Ending a Show and an Era: The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (TV Showcase #4)

The cast and crew of “I Love Lucy” knew that with the Arnaz’ lives floating farther apart, the show had to come to a close. So, in 1957, “I Love Lucy” ended, and work began on a series of specials known as “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour”.

“The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” (LDCH for short) launched in 1957 as a continuation of “I Love Lucy”, so the cast was the same. The premise was slightly different, however, since the Ricardos and the Mertzes took several trips around the world, not unlike the huge Europe saga and California saga of “I Love Lucy”. The series ran for thirteen episodes, all an hour long as opposed to a half hour, over the course of three years.

Most anything I could say about the LDCH has already been brought up in my discussion of “I Love Lucy”. Sure, the LDCH was able to be more outrageous with their stunts and gags since the live audience factor had been removed, but the ideas behind the jokes were the same as in ILL. In fact, the LDCH often gets labeled as “I Love Lucy” seasons 7-9. So why am I even bringing up this show at all? What makes it unique?

The reason I’m talking about the LDCH is that it’s important to note the difference between it and ILL. The LDCH was designed to close out the show and realise the tensions between the Arnaz’s, hence the easy filming commitment of only thirteen episodes in three years. But it was also a fitting tribute to the end of the show, and to the end of the 1950s. “I Love Lucy” had become the quintessential television program of the 50s (some may argue that this title belongs to “Your Show of Shows”, which may be true enough), but the show was ending, and so was the 50s. And while it’s true that stars from the 50s and even before that appeared in shows in the 1960s and later, they were always treated (in my opinion, at least) as relics from the past, those who had had their prime and now had only to look back on it. And the style of stage comedy that these 50s stars were so good at was also rapidly growing obsolete (Fred echoes this when he reminisces about vaudeville).

Guest stars on the LDCH included Tallulah Bankhead, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Betty Grable, and Fred MacMurray, among others, and more then ever, these stars were able to exude their style of comedy into the situations of a given episode. I felt like these stars weren’t really seen in a different light, and none of them played characters; all were cameos. These stars got the chance to go on screen for one hour and show the world once more what it was about them that made them who they were as actors. People who had called the culture of the 1950s their own had the chance to experience the actors and style of performances that had defined the 1950s in television.

The LDCH continued to rerun in primetime slots on CBS until 1966, when everything went to colour. So, with “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour”, we say farewell to the 1950s in a most fitting way. What do you think?


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