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I Love Lucy
1951: The Pilot Episode
Season One: 1951-52



SEASON ONE: 1951-52
SEASON TWO: 1952-53
SEASON THREE: 1953-54
SEASON FOUR: 1954-55
SEASON FIVE: 1955-56
SEASON SIX: 1956-57
CREDITS
EMMY AWARDS

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the Lost "I Love Lucy" Pilot

1951: The Pilot Episode

Pilot I Love Lucy Audition    First Aired: April 30, 1990
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Ralph Levy
Guest Stars: Jerry Hausner, Pepito the Clown

Determined to break into show business, Lucy schemes to replace the ailing clown in her husband's nightclub act.

This embryonic tryout episode was substantially different from the final series format. Arnaz and Ball play Larry and Lucy Lopez, and the Mertzes are nowhere to be found. The script was actually a rewrite of the Lucy/Desi vaudeville touring show, patched together with an old My Favorite Husband script. Kinescoped on March 2, 1951, as an audition for potential backers, the film was presumed lost for nearly four decades when a copy resurfaced and was broadcast as a CBS-TV special.

1951-52: THE FIRST SEASON

Year-End Rating: 50.9 (3rd place)

First-season scripts explore the screwball possibilities of a Manhattan housewife's efforts to break out of her routine and share the spotlight with her husband, Ricky Ricardo, bandleader at the Tropicana Club. Lucy's comical complications are skillfully orchestrated by the show's creators, Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll, Jr., the team that will chronicle Lucy's misadventures throughout her first five seasons.

Oppenheimer will serve as producer for the first five years, and Desi Arnaz will be executive producer for the entire run. Marc Daniels is staff director for the first season, and Al Simon is associate producer.

1 The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub    First Aired: October 15, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels

Fred and Ricky decide they'd rather attend the fights than go to a fancy nightclub on the Mertzes' anniversary.

This episode provides the cast with an early display of the show's broad farce, when the wives dress up as hicks and try to pass themselves off as their husbands' blind dates. Such stock plots were used ad nauseam in radio, but as Jess Oppenheimer told TV historian Alex C. MacKenzie, "We were the first to do them on television. Certain things were done so much on radio that no one had the guts to do them anymore. But on television, those tired bits were great."

2 Be a Pal    First Aired: October 22, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Richard J. Reeves, Tony Michaels

Fearing that the honeymoon is over, Lucy follows the advice of a self-help text and tries to revive Ricky's interest by becoming his pal.

3 The Diet    First Aired: October 29, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Marco Rizo

Lucy has to shed twelve pounds in two days to qualify for a part in the chorus line of Ricky's nightclub act.

4 Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her    First Aired: November 5, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Jerry Hausner

Her imagination spurred by a mystery novel, Lucy is convinced that Ricky's plotting to poison her.

Telecast a month after the series began, this show was actually the very first episode filmed--and it shows. The lighting, pacing--even the makeup--look primitive compared with that in episodes filmed in succeeding weeks, after the cast and crew got their bearings in the pioneering three-camera system.

For this inaugural episode, the crew actually crammed a fourth back-up camera onto the crowded soundstage so they could shoot the entire script straight through--from start to finish--the method used in live television of that era. It wasn't until the second week that they realized the studio audiencewould sit patiently through the short breaks that were necessary to reposition the cameras, and the technical quality of the shows made a giant leap in subsequent episodes. Significantly, the three-camera, stop-and-start method adopted in the second week allowed the writers greater flexibility to engineer the complicated prop and costume sequences that would become Lucy's comedic trademark.

5 The Quiz Show    First Aired: November 12, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Frank Nelson, John Emery, Phil Ober

To qualify for a thousand-dollar prize on a radio quiz show, Lucy must convince Ricky that she was once married to another man.

The first of many guest appearances by Frank Nelson. Here he plays Freddie Fillmore, the emcee in a parody of Truth or Consequences, a popular quiz show of the day.

6 The Audition    First Aired: November 19, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Harry Ackerman, Jess Oppenheimer

In an all-out effort to be seen by visiting TV talent scouts, Lucy schemes to replace an ailing clown in Ricky's big circus number.

This episode was adapted from the series's original pilot film, which was itself based on material from Lucy and Desi's vaudeville act.

