Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Debut of I Love Lucy 10-15-51

On October 15, 1951 one of the greatest television series of all time made its very humble and unexciting debut. This is the date that Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred first appeared. Since then, there hasn't been a time when this series hasn't been broadcast!
The series was the brainchild of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. She was a Hollywood contract player on the verge of huge success and he was a travelling band-leader. In order to work together, they created I Love Lucy from the radio show Lucy was then doing, "My Favorite Husband." The backers did not want to support this series because they did not believe that anyone would believe Lucy and Desi were actually married....even though they really were! CBS talked of moving the radio hit to television, but Lucy insisted on replacing her actor-husband Richard Denning with her real-life husband. Eventually CBS agreed, and the rest is history.

William Frawley was cast as Fred Mertz when Lucy's "My Favorite Husband" co-stars were not available.  Gale Gordon (who later co-starred in both of Lucy's later series) and Bea Benaderet (who later starred on Petticoat Junction) were Lucy's first choices, but neither was available for the TV commitment. Frawley had worked with Lucy before and called her to ask for the job personally. Desi liked him, but because Frawley had a reputation for drinking too much his contract stipulated that if he ever showed up on set drunk he would be fired on the spot. Therefore, Frawley never showed up drunk during the run of the show, and he and Desi became good friends. His screen wife, Ethel, was the last character cast. The producers saw Vivian Vance in a play outside of Los Angeles but had to convince her to sign. She didn't want to play "dumpy" and took an instant dislike to her on-screen husband. However, she and Lucy eventually became friends, too, and she co-starred in both of Lucy's later series. She insisted, however, on her characters being called "Viv" because she disliked being called "Ethel" in real life.

"The Girls Want to Go To A Nightclub" was the first episode aired, although it was actually the second episode filmed.

For six years I Love Lucy was the most popular series on television, ranked either number 3 (first year) 2 (year five) or 1 (all other years). There are too many classic episodes to talk about any favorites, so I will just show one of my favorite bits: when Desi actually sang the words to the theme song, "I Love Lucy."

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