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"Lucy Show" (and public domain) questions


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#1 of 75 JasonPW

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Posted August 06 2004 - 02:45 AM

I have some questions about "The Lucy Show" for whomever thinks they have answers. I know there are studio employees and similar types on these boards who know more about the subject than I do.

1. Is the entire series "The Lucy Show" in the public domain? If not, why are certain episodes in the PD and certain are not? I'm seeing TONS of these on DVD...I used to think I understood the concept of public domain but that's gone out the window in recent years.

2. When we say that a TV episode is in the public domain, what are we specifically referring to? If I find a 16mm film copy of a "Petticoat Junction" syndication print in a dumpster outside my local TV station, does that mean it's PD material now?

3. How on earth can a major studio like Paramount (which owns the rights to "The Lucy Show," not to mention "Andy Griffith" and other series besmirched by bad quality PD releases)let such valuable properties slip into PD? This again goes back to my fuzzy understanding of public domain. What did Paramount do (or not do) to let this happen?

4. What's to say that 10 years from now we won't see muddy-looking PD tapes and DVD's of "Happy Days" or "The Brady Bunch"?

(I'm no idiot--I know that will never happen. But WHY won't it happen? What is Paramount doing differently now?)

Okay, I'm done.

Doc
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#2 of 75 Mark To

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Posted August 06 2004 - 03:50 AM

Quote:
1. Is the entire series "The Lucy Show" in the public domain? If not, why are certain episodes in the PD and certain are not? I'm seeing TONS of these on DVD...I used to think I understood the concept of public domain but that's gone out the window in recent years.


No, only certain episodes are PD. You will notice that the "TONS" that you see are basically the same episodes being put out over and over by many different companies. Why certain episodes of a series are PD and others are not is simple. At the end of 28 years, when the copyrights were up for renewal, the copyright holder screwed up and did not renew the episodes. Once the show's copyright hit the 29th year, the show went into the public domain. As all series are not made in one year, just because they forget to renew one episode does not mean they forget to renew all of them.



Quote:
2. When we say that a TV episode is in the public domain, what are we specifically referring to? If I find a 16mm film copy of a "Petticoat Junction" syndication print in a dumpster outside my local TV station, does that mean it's PD material now?



What you have in your possession is irrelevant. I've had thousands of 16mm film in my possession. If they are copyrighted, they are copyrighted. Doesn't matter that you have a copy anymore than having a copy of a book make it a PD book. It has to do with the registration process, not with what you have in your garage.

Quote:
3. How on earth can a major studio like Paramount (which owns the rights to "The Lucy Show," not to mention "Andy Griffith" and other series besmirched by bad quality PD releases)let such valuable properties slip into PD? This again goes back to my fuzzy understanding of public domain. What did Paramount do (or not do) to let this happen?


They fucked up. Plain and simple. Someone was asleep at the wheel and it slipped through the cracks. When you are talking about companies of that size, mistakes can happen and in a few cases, they did.

Quote:
4. What's to say that 10 years from now we won't see muddy-looking PD tapes and DVD's of "Happy Days" or "The Brady Bunch"?


No, we won't. Thanks to a new copyright law that Disney pushed through by buying off congress, any show from 1964 forward is automatically protected for 95 years. No more 28 plus 28 with renewal. So you don't have to worry about anything post-1964 falling into PD. The only way something from this era can be PD is if there was never a copyright notice placed on the film and it was never registered.

#3 of 75 JasonPW

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Posted August 06 2004 - 04:13 AM

Thanks for answering my questions!

When I said TONS of episodes of "The Lucy Show" were out there I should have been more specific. I have seen upwards of 25 different "Lucy Show" eps available on VHS and DVD. Yes, every distributor is offering the same 20something episodes...but it's still (to me, anyway) a pretty good percentage of the total series run...nearly a full season's worth (or, if you prefer, 1/6th of the total series run) of PD material.

The one thing I should have said last time but didn't: If the glut of PD releases is making Paramount afraid or hesitant to do an official release (for fear of being lost in the shuffle) that's a darn shame. "The Lucy Show" deserves an official DVD release a lot more than the inferior "Here's Lucy" does.

