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Hypable’s Fandom Flashbacks returns as we look back to the days of the comedy classic, I Love Lucy.
Fandom Flashbacks are a weekly Hypable feature that takes a look back at old shows (classic, vintage, and freshly dead) and takes our readers onto memory lane as we express our favorite moments, characters, and plots.
Lucy Ricardo is your typical 1950s housewife… well, mostly. Lucy is married to a Cuban band-leader named Ricky, but though Mr. Ricardo is a budding star in the New York entertainment scene, the couple remains firmly middle-class. They rent a typical brownstone apartment from their best friends, Fred and Ethel Mertz, who offered them a 99-year lease after meeting them.
| LUCY: RICKY, WE’RE REVOLTING!|
RICKY: NO MORE THAN USUAL.
For the first few years of the series, life is pretty uneventful for the Ricardos and the Mertzes. (In between all of Lucy’s crazy schemes, of course.) The birth of Lucy and Ricky’s son in the second season only brings the group of friends closer together. In the fourth season of I Love Lucy, Ricky’s career as a singer, drummer, and actor begin to take off. To Lucy’s delight, Ricky attracts the attention of Hollywood executives, and the Ricardos and Mertzes head off for several months in California. (Many celebrities were scarred in the presence of Lucy Ricardo.)
After their time on the West Coast, a European tour sweeps the group off on more marital adventures in season 5. Fresh off their return in season 6, Lucy decides to move her family out of their brownstone and off to a house in the Connecticut countryside, where the quiet initially disturbs them. The Ricardos are incomplete without the Mertzes, however, and eventually the older couple become Lucy and Ricky’s tenants in their guest house. As the series closes, it looks like life in the country – though something of an adjustment – will suit them all hilariously well.
One of television’s most successful foursomes, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Fred and Ethel Mertz became an archetype for friendship and fighting, wedded bliss and murderous married moments.
| LUCY RICARDO|
Though on the surface she seems like your average 50s housewife, Lucy Ricardo has more than one surprise up her sleeve. A vortex of red-haired hilarity, Lucy dreams of stardom, hatching plot after plot to hop on her husband Ricky’s entertainment success. Lucy is also never far away from her best friend and partner-in-crime Ethel, with whom she cooks up schemes, stalks celebrities, and plays a mean game of canasta.
| RICKY RICARDO|
Lucy’s husband, a successful band leader and drummer from Cuba. His insistence that Lucy remain a housewife is the source of much conflict and humor, as are his accent and frequent outbursts in Spanish that punctuate Lucy’s crazy schemes.
| ETHEL MERTZ|
Lucy’s best friend and landlady. A talented singer and dancer, Ethel used to perform on the Vaudeville circuit with her husband Fred. Now she manages the apartment building and – in between spats with Fred – is always there when Lucy gets that crazy look in her eye.
| FRED MERTZ|
A stingy crumudgeon, Fred spends most of his time figuring out ways to save money and bickering with Ethel. But beneath that gruff facade, Mr. Mertz is really an old softie. He is fast friends with Ricky, loves a good song-and-dance number, and will do anything for his godson, Little Ricky.
Though the entire cast of I Love Lucy is uniformly hilarious, there can be no doubt that Lucy herself (Lucille Esmerlda MacGillicuddy Ricardo, as she is occasionally known) must take the title of best character. Lucy is a dreamer, a schemer, and firebrand, never taking no for an answer. Though her skills at singing are questionable and her husband Ricky wants nothing more than to keep Lucy miles away from show business, the indomitable redhead is incapable of giving up on her dream to become a star. (Unlucky for Ricky, perhaps, but very lucky for the audience indeed!)
“Spider” was the term used in the script to indicate Lucy’s classic “Eeeewww!” face.
And though her musical talents never improve (remember that unfortunate incident with the trombone?) Lucy eventually does manage to pull off a few wins in the performing arts category. Performing with Bob Hope at the Tropicana, dancing with Van Johnson in Hollywood, and catching the eye of an Italian director may not be super-stardom, but it’s definitely tons of fun.
