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I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 Blu-ray Review

I-Love-Lucy-S1-slipcase-bluray-coverU.S. Release

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The Series

[Rating:5/5]

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What is there to say about I Love Lucy that hasn’t been said already? From the golden age of television, the series launched on October 15, 1951 on CBS and the rest, as they say, is history. Starring real-life married couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as the Ricardos, Lucy and Ricky, and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as their best friends and neighbors, married couple Ethel and Fred Mertz, the series would officially run until April 1, 1960. We all know, however, that it has never stopped running in syndication all over the world since then and can still be seen on local and cable stations to this day. In 2002, TV Guide on their list of 50 Top Shows of All Time, listed I Love Lucy as number 2 (Seinfeld came in number 1, with The Honeymooners coming in behind I Love Lucy at number 3).

From the very first season, presented in this Ultimate Season 1 Blu-ray collection, which comes in at a staggering 35 episodes by today’s standards, the series was innovative and hilarious. Desi Arnaz hit on the idea to use multiple cameras and shoot on 35mm in front of a studio audience, an unheard of concept for a television sitcom at the time, which freed the series from being limited to one room.

Add to this visual variety and higher quality production the hijinks of Lucy and her partner in crime “Ethel”. In season 1, we get one of the classic episodes from the series, the so-called “Vitameatavegamin” episode, otherwise known as “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” in which Lucy, put off by the awful taste of a cure-all medicine during the taping of a TV promo has to do so many takes, she gets a little blitzed.

This collection also contains 13 season 1 repeat episodes with alternate scenes, and the original I Love Lucy pilot remastered from the original 35mm negative. There are two viewing options for the series, the traditional “heart-on-satin” versions of the episodes and the original broadcast versions, complete with the original TV commercials and some slightly different scenes.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

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Like the two ways to watch, I Love Lucy on Blu-ray is culled from two different sources. The traditional “heart on satin” episodes are taken from the 35m sources while the original broadcast episodes with the “stick-figure” opening and original promos also utilize 16mm sources. They are brought to Blu-ray in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement. As far as can be seen, the bulk of the episodes look the same image-wise, and that is to say they look almost miraculously good given their age and how long they have been in reruns. A little rough around the edges, we do see a bit of grittiness and the occasional issue with scratches and dirt, but it is mostly clean with good contrast and texture.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

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I Love Lucy sounds as good as can be expected, even better, actually. Sure, the LPCM 2.0 mono (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack at times sounds a little canned, but it is so much cleaner and clearer than you’d expect for a television show from the 1950s.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4.5/5]

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We get a virtual goldmine of extras here in the form of behind-the-scenes footage, radio broadcasts, audio commentaries and much more.

Disc 1:

