Lucille Ball, the Post-I Love Lucy Thread

Caproni

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Lucille Ball is often regarded as the First Lady of Television Comedy, and she rightfully deserves that title. Her breakthrough sitcom I LOVE LUCY was the most popular television show of the 1950s, and continues to get big syndication ratings and revenue.

For this thread, I want to talk about Lucy's shows after I LOVE LUCY. I've always been a big fan of I LOVE LUCY, but there was a long period where I was completely oblivious to her having other shows. It was several years before I got the revelation that she had three other shows after that: THE LUCY SHOW, HERE'S LUCY, and LIFE WITH LUCY. I now have all of those shows on DVD, and I am more than proud to have them a part of my ever-growing collection of classic film and television.

I remember my father telling me that he was never a big I LOVE LUCY fan, primarily because of Desi Arnaz, who he finds annoying and hot-headed. He also said that he preferred Lucy's "other show" she did later on. This is where my father's memory gets a little fuzzy. He seems to have morphed THE LUCY SHOW and HERE'S LUCY together into what he told me was THE LUCILLE BALL SHOW. The reason I draw this conclusion is because he referred to Gale Gordon as "Mr. Mooney", although he made frequent references to Lucie Arnaz being attractive when she was younger on her mother's show. He still routinely references Lucy's "later show" as THE LUCILLE BALL SHOW, and I guess his memory cannot be terribly misunderstood since THE LUCY SHOW and HERE'S LUCY are practically the same show with only a few adjustments. (As a side note, THE LUCY SHOW was originally called THE LUCILLE BALL SHOW, but the title was changed before it aired.)

I know there's got to be some Lucy fans here, and I know some of you have got to be fans of her later work.

Your thoughts?

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Matt Hough

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I reviewed Life with Lucy on DVD. It's a painful coda to her otherwise admirable television career. I mean, she really tried, and I felt for her as I watched it (both on its original airing and in the DVD box set), but the writers let her down, and the supporting cast were just not up to par.
 

octobercountry

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I grew up watching both The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy when I was very young, and remember liking them both very much at that time. A few years back I finally re-watched the first season (1962-63) of The Lucy Show on DVD, and found my memories were a bit rosier than the material warranted. Most episodes give Lucy a bit of physical comedy that is golden; she's wonderful in those sequences. And it's always a pleasure watching Lucy and Vivian Vance interact. But I thought the scripts in general for this series were terrible. To be fair, I've never gotten around to re-watching the rest of the series, which I plan to do at some point, so perhaps my opinion will change.
 

Caproni

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I reviewed Life with Lucy on DVD. It's a painful coda to her otherwise admirable television career. I mean, she really tried, and I felt for her as I watched it (both on its original airing and in the DVD box set), but the writers let her down, and the supporting cast were just not up to par.
LIFE WITH LUCY could have been something great for Lucy, but she went with her same ole writers even when producer Aaron Spelling practically handed her the M*A*S*H writers. She turned that down. Not only was she loyal to her friends, she wanted to keep doing the same kind of show her faithful audience was used to seeing her do. That was the first mistake.

LIFE WITH LUCY had an impressive start in the Nielsen ratings (it was #23 its first week), but each episode declined steadily in viewership. It eventually sank to 73rd out of just 77 television shows, and was canceled after like only eight episodes were aired, even though thirteen were filmed. All thirteen episodes are included in the DVD set that came out last year.

Lucy was humiliated by the failure of LIFE WITH LUCY. She took it personal, and she never returned to television again. Those close to her said Lucy felt as if her fans had deserted her and she was no longer what they wanted. It's saddening.

