HTF REVIEW: I Love Lucy: The Complete Fourth Season (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Herb Kane, May 17, 2005.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    I Love Lucy
    The Complete Fourth Season

    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1954-1955
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 787 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English & Spanish
    Subtitles: Spanish
    MSRP: $54.99
    Package: 5 discs in Slimcases in cardboard box.

    The Feature:
    It’s said that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I Love Lucy is playing somewhere around the world. It’s not hard to understand why. The groundbreaking show was responsible for the literally, hundreds of situation comedy shows that would eventually follow in its footsteps - few of which would ever equal its accomplishments. Lucy (Lucille Ball) is the wacky but adorable housewife always getting herself in the strangest predicaments, married to her Cuban husband Ricky (Desi Arnaz) whose love for Lucy is unwavering. Their best friends and landlords are the Mertzes. Fred Mertz is a gruff but loveable tightwad (hilariously played by William Frawley) and Ethel, the sometimes ditzy but loyal friend (played by Vivian Vance). Apparently, Bea Benaderet and Gale Gordon were Lucy and Desi's first choice to play the Mertzes. The fourth season is a memorable one as the Ricardos and the Mertzes head to Tinseltown when Ricky gets an opportunity to appear as Don Juan in a glitzy Hollywood film.

    After three relatively consistent and highly successful seasons, CBS decided to take a huge creative gamble and take the show on a season long "road trip" with the hope that dedicated fans would embrace the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the stars of the period. Their gamble paid off in spades.

    While the season starts off in New York, the Ricardos buy a car and the four friends venture off for The Golden State. The first few episodes portray the wacky cross-country trip but the fun really begins once they land in Hollywood. After they get to Hollywood, about half way through the season, Lucy and company run into a whole slew of movie stars over the course of their stay. The often star-struck Lucy winds up crossing paths with the likes of: Harpo Marx, Van Johnson, Hedda Hopper, Richard Widmark, Rock Hudson and the unforgettable Brown Derby ("L.A. At Last" episode) when Lucy (incognito), is almost ignited by the great William Holden.

    The series ran from 1951 – 1957 and has been a fan favorite for more than fifty years. Not only were Lucy and Desi exceptionally talented but the gags were brilliantly executed and timed to perfection. But most importantly, the writing which is still impressive to this day, was always rock solid. And as much as I Love Lucy, the show quite simply wouldn’t have been the same were it not for Vance and especially Frawley. His quick witted, dry sarcasm is still among the funniest I have ever seen on television – even to this day.

    The episodes provided here are not the common shows seen in syndication and while I was about to type "these episodes appear un-edited in their full length after having been edited in 1958 when CBS ordered them cut to allow more time for commercial advertising", I discovered this thread on the forum. I'm afraid I can't help as to what material has been edited, but hopefully they are able to resolve this oversight.

    Episodes for the season appear as follows:

    Disc One:

    Episode#1 The Business Manager Airdate: 10-4-54
    Episode#2 Mertz and Kurtz Airdate:10-11-54
    Episode#3 Lucy Cries Wolf Airdate: 10-18-54
    Episode#4 The Matchmaker Airdate: 10-25-54
    Episode#5 Mr. and Mrs. TV Show Airdate: 11-1-54
    Episode#6 Ricky's Movie Offer Airdate: 11-8-54

    Disc Two:

    Episode#7 Ricky's Screen Test Airdate: 11-15-54
    Episode#8 Lucy's Mother-In-Law Airdate: 11-22-54
    Episode#9 Ethel's Birthday Airdate: 11-29-54
    Episode#10 Ricky's Contract Airdate: 12-6-54
    Episode#11 Getting Ready Airdate: 12-13-54
    Episode#12 Lucy Learns to Drive Airdate: 1-3-55

    Disc Three:

    Episode#13 California, Here We Come! Airdate: 1-10-55
    Episode#14 First Stop Airdate: 1-17-55
    Episode#15 Tennessee Bound Airdate: 1-24-55
    Episode#16 Ethel's Home Town Airdate: 1-31-55
    Episode#17 L.A. at Last! Airdate: 2-7-55
    Episode#18 Don Juan and the Starlets Airdate: 2-14-55

    Disc Four:

    Episode#19 Lucy Gets in the Pictures Airdate: 2-21-55
    Episode#20 The Fashion Show Airdate: 2-28-55
    Episode#21 The Hedda Hopper Story Airdate: 3-14-55
    Episode#22 Don Juan Is Shelved Airdate: 3-21-55
    Episode#23 Bullfight Dance Airdate: 3-28-55
    Episode#24 Hollywood Anniversary Airdate: 4-4-55

