The greatest sitcom in the history of television celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. “I Love Lucy” debuted Oct. 15, 1951 on CBS and has made people laugh ever since. This groundbreaking show dared to be different in the conservative 1950s and became the most seen comedy of all time. CBS honored this classic with a two-hour anniversary special last night. Produced by Desilu productions, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. pay tribute to their renowned parents Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.
The two legendary actors portrayed Ricky and Lucy Ricardo for more than 150 episodes. Together they occupied an apartment on 623 East 68th in New York City. Ricky worked as a nightclub singer at his club The Tropicana. Lucy was a housewife whose efforts to break into show business were thwarted by Ricky. They found best friends in their landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz.
Throughout the special, several celebrities shared stories of their favorite episodes and why “I Love Lucy” is such an endearing part of America. Many appeared on screen, such as Cher, Dick Van Dyke and Whoopi Goldberg, to share their thoughts about the genius of the show and give insight into the every day operations that made the show an icon.
The comments were repetitive in some sections but the general message of the show”s enormous impact on comedians today shone through brilliantly. The most unexpected portion of the special was the never-before-seen footage of Desi Arnaz Sr. speaking as the warm-up man to the live studio audience introducing the cast and making some jokes to loosen up the crowd. Showing him in such a relaxing and natural role was a refreshing change because most of his success outside the show came from behind the camera.
The special also featured the top ten “I Love Lucy” episodes of all time as voted by fans on CBS.com. Some classic moments captured included scenes from “Job Switching” in which Lucy and Ethel take jobs for a week at a candy company and they cannot keep up with candy on the conveyor belt, and from “Lucy is Enciente” where Ricky finds out he and Lucy are expecting a baby. These images can still make any audience laugh and that is a key reason why 50 years later they are still so popular.
The two people who knew the couple best were their children Desi Jr. and Lucie. Lucie took Desi Jr. and his family back to their mother”s hometown of Jamestown, NY to see the historic Lucy sites. This was a touching moment for Desi Jr. to see where his mother spent her early years, but it did not fit within the special as a whole. At some points it was not clear whether or not this was a special about the “I Love Lucy” show or the couple”s life. Since the title implied it was the show”s anniversary, the diversion to Lucille Ball”s early years seemed out of context.
Desi Jr. and Lucie also chronicled their father”s life from his youth in Cuba to his rise to fame in America. As one of the first Latino men in a leading role on television, he inspired other Latinos and gave them a role model on television.
In another part of the special, Desi Jr. and Lucie sing a rendition of “Patria.” This song was originally performed by Desi Sr. and his musical group Ricci, Desi & Billy. Sung in both Spanish and English, this small tribute to their father was a bit out of place in the special but conveyed the pride of their Cuban heritage nicely.
One of the last parts of the anniversary special included a remake of a musical performance of “Babalu” by Jorge Moreno. Along side Moreno was Desi Jr. and Lucie Arnaz on the bongos in the percussion section. This song was Desi Arnaz Sr.”s trademark song and its placement in the special was a surprising but welcome addition to the many clips from the greatest moments in the show”s history.