“How did I know you were faking? I thought you were an overgrown Cuban quiz kid.”
Anyone that’s at all a fan of the I Love Lucy show is probably well aware of the DVDs of the show’s first season that Paramount has been making available over the past year. The most recent release is the first season’s ninth and final disc containing the last four episodes, all originally released in the late spring of 1952 on CBS.
The material on the ninth disc is an improvement over that on the previous two discs and really ends off the season with a bang. All four episodes are classic ones that are usually rated among the more highly praised ones of the entire series’ run. In “Lucy Gets Ricky on the Radio,” the Ricardos and Mertzes are listening to a quiz show on the radio at home. Surprisingly, Ricky knows the answers to all the questions, so sensing a chance to make some easy money, Lucy manages to get Ricky and herself on the show. Unfortunately for Lucy, there was a reason that Ricky knew the answers and it wasn’t due to his knowledge of trivia. “Lucy’s Schedule” is one of those episodes that revolves around Lucy’s inability to get her work done. Ricky’s solution is to put her on a schedule, and at first, she makes it appear that his approach is working for her. But when Ricky brings his boss and his wife for dinner for them to observe the merits of being on a schedule, Lucy and Ethel make a mockery of the whole issue. “Ricky Thinks He’s Getting Bald” forces Lucy to try to make Ricky realize that the loss of a couple of hairs and a bit of recession around the forehead is no cause for concern. After several approaches fail, she settles on a lengthy, uncomfortable, and messy treatment that she is sure will cure Ricky of his worries. Finally, in “Ricky Asks for a Raise,” Lucy is sure she knows best when it comes to getting a raise for Ricky. Unfortunately, her ideas backfire and Ricky not only gets no raise, but loses his job too. Lucy then has to mount a major operation with Fred and Ethel’s help in order to try to convince Ricky’s boss to hire him back.
The first season of I Love Lucy ended on a high note with four very solid episodes. All are well written, have plenty of laughs (including a good dose of visual humour), and have satisfying endings. A couple of them benefit from the presence of Gale Gordon playing Ricky’s boss at the club. A couple of the best-remembered sequences from the show’s six-year run are included. These include one where Lucy applies an increasingly bizarre series of treatments to Ricky’s scalp in an effort to make him so uncomfortable that he’ll forget his unfounded concerns about going bald, and another where Lucy, Fred, and Ethel dress up in various costumes as they pretend to be patrons at Ricky’s club. Both are hilarious on all counts, but perhaps most amusing is seeing Fred in various hairpieces. William Frawley (who played Fred) is someone who was always bald, at least as far as our screen knowledge of him goes, and it just seems truly bizarre to see him otherwise. Anyway, I don’t really have to sell these episodes and this disc to anyone who has any familiarity with the series. This is one of the better ones from the first season. And even though it’s that season’s last, it’s not a bad place to start if you’re somehow a newcomer to the series.
Paramount has been releasing these discs on behalf of CBS. This ninth disc continues the fine record of the others. The full frame transfers (1.33:1, as they should be) look crisp and clear with little other than the occasional speckle to detract from the image. Blacks are solid and deep and whites are clean. Shadow detail is very good. The mono sound is in fine shape with age-related hiss substantially absent. The disc continues the selection of interesting supplements available on previous discs. Included are the original series opening, a listing of the radio shows upon which some of this disc’s episodes were based, information about guest cast members (especially very familiar faces and frequent guests Frank Nelson and Gale Gordon), production notes, flubs, and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery.
There’s lots of fun on this disc and Paramount and CBS’s collaboration on it has resulted in a handsome package. Collectors who have none or few of the previous first season discs should be aware that Paramount has also just released a box set collecting all nine of the discs they released individually. Reportedly, future seasons will be released as box sets only, with Season Two likely headed our way during the first quarter of 2004.