  • I Love Lucy Costume & Makeup Tests: Filmed late August/early September, 1951 (not made for broadcast) – Shortly before I Love Lucy started production, silent costume and makeup “tests” were filmed of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Director of Photography Karl Freund (and others) used the tests to evaluate everything from lighting to hair styling to wardrobe selections. Once production of the series commenced, the tests were filed away and ultimately forgotten. (1080p/24):
    • Special Presentation
    • Raw Footage
  • I Love Lucy: The Very First Show” (1990):
    • Episode (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:48:02)
    • Outtakes (1.33:1; SD; 00:16:39)
  • 1951 Promo (1.33:1; SD; 00:00:21) – In the fall of 1951, CBS broadcast this rarely-seen promotion for its then brand-new series, I Love Lucy.
  • Audio Commentary – This audio documentary, produced in 1991 for inclusion on the Criterion Collection’s I Love Lucy LaserDisc, includes comments by Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer, writers Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis, director William Asher, actors Jerry Hausner, Doris Singleton and Mary Jane Croft, stage manager Herb Browar, and TV historian Bart Andrews.
  • Bart Andrews Profile
  • Before and After (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:12) – A before and after look at the restoration work undertaken to restore the original broadcast versions.
  • Flubs (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:11):
    • The Drum Has a Familiar Ring
    • “They Want Us to Meet Us”?
    • Not So Fast, Desi! – Part 1
    • Not So Fast, Desi! – Part 2
    • The Wrong Drink
    • Who’s “Yorky”?
  • Lucy on the Radio (Audio Only):
    • The Wills
    • Iris and Liz’s Easter
  • Behind the Scenes (Audio Book Featurette) – Laughs, Luck, and Lucy by Jess Oppenheimer:
    • Lucy Loosens Up
    • Trying for Television
    • Making the Deal
    • The Premise
    • Writing the Pilot
    • Casting Jerry
    • The Perfect Title
    • Larry Dobkin Profile
  • Special Slide Shows (Audio & Photos):
    • Slide Show 1 “Rehearsing the Pilot”
    • Slide Show 2 “Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her”
    • Guest Cast Profiles:
    • Narrator – Bob LeMond
    • Jerry, The Agent – Jerry Hausner
    • Pepito, The Clown – Himself
    • Hank – Richard J. Reeves
    • Charlie – Tony Michaels
    • Marco, The Piano Player – Marco Rizo
    • Dog Act – Hector and His Pals

    Sponsor Talent:

    • Johnny Roventini
    • John Stephenson
    • Jay Jackson
    • Bob Shepard
  • Production Notes
  • Photo Gallery (1080p/24)
  • Take a Bow – Disc Credits

Disc 2:

  • On-Set Color Home Movies (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:19) – On October 12, 1951, three days before I Love Lucy premiered, Desilu filmed episode 6, “The Audition.” An Enterprising member of the studio audience secretly brought a 16mm movie camera with him into the bleachers that evening, and when no one was looking. He managed to take a few “ home movies” as the filming proceeded. Gregg Oppenheimer, son of series producer and head writer Jess Oppenheimer, discovered and obtained this rare color footage in 2006. It is presented here, edited together with scenes from the actual show. The gentleman on the set with the Arnazes between the scenes is the show’s director, Marc Daniels. This film is the only known color footage of the Tropicana and Ricardo apartment sets.
  • The Sunday Lucy Show (1.33:1; SD; 00:04:21) – in the spring of 1955, with I Love Lucy continuing on CBS Monday nights at 9PM (EST), the network launched a “new” Lucy repeat series that aired every Sunday evening at 6PM – so younger viewers could watch and so that viewers of all ages could enjoy again the early first-season Lucy programs. The series was titled The Sunday Lucy Show. New opening and closing materials were prepared for the broadcasts.
  • Flubs (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:00:42):
    • Audience Participation
    • A Lengthy Ladder
    • Meet Marc Daniels – Profile of director Marc Daniels
    • Lucy on the Radio (Audio Only):
    • Anniversary Presents
    • Numerology
    • George is Messy
  • Guest Cast Profiles:
    • “The Quiz Show”
      • Freddie Filmore – Frank Nelson
      • Announcer – Lee Millar
      • Mrs. Peterson – Hazel Pierce
      • Harold, The Tramp – John Emery
      • Arnold, The First Husband – Phil Ober
    • “The Audition”
      • Buffo, The Clown – Pat Moran
      • TV Network Rep #1 – Jess Oppenheimer
      • TV Network Rep #2 – Harry Ackerman
      • TV Network Rep #3 – Hal Hudson
      • Stagehand – Bennett Green
    • “The Séance”
      • Mr. Merriweather – Jay Novello
      • “Men Are Messy”
      • Kenny, The Press Agent – Kenny Morgan
      • Jim White, The Photographer – Lewis Martin
      • Maggie – Hazel “Sunny” Boyne
    • “The Fur Coat”
      • Thief – Ben Welden
  • Sponsor Talent
    • Johnny Roventini
    • John Stephenson
    • Bob Shepard
  • Production Notes
  • Photo Gallery (1080p/24)
  • Take A Bow – Disc Credits

