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Life with Lucy

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Mark Pytel, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. Mark Pytel

    Mark Pytel Second Unit

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    With MPI releasing the complete Here's Lucy and most of her tv specials, do we have any hopes for this long lost final tv show?
    Granted it wasn't the best show, but only being 26 I've seen the show only through the very bad quality recordings that are out there. I'm a huge lucy fan and would purchase this show to complete my collection.
    I don't know which company actually owns this show. I asked shout and they said that they have no plans nor the rights to release this.
    If paramount owns it, I doubt they would release it.
    I hope either MPI has it or Warner owns it. At least if Warner has the rights we know that it would come out eventually in the Archive collection.

    On an unrelated side note, who owns the rights to Jim Carrey's forgotten show The Duck Factory?
    I own the VHS tapes that were released but that was not the compete show. I would love to own a complete series of this program.
    Heck if Hey Vern it's Earnest is getting a complete series release anything is possible :p
     
  2. ToddR2

    ToddR2 Stunt Coordinator

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    Duck Factory was an MTM show, so Fox (unfortunately) should be the rights holder. I doubt they even know they own a sitcom starring Jim Carrey, given the disrespect they've shown MTM's catalog. MPI would seem to be a good choice to release Life With Lucy. You're being quite charitable to suggest that "it wasn't the best show". It is worse than Here's Lucy, which is most awful.
     
  3. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    At this point when it comes to anything in the MTM catalog, getting the last two seasons of "The Bob Newhart Show" out should be the first priority in anything Fox might decide to do (which I know is a forlorn possibliity).
     
  4. Joe Lugoff

    Joe Lugoff Cinematographer

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    According to the IMDB, "Life With Lucy" was a co-production between Aaron Spelling Productions and Lucille Ball Productions.

    Since LB Productions is now in the hands of Lucy's children, and they're releasing everything else they own through MPI (including their father's "The Mothers-in-Law"), I don't see why they wouldn't also release "Life With Lucy," unless the Aaron Spelling estate screws it up somehow.

    It's something they should really consider doing, because the show was such a ratings disaster and ABC canceled it so fast (after only eight episodes), there are several episodes that have never been seen.

    According to "The Lucy Book," they are:

    Lucy and the Guard Goose
    Lucy and Curtis Are Up a Tree
    Lucy's Green Thumb
    Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
    World's Greatest Grandma

    TV.com also lists an unaired episode called "'Twas the Flight Before Christmas," but that would make 14 total episodes and I believe they only filmed 13.

    Television legends Spelling and Ball were linked by this infamous series, and just last night I saw the "I Love Lucy" episode where Aaron Spelling had a small part: "Tennessee Bound," January 24, 1955, Season 4, Episode 15. Spelling played the gas station attendant at the beginning who told the Ricardos and the Mertzes that they were near Bent Fork, home of Cousin Ernie.
     
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  5. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    I don't expect a woman of Lucy's age (she was 75 at the time) to have to keep up with the times, or try to be "relevant," but her producers and writers should have known better. The talents involved simply weren't in step with the times enough to come up with something meaningful to all. They needed someone from the network to get in there and say 'this is what people want from their tv comedies today...let's work Lucy into a show like this.' It should have been more on the level of Family Ties, but with the added ingredient of Lucy. But ABC stupidly signed off on the show, sight unseen. And so, without any input from the network, the writers went with their first instinct and Lucy wound up in the same show she'd already done for 20 years.

    Now, if you're doing a show whose star is playing a grandmother, then let her play a grandmother! It is said that, for some reason, kids often understand their grandparents better than their own parents. That's what the series should have explored. The family should have been portrayed as a three-dimensional (and slightly dysfunctional) 80s tv family with loads of problems...and then they have this wacky Grandma who's funny but meddlesome. There should have been a couple teens on there who are going through the same crap that all tv teens go through--and then Lucy tries to help them out in her own avant-garde way...and sometimes things go haywire for her, and sometimes they do not. She generally wins the day--in spite of her slapstick antics--because she's the Grandma, and everything she does, she does with love and wisdom. Then the show could have been a sweet and funny thing that attempted to bridge the generation gap, and have everyone come out ahead because of it. By the end of each episode, everybody's learned a little something about life, they hug and move on. And the teens on that show would say things like, "Yeah, my Grandma Lucy--she's crazy, but she's always right, ya know?" Perfect 80s show.