Doc
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#4 of 75 Mark To

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Posted August 06 2004 - 07:08 AM

Quote:
The one thing I should have said last time but didn't: If the glut of PD releases is making Paramount afraid or hesitant to do an official release (for fear of being lost in the shuffle) that's a darn shame. "The Lucy Show" deserves an official DVD release a lot more than the inferior "Here's Lucy" does.


I couldn't agree more. Especially the first 3 seasons with Vivian Vance as a regular the show was hysterical. Dropped off a bit after she left but even at its worst it never sunk as low as Here's Lucy. I still haven't given up hope yet. As popular as Lucy will always be, I think they will eventually get around to it.

#5 of 75 RobertSiegel

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Posted August 06 2004 - 07:29 AM

I own a few of those Lucy Show episodes (that's the one I grew up with) and the quality is so bad it's embarassing. I really wish they would put the seasons out remastered. The one I own has 3 dvd's, and some great episodes, but on my large screen, I never want to watch them because they look so bad, 16mm torn and scratched and faded. That's why they're under 10.00 for 3 discs. That was the last set I bought from that company!

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!


#6 of 75 Richie C.

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Posted August 06 2004 - 03:57 PM

The first 2 seasons of The Lucy Show are as good if not better than I Love Lucy...the chemistry and timing between Lucy and Viv was at its peak and most of those B/W episodes are hysterical. They MUST get remastered & re-released!

#7 of 75 Catrina

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Posted February 20 2005 - 05:59 AM

I like The Lucy Show just as well as I Love Lucy. I grew up watching reruns on Nick at Nite and absoulutely loved it!
Thanks to everyone for explaining about public domain. I failed to understand how such a great show could have so many inferior DVD/VHS releases.

#8 of 75 AnnaMaria

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Posted February 20 2005 - 06:06 AM

I would love to see both The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy in season releases. I have a handful of the Lucy Show and the quality isn't good. One show skips part of the opening scene and it's hard to navigate.

And anything with Lucy and Viv is hilarious. I do have Lucy and Viv fixing a shower.

#9 of 75 Joe Lugoff

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Posted February 20 2005 - 09:05 AM

If I may chime in here:

Many shows "jumped the shark" at one time or another, but did any show do such severe shark jumping as "The Lucy Show?"

And I'm afraid the whole thing was the fault of Lucille Ball herself.

The story goes that her longtime writers, "Madelyn and Bob," quit her in a huff over some silly disagreement at the end of the second season. Then Vivian Vance quit her after the third season after reasonably asking if she could become a little more important at Desilu -- maybe direct a few episodes -- and being told, "No!"

Then Jess Oppenheimer, the creator of the original "Lucy" character, told her to cease and desist using Lucy Ricardo-ish characterisitics, such as her famous cry. And instead of paying him something, and giving him a "character created by" credit, she just had her writers change the Lucy character from a clever schemer to a bumbling idiot.

Desi Arnaz, a very bright businessman, wouldn't have let any of this happen! But Lucy combined her well-documented tightness with bad business advice and let her show deteriorate from one that started out just as good as "I Love Lucy" into something pretty awful.

She compounded the errors with "Here's Lucy" by bringing her high-grade nepotism into full gear -- her marginally talented kids as co-stars -- her COUSIN as producer -- her clueless husband as executive producer.

Gary Morton was the exact opposite of Desi Arnaz. Desi knew what he was doing down to the last detail -- Gary knew nothing! In fact, when he met Lucy in the early '60s, he was unaware of "I Love Lucy!" That's ok -- but then why make him the executive producer?

Someone somewhere seemed to go out of their way to stink up these shows. They had good writers -- they just couldn't write good for Lucy. Milt Josefsberg had decades of great Jack Benny writing in his past -- he did some good work for "All in the Family" later. But for Lucy, he wrote some embarrassingly awful scripts. Maybe her writers felt, "What's the use?"

OK, I'm through ranting. Thanks for reading it!

#10 of 75 JasonPW

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Posted February 20 2005 - 10:42 AM

Excellent points!

Another thing that brought down the lack of quality in post-Viv seasons of "The Lucy Show"--confounding lack of character and plot continuity. Guest stars would be given life-changing roles in Lucy Carmichael's world (remember Lucy giving up her gig at the bank to be a flight attendant with her friend Carol?!?), then everything would be back to normal the next week. Biographical details about characters like Mr. Mooney were never set in stone--if Mooney needed a wife for a plot to work, he was married; if he needed a kid, he had a kid. Sometimes it seemed like an anthology series!