Disc 3:

  • Flubs (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:00:28):
    • Desi Can’t Miss
    • Quiet on the Set
  • Lucy on the Radio (Audio Only):
    • Valentine’s Day
    • Liz Has the Flimjabs
  • Guest Cast Profiles:
  • “Lucy is Jealous of Girl Singer”
    • Rosemary – Helen Silver
  • “Drafted”
    • Party Guest – Hazel Pierce
    • Santa Claus (Tag Scene) – Vernon Dent
  • “The Adagio”
    • Jean Valjean Raymand– Shepard Menken
  • “The Amateur Hour”
    • Mrs. Hudson – Gail Bonney
    • Timmy Hudson – David Stollery
    • Jimmy Hudson – Sammy Ogg
  • “Lucy Plays Cupid”
    • Miss Lewis – Bea Benaderet
    • Mr. Ritter – Edward Everett Horton
  • Sponsor Talent:
    • Johnny Roventini
    • John Stephenson
    • Jay Jackson
    • Bob Shepard
  • Production Notes
  • Photo Gallery (1080p/24)
  • Take a Bow – Disc Credits

Disc 4:

  • Flubs (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:00:58):
    • Fred’s Getaway
    • Jumpin’ Jack Flash
    • A Good Cover Story
    • Vanishing Cream
  • Lucy on the Radio (Audio Only):
    • My Favorite Husband – Liz Teaches the Samba
  • Guest Cast Profiles:
  • “Lucy Fakes Illness”
    • Hal March – Himself
  • “Lucy Writes a Play”
    • Club Chairwoman – Myra Marsh
    • Stage Manager – Maury Thompson
  • “Breaking the Lease”
    • Bum – Bennett Green
    • First Party Guest – Barbara Pepper
    • Second Party Guest – Hazel Pierce
  • “The Ballet”
    • Madame LeMond – Mary Wickes
    • Burlesque Comic Frank Scannell
  • “The Young Fans”
    • Peggy Dawson – Janet Waldo
    • Arthur Morton – Richard Crenna
  • “New Neighbors”
    • Tom O’Brien – Hayden Rorke
    • Mrs. O’Brien – K.T. Stevens
    • Sergeant Morton – Allen Jenkins
  • Sponsor Talent:
    • Johnny Roventini
    • Jay Jackson
    • Frank Simms
  • Production Notes
  • Photo Gallery (1080p/24)
  • Take a Bow – Disc Credits

Disc 5:

  • Flubs (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:36):
    • We Got Married Where?
    • It’s About Four Blocks
    • Desi Forgets His Spanish
  • Clowning Around (1080p/24) – While putting a series like I Love Lucy together required many hours of hard work – life on the set was not “all work and no play.” No one had a better sense of humor than writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer, who showed up for rehearsals of “The Marriage License” sporting a Harpo Marx-style red wig – a response to Desi often referring to the bald-headed Oppenheimer as “Curly.”
  • Lucy on the Radio (Audio Only):
    • The Marriage License
  • Guest Cast Profiles:
    • “Fred and Ethel Fight”
      • Soda Jerk – Hazel Pierce
    • “The Moustache”
      • Mr. Murdoch – John Brown
    • “The Gossip”
      • Mr. Foster – Richard J. Reeves
      • Milkman – Bobby Jellison
    • “Pioneer Women”
      • Mrs. Pettibone – Florence Bates
      • Mrs. Pomerantz – Ruth Perrott
    • “The Marriage License”
      • Bert Willoughby – Irving Bacon
      • Mrs. Willoughby – Elizabeth Patterson
    • “The Kleptomaniac”
      • Dr. Tom Robinson – Joseph Kearns
    • “Cuban Pals”
      • Carlos Ortega – Alberto Morin
      • Maria Ortega – Rita Condé
      • Renita Perez – Lita Baron
  • Sponsor Talent:
    • Johnny Roventini
    • John Stephenson
    • Frank Simms
  • Production Notes
  • Photo Gallery (1080p/24)
  • Take a Bow – Disc Credits

