"I Love Lucy" is a staple on any list of the all-time best TV shows, not just for its entertainment value, but the way it revolutionized television. And Tuesday is a day to celebrate that.
Oct. 15 is National "I Love Lucy" Day. The situation comedy starring Lucille Ball and real-life husband Desi Arnaz as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo premiered on this date in 1951.
The show, which also starred William Frawley and Vivian Vance as next-door neighbors Fred and Ethel Mertz, was the first filmed and scripted program performed before a live audience. It was No. 1 in four of its six seasons, earned five Emmys and was the first show to leave the air on top of the Nielsen ratings. "I Love Lucy" earned its highest rating on Jan. 19, 1953, when Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky (coincidentally, the same day that Lucille Ball delivered her real-life son, Desi Arnaz Jr.). The episode garnered an almost unbelievable 71.7 rating with a 92 share.
Here are five fun facts about the classic show.
Smoking was required
Modern-day audiences might find it unusual when main characters are seen smoking cigarettes throughout each episode. Times were different, for sure. But in the case of "I Love Lucy," lighting up was mandatory.
As Mental Floss explained, the show was having trouble getting sponsors in its early days, and tobacco giant Philip Morris signed on. The company required the characters to smoke its cigarettes and even mention its name whenever possible. That was challenging for Ball because she preferred Chesterfield cigarettes. She eventually had production assistants put Chesterfields in Philip Morris tins.
She was a brunette
Lucy's natural hair color was brown, but she died her hair blond when she came to Hollywood from her hometown of Jamestown, N.Y. She dyed her hair red in 1942, which apparently suited her because she continued to dye it the same shade of red until her death in 1989.
Ricky was almost very different
Network executives were nervous about Lucy being married to a foreign man, so they initially balked at Ball's suggestion that Desi play her husband on the show. They preferred she stay with an American husband, like she had on the radio show that "I Love Lucy" was based upon. The show, "My Favorite Husband," starred Lucy with Richard Denning as Liz and George Cooper.
But Lucy lobbied for Desi to take the role on television. Some insiders say Lucy wanted to keep Desi near her to manage his wandering eye. Once executives agreed, they wanted his name to be Larry Lopez, but ultimately decided upon Ricky Ricardo.
Your favorite episode is...
A recent MeTV poll suggests viewers find a drunk Lucy, a very funny Lucy. "Lucy Does a TV Commercial" originally aired on May 5, 1952, and shows Lucy getting increasingly tipsy as she takes swigs of a vitamin tonic that apparently has a very high alcohol content. Hilarity ensues as Lucy starts slurring her words. Ironically, after shooting Lucy wasn't sure the scene was funny because she apparently was so nervous that she got all her lines right.
No one could say the 'P' word
When Lucy announced she was pregnant with Little Ricky, she was not allowed to say she was "pregnant" as network censors said it was too "vulgar." She was "expecting," and to ensure standards stayed high, priests, pastors and rabbis were on set during filming of all the scenes of Lucy's pregnancy.
Other holidays this week
- Monday, Oct. 14: Dessert Day
- Tuesday, Oct. 15: Cheese Curd Day
- Wednesday, Oct. 16: Boss' Day
- Thursday, Oct. 17: Get Smart About Credit Day
- Friday, Oct. 18: Chocolate Cupcake Day
- Saturday, Oct. 19: Kentucky Day
- Sunday, Oct. 20: Brandied Fruit Day