Shout Factory's Here's Lucy release, in all its extras-and-goodies-laden glory, made we wish that Paramount would license "The Lucy Show" to them or Image, so the release is done right.

Not to get off on a tangent, but one of the greatest dissapointments I've experienced since getting into this hobby has been the Paramount Television series. Okay, so you don't want to break the bank on extras. Fine! But do SOMETHING!

Add bonus episodes from other series! Mork's Happy Days guest spot as a bonus on the Mork and Mindy set, the introduction of Laverne and Shirley on "Happy Days" as a bonus on their box set, the "Love American Style" episode containing the original pilot as a bonus on the Happy Days set.

Add reunion shows that have been in the can for over a decade! Each of the above shows (except Mork and Mindy) has them!

Add cartoons (Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, Laverne and Shirley in the Army)!

I understand that Paramount doesn't want to pony up the huge bucks to bring Garry Marshall into the recording studio for commentaries, or go to the effort to do a featurette on the shows' history. But please...give us more than the episodes!

Doc
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#11 of 75 Joe Lugoff

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Posted February 20 2005 - 02:06 PM

Quote:
Another thing that brought down the lack of quality in post-Viv seasons of "The Lucy Show"--confounding lack of character and plot continuity. Guest stars would be given life-changing roles in Lucy Carmichael's world (remember Lucy giving up her gig at the bank to be a flight attendant with her friend Carol?!?), then everything would be back to normal the next week. Biographical details about characters like Mr. Mooney were never set in stone--if Mooney needed a wife for a plot to work, he was married; if he needed a kid, he had a kid. Sometimes it seemed like an anthology series!


You are so right, Jason!

The original Lucy and Viv characters seemed like real human beings. The "new" Lucy Carmichael was impossible to relate to. She wasn't real, just a cartoon.

How about the way she never cared about her kids any more? She mentioned her son in a later episode, and called him Jimmy (the actor's real name) instead of Jerry!

Also, she and Viv attended their college reunion in Season Two and in Season Six Lucy went back to school to get her high school diploma!

But when you get incredibly ridiculous episodes like when she became a super woman, or got drafted into the army (not only the wrong sex, but about 30 years too old!), what difference does continuity make? Posted Image

#12 of 75 Mark To

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Posted February 20 2005 - 02:33 PM

What was the shark point for this show? I haven't seen them in a long time so I assume it's after 3rd season when Vance left and the got rid of the kids. As for Here's Lucy, the less said about it the better. That may be the worst successful show of all time. That only encouraged Lucy to come back with Life with Lucy 10+ years later, using the same stale scripts and same stale gags. Thankfully that got the derision it deserved and met it's fate after 2 months.

#13 of 75 Dan McW

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Posted February 20 2005 - 03:34 PM

Didn't Columbia House do some tapes of "The Lucy Show" (and I'm not mixing this up with their "I Love Lucy" tapes)? I've got a few CH tapes from numerous series but not The Lucy Show. Surely the quality on the CH tapes was better. Anybody out there have these?

I too made a regrettable purchase of one of those cheap Lucy Show DVD's--truly horrendous quality.

#14 of 75 Joe Lugoff

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Posted February 20 2005 - 04:11 PM

Quote:
What was the shark point for this show?


It started to deteriorate during the third season, but it was at least still watchable.

It jumped way over the shark starting with Season Four when Lucy moved to California. By the end of the fourth season, we were subjected to one of the worst half hours in TV history -- when Lucy acquired super strength. She'd open her refrigerator, and the door would come off in her hand, for instance. It made all of Lucy Ricardo's antics seem positively realistic in comparison.

I agree that "Here's Lucy" is about the worst successful show of all time, with the possible exception of "The Brady Bunch."

#15 of 75 Jeff#

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Posted February 20 2005 - 05:23 PM

Some of what you guys said about The Lucy Show, I don't completely agree with.

Although it's true that it was better overall with Vivian Vance as a regular in the first 3 years....Lucy's 2 kids Jerry and Chris and Viv's son Sherman just weren't working out.

