Monday, September 07, 2009

Happy Labor Day; TV Rebels: Desi Arnaz - More Than Just a Bongo Player

Happy Labor Day everyone! Most of you are probably outdoors spending this last "unofficial" last day of summer with your family & friends, but for those of you who are in needs of some TV marathons...you've come to the right place as usual!
We have mentioned many of these already, but it's a good reminder if you have forgotten! The Golden Girls will get the most play this holiday! Hallmark Channel will air a marathon from 8am-12am, while WE tv will air a marathon also from 1pm-7pm. BET is airing a marathon of The Game all-day today, while TBS goes to The Office this Labor Day from 4pm-8pm.
Other notable marathons are for dramas...Criminal Minds on A&E, NCIS on USA Network, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager on ABC Family. Both TNT and SOAPnet have short stunts of Law & Order and One Tree Hill from 11am-5pm, while The N has what else...Degrassi all-day. And on network TV, ABC has a three episode block of Castle from 8-11pm, as the season premiere is two weeks from tonight. TV Land has a movie marathon from 9am-6:30pm.
Reality wise we have Supernanny on style, 16 and Pregnant on MTV, Cops on G4, Catch 21 on GSN, and Dirty Jobs on Discovery. Hope you all find something!

It's time for the return of TV Rebels. We originally had special permission to publish the first 6 essays on TV shows and actors that will be featured in the upcoming book TV Rebels: 100 People and Programs That Shaped the Medium by authors Lou Orfanella and Oscar De Los Santos...and then last year we got rights to 6 additional essays (for a total of 12!), so including today's three essays are left. Upcoming TV Rebel columns will be about Rod Serling and TV Dinners. The book is in the works and will be released in 2010...so stay tuned for that and look for a review of the book right here before it comes out!

So without further adieu, we bring you the tenth essay of TV Rebels:

Desi Arnaz: More Than Just a Bongo Player
by Lou Orfanella

In 1950 when CBS was interested in bringing Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband radio program to television Ball demanded that her real life husband Desi Arnaz play her husband. The network turned her down feeling that the viewing public would not accept Arnaz with his heavy accent as her husband. She held out, the network acquiesced and Mr. and Mrs. Desi Arnaz forever became Lucy and Ricky Ricardo in popular culture history.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had been married since 1940. By 1950 she was doing her radio show and periodic big screen projects in a mostly unnoticed film career. Arnaz was travelling the country with his band and their marriage was strained. By insisting they do what would become I Love Lucy together Ball hoped to solidify their domestic life. "Richard Denning, Lucy's radio hubby, comments: 'She said it would help her marriage. Also the show. And, of course, she was right'" (Andrews 22).

Ball was determined that Arnaz not be seen as playing second fiddle to her. The title, I Love Lucy, in fact was an effort to include Desi in the title and indeed since he is the "I" give him top billing. "The general impression seems to be that he was a lucky Cuban who was handsome, charming, played the bongo, and happened to be married to the funniest lady in the whole world. Well, this was all true, but there was a lot more to Desi than that. He may have only been that when he started, but he had an amazing ability for learning things and he was an astute businessman" (Davis 55).

It was Arnaz' business acumen that changed the traditional method of producing situation comedies. Traditionally shows were broadcast live and "preserved" on low quality kinescopes, which were essentially copies made by aiming a movie camera at a television monitor and which were used to broadcast programs outside of the eastern time zone where sponsors were less likely to view them and challenge the quality. When production was set to begin on I Love Lucy for its premier season, Lucy and Desi lived on the west coast and had no intention of moving to New York where the show could be done live for what was then the largest audience, and the sponsors as well. Desi's solution was to film the show like a motion picture resulting in high quality prints. It would be an expensive proposition requiring three or four cameras, special sound and lighting techniques, and potentially multiple sets which would increase the costs. The network only agreed after the Arnazs agreed to a pay cut to help defray the production costs. "The burden of planning this new method fell heavily on Desi's shoulders. No one had attempted a situation comedy on film, shot before a live studio audience: he was plowing virginal fields" (Andrews 32).