The network honchos are played by producer Jess Oppenheimer and Harry Ackerman, CBS vice president and longtime supporter of the series.

7 The Seance    First Aired: November 26, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Jay Novello

Lucy and Ethel stage a phony seance for the benefit of an eccentric producer.

8 Men are Messy    First Aired: December 3, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Kenny Morgan, Harry Shannon

To teach their sloppy husbands a lesson, Lucy and Ethel turn the Ricardo apartment into a hillbilly shanty.

9 The Fur Coat    First Aired: December 10, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Ben Weldon

When Ricky brings home a rented mink for his act, Lucy assumes it's a surprise gift for her.

A prime example of how Lucy's total commitment as a performer contributed immeasurably to otherwise pedestrian storylines. When the actress squeals in abandon at the prospect of getting a fur coat, the gesture seems remarkably genuine, and when she weeps as the fur is taken away, her conviction renders her crocodile tears real. Through sheer force of personality, Lucy actually engages our sympathy in a character's pathological need to have a mink coat!

10 Lucy is Jealous of Girl Singer    First Aired: December 17, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Helen Silver

Lucy joins the chorus line to keep an eye on things after Ricky hires an attractive new dancing partner.

11 Drafted    First Aired: December 24, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels

The wives are convinced that Fred and Ricky are headed for boot camp after they overhear the boys rehearsing a military number for a benefit show.

12 The Adagio    First Aired: December 31, 1951
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Shepard Menken

Lucy's desire to perform an Apache routine at the club cools considerably after she sparks romantic desires in her French dance coach.

13 The Benefit    First Aired: January 7, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels

Lucy blackmails Ethel into letting her perform at a women's club benefit when after Lucy promises Ricky's services as headliner.

14 The Amateur Hour    First Aired: January 14, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Gail Bonney, David Stollery, Sammy Ogg

Lucy has her hands full when she baby-sits two mischievous twins at an amateur talent competition.

15 Lucy Plays Cupid    First Aired: January 21, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Bea Benaderet, Edward Everett Horton

Matchmaker Lucy tries to unite the grocery man with a spinster neighbor, but only succeeds in igniting the elderly clerk's passion for redheads.

16 Lucy Fakes Illness    First Aired: January 28, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Hal March

Lucy feigns a nervous breakdown after Ricky refuses to hire her for his nightclub act.

17 Lucy Writes a Play    First Aired: February 4, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Myra Marsh, Maury Thompson

Ricky plays the lead in A Tree Grows in Havana, Lucy's entry in an amateur writing competition.

18 Breaking the Lease    First Aired: February 11, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Barbara Pepper, Bennett Green, Hazel Pierce

Lucy and Ricky attempt to break their lease after a disagreement with the Mertzes develops into all-out war.

In the scene where Ethel confronts Lucy the morning after their blowup, the redhead haughtily puffs a cigarette--not an uncommon occurrence in the show's early years. Not surprisingly, the show's original sponsor was the Phillip Morris Tobacco Company.

19 The Ballet    First Aired: February 18, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Mary Wickes, Frank Scannell

Ricky has openings for a ballet singer and a burlesque comic--and naturally, Lucy tries out for both parts.

20 The Young Fans    First Aired: February 25, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:William Asher
Guest Stars: Janet Waldo, Richard Crenna

Lucy comes to the rescue when a swooning bobby-soxer develops a crush on Ricky.

William Asher's debut as I Love Lucy director. Coincidentally, Asher had just directed guest star Richard Crenna in the TV pilot of Desilu's Our Miss Brooks.

21 New Neighbors    First Aired: March 3, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: K. T. Stevens, Hayden Rorke, Allen Jenkins

Lucy and Ethel jump to alarming conclusions after they spy on the new couple who've just moved into the building.

22 Fred and Ethel Fight    First Aired: March 10, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Hazel Pierce

The Ricardos attempt to reunite Fred and Ethel after a lover's spat, only to wind up in a marital row of their own.

23 The Mustache    First Aired: March 17, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: John Brown

Lucy's scheme to convince Ricky to shave off his new mustache backfires when she finds herself unable to remove a set of false whiskers.

24 The Gossip    First Aired: March 24, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Richard J. Reeves, Robert Jellison

Fred and Ricky wager that they can refrain from gossiping longer than their wives.

