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I Love Lucy
The Complete Second Season

review by Zach B.

 

 

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 799 Minutes

Starring: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley

 

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $89.99

Features: Flubs, Guest Cast, Special Footage, Original Openings, Production Notes, Lucy On The Radio, Behind-The-Scenes Book Excerpts, Photo Gallery

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Mono, Spanish Mono, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections, Chapter Index (7-9 Chapters per episode), 5-Disc Set

Released: August 31st, 2004

 

 

It was the television program that created all the rules, and it still remains one of the best. Let's face it: "I Love Lucy" is the epitome of classic television, of the situation comedy format and comedy in general. The show, which ran for six glorious seasons during the 1950s on CBS, made all sorts of history and television firsts - it was the first show ever filmed before a live studio audience, and it also gave birth to one of the television industry's biggest moneymakers (and a beloved past time for many): reruns (AKA syndication). It was the first successful sitcom ever - the show was rated number one in the ratings overall during four of its seasons and the lowest it ever got to was third (which was for its third season).

The premise behind "I Love Lucy" was simple: loosely based on the radio program "My Favorite Husband" (which starred Lucille Ball), the series followed Lucy Ricardo (Ball) - a homemaker who wanted to be in show business and her husband, Ricky Ricardo (played by Ball's then-real life husband Desi Arnaz) who was a bandleader. The two made their home in a New York apartment and often spent time with the Mertzes (Vivian Vance and William Frawley) - their landlords, but also comrades and friends. The show tackled the battle of the sexes a bit, but at its core it was about relationships and love. Sure Lucy may have had a few crazy schemes or Ricky may have done something wrong but all was forgiven by the end of an episode. These two characters could eventually appreciate one another, forgive, forget and just love. It may sound a little predictable, but isn't that why we love sitcoms other than the laughs?

But why does the show still hold so much ground and is still popular a half-century later? It's pretty simple, actually: if something is good to begin with and is formed well, then sometimes chances are that it won't change. There are just some things that never grow old or get tiresome, and well-versed comedy is one of them. "I Love Lucy" was a show that didn't really overstay its welcome and benefited from some fabulous writing. Sure the relationship between Lucy and Ricky was the heart of the series, but the structure of the show's comedy was well-built and remained sturdy. The banter between the characters, the fabulous one-liners, the crazy scenarios, slapstick moments and even some classic screw-ball moments - "I Love Lucy" really did have it all, and it balanced all of its elements remarkably well. This show was clever, hilarious and it was clean - this was a show the entire family could enjoy and still can, since there's nothing offensive about it. Though many have tried, there will never be a show exactly like this one (or achieve the same kind of status). Besides, if something situational was funny at one point then why not at another? For all these reasons and then some, it's hard to imagine "I Love Lucy" going off the air and not finding new fans.

Helping to make all of this work was the show's enormously talented cast. Lucille Ball is considered of the greatest comedic actresses and funnypeople of all time, and this show clearly demonstrates why. Ball is enthusiastic, giddy, charming and just plain fabulous. She's mischievous a bit (which is what the role calls for), but her heart is usually in the right place and the determination is certainly there. Ball really knew how to punch up a scene though - her comedic timing was unbeatable, and she could most certainly deliver a line in the best possible way depending on the moment. Ball was just a natural born talent, who's energy and ability to make anyone smile always came across when she was on screen.

Desi Arnaz was also excellent on the series, even if Lucy often stole the spotlight. Still, he had his moments on the show. He got a lot of funny moments, but he played it straight often and in some ways, contrasted Ball. There was real chemistry between the two - every ounce of which appeared on screen. It's all obvious why though: Lucy and Desi were married in real life and at one point, really got along well (you know - before the divorce). William Frawley and Vivian Vance - two respected character actors - also had real chemistry together as an on-screen couple, and with their more noted co-stars (especially when they "teamed up" so to speak). Frawley and Vance also had funny bones, and could certainly deliver on the moment as well and steal scenes. All of the actors on the show really made their characters believable, and they really understood and got into what they were doing with this program.

It's arguable that the second season of "I Love Lucy" is the best, but there's no denying that it was probably the most memorable. First things first: the season premiere was "Job Switching," which is probably the best known "Lucy" episode (or at least one of them). Ricky and Fred think being homemakers is easier than doing a regular job, so while they work the kitchen and home Lucy and Ethel go out and try to get a job. They get a job all right - at the chocolate factory. I don't need to say any more at this point, but if you think I do then go out and get this DVD set and laugh yourself silly. I've seen the "Job Switching" episode a number of times - and it never gets old. I still laugh so much at it, and it really is just as funny the first time as it is the tenth.

The second season also has the episode with the handcuffs (Lucy and Rick handcuffed together, Lucy loses the key and it means trouble - wait, hasn't nearly every other sitcom done an episode like this?) and the always amusing "The Operreta." But what also made the second season so notable was went on behind-the-scenes: Lucille Ball got pregnant, and it was worked into the show and became one of the series most popular story arcs (but CBS wouldn't allow the word "pregnant" so the characters had to say "expecting" - and now this network shows a female pop star's breast? Oh the irony!). Here's a fun fact for you: Lucy's real life son was born the same day as her TV son (fun coincidence right there).

