This week, I Love Lucy celebrates 66 years since it first premiered on October 15, 1951. Even after more than 6 decades, TV audiences around the world continue to watch reruns of the classic comedy. Despite the everlasting popularity of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s brainchild, there are some things that happened during the 6 seasons of I Love Lucy that would never occur today.
Check out these 10 things from I Love Lucy that would *never* be on TV today:
1. To convince TV executives and producers that I Love Lucy should become a reality, Lucille staged an “audition” with the Desi Arnaz Orchestra. While her husband’s group traveled around the country, she performed a skit called “The Professor” during the show. Audiences adored Lucille alongside Desi and the skit was worked in to the first season of their show. When was the last time a show you watched aired because of the success of a vaudevillian skit? Probably not very recently!
2. Lucille was only interested in making I Love Lucy a reality if her real-life husband could play her TV husband. CBS was pretty unnerved by this, saying that “there was no way the average American would believe she was married to a ‘foreign’ man with an accent they couldn’t understand.” Lucille won this battle, making Lucy and Ricky TV’s first interracial couple.
3. When Lucy and Ricky visited the fictitious Beverly Palms Hotel in season 4’s “L.A. At Last” episode, you can see the real name of the hotel on a sign. The show used the famous Beverly Carlton Hotel to shoot exterior visuals for this episode, while the hotel room was a set. These days, directors are much more careful to hide identifying features when shooting on-location, so these mishaps don’t happen very often – and when they do, they’re edited out. The Beverly Carlton Hotel, once home to Marilyn Monroe and other famous guests (including Lucille and Desi), was recently restored and is currently The Avalon Hotel.
4. The show’s only sponsor was cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris and smoking was a part of every episode. Lucille and Desi appeared in-character in various Phillip Morris commercials, and I Love Lucy’s opening credits (before the show was syndicated) included the benefits of lighting up as you watched this popular show.
5. Producers originally wanted I Love Lucy to feature the celebrity lifestyle of Lucille and Desi, but they didn’t think that would resonate with audiences at home. Instead, the show followed the couple as they lived what they imagined was a more “average” life. Today, the rich and famous are letting cameras into their elaborate, fast paced lives so that everyday people can get a glimpse of what it’s like to live as a celebrity – something I Love Lucy never did.
6. The “average” approach worked, because I Love Lucy was so popular that during its 6 seasons that water and telephone usage throughout the country decreased when new episodes of the show aired. Department stores would close early too, with no one bothering to shop while I Love Lucy was on.
7. As an “average” family, the Ricardos lived in a nice apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan. Their rent was just $105 per month, which today would be about $1,015 – not unreasonable for a family of 4 in many US cities. This century, that same location is home to shows like not-so-average Gossip Girl. I’m betting the van der Woodsen’s neighbors pay a little more than $1,000 per month in rent!
8. When Lucille was pregnant with her and Desi’s son, she continued her role in I Love Lucy, despite the hesitation of network executives. To make sure no viewers were offended, a priest, minister and rabbi were hired to identify any offensive lines or scenes. CBS required the show to use the word “expecting” rather than “pregnant,” which was too vulgar for primetime TV.
9. “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” featured the birth of Lucy and Ricky’s son, Little Ricky, and aired on the same day that Lucille and Desi’s son was born in real life. The love American audiences had for the Ricardos is evident in the number of people who watched this episode. On January 19, 1953, 44 million viewers tuned in to watch I Love Lucy, which was 71.7% of homes with a TV at the time.
10. After only 6 months, I Love Lucy was the #1 rated show in America. With 24 Emmy nominations and 5 wins, the show was rated as #1 throughout four of its seasons. After 6 seasons, I Love Lucy ended. During its last season, the show was still the #1 Nielsen rated show. The only other shows to accomplish this: The Andy Griffith Show and Seinfeld. Today, studios and networks often extend successful shows as long as possible, ending them only after less popular seasons.