I Love Lucy – Doyle’s Space: SitCom Hall of Fame

“I Love Lucy” is my 5th inductee into the Doyle’s Space Sitcom Hall of Fame. The series won five Emmy Awards, including best situation comedy (1953 and 1954) and best actress (Lucille Ball, 1956).

“I Love Lucy” is a classic American television sitcom that originally aired on CBS from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957. Created by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll Jr., the show is often considered one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms in television history.

“I Love Lucy” follows the lives of Lucy Ricardo (played by Lucille Ball) and her husband Ricky Ricardo (played by Desi Arnaz). Ricky is a Cuban-born bandleader, while Lucy is an enthusiastic but often bumbling housewife with dreams of stardom. The series is set in New York City and primarily revolves around Lucy’s comedic attempts to break into show business and Ricky’s efforts to keep her out of trouble.

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s fictional phone number was Murray Hill 5-9975. The New York Bell Telephone Company designated this unused number specifically for the show. 

Their best friends and neighbors, Fred (played by William Frawley) and Ethel Mertz (played by Vivian Vance), also play key roles in the show’s humor. “I Love Lucy” set the standard for the modern sitcom and has had a lasting influence on the genre. It remains popular through reruns and is celebrated for its timeless humor.

Main Cast
  • Lucy Ricardo (played by Lucille Ball) – Lucy is a lovable, comedic, and often mischievous housewife. Her schemes and antics drive much of the show’s humor. Lucille Ball was a legendary American actress, comedian, and producer. Born on August 6, 1911, in Jamestown, New York, Ball is widely regarded as one of the most iconic comedians in television history. Apart from “I Love Lucy,” she had a successful film and television career and co-founded Desilu Productions with her husband Desi Arnaz. She starred in various films such as “The Long, Long Trailer” (1954), where she played opposite her husband Desi Arnaz, and “Yours, Mine and Ours” (1968). On television, she continued her success with shows like “The Lucy Show” (1962-1968) and “Here’s Lucy” (1968-1974), both of which showcased her comedic talents. Furthermore, her work extended to producing numerous successful TV series through her production company, Desilu Productions, including “Star Trek” (1966-1969).
  • Ricky Ricardo (played by Desi Arnaz) – Ricky is Lucy’s husband, a talented Cuban bandleader with a quick temper and a love for music. He often finds himself caught up in Lucy’s comedic escapades. Desi Arnaz, born on March 2, 1917, in Santiago, Cuba, was a multi-talented entertainer. He was a successful musician, actor, and producer. His role as Ricky Ricardo in “I Love Lucy” showcased his musical talents. Arnaz’s marriage to Lucille Ball, both on and off-screen, was a key aspect of the show’s appeal. Together, they formed Desilu Productions, a groundbreaking television production company.
  • Fred Mertz (played by William Frawley) – Fred is Ricky’s best friend and landlord. He’s a gruff and penny-pinching character, often caught up in Lucy and Ethel’s schemes. William Frawley was born on February 26, 1887, in Burlington, Iowa. He was a veteran actor with a career spanning both film and television. “I Love Lucy” was one of his most memorable roles, and his portrayal of Fred Mertz contributed significantly to the show’s humor. Before “I Love Lucy,” he appeared in various films, including “My Man Godfrey” (1936), “Sing, Baby, Sing” (1936), and “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947). Following his success on the sitcom, Frawley continued to work in television, appearing in “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” (1957-1960) alongside his former co-stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. He also had guest roles on popular shows like “The Real McCoys” (1957-1963) and “Perry Mason” (1957-1966).
  • Ethel Mertz (played by Vivian Vance) – Ethel is Lucy’s best friend and Fred’s wife. She often joins Lucy in her comedic escapades, and the two share a close friendship. Vivian Vance was born on July 26, 1909, in Cherryvale, Kansas. She was a talented actress known for her wit and humor. Her role as Ethel Mertz earned her acclaim and established her as one of television’s beloved characters. Prior to her iconic sitcom role, she appeared in films like “The Blue Veil” (1951) and “The Secret Fury” (1950). After her time on “I Love Lucy,” Vance continued to shine in television with appearances in various shows including “The Lucy Show” (1962-1968), where she reunited with Lucille Ball, and “Here’s Lucy” (1968-1974). Her talent and comedic timing were also showcased in guest roles on popular series such as “The Brady Bunch” (1970) and “The Love Boat” (1978).