    Disc Five:

    Episode#25 The Star Upstairs Airdate: 4-18-55
    Episode#26 In Palm Springs Airdate: 4-25-55
    Episode#27 The Dancing Star Airdate: 5-2-55
    Episode#28 Harpo Marx Airdate: 5-9-55
    Episode#29 Ricky Needs an Agent Airdate: 5-16-55
    Episode#30 The Tour Airdate: 5-30-55

    Lastly, a few quick words about the packaging. All 5 discs come in individual slimcases which makes for removing specific discs very convenient, rather than performing a balancing act with the foldout Digipaks. I much prefer these slimcases, not only for boxed sets, but for the space that’s saved from individual titles. I really wish all of the studios would use these. All of the individual cases list the episodes that are contained therein and the original airdates as well as the production numbers. The special features are also listed on the back of each case. A "play-all" feature is also included. A very nice job.

    The Feature: 5/5

    Very very impressive. The presentation here is vastly superior to what we're used to seeing on TV syndication.

    Shown in its OAR of 1.33:1, blacks quite simply couldn’t be any darker and whites were always clean looking. The levels of contrast and shadow detail were absolutely perfect. The amount of grayscale was also a standout – very impressive - think of some of these recent old Paramount and WB classic films, this set is on par.

    Image detail was great. The majority of the set is as sharp as we would ever imagine with only infrequent instances of slight softness or blurriness but overall I was very pleased. The was a slight to moderate amount of fine film grain that was present throughout much of the set, adding a slight feel of grittiness giving the show a definite film-like appearance.

    There were infrequent instances of dust and dirt blemishes as well as a few scratches and jumps, but far less than I would have ever imagined from this 50+ year old TV show.

    The overall image was mostly stable with only a few instances here and there of light shimmer which never became even remotely bothersome. Compression seemed to be handled appropriately although I did notice some slight – very slight haloing during the odd episode but this was negligible at best.

    I really couldn’t be happier with the look of this set. Let me be clear, with whatever I’ve said in the form of criticism, these are really nothing more than observations. I have my doubts as to whether these could ever look any better.

    Video: 4.5/5

    The set is presented in a DD 2.0 monaural track, which for the most part, does a pretty good job.

    The tonality of the track was natural just bordering on slightly raw. There was really no dynamic range to speak of and the overall track was wafer thin, but this should be really no surprise considering the limitations of the period. There is a fair amount of hiss that is present, in particular, during the opening and closing credits. Throughout the show itself however, hiss was usually present but only slightly. There were occasional pops and crackles but these were few and far between.

    Dialogue was usually always clear and intelligible although when things got heated, some of the voices became slightly edgy. Applause and laughter never became overbearing or intrusive. There were several occasional dropouts which were infrequent and very brief and considering the 50+ years, not bad at all.

    Similar to the previous season, some of the episodes seemed to be mixed at slightly different levels which required a minute adjustment with the remote from time to time, but really, no big deal.

    A generally pleasing track – good job.

    Audio: 3.5/5

    Special Features:
    The special features that have been included with this set are impressive, to say the least. They are located on the following discs:

    Disc One:
    [*] First up is a recurring of series Flubs which appear throughout the set. In this case an error that occurred during the Mr. and Mrs. TV Show episode is the highlight where Lucy flubs her line, which is later re-recorded.
    [*] Guest Cast is a text list of the various castmembers who appear as guests on each of the listed episodes.
    [*] Special Footage includes a clip from the 1954 original CBS broadcast of "Mertz & Kurtz" which ends with this special message regarding the "Community Chest".
    [*] The Original Opening appears here along with a brief explanation as to when it was used.
    [*] Lucy On The Radio is an episode that was originally broadcast on CBS Radio January 27th, 1951 which inspired the episode, "Drafted".
    [*] Last up on this disc are a series of Production Notes.

    Disc Two:
    [*] The Flubs series on this disc contains scenes from four episodes.
    [*] Guest Cast is a text list of the various castmembers who appear as guests on each of the listed episodes.
    [*] In the Special Footage sequence, the new opening scene is included here as well as the restored ending.
    [*] Here, the Original Openings include sponsors, Philip Morris and Proctor and Gamble who are promoting their new laundry detergent, Cheer.
    [*] Next up on this disc are a series of Production Notes and a scene where a "fly" decides he wants some screen-time.
    [*] Over The Teacups - The Lost Script. This shows part of the script for the final scene in "Ethel's Birthday" where the dialogue is difficult to hear during the episode.

