Judge Brett Cullum still loves Lucy, even when she slows down and shows off her kids.
Lucy is back…one last time!
Here's Lucy was Lucille Ball's second to last gasp at a sitcom on television (the final being the short-lived 1986 series Life with Lucy), and it ran from 1968 until 1974 for 144 episodes. Lucy demanded the show be created so that her kids Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. would be featured. It retained the talents of Gale Gordon who had been on The Lucy Show, and he played the same part as her boss, but also now a relative. Lucille Ball did things old school, and Here's Lucy was filmed in front of a live audience like all of her series before this one. Most comedies at the time were being taped on closed sets and adding a laugh track later, but Ball felt she did better with an audience.
In Here's Lucy Lucille Ball plays Lucy Carter, living in Los Angeles, a single mother of two, who works at Carter's Unique Employment Agency. The real narrative was supposed to showcase the generation gap between Lucy and her kids. There were a lot of references to current events including civil rights, rock music, and the sexual revolution. The physical comedy remained a center point, but Lucy seemed to back away from it as the show progressed. In 1972 Lucy suffered a leg fracture during a ski trip, and you can see the show use her time in a leg cast as a comic situation. But still, you got the message that she wasn't quite as ready to be gung ho with the shtick that had her flailing and falling everywhere.
The most notable thing about Here's Lucy was that Ball managed to get huge celebrity names at the time to make guest appearances. Elizabeth Taylor showed up with Richard Burton, and Jack Benny did his cameo as well. Sitcom royalty Jackie Gleason came on as Ralph Kramden in a salute to The Honeymooners. There were the likes of Liberace, Ann-Margret, Vincent Price, Tony Randall, Lawrence Welk, Carol Burnett, George Burns, Joan Rivers, Danny Thomas, Flip Wilson, Petula Clark, Donny Osmond, Eva Gabor, and Shelly Winters just to name a few.
By 1973, the show slipped out of the top ten, and it looked like things would wrap up by the end of Season Five. The finale was a clip show of sorts with Lucille Ball and Gale Gordon reminiscing about all of their adventures, but somehow the decision was made to soldier on. By 1974 and the sixth season, Lucille Ball decided after twenty-four years on television it was time to end her legacy. Here's Lucy was at a respectable #29 in the overall ratings, but television was moving on away from her traditional format and more towards revolutionary shows such as All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, and of course M*A*S*H. It had come time for an era to end, and that is just what happened quietly and without too much fanfare.
Technically the series is presented just as it was back in the day, and that means full screen aspect ratios and mono soundtracks. Images are clear, and there doesn't seem to be many issues with aliasing or digital artifacts. It's all solid enough, but MPI has provided a lot more. The real reason to get all of these sets in one collection is that you get a tidal wave of extras on each and every season. A nice feature of all the discs is you can choose to play the episodes with introductions which feature Lucy's kids (Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr.) all grown up and talking about the series. Each season also gathers together what they call "Treasures from Lucy's Vault" which feature things like home movies and special segments that had never been seen. There are standard featurettes such as how they made the title sequence, the locations, and things covering the casting and process. Also on each season collection is a celebrity interview with a luminary such as Gale Gordon, Carol Burnett, and Doris Day. All sorts of promotional materials are archived, and the sets just go on and on each with so many supplements it is dizzying to contemplate them all.
MPI has done right by Here's Lucy giving us all 144 episodes in one box set. Now these are no different than the ones they have issued since 2009, so collectors needn't feel like they have to fork over more cash for any additional material. Simply put, these are just the season sets housed in one big cardboard slipcover to keep them all contained. Fans will be excited to get everything at one price, but this is what we have seen all along from MPI. Here's Lucy continues the Lucille Ball legacy in a very classy and traditional way. We get to see her kids, and Lucy herself seems to be having a great time playing off all of her big time Hollywood pals in this series. And of course old pal Vivian Vance makes a few notable appearances as well for old times sake.
Guilty of being the perfect goodbye to a legendary lady of comedy.
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