William Frawley was a devout baseball fan and had it written into his contract that he did not have to work when the Yankees were in the World Series—which they were in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, and 1958. The Fred Mertz character was written out of two episodes because of this contractual clause.

Jess Oppenheimer was an American television writer, producer, and creator best known as one of the masterminds behind the iconic sitcom “I Love Lucy.” Born on November 11, 1913, in Los Angeles, California, Oppenheimer played a pivotal role in the development and success of the show, serving as its creator and head writer. He was instrumental in shaping the characters and comedic situations that made “I Love Lucy” a groundbreaking and enduring television series.

In 1952, I Love Lucy became the very first sitcom to reach #1 in the Nielsen ratings, where it stayed for four of its six seasons.

Madelyn Pugh, also known as Madelyn Pugh Davis after her marriage, was an American television writer and one of the creative forces behind the classic sitcom “I Love Lucy.” Born on March 15, 1921, in Indianapolis, Indiana, she worked alongside her writing partner Bob Carroll Jr. under the guidance of show creator Jess Oppenheimer. Madelyn Pugh contributed significantly to the show’s humor and scriptwriting, helping shape the memorable characters and comedic situations that made “I Love Lucy” an iconic television series.

Bob Carroll Jr. was an American television writer who, along with his writing partner Madelyn Pugh Davis, played a vital role in the creation of the beloved sitcom “I Love Lucy.” Born on August 12, 1918, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Carroll collaborated with Davis under the guidance of show creator Jess Oppenheimer. The duo’s non-Lucy credits include work on the television series The Tom Ewell Show, The Paul Lynde Show,

Dorothy, Those Whiting Girls, and Kocham Klane. They created and wrote the successful Desilu series The Mothers-in-Law, which starred Lucille Ball’s longtime MGM pals Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard. Carroll and Pugh served as executive producers and did some writing for the hit television series Alice, starring Linda Lavin, for which the duo won a Golden Globe Award. They also wrote the story basis for the film Yours, Mine and Ours (1968).

“I Love Lucy” ran 6 seasons, 180 episodes, and featured many iconic episodes, but one of the most famous is the episode titled “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” (Season 1, Episode 30). In this episode, Lucy appears in a TV commercial for a health tonic called “Vitameatavegamin,” resulting in hilariously drunken behavior due to its high alcohol content.

The I Love Lucy Christmas episode was one of the first holiday specials in television history. It was removed from regular rerun syndication for decades. In 2013, 8.7 million viewers tuned in when CBS aired a colorized version of the episode during the holiday season.

Another notable episode is “Job Switching” (Season 2, Episode 1) where Lucy and Ethel take on jobs in a chocolate factory, leading to a memorable conveyor belt mishap with chocolates. “Lucy Is Enceinte” (Season 2, Episode 10): This episode is a classic example of how the show broke new ground.

Lucy’s real-life pregnancy is written into the storyline, marking one of the first times such a subject was addressed on television. “Ethel’s Birthday” (Season 2, Episode 30): In this episode, Lucy and Ricky plan a surprise birthday party for Ethel, but their secret-keeping efforts lead to comedic chaos. “The Marriage License” (Season 2, Episode 31): Lucy and Ricky realize that their marriage license is missing, leading to a frantic search and a humorous encounter with a justice of the peace.

Every episode of I Love Lucy was shot in front of a live audience of 300 ticketed viewers, often tourists visiting Hollywood from around the country. Before each taping, Desi Arnaz acted as emcee, introducing the cast to the audience and warming the crowd up for the show.

“Hollywood at Last” (Season 4, Episode 13): Lucy and the gang finally make it to Hollywood, where they encounter various celebrities of the time, including William Holden, who famously appears in this episode. “Lucy and Superman” (Season 6, Episode 13): Lucy gets the chance to meet her favorite superhero, Superman, played by George Reeves, in a hilarious dream sequence.

