I LOVE LUCY
DICK VAN DYKE
MARY TYLER MOORE
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
I Love Lucy
1951: The Pilot Episode
Season One: 1951-52
1951: The Pilot Episode
Pilot I Love Lucy Audition First Aired:
April 30, 1990
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
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
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
Lucy has to shed twelve pounds in two days to qualify for a part in
the chorus line of Ricky's nightclub act.
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.
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,
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,
Lucy and Ethel stage a phony seance for the benefit of an eccentric
8 Men are Messy First Aired: December 3,
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,
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
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
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
12 The Adagio First Aired: December 31,
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
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
Lucy has her hands full when she baby-sits two mischievous twins at
an amateur talent competition.
15 Lucy Plays Cupid First Aired: January
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
Lucy feigns a nervous breakdown after Ricky refuses to hire her for
his nightclub act.
17 Lucy Writes a Play First Aired: February
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
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,
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
Lucy comes to the rescue when a swooning bobby-soxer develops a crush
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,
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
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,
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
Fred and Ricky wager that they can refrain from gossiping longer than
25 Pioneer Women First Aired: March 31,
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
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
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
Lucy is jealous of the gorgeous Latin dancer who was Ricky's first
dancing partner in Cuba.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
After Ricky's request for a raise backfires, Lucy concocts an elaborate
scheme to convince the Tropicana management of her husband's immense