Life with Lucy
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Life with Lucy is a 1986 short-lived American sitcom from ABC that attempted to revive the extremely popular 1950's sitcom I Love Lucy to the 1980's. This show was notably TV actress' Lucille Ball (fittingly, as she was in her seventies when this show began production)'s last time she ever appeared on a prime-time TV show.
ABC hoped this show would be a big hit, but instead would become one of the biggest TV bombs of the 1980s, partly because ABC decide to have Lucille Ball write the episodes herself (which involved her getting into pratfalls and stunts as she did in her previous show; read the section to find out why it didn't work) and scheduling it on a poor time slot on Fridays. Reportedly, when news of the show's cancellation came to Ball, she was so saddened by the show's failure that she was convinced that television no longer wanted her.
Ever since the show's quick cancellation, it has been listed on several worst TV shows of all time lists; In particular, TV Guide ranked this show 26th on their "Worst Shows of All Time" list in 2002. It was finally released on DVD in September of 2018 by Time-Life when they released 4 episodes of this show on Lucy: The Ultimate Collection, which also features various episodes from Lucille Ball's previous shows she starred in.
Ball played a widowed grandmother who had inherited her husband's half-interest in a hardware store in South Pasadena, California, the other half being owned by his partner, widower Curtis McGibbon. Lucy's character insisted on "helping" in the store, even though when her husband was alive she had taken no part in the business and hence knew nothing about it. The unlikely partners were also in-laws, her daughter being married to her son, and all of them, along with their young grandchildren, lived together.
Why It Isn’t a Lovely Life
- It completely lacks the impressive charm of the original series, especially since I Love Lucy is often considered to be one of the best sitcoms ever made in television history.
- To make matters worse, it almost killed the reputation of I Love Lucy.
- Having Lucille Ball do stunts while in her seventies backfired because not only could she have gotten seriously injured (or possibly killed) considering her age, but it also didn't make viewers laugh, but instead made them concerned for her safety. What’s worse is that it gave her an injury that killed her.
- The storylines are boring and uninspired.
- Poor acting, especially for an '80s sitcom.
- It ultimately killed Lucille Ball's career, as she eventually retired from acting in 1986 and shut down her studio Lucille Ball Productions after the show's cancellation. According to biographies, Lucy was reportedly devastated by the show's failure, she retired from acting and never worked on another series or feature film again. She did however make her last public appearance as a presenter on the 61st Academy Awards one month before her death on April 26, 1989.
The Only Redeeming Quality
- The show's theme song, "Every Day is Better Than Before", sung by Eydie Gorme is very good.
Reception and cancellation
Fourteen episodes were written, thirteen videotaped, but only eight aired. On the day of the last filmed (but unaired) episode, producer Aaron Spelling learned of the show's cancellation by ABC; he decided to tell Ball's husband Gary Morton, who decided not to reveal the news to her until after taping ended. The last episode to be aired, "Mother of the Bride", featured Audrey Meadows, who was offered to be cast as a regular to give the show a new direction and Lucille's character a comic foil and partner, similar to the role previously played by Vivian Vance in Lucy's previous series. (This was the only 'Lucy' sitcom in which Vance, who had died in 1979, never appeared.) Meadows turned down the offer.
Life With Lucy's premiere episode on September 20 made the Nielsen's Top 25 (#23 for the week) for its week; however, subsequent episodes dropped steadily in viewership; Life With Lucy went against NBC's The Facts of Life on the same Saturday night lead-off timeslot and never gained ground against it. It ranked only 73rd out of 79 shows for the season (the seventh-lowest rated show on TV for the season), with a 9.0/16 rating/share. The show was never syndicated, it briefly aired on Nick at Nite as part of a Lucille Ball-themed marathon in 1996, but otherwise has never been rerun (although episodes can be found on YouTube, as well as the five unaired episodes and at The Paley Center For Media in New York City and Beverly Hills, California). Biographies of the actress revealed that she was reportedly devastated by the show's failure, and never again attempted another series or feature film; her subsequent interviews and other TV appearances were infrequent. Lucy's last public appearance was as a presenter on the 1989 Academy Awards telecast in which she and fellow presenter, Bob Hope, were given a standing ovation. She died a month later, on April 26, 1989. In a 1999 interview with the Archive of American Television, Aaron Spelling attributed the failure of the show entirely to Ball, only blaming himself for allowing her full creative control.
In July 2002, TV Guide named Life With Lucy the 26th worst TV series of all time, stating, in their words, that it was, "without a doubt, the saddest entry in [they're] list of bad TV shows of all time". In his book What Were They Thinking? In the 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked the series at No. 21 on the list.
- Before Desi Arnaz died on December 2, 1986, he reportedly watched the series from his hospital bed within days before his death in that day.