Lucille Ball made television history with her series, I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show. After Paramount purchased Desilu Studios at the end of the 1967/1968 season, Ball cancelled her top-rated second show (or her third, if you count The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour as separate from I Love Lucy) and retooled it into something different enough that Paramount had no grounds to consider it their property. Here’s Lucy would prove her last successful run on television.
Lucy’s character remained a widow, as she'd been on The Lucy Show, but her last name changed from Carmichael to Carter. The daughter and son who had disappeared partway through The Lucy Show returned, and were now played by Ball’s real-life children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. Gale Gordon, who had been crucial to the success of the previous show’s recent seasons, also returned. Instead of crotchety banker Mr. Mooney, he now played crotchety uncle Harry, who shared a house with his relatives. The pair continued the comic shenanigans that had won high ratings for The Lucy Show, but the change in their relationship meant that the cast could develop as a family, and create warmer moments.
Ball’s style had always owed much to vaudeville, and she specialized in broad humour and physical comedy. Famous comedians had often appeared on her previous series, showing up as whatever character the plot needed and providing the opportunity for comic play. Here’s Lucy tried to further exploit the potential of guests. Its credit sequence even nodded to Vaudeville, as a marionette Lucy in top hat, tail coat, and tights appeared on a stage. Lucy and Harry work for the Carter Unique Employment Agency, which places people in unusual jobs. This fact meant that the show had an intrinsic reason to have guests do various music and comedy routines with Lucy. In this, Ball presaged the variety show craze of the 1970s. Indeed, future variety show queen Carol Burnett appeared, as did Jack Benny, Milton Berle, George Burns, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jackie Gleason, Vivian Vance, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Ann-Margret, Flip Wilson, and others.
The show featured many amusing bits. The best episodes gave Lucille Ball some of her most memorable moments since I Love Lucy. Lucy undercover and accidentally drunk as her lookalike, underworld moll Dirty Gertie, showcased her talent for physical comedy, while other moments work well for fans of particular guests. Unfortunately, the format just as often led to episodes being stitched together around guest stars and their routines. Over the run of the series, the best episodes were rivalled in number by the poorer ones, and the show took a certain amount of flak from critics, particularly as the 1960s became the 1970s and more serious, socially relevant fare replaced broad slapstick, simplified family sitcoms, and idiotcoms.
Here’s Lucy ended its run in 1974. Ball would return to the small screen for television specials and, much later, the disastrous, mercifully short-lived Life with Lucy. She would never again score a weekly success.
If some elements of her comedy seem dated now, she will be remembered as a pioneer of television and a gifted physical comedienne, while reruns and DVDs should keep her face familiar for some time.
"Everything Lucy." http://www.youns.com/lucy/
"Here’s Lucy." http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/servlet/ShowMainServlet/showid-1087/
Laura Johansen. "Here’s Lucie on Here’s Lucy." http://www.luciearnaz.com/Lu