“Lucy Gets in Pictures” (Season 4, Episode 3): Lucy’s dream of becoming a movie star takes her to a Hollywood studio, where she hilariously disrupts the set and meets notable actors like Van Johnson. “Ricky’s Movie Offer” (Season 5, Episode 1): Ricky is offered a part in a Hollywood movie, and the Ricardos and Mertzes head to Hollywood once again.

This episode showcases the excitement and chaos of show business. “L.A. at Last!” (Season 4, Episode 25): Lucy’s attempts to meet her favorite actor, Richard Widmark, lead to a comical encounter at the famous Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood. “Lucy and Ethel Buy the Same Dress” (Season 3, Episode 3): Lucy and Ethel inadvertently purchase identical dresses for a social event, resulting in a humorous competition to outdo each other.

Supporting Cast
  • Little Ricky Ricardo: The role of Little Ricky was played by several child actors during the series, including Keith Thibodeaux. Little Ricky was the son of Lucy and Ricky, and his birth was a significant storyline on the show. Twins, Mike Mayer and Joe Mayer played “Little Ricky” as a toddler.
  • Caroline Appleby (played by Doris Singleton): Caroline Appleby was Lucy’s close friend and often appeared as a recurring character. She was known for her upper-class demeanor and her interactions with the Ricardo family. Singleton also appeared on numerous other television shows including Richard Diamond Private Detective, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Pete and Gladys, Hazel, The Real McCoys, The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, The Fugitive, Dynasty, Phyllis, Family Affair, Hogan’s Heroes, Gomer Pyle: USMC, State Trooper, Gunsmoke, and Frontier Doctor.
  • Marion Strong (played by Shirley Mitchell): Marion was another of Lucy’s friends who made occasional appearances. She was known for her distinctive laugh and comedic timing. Mitchell starred as Louella in The Life of Riley and joined the cast of Fibber McGee and Molly as Alice Darling in 1943. She also played in Amos & Andy and The Charlotte Greenwood Show.
  • Jerry Carmichael (played by Jerry Hausner): Jerry was a recurring character who worked as a manager at the Tropicana Club. He often had to deal with the antics of Lucy and the other characters. Hausner was the voice of Waldo in Mr. Magoo and several characters such as Hemlock Holmes, The Mole, Broodles, and Itchy in The Dick Tracy Show (he had also worked as a dialogue director for both of these cartoons).
  • Mrs. Matilda Trumbull (played by Elizabeth Patterson): Trumball was Lucy’s landlady, who appeared in several episodes. Her character was often exasperated by the antics of the Ricardos and the Mertzes. Patterson was a theatre, film, and television character actress who appeared in many movies and television shows.
  • Joe and Frank (played by Bob Jellison and Frank Nelson): Joe and Frank were employees at the Tropicana Club, and they often interacted with Ricky and the gang. Nelson made numerous guest appearances on television shows, including The Jack Benny Program, I Love Lucy, The Real McCoys, The Addams Family, Alice, and Sanford and Son. He also provided voices for animated series such as The Flintstones, Mister Magoo, The Jetsons, Dinky Dog, and Snorks.

Desi Arnaz, who played Ricky Ricardo in “I Love Lucy,” performed a variety of songs throughout the series. “Babalu”: This song, originally composed by Margarita Lecuona, became Ricky’s signature tune on the show. He often performed it at the Tropicana Club, where he worked as a bandleader. “Cuban Pete”: Ricky performs this lively and energetic song in various episodes, showcasing his musical talents.

“Tico-Tico”: In the episode titled “The Audition” (Season 1, Episode 6), Ricky plays the conga drum and performs “Tico-Tico,” a Brazilian song known for its fast tempo. “Rock-a-Bye Baby”: In the episode titled “The Black Wig” (Season 3, Episode 4), Ricky performs this classic lullaby while trying to put Little Ricky to sleep.

“Mamãe Eu Quero”: Ricky performs this Brazilian song in the episode titled “The Great Train Robbery” (Season 5, Episode 9) during a train trip to Hollywood. “I Get Ideas (When We Are Dancing)”: Ricky sings this romantic song in the episode titled “The Dancing Star” (Season 4, Episode 10) while dancing with Lucy.