There were a lot of things at fault with LIFE WITH LUCY. Lucy, for one, wanted the same writers that had been writing for her since she was starring on MY FAVORITE HUSBAND on radio back in the late 1940s. I'm not saying that their writing couldn't have "evolved" or "progressed" with the times, but the chance was fair that their ideas would have seem dated to television audiences in the 1980s. At the time when Lucy was wanting to come back to situation comedy, shows like THE COSBY SHOW and THE GOLDEN GIRLS were dominating the ratings, and Lucy didn't fit in with that trend. She wasn't racy or trendy enough to sustain a new series. The audience loved her and her classic efforts on I LOVE LUCY and even THE LUCY SHOW and HERE'S LUCY, but they didn't want a "new" show that was basically the same show with an older Lucy.

Aaron Spelling was once interviewed about LIFE WITH LUCY for the Archives of American Television. He spoke of how he had ideas for the show, but ended up letting Lucy go the route she wanted to go. He expressed his thoughts that her audience in 1986 did not find her shenanigans funny, not because she wasn't funny, but because they were worried that Lucy (who was in her seventies) would physically harm herself. He recalled a filming of an episode where the audience actually gasped when Lucy climbed a ladder. Spelling was a gentleman and took all the blame for LIFE WITH LUCY failing like it did. He blamed it all on his inexperience with producing television comedy.

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filmnoirguy

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Somewhere in the past I read that Lucille Ball tried her darndest to be one of The Golden Girls. But producers felt it would become The Lucy Show with the others as her supporting players and they, rightfully, wanted to keep it as an ensemble cast. (Thank God!) Ball, like a few others, should have quit when she was ahead. When it's time to retire...it's (well, you know).
 

Caproni

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Somewhere in the past I read that Lucille Ball tried her darndest to be one of The Golden Girls. But producers felt it would become The Lucy Show with the others as her supporting players and they, rightfully, wanted to keep it as an ensemble cast. (Thank God!) Ball, like a few others, should have quit when she was ahead. When it's time to retire...it's (well, you know).
I have a vague memory of that, too, but I couldn't tell you where I read it. Now, I wish Lucy would have at least guested on THE GOLDEN GIRLS, but only with a Girls-inspired spin on her personality. She could have been a relative of Bea Arthur's.
 

AlanP

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Never cared for Lucy after Vivian Vance departed. Never watched it again. Always loved "I Love Lucy" it was a favorite growing up. But, the magic was gone without VIV. And found her kids obnoxious to watch when I did catch a few of them. Would love to have seen Desi Arnaz guest star on "The Lucy Show" as well as Frawley.... Always thought it would have been neat if The Ricardo's showed up on "Love Boat" with Little Ricky grown up married with kids.......
 

Caproni

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Never cared for Lucy after Vivian Vance departed. Never watched it again. Always loved "I Love Lucy" it was a favorite growing up. But, the magic was gone without VIV. And found her kids obnoxious to watch when I did catch a few of them. Would love to have seen Desi Arnaz guest star on "The Lucy Show" as well as Frawley.... Always thought it would have been neat if The Ricardo's showed up on "Love Boat" with Little Ricky grown up married with kids.......
Lucy was never really the same without Vivian at her side. Those first season of THE LUCY SHOW kind of seemed like an extension of I LOVE LUCY in a way, because you know that Lucy and Viv have been together for a while now, and their seasoned friendship transitions well into their on-screen relationship. I enjoy Gale Gordon, but his role in the show seemed a little one-note. He was her boss at the bank, and it always seemed to me that the stories had to be a little strained because of the limitations of that format. Their partnership worked better on HERE'S LUCY, where Gale Gordon was made Lucy's brother-in-law which made him more accessible to the stories.

As for THE LUCY SHOW guest stars, well, there were a lot of them. William Frawley did guest star in one episode, but in that brief time frame the producers were trying to get Ann Sothern to be Lucy's new sidekick.
 