25 Pioneer Women    First Aired: March 31, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Florence Bates, Ruth Perrott

Fred and Ricky challenge their wives to a contest to see who can survive the longest without modern conveniences.

One of the series' most memorable sight gags results when Lucy unwittingly adds too much yeast to her bread dough, and the gargantuan loaf practically fills the kitchen. It doesn't take a psychologist to interpret the symbolism of a twelve-foot loaf of bread that suddenly emerges from a hot oven to pin a housewife to the sink. Even disregarding the hilarious Freudian connotation, the scene makes us laugh because the unexpected sight gag meshes perfectly with the logic of the situation as it offers a wry commentary on the contemporary domestic condition.

26 The Marriage License    First Aired: April 7, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Elizabeth Patterson, Irving Bacon

When she finds out that their marriage license is not legally binding, Lucy insists that Ricky reenact their entire courtship.

In later episodes, Elizabeth Patterson would portray Little Ricky's baby-sitter, Mrs. Trumbull.

27 The Kleptomaniac    First Aired: April 14, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Star: Joseph Kearns

Ricky suspects Lucy is a kleptomaniac after he uncovers a stash of goods she's collected for a charity bazaar.

Veteran character actor Joseph Kearns plays Lucy's psychiatrist. Kearns made occasional guest appearances on Lucy, but he would be better known as Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace.

28 Cuban Pals    First Aired: April 21, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Alberto Morin, Rita Convy, Lita Baron

Lucy is jealous of the gorgeous Latin dancer who was Ricky's first dancing partner in Cuba.

29 The Freezer    First Aired: April 28, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Frank Sully, Bennett Green, Fred Aldrich

Lucy and Ethel unwittingly set themselves up in the meat business when they grossly overestimate the capacity of their new walk-in freezer.

A classic Lucy situation. From the moment the walk-in freezer is introduced, the audience is waiting for the impetuous redhead to get herself locked in--and naturally, they aren't disappointed.

30 Lucy Does a TV Commercial    First Aired: May 5, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Ross Elliott, Jerry Hausner

Lucy is the TV pitchwoman for Vitameatavegamin, a cure-all tonic that packs a kick--since it's twenty-three percent alcohol!

The sequence where Lucy rehearses her pitch until she's absolutely bombed offers a rich example of her character's fundamental appeal--her recklessness always leads to disaster, but she's invariably the one who suffers most. And Lucy suffers brilliantly. Here, she slowly, and believably, descends into a drunken stupor, no easy acting feat.

The inspiration for this comic gem may well have been Red Skelton, another movie clown who found his greatest success on CBS. In MGM's 1946 Ziegfield Follies, in which Lucy also appeared, Skelton did a burlesque comedy bit where he became progressively drunk as he pitched a product called Guzzler's Gin.

31 The Publicity Agent    First Aired: May 12, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Peter Leeds, Bennett Green, Richard J. Reeves, Gil Herman

As a publicity stunt, Lucy masquerades as a Middle Eastern princess who claims to be Ricky Ricardo's greatest fan.

32 Lucy Gets Ricky on the Radio    First Aired: May 19, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Frank Nelson, Bobby Ellis, Roy Rowan

Ricky and Lucy are ill-prepared contestants on a radio quiz show.

Frank Nelson returns as quizmaster Freddie Fillmore, an emcee who delights in making Lucy's life miserable.

33 Lucy's Schedule    First Aired: May 26, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Gale Gordon, Edith Meiser

Inspired by Ricky's efficient new boss, the boys impose a rigid household schedule on Ethel and Lucy.

Gale Gordon makes the first of two appearances as Alvin Littlefield, the new owner of the Club Tropicana.

34 Ricky Thinks He's Getting Bald    First Aired: June 2, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Milton Parsons

Lucy administers a series of crackpot cures to allay Ricky's fear that he's going bald.

35 Ricky Asks for a Raise    First Aired: June 9, 1952
Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.
Director:Marc Daniels
Guest Stars: Gale Gordon, Maurice Marsac, Edith Meiser

After Ricky's request for a raise backfires, Lucy concocts an elaborate scheme to convince the Tropicana management of her husband's immense popularity.

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