Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dear Fellow Lucyfans,

Many thanks for all the nice notes about the release of THE LUCY SHOW: THE OFFICIAL SIXTH & FINAL SEASON, available in stores and internet outlets beginning tomorrow, October 9.

I thought I would take this opportunity to answer some of your questions:

1. Have you worked on all DVD releases of The Lucy Show?

Yes – at least the ones that are the “Official” releases issued by CBS Home Entertainment. I have had the pleasure of working on these not only with the in-house staff at CBS, but with my production partners, Jonathan Angus and Larry Pane.

Our primary assignment has been to assemble special material to be included on the discs. This includes not only the menus, but the “extras” as well… These can normally be divided into two categories: things we produce ourselves, and things we find in the vault.

For season six, we were able to include a seldom-seen clip from Lucy’s 1967 appearance on The Carol Burnett Show and Lucy’s 1968 acceptance speech from that year’s Emmy Awards. There are also a couple of radio PSAs that Lucy recorded for Youth Appreciation Week – and the Italian soundtrack from the “Lucy Gets Her Diploma” episode. It’s fun to watch Lucy, Doris Singleton, Gale Gordon – and Lucie Arnaz – all “speaking” Italian.

Each of our six sets have been fairly season-centric… That is, almost everything included on Season One either happened in 1962-63, or was in some way relevant to it. Same with each set thereafter. We’re kinda proud of that!

2. Which season is your favorite?

That’s a little like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. IF I had to choose, I would say Season One, if only because it allowed me to live through the excitement of approaching “something new” twice – first in 1962, and again four years ago when CBS asked me to work on the DVDs. Both were very exciting times. Back in 1962, the American audience was very excited to have Lucy back on TV every Monday night… And in 2008, Jonathan, Larry and I were very excited to have the opportunity to try to recreate that special "1962 moment" on DVDs.

Moreover, the episodes that year were probably the closest The Lucy Show ever came to emulating the magic of I Love Lucy, thanks in no small part to the presence behind-the-scenes of executive-producer Desi Arnaz. He had reassembled much of the original I Love Lucy creative staff (headed by writers Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Martin, Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf) and everyone seemed to rise to the challenge to make Lucy successful all over again. The season is jam-packed with what have since become classics: Lucy on a trampoline, Lucy putting up her TV antenna, Lucy and Viv trying to sleep in bunk beds, Lucy installing a shower, etc., etc. And Lucy and Viv have an unmistakable on-camera chemistry that is wonderful to watch.

Season One also introduced us to Hollywood historian Tony Maietta, who just happened also to be a died-in-the-wool Lucy fan. Tony graciously agreed to be our on-camera "host" (for Seasons 1-3), and proceeded to contribute informative and entertaining interviews with Lucie Arnaz and Jimmy Garrett (Season One) and Carole Cook and Barry Livingston (Season Two).

3. What has been your favorite “special feature” added to the DVDs?

Two come immediately to mind: Season Five’s inclusion of Lucy in London and Season Three’s visit to the World’s Fair.

The London special had not been seen (at least officially) for 45 years, and fans had been requesting it -- so we were very excited when CBS not only agreed to use it, but insisted it be totally remastered.

The special begged for some sort of introduction, so Jonathan, Larry and I put together a featurette called Lucy in London Revisited, which helped explain how and why the special was done in 1966. We were so lucky to have producer-director Steve Binder, writer Ron Friedman, Desilu executive Bernie Weitzman, and TV historian/archivist Dan Wingate share their thoughts/memories of the show with us on video. That 30-minute featurette is my "pride and joy."

The World’s Fair video was a real challenge – especially for Jonathan, who does the lion’s share of our editing. We found TV news coverage of "Lucy Day at the Fair" (August 31, 1964)… This came from two or three different sources. Unfortunately, each of the clips was only about ten to sixty seconds in length… They were little “sound bites” originally intended for use on the evening news… And we had absolutely NO IDEA as to how they all fit together.

Hedda Hopper came to our rescue! Hedda apparently saved almost everything, and when she died, her estate left a lot of her papers to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. There Jonathan and I found a 1964 memo, sent to Ms. Hopper from the Fair planners, outlining the route through the fairgrounds that had been laid out for Lucy’s visit. Bingo! That told us what went where.

Larry Pane, meanwhile, searched the internet and discovered that a gentleman named Albert Fisher had been not only the Director of Television for the Fair, but had been part of the contingent that accompanied Lucy through the fairgrounds. Even better: he was alive and well and living right here in Los Angeles. Double Bingo! We engaged his services, showed him our snippets of film, and worked with him in assembling a narrative of Lucy going through the Fair, visiting the various pavilions, etc. Lastly, Albert happily agreed to be interviewed on-camera (by Tony), and share his memories with our viewers.

4. Any favorites among the old footage you found in the vaults?

Yes… the things that showed us “Lucy at work.” On Season 6, for example, we have some very SHORT snippets (or “trims”) of Lucy working with Jack Benny on “Lucy Gets Jack Benny’s Account.”

For Season Four, we were blessed to be able to use some behind-the-scenes footage of Lucy filming her stunts at Marineland. That same set included a segment, courtesy of producer Lee Mendelson, of the Lucy Show cast and crew working on “Lucy, The Robot.” The footage was part of a 1966 CBS special called The Magic of Broadcasting. Mr. Mendelson told us it was the only time Desilu allowed an outside production crew to film Lucy at work!

Jonathan, Larry and I were also very excited about finding and including such things as the CBS fall previews (7 Wonderful Nights and CBS: The Stars' Address), clips from the General Foods Opening Night specials, and the original cast commercials, all on Seasons One and Two, and The Lucille Ball Comedy Hour special with Bob Hope on Season Two.

5. What’s the strangest item you have ever included?

Again, two things come to mind: on Season Four, we had the soundtrack of Lucy and Gale doing a sales promotion piece for Beatrice Foods, and on Season Six, we have a promo for an 85 year old movie!

Like the World's Fair film, the 1965 Beatrice Foods presentation was a bit of a challenge. The soundtrack had been carefully preserved in the Desilu/CBS vaults, but the video portion had somehow been lost. What could we do with just the sound? We finally decided to try to illustrate it with still photos from some of the Season Four episodes. "Wait a minute," someone said. "Why not try to use actual footage? The lips won’t match, but maybe we can find similar scenes that could fit what is being said..." Which is exactly what we did… It’s a little quirky, but it's kinda fun to watch! (And we are still hoping to run across the original video portion someday!)

For Season 6, buried in our Production Notes, viewers will find a promo for the DVD/Blu-ray release of Paramount’s 1927 motion picture Wings. I wanted to include this, if only to help viewers (particularly the younger ones) understand why Desilu had celebrated the film and its two male stars in "Lucy and Carol Burnett" (Part Two): Wings was one of the greatest motion pictures of its time!

Thanks to everyone who sent the questions – and to everyone who has read these rather long-winded answers! I hope you enjoy watching THE LUCY SHOW: THE OFFICIAL SIXTH & FINAL SEASON.

All the best...

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