This week marks the 69th anniversary of the first ‘I Love Lucy’ show on CBS television. This post was inspired by fellow blogger, author, and history buff Susannah.
We cannot miss the first show, so let’s get in James 56 Olds and go there. So that we don’t cause a tear in the time continuum, grab the list of Top Ten Things Not to Do.
Top Ten Things Not to Do at the First ‘I Love Lucy’ Show in 1951
10 If you go with us, do not say out loud, “Lucy, you’ve got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.” If you do, at best, you will be ignored. At worst, the director will take you out back. (You see, Maxence, those words were never said by Ricky. He may have used ‘splain in another context but never that line. Now the director wants you to take a hike. No, he’s not going to film you.)
9 If you go with us, do not ask Tiny, the WWF champ, why he’s not playing Fred Mertz. If you do, at best, Tiny will be distracted by the catered lunch. At worst, Tiny, who paid $50,000 for acting lessons and tried out for the part, will think you are mocking him. (Tiny did not get the part, Maxime because the director thought he was too menacing. She gave him the part of the night janitor instead. Not on screen but the actual night janitor. Oh yeah, here’s a message from Tiny. He wants to see you outside.)
8 If you go with us, do not bet anyone; the show will close after one performance. If you do, at best, you’ll only bet a dollar. At worse, you put up the Olds title. (Well, Maxton, this could have been not good if we hung around for another week. The “I Love Lucy’ show went on for six seasons with 181 episodes. Since you put the Olds up as collateral, it is a good thing we can leave before the bet is decided. Go warm it up since we only have six more things to cover, then we are outa here.)
7 If you go with us, do not make comments on how the show is filmed or the cast. If you do, at best, the pre-production noise will drown you out. At worst, cinematographer Karl Freund will hear you. (You now have Karl’s attention, Mayhew. He was the first to film a TV show in 35mm film with multiple cameras that moved. Freund also invented the flat lighting techniques used for filming TV shows. This technique eliminated shadows on the set. He thinks you are critical of the way he is doing things. He has a way to gain satisfaction, though. His second will be calling on you in the morning. You have experience in fencing, right?)
6 If you go with us, do not discuss the future success of the show. If you do, at best, everyone will be working and not hear you. At worst, the numbers you quote will probably cause all the actors to freeze. (After all, Maynor knowing the show would get five Emmys and have 40 million viewers in syndication would scare anybody. It looks like Ms. Ball wants a word with you, and she doesn’t look happy.)
5 If you go with us, do not point out that William Frawley and Vivan Vance do not speak to each other off-camera. If you do, at best, you will be ignored. At worst, the director will think you are from the media. (It is well known around the studio that the two do not get along, Medus. The director wants to make sure you are not going to write about it. I think he will let you out of this closet if you double dog guarantee you are not a journalist.)
4 If you go with us, do not wear your anti-tobacco t-shirt to the production. If you do, at best, it can be covered with a coat. At worst, the executive from Phillip Morris, the sponsor of the show, will spot you. (In the early days of television, Medus, the sponsors of shows often dictated content and frequency. Phillip Morris insisted the show be weekly instead of every other week, and Lucy and Desi desired. It looks like two huge guys are headed your way.)
3 If you go with us, do not suggest doing the show without an audience. If you do, at best. Lucille will not hear you. At worst, Lucille will think you are a TV critic. ( It was Lucille’s idea to use a live audience instead of canned laughter, Medwyn. She wanted the show’s spontaneous reaction to come through. She is now telling Tiny to help you out. Tell him where you came in, quick. Otherwise, he might not be fussy about using a door.)
2 If you go with us, do not mention re-run in front of Desi. If you do, at best, he will be talking to the director and miss what you say. At worse, he will think you are an industry spy. (Here’s the deal, Mehrdad. After the first year of the show, Lucy became pregnant and could not keep up with the weekly schedule. Since the show was shot in 35 mm film, Desi decided to air previous episodes from the first year to give lucy a break. The audience loved it and so the re-run was born. Desi set up the first syndicated re-run system which is still used today. BTW Desi wants to talk.)
1 If you go with us, do not suggest that ‘I Love Lucy’ become a radio show as well as television. If you do, at best everyone will think you are joking. At worse, someone will take you up on it ( A show was produced, Meinke. It was a compilation of the audio part of “Breaking the Lease” episode of the TV show. It never aired since Phillip Morris decided to sponsor “My Little Margie” instead.)
If you would like to hear some of the show here is a link for 8 minutes of it.