I Love Lucy debuts… and a leading TV critic hates it (1951)

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I Love Lucy: Marriage, Hollywood-style

by John Crosby

One thing you can say about “I Love Lucy” (8 pm Mondays), a fairly-new filmed operation starring Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, is that its title is almost too candid. Loving Lucy, or rather putting up with her, is the sole task entrusted to Arnaz.

This domestic comedy series reduces the role of husband to roughly that of the male spider, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, at the end of the season, Miss Ball ate him.

I Love Lucy TV show

The principal duties of Mr Arnaz in “I Love Lucy” are the expression of pained exasperation at some of his wife’s crazy, antics and crazier utterances. Generally, he does this by clapping one hand to his cheek and exclaiming: “Holy cow” — an expletive widely admired on the west coast.

Some instinct tells me we are in for an outbreak of these husband-and-wife affrays from Hollywood, and I bring it all up here to warn you husbands to batten down the hatches and prepare for a blow.

In one “I Love Lucy” scene, Miss Ball, who besides being an awfully pretty girl, is a very expert comedienne, invited herself to sit in on a poker game with her husband.

This is a perfectly horrible idea to spread on a coast-to-coast network, and will probably put all sorts of ideas in the heads of hitherto sensible housewives. In my area, this practice is known as double jeopardy, which is forbidden by the Constitution.

I Love Lucy debuts (1951)

Exercise of stupidity

Wives are ruled out of any poker game which includes her own husband, unless she brings in fresh money left her by her maiden aunt, money otherwise inaccessible to the husband.

In this case, the script not only permitted Miss Ball in the game, but called for her to win buckets of money through the exercise of abysmal stupidity, another idea which will damage a lot of husbands’ pocketbooks before their wives get the idea you can’t win at poker that way.

The scene pretty well sums up the spirit and essence of “I Love Lucy.” Miss Ball, I gather, will plunge into one dizzy situation after another. Arnaz will clap his hand to his cheek and exclaim: “Oh, no!” — another favorite expletive. (Arnaz, incidentally, could be a darned good comedian, too, if they’d give him something to do.)

Lucy and Desi - Desilu - I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy and the chocolate factory: The famous job switching episode (1952)

A radio formula

I’m a little depressed about the whole thing because it continues a radio formula — and especially a state of mind about husbands — which had outgrown its usefulness long before television was very important.

The show, I’m forced to concede, is very competently put together, is written almost too professionally (which is to say, cynically, and, as long as Miss Ball is in there, it’ll always have quite a few laughs in it. But I think it’s a terrible waste of her talents and her husband’s. The endless cliches into which these people are thrust, and what I’m afraid is the spirit of contempt or, at very least. indifference toward television which seems to imbue the actors, robs them of a great deal of their personality and of their appeal.

DON’T AGREE WITH THE REVIEWER? Watch the show again here!

Marriage, under the Hollywood rules, becomes a sort of children’s game in which the wife plays the part of a combination elf and nursemaid. If I had Miss Ball underfoot, seems to me I’d regard her in a somewhat different light.

I Love Lucy debuts (1951)

I Love Lucy TV show theme & opening credits (video)

Television comedy show starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

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