My daughter has fallen in love with I Love Lucy and I am getting to enjoy all the old shows (via DVD) all over again. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of these, and for the most part they still hold up well. Slapstick and people acting silly never really goes out of style. But what was Lucy‘s strength and what was constantly imitated in sitcoms forever afterward, was the domestic set-up-the best friends that are always around, the inevitable introduction of the baby, the deep, squabbling, loving relationship that develops between the four main characters-basically, family.
Everyone remembers Lucy at the chocolate factory, or trying to sell VitaMeataVegamin, or her constant failed attempts to get into show business via Ricky’s night club and beyond. What I had forgotten was how deeply ingrained that flat little world was in my consciousness. Watching the antics in the Ricardos’ apartment I realize that I really remember it-how it looks, where the bathroom must be, etc. It was a very real location to me in childhood.
Some of Lucy’s classic episodes-like when she is forced to tell the truth to win a bet (or more accurately, not lose one) and all her girlfriends gang up on her and ask all the forbidden questions: How old are you? How much do you weigh? etc., etc., is still a delight to watch, especially as she answers each question. And the bonus to all that painful honesty-she then proceeds to tell each gal what she can’t stand about them. Finally, a chance to be honest about all her friends’ most irritating quirks and habits. Freedom!
After viewing a few episodes I’ve gained a new perspective about Lucy, who I assumed was a 50s housewife dominated by her husband. She is at times, but she is also irrepressible, to the point of dementia and annoyance, admittedly. But most importantly, she has a will that won’t be stopped. She was a woman living in the 1950s wearing pants quite often, and going where she wants, when she wants, no matter what her Latino husband has to say about it. Of course most of the situations were created for maximum comic effect, but the message is still clear-if Lucy wants to get into the show, get a job, get a new apartment, buy new furniture-she will find a way.
I watch all of Lucy’s scheming and hare-brained plots as very childlike-sort of like the kinds of scams my six-year old is just starting to put together. Maybe I am mellower than I thought … or I choose to not really view it as sexual politics and am going straight for the comedy. WAAAAAAaaah!
The New York location of the Ricardos’ apartment also fed into my childhood desire to get to that city as soon as I could-because that’s where everything happens, right? Between Lucy, The Odd Couple and Barney Miller, I was convinced I had it all covered where the big city was concerned. I wonder now, however, where is the Mrs. Trumbull in my building, for that night I might want to hit a modern-day Tropicana …
Of course I Love Lucy is peppered with loads of things that would never be on television today. Lucy and Ricky are constantly smoking. They fight and threaten physical violence. Somehow I don’t find these factors too troubling. And my daughter takes it about as seriously as what happens to Spongebob.
The show is a time capsule. And the music Desi sings and plays is great. Times and mores change, not always for the better. There is something about how the Ricardos and the Mertzes spend their days that I would like to tap into in some way in our modern lives. I don’t expect to be donning a Superman outfit for the kid’s next birthday, or “soaking up local color” at an Italian winery, but upping the level of silliness is always a good thing. In the meantime, it is fun to watch Lucy and Ethel sing “Friendship” while they tear each other’s matching ball gowns apart. It’s even more fun watching my daughter giggle while she watches.