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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > I Love Lucy – The Complete First thru Sixth Seasons/The Complete Series

I Love Lucy – The Complete First thru Sixth Seasons/The Complete Series


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Episodes: A-



For a few decades, Lucille Ball was as movie star, though never on the A-list as long as she could or should have been.  A perfectionist, she kept taking on feature films that she thought would work for her and occasionally had a hit here and there.  She was also on radio in the golden days of dramas, comedies and other dramatic series before anyone heard of TV.  She even hit it big with My Favorite Husband, but nothing could have prepared her or anyone else for the immense success that is I Love Lucy.


Lucy played Lucy McGillicuddy, who marries Cuban musician Ricky Riccardo, played by Desi Arnaz.  Married in real life, CBS and other forces put up resistance to the idea of Arnaz playing her husband on screen at a time ethnic minorities were ignored and left out.  There were also insane charges that the couple might be pro-communist!  Fortunately, all that passed and the show helped build TV as we know it.


Joining the Ricardos were the Mertzes, Fred (William Frawley) and Ethel (Vivian Vance) as their neighbors who were the best of friends.  Fred and Ricky do guy things and sometimes include their wives and sometimes not.  It is when they do not that things become hilarious.  A feminist critic once suggested that even after watching the shows over and over, you can get further laughs by seeing it as the wives trying to escape the kitchen.  Even after that, there is always something else funny going on and the writing of Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Davis over the 179 episodes all here is still far and above just about all situation comedies that followed.


There are so many great shows, from the grape vat fight, to the chocolate conveyer belt skit, to the TV commercial Lucy does for a vitamin drink with that special something, to George reeves showing up as Superman, to Harpo Marx, to the guest stars, the quick money schemes, Lucy trying to join Ricky’s band against his will, to trying to hide things form Ricky to doing “things” people supposedly should not be doing.  It was a break from the mundane conservatism of the 1950s and the imitators like I Married Joan could not compete because they could not begin to dare to do what Lucy and the gang did.  The show built a dynasty in the Desilu Studios (formerly the RKO feature film studio) and made Lucy into one of the biggest powerhouse stars in TV history even to this day.  No matter which set you choose, you come up with a winner.  In many ways, I Love Lucy is better than ever simply because hardly any comedy show since the 1980s has been as ambitious and it proves once again “reality TV” has nothing on outstanding writing with great comic talents and solid professionals at the helm.


The 1.33 X 1 image is from a series of restored prints and that includes unearthing some fun, charming animation of the couple tied into the sponsors of the show.  The improvement in Video Black, detail and clarity is always a pleasure and just about as good as any TV from the 1950s you can get on DVD or anywhere else.  Of course, the great German cinematographer Karl Freund created the three-camera set-up that became a sitcom standard.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also nice, clean and clear.  The combined result is terrific throughout these DVD sets and set a high watermark for all TV on DVD.


Extras are as extensive as not only anything Paramount or CBS has done, but any TV on DVD from any company.  Hundreds of commercials, intros, promos and other bits, many that have not been seen since their original broadcast in the 1950s.  You also get flubs, guest cast information, production notes and even stills.  Another great addition are select episodes of My Favorite Husband.  Each set also has other little gems too numerous to go into, but it also looks like videotape intros that may have appeared on the old Columbia House VHS releases of the series are here on these discs.  Even a detail like that is here for the fan base that is larger than you would imagine, but the whole original TV series is finally on DVD and with a seriously large set of extras that can only be described as archival, remains a winner 55 years later and counting.  Hopefully, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and badly-in-need-of-restoration Lucy Show will soon follow.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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