The Best of I Love Lucy
Directed by William Asher et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 361 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English, Spanish
Subtitles: CC, Spanish
MSRP: $ 14.99
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Review Date: June 18, 2011
There is no question that I Love Lucy is one of the iconic situation comedies of the 20th century. It might not be the best written (The Mary Tyler Moore Show would get my vote), the most honored (Frasier won the most Emmys), or had the longest reign as the most popular show on television (All in the Family and The Cosby Show each placed as number one for five years to Lucy’s four), but it’s fair to say that somewhere in the world right now, I Love Lucy is playing and making folks laugh, the way it has done for more than half a century. The fourteen episodes selected for inclusion in The Best of ‘I Love Lucy’ wouldn’t all have made my top fourteen list, but there is no denying that they’re all fine, funny examples of the program firing on all cylinders, and some have a nostalgic element built in as well. For those who don't already own sets of I Love Lucy, this sampler of episodes is a nice remembrance.
One of the series’ less great episodes comes first, “The Ballet.” Even with the wonderful Mary Wickes as the Russian ballet teacher putting Lucy through her rigorous paces, the set could have used a better first season episode to start off the show. I might have selected “Lucy Writes a Play,” The Diet,” or “Breaking the Lease” from season one. One will quickly note the large amount of music used in the episodes of the set's first disc. Desi Arnaz sings in six of the first seven episodes of the set. Of course, on the set’s first disc, the expected hilarious classics are there: “The Freezer” (kudos for the ingenious make-up for Lucy as a frozen Popsicle), “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” and “Job Switching.” (The liner notes make sure that the casual buyer knows these latter two shows are the “Vitameatavegamin” and “Chocolate Factory” episodes.) And there is great sentimental value in the first disc’s two pregnancy themed shows: “Lucy Is Enciente” and “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” the beginning and ending of the pregnancy story arc on the series.
Three episodes cover the story arc involving Rickey’s sojourn in Los Angeles to film Don Juan. All are memorable episodes, but almost all of those excellent shows were top-notch Lucy and any of them could have been chosen. Also included is the hilarious trip back home via train as Lucy can’t keep her hands off of the emergency brake. The disc set concludes with four episodes from the show’s season five story arc taking the Ricky Ricardo band to Europe featuring two shows set in Paris and, of course, “Lucy’s Italian Movie” which is almost always used in retrospectives of the show’s wackier and funnier moments.
Wisely, the set does not include any of the episodes once the couple moves out of New York to the little home in Connecticut where the writers seem to be stretched for ideas and the shows lack real invention. And, undoubtedly, there will be favorite episodes missing from this small sample of the show’s 179-episode output. What’s here is funny, but what’s missing in some cases is as funny as the best episodes here and funnier than some of the episodes chosen. Purists will not be happy that the episodes don’t include the original animated opening credits. Animation does pop up in the mid-show breaks and codas of many of the shows. And “Bon Voyage” features a big plug at the end of the episode for Desi’s soundtrack recording of “Forever Darling” which was then available for purchase.
Here are the fourteen episodes contained on the two discs in this set:
1 – The Ballet
2 – The Freezer
3 – Lucy Does a TV Commercial
4 – Job Switching
5 – Lucy Is Enceinte
6 – Lucy Goes to the Hospital
7 – L.A. at Last!
8 – Lucy Gets in Pictures
9 – Harpo Marx
10 – The Great Train Robbery
11 – Bon Voyage
12 – Paris at Last
13 – Lucy Gets a Paris Gown
14 – Lucy’s Italian Movie
The program’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is presented on this disc. While most of the episodes are clean and feature excellent sharpness and a very pleasing grayscale, there are strange anomalies that crop up occasionally. A couple of times, a perfectly clear scene switches immediately to a fuzzy, grainy continuation of the scene. The transfer has some problems with striped and polka dot patterns on dresses and ties causing momentary strobe effects for a few seconds. Each episode begins with a tinted plate that announces the title and the original airdate of the episode. Each episode has been divided into 8 chapters.
The 2.0 Dolby Digital mono track is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. The recording is very typical of its era with limited fidelity, some distortion in the upper registers of the orchestral music and singing, and some occasional crackle and low level hiss though these latter problems occur only sporadically.
Apart from promo ads for I Love Lucy sets on DVD and other CBS/Paramount comedy series, there are no bonus features. This is especially disappointing in that the “Best of” set for The Andy Griffith Show released a few months ago at least featured the made-for-TV reunion movie featuring the actors playing their characters many years later. Couldn’t one of the Lucy-Desi one hour programs like “The Celebrity Next Door” have been pulled out of the vault to give this set some added value?
3.5/5 (not an average)
A decent sampler of one of television’s greatest comedy shows, The Best of ‘I Love Lucy’ features familiar if undoubtedly hilarious episodes of one of the landmarks of TV’s first generation of television programs. With slightly above average video and audio quality and no bonus features at all, there isn’t much here for a Lucy fan, but those without any of the season sets in their collections might be satisfied with this small sampling from this great program.