Disc 6:

  • Flubs (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:00:45):
    • Where’s Lucy
    • Call Me “Maurice”
  • Audio Commentary:
    • “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” – This audio commentary, produced in 1991 for inclusion on the Criterion Collection’s I Love Lucy LaserDisc, includes comments by writers Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis, stage manager Herb Browar, actors Jerry Hausner and Ross Elliot, and TV historian Bart Andrews.
    • Bart Andrews Profile
  • Fancy Editing:
    • “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:49) – For reruns, part of this scene from “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” (in which Lucy plugs sponsor Philip Morris) was deleted and replaced by an alternate camera shot and slightly altered audio. These are two versions of the scene.
    • “Lucy Gets Ricky on the Radio” (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:07) – When “Lucy Gets Ricky on the Radio” was edited for reruns, footage of Freddy Filmore holding up a poster for sponsor Philip Morris was replaced by close-ups of Lucy, filmed by another camera. This is the scene from the syndicated version, followed by a “side-by-side” comparison.
  • Lucy on the Radio (Audio Only):
    • “My favorite Husband”
      • Selling Dresses
      • Quiz Show
      • Time Budgeting
      • Quiz Show
      • George Tries for a Raise
  • Behind the Scenes (Audio Book Featurette) – Book excerpt from Laughs, Luck…and Lucy by Jess Oppenheimer read by Larry Dobkin and featuring video clips from “The Freezer”:
    • Writing “The Freezer” (Part 1)
    • Writing “The Freezer” (Part 2)
    • Writing “Lucy Does a TV Commercial”
    • Larry Dobkin Profile
  • Guest Cast Profiles:
    • “The Freezer”
      • 1st Delivery Man – Frank Sully
      • 2nd Delivery Man – Bennett Green
      • Butcher – Fred Aldrich
      • 1st Woman in Butcher Shop – Hazel Pierce
      • 2nd Woman in Butcher Shop – Kay Wiley
      • 3rd Woman in Butcher Shop – Barbara Pepper
    • “Lucy Does a TV Commercial”
      • Ross Elliott, The Director – Ross Elliot
      • Joe, The Propman – Jerry Hausner
      • Maury, The Script Clerk – Maury Thompson
      • Sound Man (Voice) – Jess Oppenheimer
    • “The Publicity Agent”
      • Reporter – Peter Leeds
      • Photographer – Bennet Green
      • 1st Assassin (Mr. Foster) – Richard J. Reeves
      • 2nd Assassin (Joe) Gil Herman
    • “Lucy Gets Ricky on the Radio”
      • Freddy Filmore – Frank Nelson
      • Office Boy – Bobby Ellis
      • Radio Announcer – Roy Rowan
    • “Lucy’s Schedule”
      • Alvin Littlefield – Gale Gordon
      • Phoebe Littlefield – Edith Meiser
    • “Ricky Thinks He’s Getting Bald”
      • Mr. Thurlow – Milton Parsons
    • “Ricky Asks for a Raise”
      • Alvin Littlefield – Gale Gordon
      • Phoebe Littlefield – Edith Meiser
      • Maurice, The Headwaiter – Maurice Marsac
  • Sponsor Talent:
    • Johnny Roventini
    • John Stephenson
    • Frank Simms
    • Roy Rowan
  • Production Notes
  • Photo Gallery (1080p/24)
  • Take a Bow – Disc Credits

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

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I Love Lucy has proven itself one of the most beloved sitcoms to ever grace the airwaves for decades and this Blu-ray collection of its historic first season is a treasure trove of comedy and never-before-seen footage. If you’re a fan, this wonderful restoration is one to own.

Additional Screen Captures

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