    A show done in that format would have lived up to the title of "Life With Lucy," (the title implies that it's from the family's point of view, as in "We are living life with Lucy") and would have gained a lot of respect in terms of believability and pleasing the viewership of the 80s. And if the onscreen Lucy somehow managed to bridge that generation gap with her onscreen grandkids, the audience would have done the same thing by osmosis. So everybody wins. And it would have been a hit.

    But the show was none of those things.

    Instead, Lucy barely interacted with the family at all, besides kinda ignoring them in pursuit of her own cockamamie schemes. She was there haranguing Gale Gordon for the umpteenth time. And she was interacting with a forgettable tv family that seemed more like a tv commercial family compared to any tv sitcom family on the air at the time. The viewers had already seen all that, they'd matured and expected their tv shows to do the same.

    I hate knocking Lucy down--and I'm not, because I don't think she had that much creative input beyond learning her lines. ABC gave her complete creative control over the series, but Lucy was not a writer. To her, "creative control" would mean hiring Bob Carroll and Madelyn Davis, who had served her so faithfully and successfully over the years. She probably expected them to do the same thing they'd always done, and unfortunately, they did. But you can't just dust off tired scripts from decades past and make them work for a wholly new generation. The show would have been "just okay" had it aired in 1966, but 80s sitcom fans expected a lot more depth. Carroll and Davis didn't even try to make it seem like something that should have been a great show; it seemed like they were just going through the motions and collecting their checks. It was like a weird vicious cycle It was like Lucy was relying on them to create this hit show, and they were relying on her to carry it. But they didn't meet in the middle, and the network was basically powerless to interfere. Everyone lost.

    I wouldn't even call it a valiant effort. It was a wasted effort.

    Right before the series premiered, Lucy ran a heartfelt ad in TV Guide thanking her fans for being so supportive of her over the years and implying that the show was her gift of thanks to them, for standing by her and for urging her to return to tv. And then, when the show was suddenly cancelled, the magazines all said that she had taken it very personally and was crying because she thought those same fans had given up on her. That wasn't the case--they simply didn't like the show, not her. The fans instantly forgave her; nobody blamed her for the show being a turkey. But she died just two years later, and I've never known if Lucy ever understood the public's point of view.

    And everyone involved in that show should be ashamed for giving the world's greatest tv star an embarrassing and heartbreaking end to her career.
     
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  6. Joe Lugoff

    Joe Lugoff Cinematographer

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    That's a great analysis, Ethan.

    I'd like to expand on it just a little bit.

    I believe the reason ABC went with this thing in the first place was because "The Golden Girls" was the #1 show on the air at the time and they probably felt "old broads" were in again. That's the way most TV executives think.

    Lucy would have been superb in a "Golden Girls" type show, but she was afraid her fans wouldn't accept her as anything but a scatterbrained person who screwed things up. And her attachment to Gale Gordon just went on too long. I like him as much as the next guy, but let's face it, he was very one-note.

    As for Madelyn and Bob. I've come to sadly accept that they really weren't very good and they were never Lucy's top writers; they were merely the ones who stuck it out with her the longest.

    The real comedy brain behind "I Love Lucy" was Jess Oppenheimer. Later, Bob Weiskopf and Bob Schiller contributed some truly funny scripts to both "I Love Lucy" and "The Lucy Show."

    Apparently, Madelyn and Bob's forte was "situations" and visual humor. They were never very good with funny dialogue.

    When Madelyn and Bob finally returned to Lucy on a semi-regular basis for the final three seasons of "Here's Lucy," I defy anyone to name a truly funny and original script they contributed. They're "ok" at best, and usually just as lame and unfunny as the scripts provided by Milt Josefsberg, Bob O'Brien, Seaman Jacobs and the rest of the tired crew.

    So for "Life With Lucy," Lucy's fatal error -- and it might have been literally fatal, because the books tell us her health declined drastically after this series failed, and she was dead within two and a half years -- was not striking out in a new direction, and that included a new team of writers in tune with the changes the '70s and '80s brought to TV comedy (for better or worse, depending on one's taste).
     
