I Love Lucy changed the fledgling television industry in the 1950’s. This was a time when network television was less than a decade old. Most folks had never heard of television just 15 years earlier. I Love Lucy defined the concept of a sitcom. The show was driven by the very strong personalities of the cast. Desi Arnaz was considered a charismatic Latin lover by American women. Lucy played the perfect foil and found a mountain of gold to mine in strong physical comedy. So many modern shows owe their roots to this classic that it would be impossible to mention them all here. With that said, the fifth season was a letdown. The simple truth is they were running out of ideas in the simplistic environment of this once very funny comedy. All of this season is spent taking the cast on a whirlwind tour of Europe with its forced situations. The lack of perceived spontaneity was gone. Lucy was no longer the fly in Ricky’s ointment. Oddly enough, the season does begin with one of the funniest stories of the series: Lucy stealing John Wayne’s footprints, and of course, his feet. If only that quality could have been maintained instead of a hokey tour of the Old Country.
Each episode sports an adequate Dolby Digital 2.0 track that is basically the original mono. Remember that these episodes are very old and you might not mind the ever present hiss and crackle. The music is often ruined with plenty of high-end distortion. Dialogue is clear enough and perhaps that’s all that matters.
Each episode of I Love Lucy is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format. Of course, the show is also black and white. The contrast is a bit impressive for footage this old. There’s plenty of grain and quite a few print specs. Black levels are unfortunately almost nonexistent. Still, the restoration effort is obvious and appreciated.
Compare this release to most sitcoms and you’ll find it shines above and beyond the usual nothing at all. Many of the vintage promo spots are quite entertaining to watch. I’m too young to have seen any of this back in the day so it is especially interesting.
There’s a section of the show’s mess-ups that is very nice. It’s always good to see a show willing to point out its own flaws. There are audio excerpts from Jess Oppenheimer’s books on tape version of his brilliant look back as the show’s producer for the first 5 years. Finally, each of the 5 discs provides an episode of Lucy’s original radio show. I was impressed at how funny they were considering the visual importance of her comedy.
The box art warns you that a segment was removed from “Lucy and the Dummy”. Fear not, it was only a Frank Sinatra number that was unrelated to the show. The network used about 3 minutes of that week’s episode to promote the film Guys and Dolls.
All in all, this is a bittersweet release. The show certainly deserves to have its entire run preserved on DVD. Consider it an archive for future generations to enjoy. The unfortunate aspect is the decline evident in this season. It would herald a big change in crew for this show going into its 6th year. At least it’s another excuse to hear Ricky calling one more time: “Luuuuucy”.