I Love Lucy Superstar Special #1 DVD Review

Nicely colorized funny episodes of a classic series 4 Stars

CBS’ most recent foray into colorization was two more episodes of its classic I Love Lucy show, a network mainstay since the early 1950s and still a ratings champion each time the network finds some new way to package the outrageous antics of its bubble-headed redhead and her fun-loving cohorts.

Hollywood at Last (1955)
Released: N/A
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 30 min
Director: William Asher
Genre: Comedy, Family
Cast: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley
Writer(s): Bob Carroll Jr., Madelyn Davis
Plot: When the Ricardos and the Mertzes arrive in Hollywood, Lucy goes to the Brown Derby restaurant where her sighting of William Holden turns catastrophic.
IMDB rating: 9.3
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: CBS
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 45 Min.
Package Includes: DVD
Case Type: Amaray case in a slipcover
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: 1
Release Date: MM/DD/2016
MSRP: $16.99

The Production: 4.5/5

With so many of its classic sitcoms filmed in black and white during the first two decades of television broadcasting, CBS is faced with a real dilemma: how to milk the last dime of value for contemporary audiences out of its vault of classics, and the answer has been colorization. CBS’ most recent foray into colorization was two more episodes of its classic I Love Lucy show, a network mainstay since the early 1950s and still a ratings champion each time the network finds some new way to package the outrageous antics of its bubble-headed redhead and her fun-loving cohorts. Packaged last spring as the I Love Lucy Superstar Special, the program offered two more colorized episodes to its growing library of Lucy shows now being available in color. Once again, the show was a ratings winner meaning that there’s likely to be more colorized Lucy on the way.

The two newest episodes selected for colorization are among the choicest programs from six seasons of episodes available to the network. “L.A. At Last!” finally got Lucy (Lucille Ball) and husband Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) to Hollywood with friends the Mertzes (Vivian Vance, William Frawley) to begin production on Don Juan at MGM to star the Cuban bandleader. The Hollywood story arc was the lengthiest and most successful one attempted during the six seasons of half hour episodes, and the arc allowed such famous Hollywood names as Van Johnson, Harpo Marx, Richard Widmark, Hedda Hopper, Rock Hudson, and, most famously, John Wayne a chance to run headlong into the frantic redhead and her unending wild schemes. In this episode, Eve Arden and William Holden make notable appearances, both longtime friends and former co-stars of Lucy’s from her movie days. Getting William Holden on the show was quite a catch: in 1955 when the show was filmed he was among the biggest Oscar-winning stars in Hollywood, and he gets to take part in a couple of wild slapstick scenes with the Emmy-winning series star that make this episode a real classic (Lucy is no slouch in this episode either doing some funny bits with a spaghetti eating sequence and later enduring the lighting of her built-up putty nose on fire to hilarious effect).

“Lucy and Superman” from the program’s sixth season is unquestionably the lesser of the two shows in the special, but it has some memorable bits, too, with standouts being Lucy’s perilous ledge walking among dozens of very well-trained pigeons and a most impressive entrance into Little Ricky’s (Richard Keith) birthday party by TV’s Superman himself George Reeves. The episode also features Lucy’s recurring nemesis Carolyn Appleby played so delightfully smugly by Doris Singleton and even the wonderful Madge Blake present for a little bit as an apartment hunter whose presence makes it impossible for Lucy, masquerading as Superman when she thought he wasn’t going to show up, to come in out of the pouring rain. Reeves has a wonderful closing line for the episode, and it’s marvelous to see how thrilled the little children in the party scene are by his presence (being about the same age as these children when the show first aired, I could certainly identify with their delight then and now).

Colorization has come a long way from the crude early attempts that Ted Turner foisted on the public with half-colored dud versions of classics like 42nd Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street. Here the colorizers have gone to the trouble of coloring eyes and tongues and hair (though Lucy’s brassy henna-colored locks don’t seem quite as rich here as they have been in some of the previous colorized episodes, and some of the suit coats remain gray without any color touches: acceptable but possibly a short cut). For the younger generation, many of whom can’t stand black and white films and television shows, it’s a decent attempt to introduce them to the classic comedies of their parents and grandparents. And, of course, the black and white versions remain for purists. The disc offers both episodes of the original shows in black and white and colorized.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The program’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is replicated here, and the program’s mild grain structure coming from film is also retained without digital manipulation. Skin tones here are more appealing and lifelike than in The Andy Griffith Show Christmas Special recently reviewed, and sharpness and detail are first-rate even if these are standard definition transfers and not the high definition of the network broadcast. Only the slightest bit of twitter in the weaving of the tweed jackets gives away these are standard definition transfers when up-converted by a first-rate Blu-ray player.

