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 (April/May)

Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season Father Knows Best - Season Five The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season ALF - The Complete DVD Collection The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series

04/04 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season
04/11 - Father Knows Best - Season Five
04/11 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Third Season
04/11 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/11 - Veep - The Complete Fifth Season
05/02 - Red, White and Blue Collar Sitcoms - Make TV Great Again
05/09 - ALF - The Complete DVD Collection
05/09 - Divorce - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
05/09 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season
05/16 - The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, May 28

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 29)

Monday, May 29

  • Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) - Watch Bryan on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Patton Oswalt (The Goldbergs/The King of Queens) - Patton is a guest on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory/Blossom) - Mayim appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • America Ferrera (Superstore) - America is a guest on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) - Ike appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Jenna Elfman (Imaginary Mary/Courting Alex/Accidentally on Purpose/Dharma & Greg) - Jenna is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Ricky Gervais (The Office) - Ricky visits LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Keesha Sharp (Are We There Yet?/Girlfriends) - Keesha appears on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • The Love Boat Cast - The cast of The Love Boat reunites on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Mike Epps (Uncle Buck/Survivor's Remorse) - Mike is a guest a repeat of Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.