Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why I Love Lucy

The one memorable line I remember from the show Thirtysomething came from the female character all the other women in the show hated because she was a snotty intellectual who was dating one of the guys of their circle of friends but who wouldn’t lower herself to indulge in the trivia banter that would sometimes become the dinner conversation. Then someone mentioned I Love Lucy

and she joined in for the first time.

“I thought you didn’t like pop culture,” her boyfriend whispers to her.

Without missing a beat, she snaps back, “Lucy isn’t pop culture. Lucy is god.”

I’ll admit that a lot of my affection for I Love Lucy is nostalgia. By the time I was born, the show was in reruns. By the time I was old enough to watch television, episodes were commonplace in syndication time slots. My mother would only watch television during the day on Tuesdays, ironing day. Never one for soap operas, since she didn’t watch everyday, we watched sitcoms. Make Room for Daddy, The Donna Reed Show, Mr. Ed, My Little Margie, Leave it to Beaver, and Private Secretary (remember Ann Sothern going through the revolving doors?).

They all came and went in the line-up, but I Love Lucy was a staple. Even its antecedent, Here’s Lucy, never held our attention as well. My mother, who was not normally interested in weekly television shows, claimed to know every episode line by line. It’s only in retrospect that I realize why.

Considering all the sitcom women during that time period for my mother to identify with, they are all the epitome of the ideal 50s-60s housewives or housewife potential: June Cleaver and her pearls, Margaret Anderson with her calm, lilting voice, Margie Albright and her matching suits and hats, Donna Stone and her motherly perfection.

And then there was Lucy Ricardo. Lucy wore pants sometimes. Lucy burned the roast and got stuck in the walk-in freezer. She almost screwed up her kid’s birthday party. She was constantly leaving Little Ricky with Mrs. Trumbull and doing exotic things. Lucy admitted she didn’t fit into a double-digit size dancing costume (size 12!). Her toaster didn’t work. At different times she could be unapologetically jealous, pushy, loud, obnoxious, devious and, as in when she had to raise the boat fare to Europe, downright felonious.

Some women of my mother’s era required copious doses of anti-depressants to maintain the standards of the June Cleavers. You just needed rubbery facial expressions to be Lucy.

So I’m sure some of my mother’s facination for I Love Lucy rubbed off on me. But my favorite Lucy episodes are not those that are usually showcased. The candy scene has been done to death and I never really found the grape stomping scene to be all that funny. Lucille Ball’s trademark slapstick was never a drawing card for me. Instead, her timing and delivery of even the most mundane lines could make a scene.

What really makes me laugh out loud, no matter how many times I see it, are some of those “bad” musical numbers, purposely written that way, not an easy thing to do, because they are not over-the-top bad. They start out almost acceptable and then suddenly go horribly wrong, like the operetta written by Lucy that has all the elements of Gilbert and Sullivan, but somehow lacks the clever staccato lyrics (“I am the good prince Lancelot/ I love to sing and dance a lot…”); or the “ditty” foisted upon Ricky in exchange for English lessons and ostensibly written by the teacher (Hans Conried):

As I tippy tippy toe through my garden

Where all the pretty flowers dwell

There’s a rare perfume in my garden

And I just love to stand there and smell.

(This one has the added bonus of Fred Mertz singing in his gravelly voice, “Rippity, Pippity Aye.”)

I bring all this up because this weekend, having to keep my foot elevated, I treated myself to this. For the very first time, I’m seeing parts of episodes I’ve never seen before because I’ve only seen them edited for syndication.

But what dawned on me was how much Lucy has influenced me, from the way I write to the way I speak. I recall my brothers and cousins working hard to master the “Ricky Ricardo laugh.” Lousy restaurants when we go on road trip become One Oak Cabins and CafĂ© (remember the cheese sandwich restaurant on the way to California?). And there's no One-A-Days in this house; only Vitameatavegamin.

So Costco will be happy to know I’ll be buying all the episodes…(Psst, Jag, I also bought Season 1 of The Dog Whisperer).

7 comments:

Hick said...

I loved the ones about the road trip to CA. Have you seen the Long, Long Trailer? It's not an I Love Lucy episode but a movie with Lucy and Ricki. The scene with Lucy fixing dinner in the moving trailer while Ricki (I think his name was Nicki in the movie) was pulling it along singing loudly has me laughing just thinking about it.

I also liked The Dick Van Dyke show for the very reason that the people weren't perfect and the Dick's Timing was...perfect, that is.

Oh, good writing, as usual.

zibibbo said...

I love Lucy too! Happy to read the episodes are out on DVD will have to hunt 'em down to order. Too many favorites there.

Happy and Blue 2 said...

We get a lot of the old shows like this on tv.
I think here in Canada they call them the new fall lineup..

Lifecruiser said...

Oh, I had forget about her! I know I loved her too when I was a child, but I don't recall any of the shows. I didnt see it often enough I think, because I were outside all the time and when I came inside I just fell asleep *lol*

Maybe they didnt show that many episodes here in Sweden either.

I love these old pictures. Memories of a past time is always fascinating!

mrhaney said...

i love lucy can be watched over and over again and if i should make it to heaven and they happen to have a t.v. there then surely i love lucy will be on it.

hinder34 said...

Nice post!!!! Its a lovely show for all time. Every moment of this show is fantastic. Its full of fun and entertainment. Very few shows of it's time are still around in reruns.This speaks volumes. If I had to sum it all up in one word,it would be "perfection". You wanna watch this fabulous show then go ahead and download I Love Lucy tv show. with this show enjoy every moment of your time.

calvierude said...

Lovely Review!!!!I love Lucy is a beautiful show and its one of my favorite show. But I also like Donna Reed, this is an amazing TV Show I think. Wanna watch this fabulous show then go ahead and download Donna Reed free Episodes...