Audio: 4/5

The disc offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. The mono mix offers era-appropriate blends of dialogue, music, and sound effects with any problems with age-related hiss or crackle on the soundtrack.

Special Features: 1/5

The disc offers the original 45:13 broadcast of the special with the two episodes paired together and commercial inserts (without the commercials) along with the two individual episodes in both black and white and color.

Overall: 4/5

Though the I Love Lucy Superstar Special #1 was broadcast in high definition which is naturally missing on this standard definition DVD, the quality of the comedy is what’s foremost of importance, and this disc serves as a fine memento for those who want to relive this spring special on disc with two more colorized episodes of one of TV’s true classics in a growing library of color Lucy episodes. Recommended!

Published by

Matt Hough

author,editor

16 Comments

  1. I saw the CBS broadcast and thought it generally looked good. To me, the colorization on William Frawley (Fred Mertz) looks more realistic than everyone else.

    Unfortunately, CBS has decided not to release these on Blu-rays. I see little incentive to buy something I already have on DVD in SD (in B&W), or in color in HD on my DVR.

    Perhaps one day CBS will bundle a few of these specials together into a single Blu-ray release. That I'd buy in a heartbeat.

  2. I saw the CBS broadcast and thought it generally looked good. To me, the colorization on William Frawley (Fred Mertz) looks more realistic than everyone else.

    Unfortunately, CBS has decided not to release these on Blu-rays. I see little incentive to buy something I already have on DVD in SD (in B&W), or in color in HD on my DVR.

    Perhaps one day CBS will bundle a few of these specials together into a single Blu-ray release. That I'd buy in a heartbeat.

    I agree with you, Josh. I, too, would leap at the half dozen colorized episodes on a Blu-ray. Once they build up to ten or twelve, maybe our hopes might actually happen.

  3. One major plus with this release is that this marks the official DVD debut of the full uncut version of "LA at Last".  The season 4 DVDs had the missing footage for this episode as a bonus, not integrated into the show.

  4. Does anyone have any BD information on "I Love Lucy: Season 3"?
    Own the first two seasons. Beautiful and remarkable efforts.
    Still, I fear that Season 3 is MIA due to financing.
    Any clarifications from anyone, here?

  5. My intuition is that Season Three was always a long shot because the Original Broadcast materials, upon which the Blu-ray releases predicated their enhanced value (and indeed, as a super fan, I'd buy the show on any format or platform if it meant being able to see each episode as originally broadcast, but I probably wouldn't have bought the Blu-rays at their original price without this feature), were not as readily available as they were for the first two seasons — prints of which have been known to exist for a while.

  6. PMF

    Does anyone have any BD information on "I Love Lucy: Season 3"?
    Own the first two seasons. Beautiful and remarkable efforts.
    Still, I fear that Season 3 is MIA due to financing.
    Any clarifications from anyone, here?

    The initial release of I Love Lucy: Season 1, The Honeymooners: Classic 39, and Andy Griffith Show Season 1 did not sell to the expectations of CBS and all subsequent Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy releases were canceled. Because the work on Season 2 had already been completed when the decision was made, they went ahead with putting it out. There will be no additional Blu-ray releases from these shows at this time.

    Behind the scenes, CBS will most likely continue mastering the programs in HD for television and streaming, but they probably will not reconstruct "night of broadcast" versions as those had been done exclusively for the disc.

  7. PMF

    Does anyone have any BD information on "I Love Lucy: Season 3"?
    Own the first two seasons. Beautiful and remarkable efforts.
    Still, I fear that Season 3 is MIA due to financing.
    Any clarifications from anyone, here?

    Sadly, from what I've read in the HTF I LOVE LUCY Blu-ray Thread, any Blu-ray releases of the later seasons have been cancelled due to poor sales. Ditto for THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, for which only the first season got a Blu-ray issue! The general consensus was that at $75, the single season I LOVE LUCY Blu-ray sets were originally way overpriced.

    On the other hand, it's nice to see that LA AT LAST! is finally complete, and can also be viewed in its original Black & White version that way! The new colorized DVD set might be almost worth purchasing for this aspect, alone!

