What Was "I Love Lucy"?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

I Love Lucy was a popular and ground-breaking television sitcom from the 1950s. Starring Lucille Ball as Lucy and her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, as Ricky Ricardo, I Love Lucy was based on an early radio show in which Ball was also the lead actress.

I Love Lucy follows the life of the two main characters, plus Fred and Ethel, a neighboring couple who also happen to be their landlords. The four live at 623 East 68th Street, an imaginary apartment complex in New York City that is the setting for most of the episodes. The show also sometimes takes place at the "Tropicana," a nightclub where Ricky works as an orchestra leader. Later episodes show the two couples in Hollywood, Florida, and across Europe, as they accompany Ricky on business trips. Near the end of the show, the characters moved to a small rural town in Connecticut.

In I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball is a naïve housewife who desperately wants to get involved in show business. She repeatedly tries to join her husband in the club, posing as a show girl, trying to play the cello, and acting as a singing cowboy. This always results in comedic situations, since Lucy cannot carry a tune and is absolutely talentless when it comes to dancing or acting. She does lands a role as the "Vitameatavegamin girl" in the episode of the same name that became the highest rated in the history of I Love Lucy. Of course, things don't turn out quite as expected, and by the end of the filming, Lucy is drunk and so tongue twisted that she ends up saying "Are you unpoopular?"

Much of the show's success comes from Ball's aptitude for physical comedy. Highly respected by comedians and professional clowns, Lucille Ball got a chance to exhibit her comedic skills by sharing the screen with other stars such as Harpo Marx and William Holden.

I Love Lucy ran from 15 October 1951 to 6 May 1957 as the No. 1 TV show in America. This is due in part to the innovative filming techniques that distinguished it from all other sitcoms of the time. The show was filmed with three cameras and in front of a live studio audience. Most of the episodes were also filmed in sequence, which meant the actors had to improvise every time they made a mistake. This turned out to be a great plus, and it kept the show fresh and original.

One of the reasons the show ended is that Lucille and Desi were going through a difficult divorce and things had turned too tense for comfort in the set. After the show was canceled, episodes continued to be syndicated across the world.

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Discussion Comments


I always thought the original "I Love Lucy" was the best thing Lucille Ball ever did. Those sitcoms she did after divorcing Desi Arnaz were still funny, but they didn't have that cast chemistry like "I Love Lucy". Shows like that were one in a million.


What fascinates me about "I Love Lucy" is how much more sophisticated it seemed compared to a lot of other early TV sitcoms. The situations could be as complicated as anything you'd see on "Seinfeld" or "Friends" today.

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