A Few of the Actors Who Made an Appearance on the Show
  • William Holden: In the episode titled “Hollywood at Last” (Season 4, Episode 13), William Holden appeared as himself. This episode was set in Hollywood, and Lucy famously encounters Holden at the Brown Derby restaurant.
  • Van Johnson: Van Johnson also appeared as himself in the Hollywood-themed episode “The Dancing Star” (Season 4, Episode 10). Lucy gets the chance to dance with Van Johnson in this memorable episode.
  • Tallulah Bankhead: The legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead appeared in the episode titled “The Celebrity Next Door” (Season 4, Episode 16). She played herself as a neighbor of the Ricardos and the Mertzes.
  • Richard Widmark: Richard Widmark appeared as himself in the episode titled “L.A. at Last!” (Season 4, Episode 25). Lucy’s attempts to meet Widmark lead to a comical encounter at the Brown Derby restaurant.
  • Rock Hudson: In the episode “Equal Rights” (Season 3, Episode 16), Rock Hudson made a guest appearance as himself. He attended a party at the Ricardo home, leading to humorous interactions with Lucy.
  • Cornel Wilde: Cornel Wilde appeared as himself in the episode “The Fashion Show” (Season 3, Episode 26). Lucy, Ethel, and Carolyn Appleby compete in a fashion show, and Wilde is the judge.
  • Harpo Marx: The silent Marx Brother, Harpo Marx, made a memorable appearance in the episode titled “Harpo Marx” (Season 4, Episode 28). Harpo played himself and communicated through pantomime and honking horns.
  • John Wayne: appeared in “Lucy and John Wayne” (Season 4, Episode 6). Lucy tries to get Wayne’s footprints for her souvenir collection.
  • Orson Welles: Orson Welles, a renowned filmmaker and actor, guest-starred in the episode “Orson Welles” (Season 6, Episode 9). He played himself and interacted with Lucy and Ricky.
  • Hedda Hopper: Hedda Hopper, a famous gossip columnist and actress, appeared as herself in the episode titled “Hollywood Anniversary” (Season 4, Episode 19). She attended the Ricardo’s anniversary party.
  • Cornelius Keefe: Cornelius Keefe played the character Mr. Collins in the episode “Lucy and Superman” (Season 6, Episode 13), where he appeared alongside George Reeves, who played Superman.
  • Danny Thomas: Danny Thomas, a popular comedian and actor, guest-starred in the episode “The Girls Go into Business” (Season 3, Episode 6). He played Danny Williams, a character from his own TV show, “Make Room for Daddy.”
  • George Reeves: George Reeves, best known for playing Superman, appeared as Superman himself in the episode “Lucy and Superman” (Season 6, Episode 13).
  • Eve McVeagh: Eve McVeagh made multiple guest appearances in the series, often playing various characters. She was a versatile character actress known for her comedic talent.

The I Love Lucy theme song was written by two-time Oscar-nominee Eliot Daniel. Lyrics were later written by five-time Oscar-nominee Harold Adamson, for Desi Arnaz to sing in the 1953 episode "Lucy's Last Birthday"

I love Lucy and she loves me.
We're as happy as two can be.
Sometimes we quarrel but then
How we love making up again.

Lucy kisses like no one can.
She's my missus and I'm her man,
And life is heaven you see,
'Cause I love Lucy, Yes I love Lucy, and Lucy loves me!

“I Love Lucy,” sung by Desi Arnaz with Paul Weston and the Norman Luboff Choir, was released as the B-side of “There’s A Brand New Baby (At Our House)” by Columbia Records (catalog number 39937) in 1953. The song was covered by Michael Franks on the album Dragonfly Summer (1993). In 1977, the Wilton Place Street Band had a Top 40 hit with a disco version of the theme, “Disco Lucy”.

I Love Lucy’s credit sequences originally featured cartoon versions of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo that were created by the Hanna–Barbera animation studio. These credits were replaced by the more familiar satin heart logo in syndication.

Further Reading


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: