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Situational comedy or sitcom appeared in America in the early twenties of the last century. Initially, it was a setting for the radio, but then it gradually moved to television screens. Later, in the 70s, with a few exceptions, the genre represented only television comedies. Precisely from a radio show, one of the most famous old sitcoms “I Love Lucy” has grown with the appearance of which, in fact, “sitcom” began to be used toward shows on such type (television comedies).
It all began in 1948 with the release of “My Favorite Husband” show, where the main part of an eccentric wife was acted by Lucille Ball previously known as the “Queen of bolivars” that is low-brow movies category «B» (B-movies). She was also famous for extravagant antics and public quarrels with her husband, Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz. However, in several movies, Lucy Ball showed exceptional talent of comedienne. The radio program “My Favorite Husband” has become extremely popular, and its creators have thought of making the TV version. Of course, the main part was offered to the actress who has won the love of the audience. At first, the TV series was not quite successful since the authors could not find a channel to demonstrate it, but later, a sponsor willing to invest money in the project - the tobacco giant Philip Morris – was found.
This series was dedicated to the life of ordinary American family – the husband, an actor called Ricky Riccardo, and a wife, housesitter Lucy Riccardo, and their relationship with their neighbors. Ricky is a sober head of the Riccardo family, its male reasoning. Lucy is live emotions, spontaneity and funny, purely woman doodah. Every family can recognize itself in the Riccardo family since here true domestic problems, comical situations, and family fights are shown with a bright humor. Furthermore, Lucille Ball, a leading lady of the series, demonstrates a great wealth of byplay as that of Jim Carrey, and this created the special charm of her heroine.
American publicity was fond of the sitcom; all around years, it was demonstrated on TV. It was one of the most popular and beloved series of 1950s. Extremely high ratings, according to Gould, were caused by the easiness and comical description of the mundane situations in the show (“Why Millions Love Lucy”SM16). In 1953, after two years of the showcase, the contract for $8,000,000 was signed in order to keep the series on TV screens. The contemporary critics claim “I Love Lucy” and other comedy series such as “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”, “Mr. Peers” and “Terry and the Pirates” (Gould, “Paradox in Television” X13) to be “plagued with sameness.” Although, “Lucy” takes the highest position in the hierarchy of the series of that time. It was evaluated by the audience popularity, actor professional manner, and its ability to “fit the part.” According to these criteria, “I love Lucy” series appeared to be the best comedy show of that time according to The New York Times version (Gould, “Why Millions Love Lucy” SM16). “Lucy” began the era of a new type of series; the tendency to make assemble-line shows had begun.
The most discussed issue shown in “I Love Lucy” is the intercultural marriage (Television Reviews … […]). Various print publications have discussed in details this issue from the cultural viewpoint. Gould from The New York Times, for example, claimed such marriage being unacceptable since it was non common for the American women to be married to non-American men. Although inter-ethnical marriages were unusual in the society of that time, the audience accepted this issue, and it even impelled American woman to have more trust to non-American males (Television Reviews … […]).
What is interesting, The New York Times magazine evaluates the sitcom from different sides – economic and social ones – and comes to the single conclusion: “I Love Lucy” is the most successful comedy around 50s. Not only The New York time makes such a conclusion. According to Gould, the revision of tabloid such as Time, Life, and other publications shows that the series churn top record levels of all previous comedy shows both from the economical and popularity sides (“Why Millions Love Lucy” SM 16).
After watching almost all series of the discussed show and reading Tom Gilbert’s article, I can say that he missed the feministic issue discussed in the sitcom. Making a summary of almost every episode, Lucy wants to do something except being a housewife, and her husband is obviously against it. Ricky presents himself as a common husband of 1950s – the husband that controls everything, earns money, and is in charge of the entire family. When Lucy claims about her willing, Ricky starts to yell in Spanish (which looks side-splitting; the moments Ricky yells in Spanish are the most humorous ones); Lucy ignores him and starts doing what she wants. She is trying to thwart her husband at every run in order to prove that she is an independent woman. On the contrary, Ricky considers Lucy as having no place outside the house and no other talents except being an ideal wife and mother. In almost every series, Lucy proves that she equally can manage her career and her child. Although, in every episode, Lucy shows the ability make her own decisions and to face the circumstances for them. Lucy is the image of uncommon woman from 50s. As her heroine, Lucille Ball also is the example of independent woman since she was co-funding Desilu Productions.
It was a surprise that Tom Gilbert have made a passing mention of the show being “ part feminine housewife” series. Perhaps, Gilbert did not consider the feministic motive of the show since he was focused on other topics touched in the sitcom such as intercultural marriage, racism, and the relationships between main characters (Gilbert). The purpose of the this sitcom was to show a daily life of an ordinary American family, and feminism in the life of a couple was the secondary issue. Although, the series definitely would not be such humorous as it is without Lucy’s jinks. One may suppose that these antics of Lucy were considered as common woman caprices appearing due to boredom, PMS or for no reason in particular, but not the demonstration of feminism, independence, and ability to make her own decisions. Furthermore, despite Lucy may not have a tinge of talent in the chosen affair, she starts doing it with all passion and eagerness she has. Sometimes, it looks stupid and silly, but every time it is funny. It is a pity, Gilbert did not mention it in his article.
The series “I Love Lucy” still attracts wide range of viewers to the TV screens, not just in the U.S. The secret of the sitcom is simple: great actors, great script; it is not sophisticated, but simple and clear, and there is no vulgarity and obscene allusions. Funny, but even the word “pregnant” (in the second season, Lucy was pregnant both in the plot and outside the screen) was not mentioned at all replaced with “waiting for / expecting a baby” or “in your condition”, but the series where Lucy gives birth to her son was watched by a larger number people than Eisenhower’s inauguration held the day after the episode “Lucy goes to the hospital.” Love of the audience to a pair of Ball-Arnaz is so great that in 1996, in Jamestown, the hometown of Lucille Ball, the “Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center” museum was dedicated to the work of this couple and, of course, the iconic sitcom “I love Lucy” was built.