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  7. Neil Brock

    Neil Brock Cinematographer

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    She was doing the same old stale routines that she had done 25 years earlier on I Love Lucy. The audience had seen the reruns so many times that they knew them better than she or the writers did. Also, seeing a woman in her mid-70s doing physical humor and pratfalls came off as terrifying, not funny. The studio audience was more afraid she would kill herself as opposed to laughing. Aaron Spelling talked about it in his autobiography. An almost 80 year old woman teetering on a shaky ladder isn't funny, its scary. This was just a bad show and if as someone above posted, the Ball estate has some control over the show, they will probably make sure that it never does get seen again considering how bad it was.
     
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  8. Jack Cleveland

    Jack Cleveland Second Unit

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    Seems like I read somewhere that the show is now owned by CBS or Paramount, as they acquired all the Spelling properties, including this one. Who releases Dynasty? Regardless, I would be surprised to see this one released-

    Time will tell!
     
  9. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Ethan,

    I concur with Joe that yours is probably the best analysis of not only of why Life With Lucy failed, but what it could have been. I haven't seen it since I saw one episode during Nick at Nite's Lucy mega-marathon in the 1990s and thought "ah, whatever, at least I could say I've seen it", and it probably is as bad as they say, but since it's Lucy it'd probably do well based on her presence alone. Plus there's the whole curiosity factor of a notorious flop. That's why Rhino released The Brady Bunch Variety Hour and Pink Lady & Jeff.

    I assume this is a Paramount property. They ended up with Spelling's Dynasty, The Love Boat, The Mod Squad, 90210, Melrose Place, and Vega$ while Columbia ended up with some of the others.
     
  10. bretmaverick2

    bretmaverick2 Supporting Actor

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    At one point, around the time of this show, there was a rumor going around that one of the original cast members of the Golden Girls was going to leave the show. And I recall hearing this on Entertainment Tonight, that there werr talks with Lucille Ball about joining Golden Girls in the event that one of those three left the series.

    I think joining GG may have suited Lucy better at that point that this program did.
     
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  11. Rob_Ray

    Rob_Ray Screenwriter
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    Herbie J. Pilato has written an essay on "Life With Lucy" here:

    http://www.mediabizbloggers.com/herbie-pilato/Life-With-Lucy---25-Years-Later-This-Show-And-Its-Star-Lucille-Ball-Deserved-More-Respect---Herbie-J-Pilato.html

    Any interested HTF members can post comments.

    I've watched a few episodes now, having missed the show back in 1986, and was taken aback at the fact that it's actually better than most Here's Lucy episodes. While I can't call it a good show, it's quite watchable for Lucy fans, though she does look every day of 75 years.
     
  12. Josie Parton

    Josie Parton Auditioning

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    I LOVE LUCY AND I WANT ALL OF HER MOVIES AND SHOES, I HAVE 3 LUCY'S PURSES , 20 LUCY DOLLS, TEN TOTE BAGA ALL KINS OF LUGGAGE NIGHTGOWNS,SHIRTS,SOCKS,PAJAMA PANTS GAMES EVERYTHING, I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME OR SPACE TO LIST EVERYTHING, AND I MEAN EVERYTHING
     
  13. Josie Parton

    Josie Parton Auditioning

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    I NEED THE DVD OF LIFE WITH LUCY
     
  14. Josie Parton

    Josie Parton Auditioning

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    I NEED THE DVD OF LIFE WITH LUCY
     
  15. Brian McP

    Brian McP Second Unit

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    I think this series must be released one day on home video officially -- if it is by Paramount, I hope they show it as much care as the studio did for their excellent "The Lucy Show" sets -- also, their usage of similar special features with these sets and the "Here's Lucy" sets by MPI were greatly appreciated by Lucy fans (especially me) -- I think they knew it would be mutually beneficial to be on the same page, so to speak, and it seems to have been a great success.

    If it is ever released though, I think Lucie and Desi will have to give their side of the story of this whole period as they were there and most likely know everything that happened, from Lucy's standpoint and the network's.

    I have to admit it was pretty brave to try something like this to begin with -- I think this show is a Lucy show trying to be "The Cosby Show", with everybody lost (Lucy and Gale Gordon running a hardware store? If needs be, how would guest stars be able to generate laughs in this scenario?)

    Lucy, Gale Gordon, Mary Wickes, Mary Jane Croft, Sid Gould and anyone else from the Lucy stock company, late 1980s, in a 'Golden Girls' type of show -- would it have worked? Absolutely -- nobody could deliver a withering one-liner than anyone in this group. In fact, it had already been done, 12 years earlier.