"I Love Lucy" is a show that was in the public conscious from the start, and made Lucille Ball an instant pop culture icon (as well as her show) - be it young and old, Lucille Ball is just plain recognizable and her show has entertained generations of people and will entertain generations to come because it's just that good. Even if some aspects of the series seem a little dated, the more classic setting (which was quite current when the show aired) doesn't deter it at all. Perhaps it enhances it, since times were a little bit more simple in the 1950s. However, other than the comedy, the show's themes of unconditional love, dreaming and joy will always be valid. "I Love Lucy" is one of the greatest television shows of all time in my opinion, and I'm rather certain just about all of you who are familiar would not detest that statement.

 

All the second season episodes have been restored and remastered, and the work done certainly shows. Other than the occasional scratch, nick and blemish on the episode prints and the heap of noise (which is there and can be seen often, but it's not overwhelming) these episodes look fantastic. The show was done in beautiful black-and-white, and this set certainly represents this signature sitcom well. The image quality is well drawn out, with fine detail and a tremendous amount of depth (which really makes things stand out). Best of all, the episodes aren't really grainy and look incredibly sharp - it's pretty astonishing (in the best possible way). This is one of the most impressive restorations I've ever seen for a television show - especially one that's a little over fifty years old. The show certainly deserves it, so don't be surprised if your jaw drops.

 

All the episodes feature English mono tracks which are good and work very well in their own right. To say it simply, the tracks are plain, clearcut mono. The tracks are pretty much free of noise distortion, and only occasionally did I detect some slight hissing in the background. The fidelity of the tracks are pretty high up (which surprised me a little), but of course the range of the tracks are limited. These mono tracks though are remarkably clear - everything can be heard with ease. The boisterous laugh track, the crisp and clear dialogue, some sound effects and even the music cues (such as songs in the episodes, instrumental compositions and that classic theme music) all make some kind of distinct impression (even if it's all together). Given the age of the show and the material, all of this is pretty excellent. Spanish mono tracks are available on most of the episodes (but not all) because the show was sold abroad decades ago. English closed captions and Spanish subtitles are on the episodes as well.

 

This set is literally a treasure trove for "I Love Lucy" fans - be it casual or die-hard ones. Each of the five discs has supplements on them, so here goes: on all the disc there are Flubs for some of the episodes. These standard outtakes are accompanied by text descriptions putting them in detailed context. Some of these outtakes are longer than others, but they're still a lot of fun. They look and sound pretty great too - but they don't look just as good as the series episodes on the discs.

Each disc also has a Guest Cast roster - you can choose an episode, see the guest stars and then click on a guest where you're treated to a short biography and still photograph. The set also features Special Footage (yep, on each disc) which consists of deleted footage, animated portions or scenes not originally part of the episodes but filmed later (such as the Flashback scenes). Some of this footage hasn't been shown since their original airdates in the 50s, making this quite the treat. There is all kinds of footage, all of which is worth watching and really priceless. Like the Flubs, the footage is given text to put them in the proper perspective. Also on each disc are the three Original Openings which are animated sequences (I believe cable's TV Land showed these a few years ago) - they pretty much highlight original sponsor Phillip Morris (this was long before cigarette ads were banned on television). And yes, they're also given text with bits of trivia on them.

But wait - there's more of similar features on each of the DVDs! Each disc has some well-written Production Notes, which tend to highlight the show and a particular episode with tidbits and original script pages. Another terrific bonus is the Lucy On The Radio feature - each disc has a complete radio episode of "My Favorite Husband" - the radio sitcom Lucille Ball starred in before she started her TV show (the radio program did inspire the television series, however). These are all classic, and the five episodes included are: "Liz and George Handcuffed" (which inspired the second season episode "The Handcuffs"), "Mrs. Cooper Thinks Liz Is Pregnant," "Liz Becomes A Sculptress" (an inspiration for the episode "Lucy Becomes A Sculptress"), "Liz Changes Her Mind" (which in turn became the TV episode "Lucy Changes Her Mind") and "Trying To Marry Off Peggy Martin" (The "Lucy" episode: "Lucy Is A Matchmaker"). In a nice touch, each radio program is encoded with chapter breaks so you don't have to listen to each the whole way through. These are great to listen to and are quite enjoyable, especially when comparing the ones that inspired the TV episodes.

On the more disc-specific features, the second and third disc in the set has a Behind The Scenes feature which is a book exception from Laughs, Luck... and Lucy. Written by series head writer and producer Jess Oppenheimer, it features Larry Dobkin's narration of the book which reveals behind-the-scenes stories of the show. There are clips from two episodes, one of which features the narration. I'm sure you die-hard buffs have already read Oppenheimer's book, but this features gives those not familiar with it a sweet taste of it. In all, a nice way to advertise a product.

Finally, the fifth disc has a Photo Gallery with on-the-set photos taken during the second season (and the dates when they are taken) which is fun to view. On a different note, DVD thinpak contains episode summaries, the episode production number and the original airdates.

 

"I Love Lucy" has proven to be a timeless show - it's just as funny now as it was then. After releasing individual volumes for the first season (later released in a collected set), Paramount has gotten on the bandwagon of releasing season sets for all its series. The second season episodes look marvelous and sound great, and there are a ton of priceless extras that is bound to make any fan of the show ecstatic. Lucy and Desi fans (as well as all TV and comedy fans)... this is definitely one for the collection.