Thursday, April 22, 2010
THE LUCY-DESI COMEDY HOUR
THE LUCY-DESI COMEDY HOUR. CBS-TV 1957 - 1960.
"I wouldn't lower myself to try to get even with a wacky character like you." -- Tallulah Bankhead, playing herself.
The last three seasons of I Love Lucy were done as special hour episodes that aired periodically but had all the same wonderful actors playing the same lovable characters.
First, the bad: "Lucy Goes to Sun Valley" with Fernando Lamas was the worst of these episodes, tedious and unfunny, although the song "Melancholy Baby" was well-delivered by Fred (William Frawley). "Summer Vacation" with Ida Lupino and Howard Duff had no real solid laughs, and the bit with Lucy and Ida desperately plugging the holes in the rowboat with chewing gum might have looked good on paper but doesn't quite work. But the biggest drawback is there isn't enough of Fred and Ethel, who spend most of the episode far away in Atlantic City.
The mediocre: These episodes had some solid laughs and great sequences, but weren't quite on the "A" level. "Lucy Goes to Alaska" with Red Skelton begins very well with a very funny sequence in a hotel room involving a hammock, but Lucy's pantomine with Red seems endless and the rest is just blah. "Lucy Wins a Race Horse" with Betty Grable and Harry James has a great bit with the gang trying to push a horse up the stairs, and Fred and Betty make an amusing team, but the horse race itself is disappointing. "Lucy Goes to Mexico" with Maurice Chevalier is an elaborate episode -- like a mini-movie -- with bullfights and the like, and Little Ricky gets his biggest break yet as he sings, dances and plays the drums in a production number; it's just not that special in spite of it.
Somewhat better than these are the episodes with Milton Berle, which has a great bit with a swinging construction car and a funny western PTA show, and "Lucy Goes to Havana," with Ann Sothern, Cesar Romero, and Rudy Vallee. This tells the story of how Lucy and Ricky first met.
The best: These episodes are pure gold. "Lucy Hunts Uranium" with Fred MacMurray features a wild chase through the desert, and old pro MacMurray and Lucy make a good team. Even better is the episode with Danny Thomas playing his Make Room for Daddy character, which has a great climactic courtroom sequence. Then it's a toss up as to which of the two remaining episodes are the best of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour: "Lucy Wants a Career" or "The Celebrity Next Door." The celebrity, of course, is the great Tallulah Bankhead, and in the other episode Lucy goes to work on a morning TV show with Paul Douglas -- who is excellent -- playing himself. Both episodes are very, very funny with top performances from all involved.
Here's more on I Love Lucy.
Verdict: A great clown with great support. ***1/2.