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Garysb

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I am a great fan of 'I Love Lucy" but I never found her later series funny. Even the one hour Lucy/Desi shows seemed padded. The only one I liked was the one with Tallulah Bankhead . Sadly that is the one episode that is only available edited though 16 MM film exists of the missing footage . The one hour shows reduced the roles of Fred and Ethel . More time was given to guest stars. The Hollywood episodes were very successful but by the time of the one hour shows they had milked that dry. Even by the time of "The Lucy Show" in my opinion the "Lucy" character had run its course. For other fans that didn't happen until "Life With Lucy". The post "I Love Lucy" shows removed two main characterizations of the 'Lucy" character, her cleverness and her wanting to get into show business. I don't think they came up with anything to replace them. I think Gale Gordon was much better on "Our Miss Brooks" than he was on the various post " I Love Lucy" shows. I am sure I am in the minority here. The Lucy statue that replaced "Scary Lucy" is so Lucy Ricardo, just looking at it brings a smile to my face.

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AlanP

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Lucy was never really the same without Vivian at her side. Those first season of THE LUCY SHOW kind of seemed like an extension of I LOVE LUCY in a way, because you know that Lucy and Viv have been together for a while now, and their seasoned friendship transitions well into their on-screen relationship. I enjoy Gale Gordon, but his role in the show seemed a little one-note. He was her boss at the bank, and it always seemed to me that the stories had to be a little strained because of the limitations of that format. Their partnership worked better on HERE'S LUCY, where Gale Gordon was made Lucy's brother-in-law which made him more accessible to the stories.

As for THE LUCY SHOW guest stars, well, there were a lot of them. William Frawley did guest star in one episode, but in that brief time frame the producers were trying to get Ann Sothern to be Lucy's new sidekick.
I remember Ann Sothern and was hoping he would be on the series. Then she moved to California and that was the end of Countess Framboise. "The Lucy Show" was an extension of "ILL" and although not as good, still loved watching she and Vivian together. Tried to watch her in California it just wasn't the same.......and forget it with her kids, awful.

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"I Love Lucy" remains the gold standard for situation comedies, thanks to the stellar cast, brilliant writing and the genius of Desi Arnaz. Lucy was a big talent, but never made it big in movies, mostly settling for starring roles in "B" films. It was Arnaz who saw television as the perfect vehicle for Lucy and knew exactly how to structure the show to showcase her talent. He also overruled Lucy who wanted to cast Bea Benederet and Edward Everett Horton as the neighbors in favor of Vivian Vance and BIll Frawley (who's career had largely tanked because of his alcoholism.) Lucy came to trust Desi completely when it came to running the show (even if she was unhappy with his off-screen behavior).

By the sixth season of the show, Lucy wanted to cut back to spend more time with her kids, So despite pleas for CBS execs, Desi ended the show that season in favor of a series of monthly one hour specials which became known in the 60's as the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Quality-wise, these hour shows were a cut below the half-hour version even though they boasted big budgets, big name guest stars and lots of location shooting. A few stood out like Tallulah Bankhead episode (which could easily have passed for a two-part "I Love Lucy") , and the Danny Thomas show which featured his TV family moving into the Ricardo's home. By and large though, these shows were over-padded and generally less satisfying efforts.

The Arnazes divorced in 1960 ending their on-screen collaboration as the Ricardos. A few years later Lucy decided to come back to the medium that made her a superstar with "The Lucy Show". She convinced her old co-star Vivian Vance to join the show even though Vance had remarried and moved to Connecticut , During her three years with the show Vance commuted back and forth between coasts to do the show which ultimately became to big a hassle leading to her departure after season three. And surprisingly, convinced Desi to come back to direct the first 13 shows, even though both of them had remarried. These were by far the best of the series, recapturing much of the magic of "ILL", even though both Lucy and Viv's characters where husbandless. After he departed, the quality of the series gradually diminished, with weak directors unable to stand up to Ball's excesses (such as instructing all the actors to scream their lines in order make it funnier) as well as weaker scripts. The killer for the show was the departure of Vance. To be blunt, the character of Lucy Carmichael went from scatterbrained redhead to the village moron. And worse, Gale Gordon's character was given even more screen time and boy did that get old fast. Creatively, the show was on life support, even though the ratings remained consistently good. Finally, the show sputtered it's way to the end, after more three seasons.

