When Lucille Ball died, my brother called to see if I was okay. Like many people, I grew up with reruns of I Love Lucy. Perhaps being a baby boomer with parents who were just happy to have their kids quiet and occupied, regular television watching was a consistent part of our childhood. The theme songs from Gilligan’s Island, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies are forever in my memory bank. My brother wrote me at Girl Scout camp with updates on Dark Shadows. However, it is I Love Lucy alone which still thrives. Why? Why do I, along with millions of other people worldwide, find this 70-year-old show still funny?
Why is a new Lucy and Desi documentary out and why was Being the Ricardos nominated for several Oscars? What makes I Love Lucy a successful show is the same brilliant combination it has always taken for the success of any show; that rare blend of remarkable writing and acting. Lucy is very funny with spot-on timing. The writing is high-quality. This makes the show fun to watch; even over 70 years later.
I Love Lucy cleverly blends real life, into comedy and that ability is what makes the show evergreen. Yes, some of it is naturally outdated after over 7 decades. Some of what mirrored real life then and perhaps still does now, has never been ok. However, the heart of the show is pure fun and still reflects what is relevant and important.
Showing the home movies backward is just funny! Lucy and Harpo Marx in the mirror routine is pure entertainment. Ricky stumbling as he reads aloud because of the inconsistency of the English language is effective and of course, Vitameatavegamin is hysterical.
We married women relate when Lucy realizes that she has gained weight since she got married and when Lucy wants to regenerate more romance into her marriage. The way Lucy and her husband look at each other when Desi sings; “We’re Having a Baby, (My Baby and Me)” is capturing a moment of L-O-V-E.
My thoughtful husband bought me the I Love Lucy series and watches it with me. Too often, I have not a clue why I came into the kitchen, but I am on autopilot reciting the lines from I Love Lucy along with the Ricardos and the Mertz’s. I can think of an episode to fit any real-life situation. I read all the books I could find on Lucy as well on Vivian Vance and the show. I watched interviews and game shows on YouTube with Lucille Ball and her kids. I have no other television shows from my childhood. While I did wonder what I could learn, I was nevertheless really looking forward to the docudrama about I Love Lucy – Being the Ricardos.
The direction was for Nicole Kidman to portray Lucille Ball rather than Lucy Ricardo. The Being the Ricardos audience receives understanding for Lucy’s work methods. Lucille Ball knows that everyone is depending on her. Being the Ricardos, focuses on Lucille Ball with her personal and professional struggles. While Lucy’s cheating husband and her precision with work – called ‘being difficult’ by some, have often been written about, there was something new in watching Being the Ricardos.
When Fred and Ethel are living apart after a big fight, Lucy wants to help her friends get back together. Presented by Nicole Kidman, the audience watched Lucille Ball perfecting the episode, scene by scene. For the first time, I really saw this episode. Watching Lucy’s thought process as she decides to have the actors share the piano bench is attention-grabbing as the scene is brilliantly presented by Kidman. The different possibilities with the flowers on the table, changes to Ricky’s entrance, the director’s ego feeling squashed with Ms. Ball’s insight and her work to make the show as good as possible, all comes across. Though I recite the lines along with the actors, this is a brand new way to experience the episode.
The job of an actor is to make the audience feel. Lucy connected with her audience. Nicole Kidman connects in Being the Ricardos. Rightly, Kidman is an Oscar contender.
“The most precious gift we can give one another is letting them know they matter.” Julie A R Stephens