On March 2, 1951, Desilu Productions produced a pilot for "I Love Lucy," a new comedy series starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The show was filmed via kinescope at CBS/Columbia Square in Hollywood. Five days later the film was sent to New York in search of a sponsor.
Following is a CBS sales release (dated April 16, 1951), in which the network describes the show and estimates sponsorship fees. It is interesting to note that at this point, CBS was offering "I Love Lucy" as an alternate-week series, promising no more than 22 episodes in the first season -- at least 13 of them to be "live" and up to 9 on film.
I Love Lucy
LUCILLE BALL and DESI ARNAZ
30 minutes, alternate weeks
I Love Lucy, an outstanding new situation comedy series, promises to be an even greater success on television than Lucille Ball’s popular My Favorite Husband is on radio.
Look Magazine called her “the top radio talent in this (1949) or any other year” and the size of her weekly audience shows that a great number of people agree.
In the current season (October 1950-March Advance 1951), Lucille Ball’s radio program has won a 9.2 Nielsen Rating average, attracting an average of
over 3,850,000 homes a week.
Topnotch Comedy Scripts – Expert Delivery
Lucille Ball’s radio program attracts these big audiences because of her skillful delivery of consistently topflight material. Cue Magazine calls it “a flawless time sense.” And Billboard feels that “the extraordinary comedy scripting sets this show head and shoulders above others of its kind.”
The Same Great Writing Team
The high-caliber scripts that play such an important part in Lucille Ball’s radio success will make I Love Lucy one of television’s most popular situation comedies. To insure this, the same writers – Jess Oppenheimer, Madlyn (sic) Pugh, and Robert Carroll, Jr. – are doing I Love Lucy. Among Oppenheimer’s other radio credits (in addition to My Favorite Husband) are The Jack Benny Show and The Charlie McCarthy Show.
Lucille Ball on Television
In the past few years Hollywood has discovered that, besides being one of its most glamorous stars, Lucille Ball is one of its finest comediennes. For her ability to get the most out of comedy lines is matched by her artistry in “mugging” and “double-takes.”
In the audition recording of I Love Lucy (available upon request), Lucille Ball hits the screen with a comedy-glamour impact that is unrivaled in television today. As the stage-struck wife of a handsome bandleader (played by her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz), her brilliant comedy is shown to its fullest advantage.
Desi Arnaz – A Television Natural
Playing the part of a bandleader who feels that his wife’s place is in their home – and has a hard time keeping her there – Desi Arnaz shows that his newly-discovered aptitude for comedy is on the same high par as his better-known singing ability.
His characterization of a harassed husband is far more than a foil for Lucille Ball’s zany wife; it’s a skillful interpretation by a polished comedian. And his personable vocalizing, backed by his versatile orchestra, comes across with truly dynamic impact.
To Sum Up:
With the same basic ingredients that make Lucille Ball’s radio program a great success…plus her tremendous visual impact…plus the considerable versatility of Desi Arnaz…I Love Lucy is assured of big television audiences.
Contents of Package and Price:
I Love Lucy will be delivered as a complete package, including
Orchestra of 15
Rehearsal: six hours with facilities
eight hours without facilities
twelve hours rehearsal hall
The gross price, subject to 15% agency commission:
First year $26,500
NOTE:This program is available only on an alternate week basis and
will not be broadcast more than 22 times in 44 consecutive
weeks of a cycle year. Of these 22 broadcasts, up to nine
may be produced on film.
Contents of package and price subject to revision upon change in format, salary scale, and/or card-rate rehearsal charges. Rehearsal charges are guaranteed for six months only.
April 16, 1951
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Original material © 2005 Lucyfan Enterprises.
I Love Lucy is copyrighted by and a registered trademark of CBS Worldwide, Inc.
Images of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used by permission of Desilu, too, LLC.
Licensing by Unforgettable Licensing, Northbrook, Illinois.