Sunday, March 24, 2013

TV on DVD Review: I Love Lucy Season 7-9

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: More funny moments with old friends
Cons: One or two sub-par episodes
The Bottom Line:
These aren't as well known
But they're still very funny
Lucy fans need them




The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hours Come to DVD

Even if they don't like it, everyone is familiar with I Love Lucy. The exploits of Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball), her band leader husband Ricky (Desi Arnaz), and their neighbors Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance) have been entertaining audiences for over 50 years. Fewer people are familiar with the hour long episodes. Over the years, they've been called lots of things, from original title The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show to We Love Lucy and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. But no matter what you call it, it's funny.

These shows came about because, after six successful seasons of I Love Lucy, Desi wanted to slow down to run their successful Desilu studio. But, since I Love Lucy was such a huge hit, CBS wanted to keep it going. So they reached a compromise. They would do three or four hour long episodes of the show for the next few years instead of the weekly half hour shows. This kept the rating going from CBS, but gave Desi the time off he needed.

The set up is exactly the same for these shows as the half hour episodes. In fact, it feels like we never left. The Ricardos and the Mertzes are still living on a farm in Connecticut. But thanks to Ricky's band, they do get to travel the world, too. And they also meet up with all kinds of famous people. That's right; every one of these thirteen episodes features a famous guest star or two. And you just know that when Lucy gets around a celebrity, chaos ensues.

Now I'll admit I don't always know who these guest stars are. Sure, I've heard of Fred MacMurray and Milton Berle. But there are lots of them I don't know like Ida Lupino, Howard Duff, Ernie Kovacs, and Fernando Lamas. I may not get the star appeal, but that doesn't dampen my enjoyment in the slightest.

There are several highlights to the set. "The Celebrity Next Door" is hysterical as Lucy tries to get new neighbor Tallulah Bankhead to help with the PTA benefit at Little Ricky's school. Later on, she tries to get Milton Berle for another PTA benefit by letting him hide out in her house to finish his book. When Paul Douglas starts a new morning show, Lucy lands a job as his "Girl Friday." But does she really want a job? And a USO show in San Diego leads to all kinds of border crossing problems thanks to a little Mexican boy and Maurice Chevalier that end with Lucy fighting a bull.

About the only show here I don't like is "Lucy Goes to Alaska." A long section is made up of a sketch that she does with comic Red Skelton. It was funny for a while, but goes on too long. And the rest of the plot just isn't that funny.

But that's the only low point. The rest of the shows are wonderfully funny. Any Lucy fan will laugh the entire way through them. As I said, it really doesn't feel any different then the half hour shows. They just go on twice as long so we get twice as many laughs from the situations. The acting is top notch, as well. Lucy and Desi's marriage was falling apart by this point, but you'd never know by watching Lucy and Ricky on screen.

And this set is great as well. The thirteen hour long shows are preserved on four discs. And they look and sound great. The occasional scene isn't perfect, but considering the source material's age, it looks pretty good. When "Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana" originally aired, it ran for 75 minutes. The show was cut for reruns, but all the original footage has been restored for this set. The special features are nothing new for the TV show, and that's not a bad thing. We get information on the guest cast, and since I've never heard of some of these stars, that's great. Additionally, we get the flubs, deleted scenes, and original opening and closing that were standard on the other sets. For something different, we get the 40 minute sponsor presentation that Desilu studio did for new sponsor Westinghouse and some color home movies of the set from 1951. There was a rumor that a filmed but never seen I Love Lucy movie would be included with this set, but that was a rumor only. It is no where to been seen here.

There are some real gems in this set. And I'm thrilled to have it to complete my I Love Lucy collection.

Included Episodes:
1. Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana
2. The Celebrity Next Door
3. Lucy Hunts Uranium
4. Lucy Wins a Racehorse
5. Lucy Goes to Sun Valley
6. Lucy Goes to Mexico
7. Lucy Makes Room for Danny
8. Lucy Goes to Alaska
9. Lucy Wants a Career
10. Lucy's Summer Vacation
11. Milton Berle Hides out at the Ricardos
12. The Ricardos go to Japan
13. Lucy Meets the Moustache

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