What happened was the writers realized that it was better to move the show from Connecticut (where the last year of I Love Lucy and the occasional Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour specials took place) to Los Angeles. This actually made sense because Lucy's various series were normally filmed in Hollywood anyway, and it was a good excuse to get big-name guest-stars on a regular basis! It was fun seeing Lucy get into trouble with the likes of John Wayne, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, George Burns, Carol Burnett, and Ann Sothern! It's almost as if the Carmichael and Bagley kids never existed...

Lucy's original banker in the first season was Mr. Barnsdahl (played by Charles Lane -- who at the age of 100 was recently seen on tape on the SAG Awards special!). When the series became the first Desilu production filmed in color when the second season premiered in 1963, former Lucille Ball foil Gale Gordon joined the cast as Theodore J. Mooney, vice-president of the Danfield, CT bank. Mr. Mooney had taken over Lucy's trust fund. By some amazing "coincidence" when Lucy made the move to the West Coast, Mooney managed to get hired as the Vice-President of a bank there and hired Lucy as his secretary!

This was written for TV Tome:

Quote:
Mary Jane Croft was brought in as Lucy's regular best friend, Mary Jane Lewis (the actresses' real married name) in 1965. Croft also appeared as Lucy Ricardo's friend, Betty Ramsey in "I Love Lucy". Lucille Ball ended The Lucy Show when she sold her studio (Desilu) to Paramount Studios. Rather than continue and not own the production, she canceled the top-ten rated show, changed the format slightly and renamed it Here's Lucy.
Lucy's antics in California was the format for the last 3 years of The Lucy Show. She seemed just as scheming, yet wacky to me in the later years as she was early on. I don't blame the writers. It was just simply more of the same jokes recycled. But continuity wasn't totally thrown at the window: Vivian Vance guest-starred a few times, as Viv visited her old friend in L.A. There wasn't a season of that series in which Viv wasn't seen. She also made several guest appearances on Here's Lucy.

I enjoyed Here's Lucy, and agree it's not quite as good as The Lucy Show. As with her previous series, it too lasted six years. No problem here with her real-life children Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. playing her kids in that series, even though Desi left after the third year in 1971. At least her daughter (as Kim Carter) stuck with the show. Originally the kids had both appeared on the last episode of I Love Lucy in 1957.

Lucy Carter worked for an employment agency run by her brother-in-law Harrison Otis Carter (Gale Gordon). Again she was his secretary. Other than those things, we have to remember that the classic Lucy formula still worked. It was the # 1 series on CBS during the 1970-71 season (at least until All in the Family took that honor). I think the problem with Here's Lucy was that in an increasing number of episodes, too much emphasis was put on song-and-dance variety rather than the situation comedy. As always, Ms. Ball stayed clear of controversial issues because she always wanted to keep it a "family show", which it was.

The only things new about the ratings-disaster swan song for Lucille Ball, "Life with Lucy" in 1986 were her character's new family and that episode in which Curtis McGibbon (Gale Gordon) buys a computer for his hardware store and Lucy accidentally destroys it. At least there were still big-name guest stars like John Ritter and Peter Graves, but it was too much too late and by then both Lucy and Gale were just too old....

#16 of 75 Gregory V

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Posted February 21 2005 - 12:44 AM

I really hope they release season sets of the Lucy show, especially the first three seasons. After that it was erratic as to quality. I DID thoroughly enjoy the episodes with Ann Sothern. I purchased the Here's Lucy set, apparently remembering it with my heart and not my true memories. It is not a very good show. I got some mild chuckles from them, but nothing like I was remembering. That episode where she was at the Air Force Academy was truly awful. The ones with Vivian Vance guest starring were somewhat better. They were always great together. Lucy was never the same without Ethel/Viv.

#17 of 75 JasonPW

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Posted February 21 2005 - 12:52 AM

Moving the show to Hollywood and dumping the kids was, IMHO, shark-time.

In the original "I Love Lucy" series, they did a season in Hollywood and some multi-episode plotlines in exotic locales, to inject some star value into each season. But each season also included the classic moments with just the four principals, finding humor in spousal relations and bickering with friends.

"The Lucy Show"'s original format had limitless possibilities! A teenage daughter, divorcees, a wacky neighbor (the underappreciated Dick Martin). Unfortunately I don't think America was ready to welcome this permutation of the Lucy character...or any kind of show with two single women as the leads. But as we know, Lucy made or consulted on those decisions that sent the show's quality downward, so the new setting and characterization may simply have been out of her comfort zone.

