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Monday, October 15, 2012

61 years later, we still love Lucy

61 years ago on this day, on a Monday night, at 9 PM, I Love Lucy went on air and has never gone off since. I wrote this post a few weeks ago with the intentions to post it earlier, but then decided to hold it off for the 15th, though I hadn't necessarily planned to do a post about the show's anniversary this year (as I did one last year for the big 6-0). Anyway, here's the post, I hope you enjoy it, and don't forget to squeeze some Lucy into your day today.

***

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to come across an article that wondered if we had finally reached the first generation not growing up on reruns of I Love Lucy. It wasn't the main topic of the article (and it was a pretty rubbish piece, anyways), but, to be quite honest with you, it did scare the hell out of me. As a classic film fan I am well aware of this generation's lack of appreciation of yesteryear's Hollywood, but I have always also felt that there are exceptions to the rule - movies, and, in this case, TV shows, that have defied the odds and still manage to be remembered by the greater part of society today. Like Gone With the Wind. Casablanca. The Wizard of Oz. Actresses like Audrey Hepburn & Marilyn Monroe. It's well known around these parts that I'm not always a fan of the idea of an "icon", but I have learned to be grateful for the "iconization", if you'd call it, of these films and people because it does keep Old Hollywood alive. It's nice to know that there are certain things that give Classic Hollywood and yesterday's entertainment a face, even if there is so much more beyond the face. Know what I mean?

I have always seen I Love Lucy as one of these exceptions. Why not? By many, it is considered the greatest television show to grace the small screen. It seems that at some point or another, just about everyone has seen an episode, or has at least heard of it. Even before I came to watch the show, I knew it existed - it was exactly what I thought of when thinking of "classic television." So many of the episodes are famous in their own individual right, and everyone seems to know them - "the Vitavetavegamin one ," "the candy factory one," "the grape stomping one"... the list is seriously endless.

So, no, I couldn't really bring myself to believe that this was a generation not growing up on I Love Lucy reruns. I remember sitting in the hairdresser's chair a couple of years ago as he recounted having nostalgically caught an episode of the show a few days before while channel surfing. Or going to a family party and meeting a family friend of my age who could remember seeing - and enjoying - at least a few episodes. Or the other day in school, where one of my new friends asked who the face on my iPhone case was (yes, I have a Lucy case) and another said, "It's Lucy from I Love Lucy, see?"

Still, as I said earlier, frankly, the very thought that Lucy had reached a generation which demeaned it less timeless as all the generations before it scared me. A lot. But a couple of events have fully assured me that that article was just as rubbish as I thought; and that over sixty years later, we still love Lucy very much.

Out of my curiosity, I decided to do my own little test of Lucy's popularity. I don't know how many of you readers are on Tumblr or aware of how it works (follow me; loving-lucy!) but a popular game on Tumblr is to do a sort of "Reblog if you love ___" post and see how many notes it gets. Now, I knew I wouldn't be able to get the most accurate of results because despite definitely having a nice, faithful group of followers, I'm most definitely not "Tumblr famous." Still, I decided to give it a try; Tumblr's target audience is teenagers/people in their twenties, thus people of 'this generation.'

[my GIF]
The post has so far gotten well over a thousand notes, but better than the notes were the comments that people added when reblogging the post. "This show was my childhood", "I know them all by heart", "Lucille Ball is my idol" and "I'm watching it right now" appeared frequently; but best of all were the specific memories or emotions the show provoked.
I Love Lucy has been my favorite show since I was 8 years old. I’ve seen every episode more times that I can count and somehow it’s always just as funny as the first time I ever watched it. The show is timeless and I refuse to believe that future generations won’t find the joy, wonder, and laughter that Lucy has brought into my life and the lives of many others. - melodylingerson
I thought I Love Lucy reruns were like…eternal. This show is incredible and I have the fondest memories watching it with my grandparents. - curlyqshoo
If you are not growing up on I Love Lucy, you are doing it wrong. And by “it” I mean life. - grahamburgers
This show was and always will be genius - and I think it would shock people of my generation (and younger) how much of the comedy we see today is referenced or based off this amazing show. - obamayourmama
Heck, some people even said they'd personally educate this generation with DVDs of I Love Lucy - others refused to ever raise children in a Lucyless society! One reblogger added that her mother had gone into labor with her while watching Lucy, while others remembered being little kids and watching the show with family members; knowing that when the theme song ended it was time for bed. Anecdotes like those proved to me what I'd fully suspected.