    CHEERS! 🙂

  8. This is what I feared, as confirmed by Tony Bensley and Josh Steinberg.
    I don't understand the general public, in terms of their feeling each season was overpriced.
    Sure, on the one hand, the psychology is that a single title is not worth something in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks.
    A hundred bucks can be spent on a larger quantity of titles, instead of just one title.
    On the other hand, a hundred bucks for 32 episodes; fully restored from the root; is a steal among steals.
    Guess the general consumer doesn't do their math.
    4 Lucy episodes adds up to an average running time of just one feature film.
    4 x 8 feature films on BD, on average and at the price of 15-20 bucks, will cost the average consumer about 120-160 bucks.
    The pricing on I Love Lucy: Seasons One and Two was more than fair.
    And do note, I say this from the standpoint of not being a television collector.
    I Love Lucy is the only series in my collection.
    Once again, the efforts put into the I Love Lucy BD's for each of the two seasons were superlative in their outcome.
    But, like I've said, the average consumer doesn't grasp the expense of restoration work.
    In fact, the expectations nowadays is that everything comes easily, perfectly and without effort or research.

    Regretfully, what defenses and/or compliments I have for CBS and the restoration team of I Love Lucy is not enough to change their decision; or, for that matter, the consumers.

  9. You can buy the entire run of I Love Lucy on DVD for $44. And the DVDs look better than the show ever looked on TV in syndication. Why would the average person want to spend twice that for just one season just to get a little more resolution?

  10. I think the mistake was to try to put them out piecemeal, priced at over $100 a set. As Stephen points out, the entire series can be had on DVD for under $50.

    I bought the first season and watched it with my (then) fiance. When we finished it, we wanted to continue watching Lucy, but at the time there had been no announcement regarding a second season. So we got the entire series on DVD for less than what the Season One Blu-ray cost, and by the time the Season Two Blu-ray had been released, we had already finished watching the entire series. At that point, there was little incentive for me to spend another $100 for content that I had just watched and would not be rewatching again in the immediate future.

    The model that Image used for The Twilight Zone and The Dick Van Dyke Show was the right one – put out the complete series at an affordable price. I would have probably been willing to spend up to $250 to have bought I Love Lucy on Blu-ray as a complete set in a single purchase. I wasn't willing to spend $100 for each season spread out over an extended period of time. I think CBS was able to get away with this with Star Trek: The Original Series because all three seasons came out in the same calendar year – I think within a six month period, with the news that all were coming in the same year confirmed before the first one came out. But CBS saw decreased sales with their Star Trek: The Next Generation individual Blu-ray season releases, and I can't help but wonder if the high prices (which for that set were absolutely worth it) and the staggered release schedule made it hard to sustain consumer interest. It's not as if any of these releases has a huge marketing budget, and I think they just fall off of people's radars. I have no idea what their sales numbers were, but I bet a studio like Warners did better with a complete series release of the original Batman because there was just one product for the fan to put on his or her wish list, one date to put on the calendar, and one purchase to make.

    The other thing is, sometimes you have fond memories of a show, and then realize that you don't need to own it. I was a big X-Files fan during its original run, but I never owned the series on DVD. When the Blu-ray complete series set was released, I bought it. I watched the first season and a half and realized that the show didn't really hold up for me, and though I intended to go back and continue watching the discs, here we are more than a year later and I haven't touched them since then. If that show had come out as staggered season sets the way CBS did Lucy, I probably would have bought the first season, watched it, and realized that I didn't need the other ones. Perhaps some of the people buying the Lucy and Andy Griffith sets came to the same conclusion – that they were shows they enjoyed, but not necessarily ones they needed to own in their entirety.

  11. Another mistake is that most companies over produce their best blu-ray packages… loading up the extras with documentary movies, interviews, special features, etc. On a 60 year old TV series, that is a huge expense. The show itself has paid for itself many times over in syndication. The cost of releasing it should be much less than a current TV show. But when you put a lot of bells and whistles in the package, it's not so much of a bargain any more and it has to be priced accordingly.

    Many studios are doing quick HD transfers so they can sell shows to streaming. If they just took those transfers and slapped them on a blu-ray without all the supplements, they could release more titles at a much lower price point, and more people would buy it. The reason I Love Lucy is still a marketable series all these years later is because it has always been in circulation. Other series that have sat a few years out to wait for a "better deal" have been forgotten and are now virtually worthless. You can sit on an egg so long waiting for it to hatch that it never hatches. Crank it out cheap and keep it circulating.

