We are all here for a spell, get all the good laughs you can. –- Will Rogers
Television’s rise in popularity throughout the fifties saw the emergence of the situation comedy, a style that captivated audiences by presenting a story with a beginning, a middle, and a happy end. One of the most popular of these shows, I Love Lucy, continues to appeal to both young and old some forty years later -- and counting. For most people, the answer to how I Love Lucy continually and effectively draws viewers to the screen is that "It’s funny." There is more to this funny show than meets the eye.
For television viewers of the fifties, Lucy and Ricky could have been familiar neighbors from down the street. People could relate to this young couple, the Ricardos, who were experiencing the trials and tribulations of marriage as typical Americans were. They lived in a modest brownstone in Manhattan with common worries such as paying the rent and affording new household commodities. The humor came when ordinary situations were exaggerated as Lucy managed to get herself into trouble time and time again, and proceeded to untangle herself from the mess. Ricky, her husband, would often discover -- and thwart -- her numerous schemes, and the best friends, Fred and Ethel Mertz, somehow managed to get involved as well. The zany redhead and the thick-accented Cuban were an oddly-matched pair, not only as a comedy team but as a married couple too. The combination of these factors yielded a television show that portrayed situations that average Americans could identify with.
The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck. -- Hector Berlioz
Undoubtedly, Lucille Ball carried the show with her impeccable comedic timing and physical comedic abilities. She was not without support, however, as Desi Arnaz proved to possess so much more talent in the show than he was often given credit for. It was fate and a bit of luck that cast William Frawley and Vivian Vance in the colorful supporting roles of Fred and Ethel Mertz. After they were cast, it was discovered that both had musical and dancing talent from vaudeville, which opened doors in script-writing to incorporate these talents. The four co-stars had an innate ability to evoke laughter; behind the set a bulletin board listed the names of cast and crew with a series of gold stars next to each name. These represented the number of times funny, off-camera ad-libs were made (William Frawley always won.)
On Monday, October 15, 1951, I Love Lucy made its debut on the CBS television network, which then consisted of a few big stations and seventy-four local affiliates. There was solid competition on NBC in the same 9 p.m. time-slot from "Lights Out" a top ten television version of the original radio classic. "Lucy," so the critics predicted, didn’t stand a chance. (Andrews, 64.) The first episode to air, preceded by the first of many Philip Morris cigarette commercials, was titled "The Girls...