Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, Eddie Albert, Danny Thomas, Vincent Price, Ginger Rogers, Ann-Margret – sounds like the guest list for a 1960’s posh Hollywood party. But it’s actually just a tiny portion of the stellar roster of guest stars on Here’s Lucy.
The series, which ran from 1968 to 1974, was Lucille Ball’s third TV series and is easily confused with her second The Lucy Show. Lucy played a single mom in both shows and both starred Gale Gordon as Lucy’s reluctant financial keeper.
Even though the two shows are separated by only a few years, The Lucy Show feels like an innocent 50’s sitcom where Here’s Lucy is highly influenced by pop culture and the generation gap thanks to the inclusion of Lucy’s real-life teens.
In the beginning, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. weren’t asked to do much more than play themselves with different names. Desi had his own band at the time, so they even wrote that into several episodes including the opener “Mod, Mod Lucy.”
This episode really sets the tone for the series as Lucy dresses Carnaby Street style so she can fill in as the lead singer for Craig’s (Desi) all teen band. There’s even a fun musical dance number featuring one of Carol Burnett’s regular dancers Don Crichton.
The other thing that makes this series feel fresh in comparison to the shows that came before it is that it was filmed in front of a live audience. Because of it, the entire show has this simple set, facing forward style that makes it feel more like live theater than a 60’s sitcom.
What really makes the show is the incredible list of guest stars. I can’t think of another TV series (not counting variety shows) that could claim even half of the stars that showed up to sing, dance and play the straight-man with Lucy.
In many cases, the guest stars appeared as themselves causing a strange sort of collision between the two worlds. Here’s the internationally famous Lucille Ball fawning all over a big star like Sammy Davis Jr. Some of my favorite episodes deal with the whole concept of fans and fame and dozens end with a musical number – like that’s a part of every day life.
For example, in Season Six, Eddie Albert mistakes Lucy for a stalker but the two still end up performing an old soft shoe routine. In Season Five, fifteen-year-old Donny Osmond performs “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” with Kim (Lucie) and in Season Three Lucy and Carol Burnett put on a variety show.
As much as I love the musical numbers, I also really love seeing this snapshot of 1970’s history like when Lucy ends up in quarantine with the astronauts who just came back from the moon. Throughout it all Lucille Ball manages to maintain this wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm that pulls you right in. She really was and still is the queen of TV comedy.
If you’re a Lucy fan or you’d just like to relieve that era, pick up Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series at Amazon today and enjoy this flashback to this innocent, star-studded form of comedy.