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 (October/November)

Dr. Ken - Season One Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season The Lucy Show - The Complete Series The Mindy Project - Season Four

10/04 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Christmas Special (Colorized)
10/04 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #1 (Colorized)
10/11 - Dr. Ken - Season One
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Series
10/11 - Nurse Jackie - Seasons One and Two
10/11 - Weeds - Seasons One and Two
11/01 - Schitt's Creek - Seasons One and Two
11/08 - Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season
11/08 - Your Family or Mine - Season One
11/15 - Community - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Lucy Show - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Mindy Project - Season Four
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Thursday, December 8

The Big Bang Theory - "The Military Miniaturization" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Colonel Williams (Dean Norris), an Air Force representative from the Department of Material Command sits down to talk with Wolowitz.

The Great Indoors - "@Emma" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Emma quits after being turned down for a raise, Jack and Roland become the magazine’s newest and worst ever social media managers. Also, in a misguided attempt to boost business, Eddie re-brands his bar as “magic-themed.”

Mom - "Cornbread and a Cashmere Onesie" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Christy and Bonnie worry about Jill after her cry for help on the anniversary of her mother’s suicide.

Life in Pieces - "Swim Survivor Zen Talk" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When John decides to try out for “Survivor,” Tim gets jealous and attempts to undermine his audition tape. Also, Colleen confesses she can’t swim when she and Matt discuss Hawaii as a honeymoon destination; Jen pretends to get hooked on meditation so she can use the time to play cell phone games; and Heather gives Sophia the “sex” talk. “Survivor” host Jeff Probst guest stars as himself.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 5)

Thursday, December 8

  • Jennifer Aniston (Friends) - Catch Jennifer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Lola Kirke (Mozart in the Jungle) - Lola is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley/The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - T.J. appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Anna Camp (The Mindy Project) - Anna stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Emeril Lagasse (Emeril) - Emeril guest co-hosts Rachael Ray and makes sausage-stuffed mushrooms, so check your local listings.
  • Jodie Sweetin (Fuller House/Full House) and Andrea Barber (Fuller House/Full House) - Jodie and Andrea chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. Jodie joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Judah Friedlander (30 Rock) - Judah is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Lori Loughlin (Fuller House/Full House) - Lori is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT. She also talks about what to expect from Season 2 of Fuller House on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Scott Patterson (Aliens in America) - Scott talks about Luke and Lorelai’s wedding scene from Gilmore Girls – and if he thinks the two will ever have a baby on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) - Josh is a guest on the AOL Build Show at 12pm.
  • Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage) - Emanuelle appears the AOL Build Show 3:45pm.
  • Gael Garcia Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle) - Gael is a guest on Chelsea on Netflix.
  • Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Will appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.