Lucy's next project "Here's Lucy" continued in much the same vein as the last season of "The Lucy Show", even with the inclusion of her real-life kids as her TV kids. And Gale Gordon was back, his blustering character just as tiresome as his Mr. Mooney was. As for "Life with Lucy" the less said the better. It was a terrible idea made even worse by Ball's refusal to play any character other than Lucy Ricardo. She even dragged poor old Gale Gordon out of retirement to play yet another version of Mr. Mooney. For the first time, the audiences tuned Lucy out and that had to be a huge blow to her ego. It's too bad Desi was in bad shape by this time; maybe he could have convinced her to put this turkey out of it's misery before it ever saw the light of day.
 

potnoodle

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I remember Ann Sothern and was hoping he would be on the series. Then she moved to California and that was the end of Countess Framboise. "The Lucy Show" was an extension of "ILL" and although not as good, still loved watching she and Vivian together. Tried to watch her in California it just wasn't the same.......and forget it with her kids, awful.

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Apparently Lucy and Southern did not get along terribly well which led to the decision not to have her replace Vance after she left the series. Ball was not the most diplomatic person and could be rough on the crew and the other actors. She didn't trust many people and that often led to hurt feeling and bruised egos. Vivian Vance was one of the few people who's judgement she did trust, so losing her hurt the show both on and off screen.
 
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Caproni

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Apparently Lucy and Southern did not get along terribly well which led to the decision not to have her replace Vance after she left the series. Ball was not the most diplomatic person and could be rough on the crew and the other actors. She didn't trust many people and that often led to hurt feeling and bruised egos. Vivian Vance was one of the few people who's judgement she did trust, so losing her hurt the show both on and off screen.
That's not how I've heard it told. From what I understand, Lucy and Ann Sothern were really good friends, dating back to their days as contract players for RKO in the 1930s. Neither of them had been terribly popular in film (although Lucy did some gems and Ann had the MAISIE series), but each found their niche on television. Lucy did I LOVE LUCY in the 1950s while Ann went from PRIVATE SECRETARY to THE ANN SOTHERN SHOW.

Ann Sothern was a fairly popular and well-respected television comedienne when Lucy brought her in as the Countess as Vivian Vance's fill-in on THE LUCY SHOW. Her episodes were well-received and there were serious consideration about bringing in Ann as a full-time co-star for Lucy. The issue arose when Ann wanted equal billing with Lucy, to which Lucy refused. Lucy seemed to old high esteem for Gale Gordon, but had a history of under-appreciating her female co-stars. Lucy and Ann apparently remained friends because Ann still turned up on THE LUCY SHOW like three more times after this incident.

Lucy then turned to Joan Blondell, another 1930s star. She did two episodes before Lucy apparently humiliated her in front of the studio audience and crew, harshly critiquing her performance. Blondell walked off the set, vowing never to return. And she didn't.
 
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Garysb

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Mr Mooney was a poor substitute for Ricky . They both served the same purpose in the stories, standing between Lucy and what she wanted. The "No" person. Worked much better when the "No" person was the husband rather than the bank as the trustee of her husband's estate or later as her boss.
 
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Caproni

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Mr Mooney was a poor substitute for Ricky . They both served the same purpose in the stories, standing between Lucy and what she wanted. The "No" person. Worked much better when the "No" person was the husband rather than the bank as the trustee of her husband estate or later as her boss.
I can agree with that, even though Ricky was my least favorite character on I LOVE LUCY. He served his purpose well, and Gale Gordon, while technically a good foil for Lucy, didn't really work because his interference didn't make that much sense. When he was her brother-in-law on HERE'S LUCY, I thought that worked better, even though that was still a stretch.
 