Anyway, using celebrities as often as the later Lucy shows did is indicative of lazy writing, or writers who are not interested in or vested in the lives of the main characters. It's a lot easier to whitewash characters that are already caricatures (Lucy, mr. Mooney) than characters with aspects of realism (Viv, the kids, Harry).

Get rid of the kids, the friend...you've basically got a live-action "Tom and Jerry" with Lucy as the mouse.

Doc
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#18 of 75 Joe Lugoff

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Posted February 21 2005 - 03:42 AM

I'm afraid Jeff# has several errors in his message.

Quote:
What happened was the writers realized that it was better to move the show from Connecticut


Actually, they lived in Danfield, New York, not Connecticut.

Quote:
It was fun seeing Lucy get into trouble with the likes of John Wayne, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, George Burns, Carol Burnett, and Ann Sothern! It's almost as if the Carmichael and Bagley kids never existed...


It wasn't fun for me because the shows were badly written and unfunny. Lucy got "in trouble" with Bob Hope on "I Love Lucy," not "The Lucy Show." Hope's only "Lucy Show" appearance is a walk-on at the end of Episode 2 of Season 3. Burnett and Sothern played characters; many of the guest stars played characters, while others played themselves.

Quote:
When the series became the first Desilu production filmed in color when the second season premiered in 1963, former Lucille Ball foil Gale Gordon joined the cast as Theodore J. Mooney, vice-president of the Danfield, CT bank.


Filmed in color, but not shown in color on the network until the fourth season. Lucy wanted Gale Gordon all along, but he was committed to "Dennis the Menace." And, again, it isn't Danfield, CT, but Danfield, NY.

Quote:
She seemed just as scheming, yet wacky to me in the later years as she was early on.


No way! Not anywhere near! And let's not forget that her voice started to deteriorate during these years and lost all of its flexibility. By the end of "Here's Lucy" it was a good octave lower than it had been during "I Love Lucy." The bios blame this on too many cigarettes, too much Scotch, and too much screaming at people.

Quote:
There wasn't a season of that series in which Viv wasn't seen.


No, she doesn't appear in the Fifth Season, 1966-67. Another oddity is she suddenly shows up in the Sixth Season's show with Joan Crawford, with no explanation of what she's doing there! All of a sudden, she's Lucy's sidekick again as if she'd never left.

I agree with what JasonPW says, except for this:

Quote:
Unfortunately I don't think America was ready to welcome this permutation of the Lucy character...or any kind of show with two single women as the leads.


But the show was a huge success, always placing in the Top Ten.

I was 12 when "The Lucy Show" started, and I remember "viv"idly (no pun intended) watching the first episode on the night of October 1, 1962. It was odd for a few minutes to see the identical characters of Lucy and Ethel without Ricky and Fred, but I thought the show was just as funny as "I Love Lucy" and I quickly accepted that they were playing a widow and a divorcee.

I liked the first season of "The Lucy Show" every bit as much as the last season of "I Love Lucy." There are many classic episodes that first year -- putting up the antenna, installing the shower, trying to market Viv's caramel corn, driving a dump truck. I'd say 25 out of the 30 shows are on the "I Love Lucy" level.

#19 of 75 Bill Funt

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Posted February 21 2005 - 09:51 AM

Question about shows after 1964: I recently saw a DVD set of the Odd Couple on sale. This was not a Paramount release and the episodes were not taken from masters. It was explained that this show was now PD(at least that's the claim of whoever released the set). Now how did this happen?

#20 of 75 Thomas Newton

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Posted February 21 2005 - 10:41 AM

Quote:
Question about shows after 1964: I recently saw a DVD set of the Odd Couple on sale. This was not a Paramount release and the episodes were not taken from masters. It was explained that this show was now PD(at least that's the claim of whoever released the set). Now how did this happen?

False advertising?

Foreign import, from a country where the copyright terms are much shorter than the ones we now have here? Or where the copyright holder did not renew the copyright?

FYI: The original US copyright law provided for something like a 14-year copyright term with one 14-year renewal. If that was still in force, anything made before today's month and day in 1977 would now be in full public domain.


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