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In fall 1951, I Love Lucy made its television debut on CBS on Oct. 15. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review, published the day after the premiere, is below.
Every once in a rare great while, a new TV show comes along that fulfills, in its own particular niche, every promise of the often harassed new medium. Such a show, it is a genuine pleasure to report, is I Love Lucy, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in a filmed domestic comedy series for Philip Morris that should bounce to the top of the ratings heap in no time at all. If it doesn’t, the entire structure of the American entertainment business should be overhauled from top to bottom.
The outstanding pertinent fact about I Love Lucy is the emergence, long suspected, of Lucille Ball as America’s No. 1 comedienne in her own right. She combines the facial mobility of Red Skelton, the innate pixie quality of Harpo Marx and the daffily jointless abandon of the Patchwork Girl of Oz, all rolled into one. She is a consummate artist, born for television.
Half a step behind her comes her husband, Desi Arnaz, the perfect foil for her screwball antics and possessing comic abilities of his own more than sufficient to make this a genuine comedy team rather than the one-woman tour de force it almost becomes. In support are William Frawley, who is superb as the landlord of the Ricardos‘ apartment, and Vivian Vance as his wife, a trouper who knows her way around both lines and situations.
The opener’s plot won no blue ribbons for originality, but the sparkling lines contributed by writers Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll, the sure-handed direction of young Marc Daniels and the undeniable talent of the cast turned it into a comic triumph of the first order. Even the commercials were well handled, with the opening title and credits especially cleverly done. Additionally, Oppenheimer’s production, Larry Cuneo’s sets and Karl Freund’s fine photography serve notice that good TV comedy CAN be done on film, and certainly this production could never have been presented live. Desilu Productions has scored with this one, and scored heavily. — D.J.
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