Viewers Still Love I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy (1951-1957) was one of broadcast television’s biggest success stories, a series that was one of the most-watched shows in America in four out of its six seasons. So it’s all the more remarkable that Lucile Ball embarked on the series just as a way to save her marriage. Her husband, Desi Arnaz was a band leader, and his heavy touring schedule put a strain on their relationship; because of this, she was searching for a project they could work on together, so they could start a family. So when CBS asked her to star in a series, she agreed – but only on the condition that Arnaz would play her on-screen husband.
The series revolved around Lucy and Desi Ricardo, a young married couple: Desi is an orchestra leader and Lucy a frustrated housewife who constantly wants to join him in show business despite his belief that women should not entertain such ambitions. Other members of the cast of I Love Lucy included Vivian Vance and William Frawley as the Ricardos’ landlords, the Mertzes; an odd bit of casting considering that Vance was actually 23 years younger than her on-screen husband. In the second season, Lucy’s real-life pregnancy was worked into the show and became one of the first on-air pregnancies. The episode in which she gave birth, the airing of which was timed to coincide with her actual delivery, became what was then the most watched TV show ever, exceeding even the coverage for the presidential inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower the next morning.
After the series ended in its sixth season, the format continued as a series of hour-long specials called The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show; thirteen episodes featuring the cast of I Love Lucy were aired from 1957 to 1960. Sadly, the day after the last episode was filmed, Lucy filed for divorce from Desi Arnaz. The series remains popular and is still continually aired in syndication; DVD box sets of all the episodes, including the hour-long ones, were also released.