    If one checks out the last season of "Here's Lucy" and comes upon one of the entire series' best episodes, "Lucy is NG as an RN", you will get an inkling of what this group could do in a 'Golden Girls'-like situation.

    Still, I hope there is an official release of LWL as the dvd pirates are probably making millions already off it over the years, and for the fans who never deserted her, then and now, it has to be done.

    I always wished that as a special feature, Lucy's 1985 tv movie "Stone Pillow" would be part of any LWL release. I know it is already out on dvd, but perhaps whoever comes out with this set could licence it only for this release -- it shows one of Lucy's greatest performances -- sadly also, filming this in the middle of New York's summer of 1985 brought on Lucy's poor health, with the show cancellation the following year making it worse.

    For good measure, if they can manage it, throw in Lucy's final appearance at the 1989 Academy Awards with Bob Hope, a memorable ceremony for all the wrong reasons, but that's another story -- she looked great, both were in fine form and would certainly end 'the legend of Lucy' on a very high note.
     
  16. Joe Lugoff

    Joe Lugoff Cinematographer

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    I must say I LOLed when you included Sid Gould in that group. Sid Gould?! Gary Morton's cousin? I saw him in an old movie the other night -- well, obviously old, he wouldn't be in a new movie since he died 17 years ago -- and guess what he did in his ten-second bit part? He looked at something bug-eyed and curled his hand in that peculiar way he had -- the exact same thing he did in every appearance he ever had on "The Lucy Show," "Here's Lucy" and I assume "Life with Lucy." Sadly, he was incredibly untalented.

    Yes, the others in your list were great with the withering one-liners, but somehow I think that Audrey Meadows, Eve Arden, Beatrice Arthur, Vivian Vance and a few thousand others had Sid Gould beat.

    While I have you -- we should have known this series wouldn't have been any good from its title. What could be triter? The IMDb lists hundreds of titles starting with "Life with ..." I guess the most famous one was "Life with Father," which ran eight years on Broadway and was a big movie and also a TV series for a while in the '50s. But there was "Life with Blondie," "Life with Elizabeth," "Life with Henry," "Life with Tom" -- probably with "Dick" and "Harry," too -- etc. etc. etc. The popular radio series "Life with Luigi" came to television in 1952 and was in the time slot following "I Love Lucy"! Change the "igi" to "cy" and it's the same title!

    So if the "creators" of this series -- and let's face it, I'm sure it was "created" around some swimming pool in thirty minutes one afternoon -- could think of no better title than some trite throwback to an earlier era, originality was out of the question for the series. Sadly, as it turned out, "Death with Lucy" would be a more accurate title.

    There are many much more important mysteries to life -- I'd rank "Where did the Universe come from?" "Is there life on other planets?" and "Are we ever going to stop having wars on this planet?" a little higher -- but one of the great mysteries to me was how Lucille Ball, star of the most popular TV show of all time, and the funniest in many peoples' opinions (including mine), could be so clueless as to what makes a good TV comedy for the last twenty or so years of her life.

    I don't know, I blame Gary Morton for the whole thing. I think she listened to him because she listened to her first husband. The big, big difference was her first husband knew what he was doing and her second husband didn't!
     
  17. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    THERE ISN'T ONE.
     
  18. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    THERE ISN'T ONE.
     
  19. bretmaverick2

    bretmaverick2 Supporting Actor

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    There should be!!!
     
  20. JMFabianoRPL

    JMFabianoRPL Stunt Coordinator

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    Funny Golden Girls got brought up so often here...as LWL is in the same boat as Golden Palace, I think: despite completists and curiosity, it won't be released because it was notoriously not that good. (Rue McClanahan talks about what a disappointment GP was in her book) Yes I know far worse shows are on DVD, but these were more high profile bombs.

    Didn't Fox release the first season of Dynasty, then from there it was Constantly Butchering Shows? What was up with that?

    And did Grant Tinker do something to Rupert Murdoch's cereal one morning? What is the deal with the MTM hate on Fox's behalf? Seems they only use the shows as reruns on limited-range nostalgia channels like MeTV. Well at least they are no longer trying to totally erase the brand name from history, like they did when they first got it (they plastered the MTM logo completely on Bravo airings of St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues)

    I think the closest chance we would have had to have a Duck Factory release would be if DVDs existed in the early '90s, when Carreymania was running wild. I think his star has cooled off too much since.
     

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