Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Dear Fellow Lucy Fans,

Well, quicker than you could say, "Happy Anniversary," CBS' 'I Love Lucy' 50th Anniversary Special came and went. That had to be the quickest -- and most enjoyable -- two-hours of my television experience. Whatta show! I loved it! The producers -- Lucie, Desi Jr., Fred Rappoport and Gary Smith -- should all take a bow!

I spoke with Fred and Gary just before show time, and both agreed that they had more than enough great material to have done yet another hour. "The big job," they said, "was narrowing down, deciding what to leave out. Lucy has left such a huge legacy."

Indeed, if the show had any shortcomings at all, in my opinion, it was in the area of what was missing, not what was included. Where, for gosh sakes, was Keith Thibodeaux, the only surviving regular cast member? We needed to see him. Where were Doris Singleton, Shirley Mitchell, Roz and Marilyn Borden, and some of the other surviving character actors who helped make the programs so great? Why was there not even a mention of the late, great Kathryn Card and Elizabeth Patterson? Or of Frank Nelson and Mary Jane Croft? While I loved seeing all the modern-day celebrities confess to having loved Lucy over the years, I also wanted to see some of the original players. Most were excluded even from the clips -- probably because union regulations would have demanded they (or their estates) be compensated.

Similarly, I thought more of a special tribute could have been done for Vivian Vance and William Frawley. Yes, they were applauded in the "Friendship" segment -- and they were seen in nearly all the clips -- but I felt they should have had something more.

I loved the fact that the producers opened and closed the show with scenes from "Sentimental Anniversary" (I Love Lucy episode #82). This episode has always been one of my all-time favorites (a fact that surprises a few people). I love it because the storyline underscores the loving relationship between Lucy and Ricky and the solid friendship between the Ricardos and the Mertzes. It is the strength and believability of these relationships that, in other episodes, allow us to "go along" when Lucy gets into one of her classic messes.

I was also charmed by Lucie and Desi's participation in the show. It's been years since we have heard Desi sing, and more's the pity because he has a wonderful voice! But their segments also served to broaden the focus of the show, making it both the 'I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Show and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's 50th TV anniversary. Not that that's a bad thing: I Love Lucy was always an extension of the Arnazes' real life, and in many ways, it still is.

So thank you Lucie and Desi and Gary and Fred... (where have we heard those names before?)... The show was (as Lucy would say), "wundaful." You should be very proud!


Post Script:

I have been told that viewers in many parts of the country saw a "promo" at the end of the special, announcing that VHS copies of the show are being sold by Columbia House as part of their new DVD program. Apparently one has to subscribe to the discs in order to get the tape. I say "apparently" because I did not get to see the promo myself. Local Channel 2 here in Los Angeles cut off that promo to show us "headlines" of the about-to-begin 11 o'clock news. Stuart Shostak, our resident video guru and TV historian, saw the special via satelite, and tells me the information number given for the Columbia House offer is 1-800-980-5900.

Stuart also enjoyed the special very much -- he even called me half-way through the show and again at the end to give me a verbal critique, mostly all glowing. He did have a few constructive criticisms, however, and they make for fascinating reading. See his review in On the Ball.

Finally, we want to hear from you. What did you think of the show? We will post your comments in our "We've Got Mail" department. So drop us a line...

And have a great week!

Until next time...

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