What was also beautiful to read were messages users left for me in my tumblr inbox. They might not necessarily apply to members of "this generation", but attest to the joy Lucy has given many, and what an incredible tool laughter is.
My grandmother runs her own home for women with Alzheimer's and dementia and watching these women watch I Love Lucy was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Some of these women can't respond to their name being called but would just laugh until they were in tears when Lucy would come on. It was so beautiful. Just thought I'd share. ciarakenadie
 I work at a nursing home and they have the Alzheimer's unit. You can't even imagine how hard life is for them. BUT, Everyday the one thing that they remember is I Love Lucy is on. They all rush to the meeting room to watch I Love Lucy on the tv. We only have about five episodes but they just watch them over and over again. It is a beautiful thing it always makes me a little teary. - xprincessdiana
About a month ago, Barbara Walters hosted a 20/20 special entitled "Best in TV," to count down the best television shows of all time (or, the past sixty years anyways) as chosen by the public. This was split into various categories: Best Comedy, Best Drama, Best Cop Shows, Best TV Mom, etc. with a top five for each, and it was topped off with what voters chose to be the Top 5 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. Obviously, I tuned in with fingers crossed to see Lucy might win.

The results were just as I could have hoped for; Americans chose Lucy as their favorite comedy as well as their all time favorite television show. There was a nostalgic ten minute monologue for the show to cap off the special. ABC News collaborated with People magazine for this, and the magazine's editor likened Lucy to the Book of Genesis in television - "In the beginning, there was Lucy." In the monologue, we were reminded of some incredible facts: that Lucy has been translated into seventy-seven different languages, that it is the most watched television show to date, and CBS still makes millions of dollars off the show per year. (Originally, Lucy & Desi owned the episodes, and then sold them back to CBS in 1957 for four million dollars, giving birth to the rerun. Of course, Lucie & Desi, Jr. still hold interest in their parents's images and the many requests they get to use them with "Desilu, too")

On the special, Betty White summed up what Lucy did for women in comedy in one statement: "You had this gorgeous, gorgeous woman who did all these funny things." Isn't this true? Because of Lucy, women have all the opportunities in television and comedy as they do now, and they don't have to appear "unflattering" to be comedic. Whilst flipping through the channels the other day, I caught a bit of a Julia Louis Dreyfus sitcom, and I couldn't help but notice how much her character's wacky resourcefulness reminded me of Lucy Ricardo. Then, come to think of it, almost every comedic female character on television today has a little bit of Lucy Ricardo in her: that screwball spirit, that touch of sarcasm, that goofy steak. That's how deep the influence runs. And besides that, Lucy was a pioneer in the television industry in technical ways that are still apparent today, too. They invented the three camera technique that is still used by most sitcoms today, gave birth to the rerun, and came up with solutions for many of early television's obstacles in lighting & set design.

Lucie and Desi, Jr. were interviewed by Barbara for the special. At the end, Barbara asked Desi, Jr. what he thought it may be that makes his parents's show still incredibly successful sixty years after first going on air. I think he explained it very well when he said it is the show's principles that are timeless: laughter, friendship, and love.

So maybe there are some jokes that just never grow old.

At the end of the day, I've thankfully come to the conclusion that Lucy is still very much popular and very much needed. What was significant about that 20/20 special? Americans voted for their favorites, and Lucy came out on top - not but critic's choice, but by people's choice. In a 1984 televised event, Sammy Davis, Jr. told Lucy with great affection: "You are the one that they love the most." Call me biased, but he was very likely correct.

But why do we still need Lucy? The world has changed so much since when Lucy & Desi owned the airwaves. It's become more explicit, for sure - you couldn't say 'pregnant' then, but now you can air a woman actually giving birth. It's become a busier place and lacks the warmth that we once had. But this difference between their generation and ours is, I think, the very reason we still need Lucy. The world still needs Lucy because is something familiar that comforts us with the best memories of the past, and gives us something to smile about, even if for only twenty-four minutes. I'm sure there are only a few who, having watched even a single episode, haven't smiled or giggled or laughed at least once.

I guess the only way to end this post is to say two words to the cast, and, primarily, that beautiful redheaded girl who starred in the show: thank you!

"The world not only loves Lucy. The world, as it is today, needs her very much."
[my GIF]

2 comments:

Alyssa LM said...

What a said thought to think I Love Lucy wouldn't be passed down to the next generation. But how wonderful to see no matter people's age how much they love the show. It's timeless quality and huge heart I think will keep it alive for a very long time. Lovely post.

silverscreenings said...

Great article. Am tweeting this.

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