Lucy: “Give me one good reason Ricky why I can’t be in the show.”
Ricky: “Because you have no talent.”
Lucy: “Give me another good reason.”
For those of you who have been living under a rock or sequestered in a Communist country for the last six decades, I Love Lucy has been a staple in the top tier of television best of lists since it premiered back in 1951. Starring Lucille Ball and real life hubby Desi Arnaz, I Love Lucy managed to transcend racial and generational barriers with shows that had one common denominator: they were funny. Lucy and Ricky were like a couple we could imagine living next door to, friends who could’ve been a part of our daily lives. The writing wasn’t dumbed down for the great unwashed, on the contrary, we were included in on the gag, and with each zany antic that Lucy got herself into we watched, waiting to see how she would get out of the trouble she created. Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred were like family, albeit a dysfunctional one (on your spouse’s side of course), a family that became a part of our own families; so much so that even 60 years later we still love Lucy.
The Best of I Love Lucy is a two disc set that includes 14 of the series’ most popular episodes which aired between 1952 and 1956. It’s sort of like the sample platter at your favorite restaurant, you get a nice assortment to choose from but it’s not really a complete meal. The DVD highlights the comedic genius of Lucille Ball and her talented supporting cast that included Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo, Vivian Vance playing Ethel Mertz and William Frawley as the old, crotchety Fred Mertz. Although not a complete selection, the episodes are a fine representation of why I Love Lucy is the iconic television series we know and love today.
There are three episodes in The Best of I Love Lucy set that are the series clearest representations of the genius. The first is “Lucy Does a TV Commercial.” In it Ricky needs a girl to do a commercial for a television show he’s emceeing. Lucy wants, no, she needs to be that girl but of course Ricky says no. When Lucy finagles a way into doing the commercial for a tonic called Vitametavegamin, we get to see Lucy’s physical comedic talents at their best. Since the commercial will be broadcast live during the variety show, Lucy has to rehearse her part a few times before the program begins. Unbeknownst to Lucy, and to the director as well, is the fact that this wonder tonic contains 23% alcohol. So when Lucy takes that first spoonful and has to say “…it’s so tasty too,” the look of abject horror on her face is classic to the core and makes me laugh no matter how many times I’ve seen it. We’ve all had to force down some awful tasting concoction at one time or another and we can easily relate to Lucy’s discovery that Vitametavegamin is anything but ‘tasty.’ In that one scene, Lucy is able to project with her face and eyes emotions that most of us find difficult to show with words.
In “Lucy goes to the Hospital” the Ricardo’s are expecting a little bundle of joy; however, this experience is turning everyone but Lucy into a nervous wreck. To prepare for the eventual time when Lucy is ready to go to the hospital Ricky, Ethel and Fred decide to assign themselves duties to make it easier for the mom to be. Twice they calmly perform their parts: Ethel phones the doctor, Fred gets Lucy’s suitcase and Ricky gets her coat; looks like clear sailing all the way to the hospital but of course nothing goes as planned. When Lucy finally comes out and says she’s ready, chaos ensues as Ricky, Ethel and Fred forget everything they just rehearsed and bungle all they had worked for, as the well meaning trio flail about in sheer panic mode. In the commotion Lucy is almost forgotten but her husband and dear friends recover just enough composure to get her out the door…barely. In this classic episode, it’s Lucy who’s the straight man while her co-stars do the physical comedy. The whole cast was incredibly talented and this episode alone shows the immense value of all four stars in the success of I Love Lucy.
The last of the standouts on this best of disc is one entitled “Harpo Marx.” Really, it’s not so much the episode on a whole that is the reason it is a standout, but the classic scene involving Lucy and Harpo recreating the mirror skit from the movie Duck Soup. When Harpo pays Lucy a visit and finds her dressed exactly like him, the two go toe to toe to see who will be the victor in a game of mirror chicken. Once again the comedic prowess of Lucy is on full display as she matches wits with the likes of Harpo Marx. In the episodes that took place in Hollywood, Lucy stood tall next to some of the biggest stars of the time and, in this particular, one she hit her stride. The “Harpo Marx” episode showed that Lucille Ball belongs at the top of any list of legendary entertainers.
The other fine episodes included on The Best of I Love Lucy DVD set are:
* “The Ballet”
* “The Freezer”
* “Job Switching”
* “Lucy is Enceinte”
* “LA at Last”
* “Lucy Gets in Pictures”
* “The Great Train Robbery”
* “Bon Voyage”
* “Paris at Last”
* “Lucy Gets a Paris Gown”
* “Lucy’s Italian Movie”
A nice addition to the DVD collection was the inclusion of some of the series openings and animated sequences used during the original airing of I Love Lucy, it gives you an idea of what it must’ve felt like to watch the show as it was meant to be seen.
The Best of I Love Lucy was shot in 1.33.1 full frame and the audio is in Dolby 2.0 Stereo. There are no extras.
This is a Target exclusive release, so you’ll either have to click on the link at the top or visit your local store.
This is a nice collection for the casual viewer, but for the serious lover of all things Lucy I don’t think The Best of I Love Lucy is worth the investment. If I were you, I’d save my pennies for the day I could purchase the entire series collection.
Not Guilty. 14 episodes of Lucy are better than none.
The Best of I Love Lucy (DVD)
2011, Paramount, 361minutes, NR (1952)
VIDEO: 1.33:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 (English), Dolby Digital 2.0 (Spanish) SUBTITLES: Spanish
EXTRAS: None ACCOMPLICES: IMDB