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I can agree with that, even though Ricky was my least favorite character on I LOVE LUCY. He served his purpose well, and Gale Gordon, while technically a good foil for Lucy, didn't really work because his interference didn't make that much sense. When he was her brother-in-law on HERE'S LUCY, I thought that worked better, even though that was still a stretch.
I liked Charles Lane he was on briefly before Gale Gordon........
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MatthewA

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I always thought the kids were the weakest link on The Lucy Show. None of them registered with me in any way. It seemed like they got pushed into the background as the show went on.

Here's Lucy was a trade-off; she had more chemistry with her own children, but it is here that the formula was becoming calcified. There, at least the moments with Lucy and Kim actually doing real-life mother-daughter things like shopping for groceries rang truer than the endless parade of celebrities. But then the kids left again since they grew up, and Lucy breaking her leg also forced them to write around that and forced them to give some sense of character progression to Harrison Otis Carter and the remaining supporting cast.

She actually wanted to pack it in after season 5, but Fred Silverman convinced her to stay for one more year.
 
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potnoodle

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I liked Charles Lane he was on briefly before Gale Gordon........ View attachment 78772
Mr. Barnsthal (Lane) was great. Lane specialized in playing crabby characters and wasn't overused, unlike Gale Gordon's Mooney. Unfortunately, Lane had trouble remembering his lines, which was a big problem since The Lucy Show was filmed in front of a live audience. Fortunately for him, shortly after he departed he found steady work playing the nefarious Homer Bedloe on Petticoat Junction (which was not filmed in front of an audience).
 
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Wiseguy

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Lucille Ball is often regarded as the First Lady of Television Comedy, and she rightfully deserves that title. Her breakthrough sitcom I LOVE LUCY was the most popular television show of the 1950s, and continues to get big syndication ratings and revenue.

I remember my father telling me that he was never a big I LOVE LUCY fan, primarily because of Desi Arnaz, who he finds annoying and hot-headed. He also said that he preferred Lucy's "other show" she did later on. This is where my father's memory gets a little fuzzy. He seems to have morphed THE LUCY SHOW and HERE'S LUCY together into what he told me was THE LUCILLE BALL SHOW. The reason I draw this conclusion is because he referred to Gale Gordon as "Mr. Mooney", although he made frequent references to Lucie Arnaz being attractive when she was younger on her mother's show. He still routinely references Lucy's "later show" as THE LUCILLE BALL SHOW, and I guess his memory cannot be terribly misunderstood since THE LUCY SHOW and HERE'S LUCY are practically the same show with only a few adjustments. (As a side note, THE LUCY SHOW was originally called THE LUCILLE BALL SHOW, but the title was changed before it aired.)

I know there's got to be some Lucy fans here, and I know some of you have got to be fans of her later work.

Your thoughts?
Some reference books such as The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh link the two series together as if they were the same series. If you look up Here's Lucy, it reads "see The Lucy Show" and the cast list and time slots for all twelve years are listed there. I prefer to think of them as two separate series but I can see how some confusion can result with both series featuring Ball, Gordon and Mary Jane Croft. Never really thought about it before but it appears Croft's character was always "Mary Jane Lewis" in both series.

The book also states "The program was initially titled The Lucille Ball Show when it went on the air in 1962, shortened to The Lucy Show after only one month..." Not saying they're right (I've read about and have seen myself other misstated facts in the book) but that's what's in print.
 
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JohnMor

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I remember Ann Sothern and was hoping he would be on the series. Then she moved to California and that was the end of Countess Framboise. "The Lucy Show" was an extension of "ILL" and although not as good, still loved watching she and Vivian together. Tried to watch her in California it just wasn't the same.......and forget it with her kids, awful.

View attachment 78737 View attachment 78738
Actually, the Countess did visit Lucy in California a couple of times. In fact, my favorite episode with her is a CA show and features William Frawley’s final TV appearance, which is sweet and sad at the same time.
 
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