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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Throughout the 1950s Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (with Viviene Vance
and William Frawley) made television history by the first really great
comedy show and sit-com show (one that has never stopped being
available on television, half a century afterward!). The daffy Lucy and
her crazy schemes (usually to get into show business) were quite
amusing in all their variety, with many guests stars (who all knew her
husband, band leader "Ricky Ricardo").
This show that centered upon Milton Berle is not for Lucy lovers. Once you see it, you will never be able to fully like Lucy again.
You see, the plot of this episode deals with Ricky being involved in a show being put on by Berle. Lucy is accompanying him. Berle had done an episode on THE LUCY-DESI COMEDY HOUR at this time, and had done some of his shtick, such as trying to leave Lucy's house in a "drag" outfit. Here, it is Berle being willing to allow Lucy to do her "shtick". Problem is you are taking her out of her normal situation.
What I mean is this: On I LOVE LUCY or THE LUCY - DESI COMEDY HOUR or the later LUCY SHOW (or HERE'S LUCY) the writers centered the story on Lucy, so that we (the audience) knew she would do something odd because circumstances in the plot dictated it. If she tried to get into Ricky's show, his resistance (she could certainly do a small walk on) was so harsh that we sympathized with her desire to appear - even if we knew her talent was small at best.
Here what happened is that Berle and Lucy are in a "questionable" situation in Berle's rooms at night, when he is in his robe. Ricky does not know about it, but could easily learn about it if Lucy allows him to. And that's just it: Lucy has tried to get Berle to agree to letting her into the show, but Berle knows Ricky is opposed to it. Now Lucy threatens to reveal the circumstances of the "questionable" situation of the previous night to Berle's wife and Ricky, unless he lets her into the show. Berle is horrified and tries to reason with her, but she is adamant about her threat unless she gets her part.
This is possibly the equivalent for I LOVE LUCY of the "jumping the shark" incident for HAPPY DAYS. It is the point where the audience reevaluates a beloved television figure, and finds something wanting. The "Fonz" was always in control of situations, but his willingness to do a fool-hearty act like the one with the shark stretched credibility in him to the breaking point and beyond. Here Lucy's daffiness, hitherto somewhat endearing (she never wanted to hurt anyone) ended with her turning into a shrill, vicious little blackmailer. I have to admit that my watching this episode ended when I saw Lucy's torturing Berle. I don't think I ever wanted to see someone slap her before.
There was more to the episode than this. There is a second plot about a valuable jewel Lucy has accidentally gotten into her possession that was stolen by George Macready and Mike Mazurki. I never saw the rest of the episode - I suppose at the end they were arrested and the jewel returned to it's owner. But the business with Lucy's treatment of Berle soured me to the entire show.
I saw this about seven years ago, being a summer rerun. I guess they thought it was a forgotten episode of THE LUCY - DESI COMEDY HOUR. It has not been shown since, from what I can see. Maybe that is just as well.
I saw about 80% of this episode so many years ago that I taped part of it on a VCR!!! It was so funny with an unexpected hilarious surprise scene. The always great Nancy Culp (Miss Jane from the Beverly Hillbillies) makes an appearance, wonderful as always and we even get to Milton Berle's real life wife act in it, who turns out to be a pretty good actress and really pretty too! It was truly one of my favorite shows ever. (I looked for years for this show under the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, not realizing it was actually one of Milton Berle's shows.) Does anyone know where in the world I can go to watch or buy this show??? If you get a chance to watch it, by all means do so. You won't be sorry!
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