And though Lucy and her exasperated husband Ricky do bicker frequently, the strength of their marriage can never be doubted. Though Lucy’s crazy schemes sometimes have unexpected consequences (we’re just going to say “Vitameatavegamin” and leave it there) she always managed to keep things exciting. From New York to Hollywood, from Europe to Connecticut, the housewife and the band leader always managed to persevere. For crying out loud, they wear matching pajamas!
Lucy is also fiercely loyal to her best friend and landlady, Ethel Mertz. Though Ethel sometimes plays the long-suffering sidekick, there is nothing she and Lucy wouldn’t do for each other. Lucy often takes Ethel’s side in contests of will between the married Mertzes, and even their spats (which occasionally involved ripping each other’s dresses to shreds) were usually inspired by the closeness of their friendship. As Ethel (and Fred) followed Lucy (and Ricky) around the world and back, it became clear that while Lucy’s marriage to Ricky was the heart of I Love Lucy, it was her unwavering friendship with Ethel that was the soul of the timeless comedy.
In “Sentimental Anniversary,” Lucy and Ricky decide to celebrate their anniversary with a quiet dinner at home – in secret. But a wrench gets tossed into their plans when it turns out the Mertzes have a surprise party planned for their best friends. What’s a sitcom couple to do?
The answer, it turns out, is loudly leave their apartment and then sneak back in for their dinner… a plan that is interrupted when Fred and Ethel arrive to set up their surprise. Lucy and Ricky find themselves trapped in their hall closet as the Mertzes set up the party, and their guests begin to arrive.
After several unsuccessful – but hilarious – escape attempts, Lucy and Ricky drink champagne by candlelight in the closet. After Ricky distracts the guests, the Ricardos stage their return, and get to celebrate their sentimental anniversary with their friends.
LUCY: WE’VE ONLY BEEN MARRIED 13 YEARS!
RICKY: OH WELL, I MEAN, IT SEEMS LIKE 15!
“Sentimental Anniversary” is an episode that showcases the best that I Love Lucy had to offer. The storyline provided a twist on the formula of Ricky forgetting his and Lucy’s wedding anniversary; instead of arm-twisting and hint-dropping, the strength and love of Lucy and Ricky’s marriage is a central point of the episode. Both spouses go the extra mile to make each other happy on their anniversary. From the anniversary espionage, to the candle-lit dinner in their hall closet, “Sentimental Anniversary” presents Lucy and Ricky as a true team, capable of loving each other in spite and because of the hijinks they get up to together.
The episode also highlights Lucy and Ethel’s friendship, as well as the bond between the Ricardos and the Mertzes. Though Lucy starts off the episode by hilariously haranguing Ethel for information on her gift, the Mertzes still pull out all the stops to throw the Ricardos a surprise party – even if they fudge the numbers a bit on that cigarette lighter!
“Sentimental Anniversary” is also a genuinely hilarious episode. The dialogue is as snappy as ever, and Lucy and Ricky’s accidental imprisonment in the hall closet adds the slapstick element that I Love Lucy always did so well. The scene of their near-escape is not usually added to the list of Lucy’s funniest moments, but we really think it should be.
Another excruciating choice for such a brilliant comedy, but we’ve decided to go with one of the classics. Lucy’s hilarious turn as “The Vitameatavegamin Girl” made instant television history, thanks to a brilliant set-up and phenomenal execution by Lucille Ball, and we had to choose this scene as our funniest moment.
The Vitameatavegamin scene, from the episode “Lucy Does A TV Commercial,” is part of one of Lucy’s many schemes to make it into show business. This time, however, Lucy gets more than she bargained for. In a clever twist, the directors of her commercial reveal that Vitameatavegamin has a 23% alcohol content… a fact that they neglect to tell Lucy.
The Vitameatavegamin was actually apple pectin – and alcohol-free!
Planting the seeds of disaster only makes Ball’s performance even more impressive. The audience is already primed to expect the drunken behavior that Lucy tumbles into as she slurps down more and more of the gloopy potion. The potential for humor grows exponentially as the complicated script for the product is revealed, it becomes clear just how much Vitameatavega-booze Lucy will have to swallow. (But hey – at least it tastes like candy!) Thanks to Ball’s incredible comic timing, Lucy more than delivers the laughs we are led to expect.
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