    Disc Three:
    [*] Four more Flubs appear in on disc 3.
    [*] Guest Cast is a text list of the various castmembers who appear as guests on each of the listed episodes.
    [*] Special Footage includes the restored ending from the "California Here We Come" episode.
    [*] Two more Original Openings which includes the Philip Morris "see-saw" opening as well as a different Cheer advertisement.
    [*] Lucy on the Radio - "My Favorite Husband" is a CBS Radio broadcast which aired on March 18th, 1949 and served as the inspiration for the "Redecorating" episode.
    [*] Next up is another series of Production Notes which includes photos and various clips
    [*] The last feature on the disc is entitled Behind The Scene which is an excerpt of the book "Laughs, Luck... and Lucy", which is read by Larry Dobkin.

    Disc Four:
    [*] The highlight of the next series of Flubs is Fred's description of who Dore Schary is... priceless.
    [*] Guest Cast is a text list of the various castmembers who appear as guests on each of the listed episodes.
    [*] The Special Footage here includes clips of a promotional for the Olympic Fund as well as a restored ending to its original form.
    [*] Original Openings includes three more advertisements which includes variations of the Philip Morris "see-saw" opening, a different Cheer ad as well as an ad for Proctor and Gamble's new product, Lilt.
    [*] Lucy on the Radio - My Favorite Husband. This episode featured guests Gale Gordon, Bea Benaderet, Mary Shipp and Herb Vigran and was originally broadcast on CBS Radio, January 6th, 1951.
    [*] The Production Notes for this disc include the changes to the Dore Schary appearance on the "Don Juan Is Shelved" episode where Phil Ober (Vivian Vance's husband) actually appears as Schary.

    Disc Five:
    [*] Three more Flubs have been included one where Lucy adds a rare ad-libbed line to cover for a William Frawley flub.
    [*] Guest Cast is a text list of the various castmembers who appears as guests on each of the listed episodes.
    [*] The Special Footage feature includes four more clips including restored music as well as a restored ending which includes the Lilt product.
    [*] Original Openings includes two more variations on the "see-saw" and Lilt opening.
    [*] Lucy on the Radio - My Favorite Husband includes an early episode from November 20th, 1948, "George Attends A Teenage Dance"..
    [*] Behind The Scenes includes notes, numerous stills and various clips including the actual recording of the show's theme

    Special Features: 5/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    Make no mistake, I Love Lucy is, by and large, responsible for situation comedies as we have come to know them. The formula that worked fifty plus years ago is still emulated decades later and in most cases with little, if any, success. If you're a fan of the show, the infamous Hollywood trip marks the highlight of the series. The brilliant writing and extremely witty performances are uniquely responsible for the show's legendary success. In the case of Season Four, the numerous and convenient guest appearances is another sitcom trait that has become all too common.

    Aside from a wonderful presentation, the show is complemented with an amazing assortment of worthwhile and entertaining special features. Hopefully the issue surrounding the edited episodes will be sorted out - the set is simply too good to pass over. Paramount continues to fly under the radar and once again, they deserve credit for a terrific set which is very reasonably priced. This set (and series) is among the very best classic TV to DVD releases we have seen thus far.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)

    Highly Recommended...!!

    Release Date: May 3rd, 2005
  2. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

    Dec 31, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Thanks Herb

    Knowing Frawley it sounds like it is probably also unrepeatable also [​IMG]

    I haven't bought these sets yet, but all the good things I'm hearing about them tells me I should especially now that we know that all 6 seasons are coming. If we get confirmation that the Lucy/Desi Hour shows are coming that'll probably seal the deal. The one with Fred MacMurray is a real gem.

  3. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

    Apr 23, 2002
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    Keep these sets coming...
    they are a very good example of how to do a classic tv set.
    In fact, they are so well done, that they spoil me, and I have a hard time accepting bare bones releases.

    Yes, i am eager for the COMEDY HOURS as well....The fan favorite of these, is undboubtedly the Tallulah Bankhead ep, "the Star Next Door"...brilliant.
  4. Tom_mkfty

    Tom_mkfty Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 22, 2004
    Likes Received:
    I never liked Lucy.

    She crys too much.
    In that case, I would rather watch Touched By An Angel.

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