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TV History: I Love Lucy

by Christine Becker

This clip was uploaded for an assignment in Prof. Christine Becker's FTT 30461: History of Television class at the University of Notre Dame. A student will be adding the commentary to this clip by March 1.

I Love Lucy Clip Analysis:

by Megan Crowley

This clip is the 16th episode of season 2 and we see Ricky and friends (Ethel and Fred) practicing for when Lucy announces that she is in labor and ready to go to the hospital. However, when that time does come, in typical Lucy fashion, they all are in disarray—they even forget Lucy when going out the door!
I Love Lucy sparked American television’s transition from the progressive, candid pre-1950’s to the more straightlaced, idealistic post-1950’s. The entire show focuses on the rising conflicts of Lucy’s ardent desire to be more than a typical housewife and Ricky's equally passionate beliefs that such ambitions in a woman are improper. This identical conflict was happening in homes across America, and I Love Lucy documents that critical transition in American history. Lucy’s little rebellions, such as secretly taking a job or fooling Ricky, disclose the ludicrous, irrational restraints forced upon women in this time period. I Love Lucy exposing and ridiculing these restrictions on women set a template for a certain type of women on television throughout history. Susan Douglas, in her book Mama Said, praises women like Lucy for how they “either physically or verbally, or both, refused to stay in their place, and broke the stays of corseted demureness (50).” Douglas goes on to say that “our mothers could nonetheless see, on television, women resisting and making fun of the credo that ‘real’ women found fulfillment in diaper pails and macaroni recipes, or that they thought obeying their husbands made much sense.” Lucy was calm while her husband was not, while she was in labor. Lucy was not a typical housewife; since her debut she was unique and more progressive than the women that followed her in the 1950’s.
I Love Lucy was almost always the most popular show on TV when it originally aired (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). This tells us that the typical American household liked the comedic relief of Lucy and the gang and did not mind the somewhat progressiveness (for the time). In Susan Douglas’ article, Mama Said, she claims, “On television in the late 1940s and early 1950s, various female characters often defied the compliant, womb-centered, housewife stereotype. The most famous, of course, was Lucy(50).” Lucy Ricardo definitely defies all of these stereotypes, except one which is evident in this episode. Lucy is excited about the fact that she is going to have a baby, which therefore makes her womb-centered.
However, this episode, along with the six episodes preceding it, “represent the first real-time pregnancy depicted on television, something that is still pretty rare to this day, when most pregnant actresses are forced to wear baggy clothing, hold large packages, and stand behind props to disguise their growing bellies (Erik Adams, et. al).” When this episode premiered, a pregnant Lucille Ball was not allowed by her network, CBS, to call herself pregnant. Calling herself pregnant could potentially lead to children asking their parents that dreaded question of “where do babies come from?” and that can be deemed as inappropriate for the time. It was scandalous in the eyes of CBS executives for the star of their show, who slept in a twin bed next to her husband on screen, to openly acknowledge the biologic results of sex. I Love Lucy shocked TV viewers in showing a pregnant Lucille Ball, illustrating how excessively proper and wholesome most TV shows portrayed life in the 1950’s. But of course, the twist was that Lucy never wanted to be the typical 1950’s housewife; she dreamed of becoming a famous TV actress.
Lucy was the first pregnant actress whose pregnancy was incorporated into the show, but she was not the last. Ricky may have been the first soon-to-be dad to freak out on television, but he definitely was not the last. The paradox that this episode displayed is timeless—an expectant father panicked to the state of forgetting to bring his in-labor wife to the hospital, and an expectant mother calm, relaxed, and prepared. It was both comical and relatable, both in the 1950’s and today.

"Lucy Goes to the Hospital," I Love Lucy

This clip is from the "Lucy Goes to the Hospital" episode of I Love Lucy, which originally aired on CBS on January 19, 1953.

from I Love Lucy (1953)
Creator: Director: William Asher; Writers: Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Davis, Jess Oppenheimer; Produced by Desi Arnaz, Jess Oppenheimer
Distributor: Daily Motion: CBS
Posted by Christine Becker
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