Arnaz was not only successful in changing the way sitcoms were filmed and preserved for the lucrative rerun syndication market, but was shrewd enough to acquire an ownership percentage in the series which he and Lucy parlayed into Desilu Production, at one time, the most successful in the business.

Works Cited
Andrews, Bart. "Lucy&Ricky&Fred&Ethel: The Story of I Love Lucy." New York: Dutton, 1976.
Davis, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. "Laughing with Lucy." Cincinnati Emmis, 2005.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (December/January)

American Dad! - Volume 11 Newhart - The Complete Seventh Season I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized) The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two Hooperman - Season One

12/06 - Family Guy - Season Fourteen
12/13 - American Dad! - Volume 11
12/13 - Newhart - The Complete Seventh Season
01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
01/24 - Hooperman - Season One / Review
01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two / Review
01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, January 24

The Middle - "A Tough Pill to Swallow" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When a devastated Sue discovers that she has been kicked out of college because she forgot to renew her financial aid, Mike tries to come to her rescue and convince a tough college bursar to reinstate her. Meanwhile, having only taken oral liquid medication all of his life, a frustrated Frankie does everything in her power to teach Brick how to swallow a pill when he gets an ear infection; and Hutch becomes angry with Axl after he keeps driving the Winnebago without permission to Orson to visit new girlfriend April – leaving Hutch without any means of transportation to get to class.

American Housewife - "Art Show" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Anna-Kat draws a super plus-sized portrait of Katie for the school art show, Katie sets out to retrieve it by any means necessary. Meanwhile, with Katie away, Doris is left in charge of Oliver and Taylor. She’s determined to whip them into shape with her Tiger Mom skills, but she may have met her match.

Fresh Off the Boat - "Coming From America" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Louis flies the entire family to Taiwan in an effort to make things right with Gene (Ken Jeong). Upon meeting Gene’s beautiful fiancĂ©, Margaret, and seeing the wonderful life he has built for himself, Louis questions whether his life in Orlando is just as great as it could be in Taiwan. Meanwhile, Jessica takes Eddie, Emery and Evan to her favorite childhood locales, including Dihua Street and Shilin Night Market.

The Real O'Neals - "The Real Match" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Jimmy recruits a reluctant Kenny to join his wrestling team for a one-time match, a surprise victory gives him the confidence to join the team full time to become the first, openly gay athlete at St. Barklays. Kenny’s newfound stardom makes Jimmy feel a bit replaced, but when an opponent refuses to wrestle his brother, Jimmy puts his feelings aside and rallies the team around Kenny. Meanwhile, Pat injures his back trying to help Eileen prepare for a weekend getaway, but things only get worse when she tries to be the perfect caregiver to impress VP Murray but fails miserably.

New Girl - "The Hike" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
While on a day hike, Jess and Robby (guest star Nelson Franklin) discover something unexpected about their relationship. Also, Winston throws a surprise welcome home party for Aly (guest star Nasim Pedrad). Meanwhile, Schmidt and Cece fail to impress their new neighbors.

The Mick - "The Master" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
All hell breaks loose, as the kids fight over who will take the master bedroom. Also, Mickey pursues a wealthy businessman who quickly discovers that she is not the prize he thought she was.

Teachers - "Stranger Danger" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
There’s a trespasser at Fillmore and a new security guard is hired. Ms. Snap and Ms. Bennigan hold a “Women Empowering Women” workshop, Mrs. Adler takes stranger danger too far, and Ms. Watson purchases a male safety dummy.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 23)

Tuesday, January 24

  • Retta (Parks and Recreation) - Catch Retta on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. She will also be on the AOL Build Show at 3pm.
  • Claudia O'Doherty (Love) - Claudia is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • John Goodman (Roseanne/Normal, Ohio) - John talks about Patriots Day on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Yvette Nicole Brown (The Odd Couple/Community) - Yvette visits Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Jennifer Esposito (Samantha Who?/Spin City) - Jennifer appears on NBC's Today in the 10am hour. She will also be on the AOL Build Show at 1pm.
  • Justina Machado (One Day at a Time) - Justina talks about the new Netflix series One Day at a Time on the AOL Build Show at 12pm.