Ho Ho Ho and Hollywood make for a merry holiday cocktail on CBS tonight, thanks to the genius of Lucille Ball and her alter ego, Lucy Ricardo. While I’d be hard-pressed to single out one favorite I Love Lucy episode of all time, Lucy Goes to Hollywood is by far my favorite Lucy “arc.” Happily, a classic episode from the Lucy Goes to Hollywood arc is on tap tonight, Friday, December 2, 2016 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET/PT), when CBS airs their annual I Love Lucy Christmas Special.
As in previous years, the I Love Lucy Christmas Special piggybacks as holiday fare two entertaining, colorized episodes from the beloved 1950s I Love Lucy CBS-TV series. This year, a newly colorized episode, Lucy Gets in Pictures, debuts in tandem with the previously colorized and aired I Love Lucy Christmas Episode.
First broadcast on CBS on February 21, 1955, Lucy Gets in Pictures shows us just how far star-struck Lucy will go to get her foot in the door and on camera in Hollywood, USA. While Ricky’s career is on fire (he’s been called out to Hollywood to star in his first feature film), Lucy wants to make good on a fib posted to her NYC friends back home that she, too, will be “in pictures.”
Lucy is green with envy when pals Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance) are scouted in their hotel lobby for a two-week gig in a film and favorite bellhop Bobby nabs a choice bit part as well. Luckless Lucy can’t seem to catch the eye of a scout and turns even greener scarfing down ice cream sundaes at Schwab’s soda fountain counter, the site of Lana Turner’s “discovery.”
Ricky’s attempt to line up a part for his depressed wife sets in motion one of Lucy’s most famous classic comedy bits as a doomed showgirl upended not by an assassin’s bullet as scripted, but by her unwieldy costume… its endless gauzy train and impossibly heavy head-gear. Lucy’s riotous trek down a steep staircase in this costume is indeed a “trip” worth multiple viewings. It’s unforgettable physical schtick, performed by a comedy genius whose way with snappy tête-à-tête is also masterfully showcased here as Lucy matches wits with her frustrated director.
Colorization works especially well to bring Lucy and Ricky’s Hollywood milieu to life in Lucy Gets in Pictures. The Ricardos’ hotel room is bathed in sunny L.A. light and the frothy costumes are more than props destined to trip and snare poor Lucy… they’re gorgeous, sparkling pink confections.
Originally thought to be “lost,” the December 1956 Christmas Episode is a nostalgic Christmas eve visit to the Ricardos’ Manhattan apartment where Lucy and Ricky trim their tree and prep gifts to surprise Little Ricky, their Santa-obsessed five-year-old.
Without missing a beat, Ricky and Lucy concoct a hilarious timeline for Santa to deflect their son’s questions and insistence on remaining awake to greet him fireside.
Fred and Ethel Mertz join the fun as Lucy and Ricky wistfully recall Lucy’s unexpected pregnancy announcement at Ricky’s nightclub and Ricky, Fred and Ethel’s subsequent foiled effort, months later, to get Lucy to the delivery room on time. Welcome colorized flashbacks are intercut from these classic episodes. The latter, still hilarious after all these years, continues to serve as the classic benchmark for all subsequent TV sit-com “birthing” episodes that followed.
Finally, in a musical interlude, Lucy’s attempt to sing “Jingle Bells” reminds Ricky and the Mertzes of the time tone-deaf Lucy crashed their barbershop quartet with disastrous results. A flashback of their sabotaged performance is included.
Say what you will about colorization (and you can read my thoughts on this in a previous I Love Lucy Christmas Special post), I definitely support the process and team who produce the “Lucy” colorization project. They continue to impart a fresh, timeless look to the I Love Lucy episodes by deftly maintaining muted, natural tones and without overplaying their hand and resorting to garishness. You can read my additional reviews of past I Love Lucy Christmas Specials at http://www.judithtrojan.com/2014/12/07 and http://www.judithtrojan.com/2015/12/23
This year’s annual I Love Lucy Christmas Special debuts on CBS tonight, Friday, December 2, 2016, 8:00-9:00 p.m., ET/PT. (Check On Demand and DVD for further availability.) I can’t think of a better antidote to the mean-spirited months we’ve recently weathered as an electorate. An hour spent with Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel recalls a time when “class act” and “comedy genius” actually meant something worth cherishing. I hope that this season’s I Love Lucy Christmas Special will help you welcome the holidays with renewed hope and joy.–Judith Trojan