I LOVE LUCY
DICK VAN DYKE
MARY TYLER MOORE
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
I Love Lucy
Season Five: 1955-56
1955-56: THE FIFTH SEASON
Year-End Rating: 46.1 (2nd place)
The Mertzes and Ricardos travel to Europe in fifth-year episodes written
once again by producer Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll,
Jr., who welcome newcomers Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf to their overworked
writing staff at the top of the season. And James V. Kern replaces William
Asher as the show's regular director.
Lucy cons Ethel into helping her remove a chunk of the historic sidewalk
in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre as the ultimate Hollywood souvenir.
Writers Schiller and Weiskopf had acquired a respectable résumé
of sitcom assignments when they began a long association with Lucy,
which would last well into the mid-1960s. The writing team eventually
bridged two generations of situation comedy when they applied the skills
they'd honed on I Love Lucy to a long run of memorable scripts
for Norman Lear's Maude and All in the Family in the mid-1970s.
Lucy finds out how difficult it is to refill John Wayne's boots after
she destroys the star's concrete slab from Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Ricky declines an invitation to perform at a studio party, but Lucy
volunteers her services--along with those of a stuffed "Ricky."
Lucy's inspired dance with a determined mannequin provides ample evidence
of the broad physical business that writers Schiller and Weiskopf favored
in their story contributions during the show's final seasons.
Ricky books return passage home by rail, but the Mertzes feel abandoned
when he forgets to buy their tickets as well.
Lucy's quotient for confusion on the train ride home involves a flustered
conductor, two jewel thieves, and one slightly abused emergency brake.
The train ride provides yet another opportunity for the systematic
pandemonium that Schiller and Weiskopf reintroduced to the series.
Lucy is jealous of all the attention lavished on Ricky, until finally
even she starts to believe her husband's press.
Fred and Ethel are offended when Ricky's agent suggests that he find
an apartment more befitting his celebrity status.
Latter-day viewers of Lucy reruns are unlikely to recognize
the live interview show that hosts the tearful reconciliation of the
Ricardos and the Mertzes as a parody of Edward R. Murrow's ground-breaking
Person to Person.
Ricky gets roped into performing in a rodeo show with Lucy and the
The Ricardos argue over modern child-rearing methods when Lucy refuses
to let Little Ricky attend nursery school.
After Ricky offers Fred a job on his band's European tour, Ethel and
Lucy stage an illegal charity raffle to raise money for their own passage.
When her passport application gets bogged down in red tape, Lucy decides
to stow away in a steamer trunk all the way to Europe.
Lucy tries to cure Fred of his chronic seasickness by spending the
day with him on the Staten Island Ferry.
Ricky and the Mertzes are ready to set sail when Lucy misses the boat.
Jack Albertson plays the helicopter dispatcher who gets Lucy to her
ship on time. The veteran supporting player became an unlikely sitcom
star when he was cast opposite comic Freddie Prinze in the 1974 NBC
series Chico and the Man.
Neptune plays Cupid when the sea air rekindles a romantic spark in
the Mertzes, and Lucy's jealous of the ardor.
The Mertzes cooing like lovebirds was a rare sight indeed. Frawley's
offscreen dislike for his TV wife was long a well-kept secret, but in
The "I Love Lucy" Book, Bart Andrews reveals that the two actors
couldn't stand each other. Frawley referred to his co-star as an "old
sack of doorknobs," and Vivian Vance was convinced that the sixty-four-year-old
actor would've been more appropriately cast as her father than her husband.
The offscreen animosity certainly never harmed their performances--in
fact, it may have accounted for their utter believability as a couple
who've been married for twenty-five years.
Lucy works her way into Ricky's routine at the London Palladium in
order to gain an audience with the queen.
Lucy's plans for a pleasant weekend in the country are dashed when
she becomes a reluctant participant in a fox hunt.
Ricky, Fred, and Ethel each assume mythic roles when Lucy dreams of
visiting her ancestral stomping grounds in Scotland.
Lucy inflicts more havoc on the streets of Paris than Marie Antoinette,
and almost meets the same fate when she makes an unscheduled stop at
Lucy and Ethel spot Charles Boyer at a sidewalk café, and before
long he finds himself mixed up in the usual shenanigans.
Lucy and Ethel threaten a hunger strike to extort Paris designer gowns
from their practical husbands.
Lucy, the Alps, avalanche.
An irresistible exchange occurs when the foursome, facing almost certain
death in an avalanche, confess their darkest secrets: Fred has been
quietly bilking the Ricardos on their monthly rent, while Ethel admits
she'd been secretly returning it each month. When it's Ricky's turn
to bare his soul, he defers, insisting, "I'm no fool . . . we might
Lucy, homesick for Little Ricky, throws the toddler a long-distance
birthday party with an Italian shoeshine boy as his stand-in.
Perhaps nowhere in the Lucy chronicles is her patented crying jag
used to better effect than here, when she repeatedly breaks down at
the mere thought of her baby so many miles away on his birthday.
Crocodile tears were an effective tool in Lucy's bag of tricks, though
she probably didn't realize she was creating a monster--the blubbering
sitcom wife became a self-perpetuating TV convention that stubbornly
hung on for decades to come. The bit was used to good effect by Mary
Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show and by Marlo Thomas on
That Girl in the 1960s, and also--with less effective results--by
Sally Struthers on All in the Family.
When Lucy is unexpectedly cast in an Italian epic, her character research
leads her to the grape-stomping vat of an old-fashioned vineyard.
This memorable later episode demonstrates how Lucy could transform
the broad slapstick of a fight in a giant vat of grapes into a hilarious
bit of comic choreography.
The Ricardos and Mertzes bicycle all the way to the French border before
Lucy realizes she's misplaced her passport.
Lucy inadvertently wins a small fortune at Monte Carlo, even though
Ricky has forbidden her to enter the gaming casino.
Bound for home at last, Lucy attempts to smuggle a twenty-five-pound
hunk of Italian cheese aboard the plane to avoid excess baggage fees.
This would be the last episode written and produced by Jess Oppenheimer, who left the series at the end of the fifth year for an executive post at NBC. In his long tenure as Lucy's head writer, producer, and co-creator, Oppenheimer's contribution had been enormous--a factor that would become obvious as the show moved into a final uneven season without the unifying vision of the man who had steered the Ricardos' fate for the past five years.