  12. bigshot

    Another mistake is that most companies over produce their best blu-ray packages… loading up the extras with documentary movies, interviews, special features, etc. On a 60 year old TV series, that is a huge expense. The show itself has paid for itself many times over in syndication. The cost of releasing it should be much less than a current TV show. But when you put a lot of bells and whistles in the package, it's not so much of a bargain any more and it has to be priced accordingly.

    To counter that argument, the additional material they added to the I Love Lucy Season One set is what made it valuable for me. My wife reminded me that we actually already had the complete series DVD set before the Season One Blu-ray came out, and that we had never watched it before, so I need to amend my earlier comments. The "night of broadcast" presentation exclusive to the Blu-ray was what inspired me to purchase Season One. When it became obvious that Season Two was not going to be following in a timely fashion, we switched to watching the DVDs we already had rather than waiting for an indeterminate period of time for the next set to come out. By the time the Season Two BD set came out, we had finished the complete series DVD set and I didn't feel the need to spend nearly $100 on an extra copy of something I had just watched and wouldn't be ready to watch again for quite some time. I'm sure I will cycle through the series again in a few years; I may pick up the S2 BD then. I see it's going on Amazon now for about $35, which is much more reasonable.

    If I can buy five seasons of The Twilight Zone or The Dick Van Dyke Show on Blu-ray, each beautifully restored with tons of bonus features, for about $75 for TZ and $50 for TDVD, why would I spend $100 on one season of Lucy? Compared to what CBS (and their distribution partners) have priced other similar shows from that same period, they themselves have conditioned me to expect more complete packages for lower prices.

  13. My DVD set of I Love Lucy has the Phillip Morris commercials and original titles too. I've got the one in the heart box.

    I think blu-rays have been priced high because the niche market was supporting inflated prices when titles were few and far between. But now there are so many titles out there to collect, competition for the small market is making it harder to gouge. And Netflix is so much cheaper, if they want to sell you a physical copy of a legacy title they need to come down in price. I think blu-ray prices will find their own level balanced for demand the same way DVDs have.

  14. Disclaimer: I am not a huge fan of I Love Lucy; not a bad show, but I prefer her later series and think she shines better in them.

    As a casual fan, I might be tempted to pick up a blu-ray set if it was in the neighborhood of what Twilight Zone or The Dick Van Dyke Show was. As a casual fan, I can't justify even $35 for a single season as someone mentioned above. We're talking a show that has been shown in syndication for years upon years and is probably on some cable station today. The average consumer probably doesn't even realize what's on TV is edited for time, much less do they care about picture quality, so they're certainly going to balk at the price Constantly Being Stalled wants for one season!

    Putting this on a level I can relate, what if Constantly Being Stalled put out The Beverly Hillbillies on blu? If that was the only medium available, I guess I would pony up the $$$, but I was completely blown away by the quality of the DVD sets. When you've grown up watching scratchy 16mm prints on non-HD TV, DVD is the ultimate experience.

    As for The Andy Griffith Show, it's still streaming on Netflix in stunning HD. As long as it's available in that fashion, I see no need to splurge for the blu-ray version. I think Constantly Being Stalled shot themselves in the foot.

  15. Well, I guess I'll have to give into the "I Love Lucy" DVD's for all the good reasons, as cited by bigshot, Josh and Ron1973.
    Nice to know that for just a mere $45; and six additional seasons; I still won't feel like I'm double-dipping after already owning BD's of Season's One and Two of "I Love Lucy". Although I will sadly miss that ultra, ultra clarity.
    And yup, CBS may have shot themselves in the foot; as "I Love Lucy" or any other series or motion picture is not worth a collective 800 or more bucks.
    Thanks to all

  16. PMF

    Well, I guess I'll have to give into the "I Love Lucy" DVD's for all the good reasons, as cited by bigshot, Josh and Ron1973.
    Nice to know that for just a mere $45; and six additional seasons; I still won't feel like I'm double-dipping after already owning BD's of Season's One and Two of "I Love Lucy". Although I will sadly miss that ultra, ultra clarity.
    And yup, CBS may have shot themselves in the foot; as "I Love Lucy" or any other series or motion picture is not worth a collective 800 or more bucks.
    Thanks to all

    And you're better off finance-wise with getting the entire DVD set of the series rather than just a Blu-Ray of a season or two, but I have heard the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (Classified as Seasons 7-9) has been edited quite a bit as I saw some unseen footage of three of those episodes on Youtube alone, like the uranium episode with Fred MacMurray.

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