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 (February/March)

227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek) Fuller House - The Complete First Season The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season

02/07 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Sabrina Down Under
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 1 - School's Cool - Boy Crazy
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 2 - About a Family - Hangin' Out
02/07 - 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek)
02/07 - Vice Principals - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
02/14 - Beavis and Butt-Head - The Complete Collection
02/14 - Grace and Frankie - Season Two
02/28 - Fuller House - The Complete First Season
03/03 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now... In Living Color! (Blu-ray)
03/07 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - Mama's Family - Mama's Favorites
03/07 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series - Flashback Edition (Blu-ray)
03/07 - What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - You Me Her - Season One
03/14 - Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season
03/14 - Unbrekable Kimmy Schmidt - Season Two
03/21 - Master of None - Season One
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, March 28

The Middle - "Look Who's Not Talking" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Although excited about finding a new discount store that sells oddly shaped fruits and vegetables, Frankie is devastated when Axl refuses to talk to her or even answer her texts after inadvertently admitting how she feels about April in front of him. Meanwhile, Brick develops a new quirky tick in the form of a repetitive phrase and lands in detention, and Brad surprises Sue by coming out for a weekend visit at her college.

American Housewife - "Surprise" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Oliver tells his parents that he’s so embarrassed by their modest house that he’d rather not have a birthday party at all. Katie decides to teach him a lesson by ambushing him with a surprise party at home with all his wealthy friends.

American Housewife - "The Man Date" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Greg is delighted to finally have made a friend in Westport, fellow history buff Stan (guest star Timothy Omundson), but Katie isn’t as happy, especially since Stan is married to her nemesis, Chloe Brown Mueller (Jessica St. Clair).

Fresh Off the Boat - "The Taming of the Dads" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
To celebrate their one-year anniversary, Eddie reluctantly agrees to take Alison to the see a modern remake of Romeo and Juliet. But when Louis and Alison’s dad bond over their love of Shakespeare and crash their date, Alison wonders if she and Eddie’s relationship has lost its spark. Meanwhile, Jessica gets called for jury duty and campaigns to be the “Jury Boss,” and Emery and Evan struggle with the responsibilities of raising a Tamagotchi digital pet.

New Girl - "San Diego" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
As Jess continues to stay with her dad (guest star Rob Reiner) in Portland, they unexpectedly help one another with their love lives. Meanwhile, Nick turns to a reluctant Aly for help with his relationship with Reagan, and Schmidt contemplates using his first name.

The Mick - "The Bully" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
The tables are turned when a cyber bully targets Sofia, leading Mickey to come up with a plan for revenge. Meanwhile, Jimmy teaches Chip and Ben how to be self-sufficient, resulting in a painful disaster.

Trial & Error - "Right-Hand Man" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
A new piece of evidence emerges that leads Josh (Nicholas D'Agosto) an unlikely, and dangerous, new suspect: Larry's (John Lithgow) brother-in-law, Jeremiah Jefferson Davis. Meanwhile, the case takes another turn when the search for the murder weapon leads Dwayne (Steven Boyer) to find a dismembered human arm.

Trial & Error - "Secrets & Lies" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
As Josh (Nicholas D'Agosto) focuses on his new suspect, Larry (John Lithgow) insists on taking a lie-detector test to help prove his innocence, but the results drop a bombshell on the case and the family. Dwayne (Steven Boyer) briefly becomes a hometown celebrity as the man who found an arm in the lake, and the team gets a surprising new benefactor.

The Detour - "The Heat" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
The Parkers settle into a seemingly normal New York City routine but are being surveilled by federal agents who see more than they had suspected they would see.

Mann & Wife - "Take Me to the Mann" (Bounce TV, 9:00PM ET/PT)
The new Lieutenant arrives at the precinct, and everyone soon learns that she and Hobbs have a romantic past; A cable installer confuses Toni for singer Tamela Mann.

Mann & Wife - "Pressured by the Mann" (Bounce TV, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Toni faces a moral dilemma when the administrators at her school decide to change the students' standardized test results; Hobbs' mother brings her new fiance for a visit.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 27)

Tuesday, March 28

  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) - Catch Alec on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) - Jason is a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Hank Azaria (The Simpsons/Free Agents/Herman's Head) - Hank visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Kate Walsh (Bad Judge/The Drew Carey Show) - Kate appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Kristen Bell (The Good Place) - Kristen stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Cheryl Hines (Son of Zorn/Suburgatory/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Cheryl is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Adam Pally (Making History/The Mindy Project/Happy Endings) - Adam drops by Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Judy Greer (Married/Mad Love/Miss Guided) - Judy appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Kevin James (Kevin Can Wait/The King of Queens) - Kevin is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Chelsea?) - Chelsea drops by LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat) - Randall appears on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Busy Philipps (Cougar Town) - Busy guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Keke Palmer (Scream Queens/True Jackson, VP) - Keke reveals what it’s really like being a child star, plus, the truth behind her struggles with anxiety and depression on The Dr. Oz Show, so check your local listings.
  • Todd Grinnell (One Day at a Time/Four Kings) - Todd appears on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Richard Dreyfuss (Your Family or Mine) - Richard talks about Shots Fired on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • George Lopez (Lopez/George Lopez) - George chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Melissa Peterman (Baby Daddy/Reba) - Melissa share her recipe for Mexican pizza on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Jenna Elfman (Imaginary Mary/1600 Penn/Accidentally on Purpose/Courting Alex/Dharma & Greg) and Rachel Dratch (Imaginary Mary) - Jenna and Rachel talk about Imaginary Mary on the AOL Build Show at 12:30pm.
  • Sutton Foster (Younger) - Sutton talks about Younger on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 2am on BET or on your local stations.