It’ll be 60 years ago this week that one of the best, most groundbreaking television series premiered. This year also marks what would be the 100th birthday of one of the single most talented individuals the world has ever seen.
I Love Lucy and its star Lucille Ball were not only trailblazers, not only one of the very first hits in a medium that at the time was merely an infant, but 60 years later prove to be two of the most timeless institutions in the world.
I Love Lucy has a simple premise. A red-haired housewife gets herself into sticky situations and brings along her Cuban bandleader husband and their two best friends and landlords along for the ride.
But that simple premise has made audiences around the world laugh nonstop for 60 years now.
Much credit goes to Madelyn Pugh Davis, Bob Carroll, Jr. and Jess Oppenheimer for writing situations and punchlines that still induce laughter six decades later. Ball and the rest of the cast actually rarely ad-libbed, so those right on the mark punchlines and hilarious situations were all from the minds of those talented writers.
But equal credit, if not more, goes to the cast. Desi Arnaz, William Frawley, Vivian Vance and of course Lucille Ball had the talent, the skill, the comedic timing and the chemistry to make all of that excellent writing work. In spite of whatever went on behind the camera, they were professional and came together to create maybe the funniest foursome in the history of television.
Having premiered in the early days of a brand new medium, I Love Lucy was able to set the bar for every comedy series and really, every television program to come after it.
I Love Lucy was revolutionary; pioneering the use of multiple cameras, live audiences instead of a laugh track, 35mm film over kinescopes and the development of the rerun. All innovations that have left an indelible mark and are still in use in television production today.
It even set ratings records that are still untouched today!
For the television sitcom, you could say I Love Lucy pioneered and even perfected the themes one would generally see in comedies of today.
From fighting with an Italian grape stomper to her and Ethel stuffing their faces with chocolate, many of the most memorable moments and episodes of I Love Lucy may be those that involved Lucille Ball and physical comedy. And many of the same situations and gags have been used over and over again on a many number of series.
I Love Lucy may have been the first buddy comedy. Two couples, best friends who had their downs, but 99% of the time, their hilarious ups. Going through the dilemmas and memories of any group of friends would. And even more so, Vivian Vance’s Ethel really is the quintessential sidekick. The first and maybe the best.
I Love Lucy was even a workplace comedy. How many times did the Ricardos and Mertzes go into business together? The troubles of friends going into business, the failures, the successes. How about all those get rich quick schemes? The Aunt Marthas and the “It’s a moo-moo”s on top of the Empire State Building?
And of course, I Love Lucy was a family comedy. First, it was about two married couples living in New York and having hilarious adventures. Then, it became about a married couple raising their first child… and still having hilarious adventures. The series mined comedy from their homelife, from raising a cute little baby to a talented drumming little boy, and even from their careers.
All of these points and more show how timeless I Love Lucy is. Its influence still seen and felt on television comedies today. Its episodes continuing to make people laugh into this next century. You’ll be hard pressed to find a series, comedy or drama, that you’d be able to say the same thing about today.
Happy 60th I Love Lucy. Happy 100th Ms. Lucille Ball. And thank you.