy-Desi
Comedy Hour is occasionally seen on nostalgia outlets like TV Land in
its original hour-long format, or in edited thirty-minute installments
(beginning in 1987) under the title We Love Lucy, where stations ran
it directly after the sixth season of I Love Lucy. This allows them to
have twenty-six additional "episodes" that run like a seventh season.
Since The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour had only thirteen episodes spread over
three seasons, all thirteen episodes were released in one DVD box
collection. Me-TV carried the program in its original one hour format
during the summer of 2012.


The show is briefly memorialized in the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center
in Jamestown, New York.


To go to Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20090308140300/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/lucydesi.html


To go to a page dedicated to the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour go to https://web.archive.org/web/20081002100342/http://tvland.classictvhits.com:80/LucyDesiComedyHour/


For an episode guide of The Lucy-Desi Comedy hour go to http://web.archive.org/web/20091027182715/http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/6066/epguhour.html


For some Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/shows/lucy-desi-comedy-hour-the


To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fZPknRhAuk
Date: Sat February 28, 2009 � Filesize: 47.5kb, 124.8kbDimensions: 865 x 1280 �
Keywords: Desi Arnaz Lucille Ball

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