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.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight / Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows

Monday, April 22

The Neighborhood - "Welcome to the Baby Shower" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Courtney and Marty deal with some baby shower drama with Tina, while Lamar adjusts to a new job at the Fuse Box.

Bob Hearts Abishola - "These Giants Are Flexible" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Bob and Abishola go to New York City with Dele for his Juilliard audition, Abishola reconnects with her brother Ade.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 22)

Monday, April 22

  • Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) - Watch Wilmer on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Rory Scovel (Physical/Ground Floor) - Rory appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Gillian Jacobs (Love/Community) and Pete Holmes (How We Roll/Crashing) - Gillian and Pete are guests on After Midnight at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jennifer Tilly (Out of Practice) - Jennifer appears on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen at 3:30am on Bravo.
  • Zendaya (K.C. Undercover/Shake It Up), John Travolta (Welcome Back, Kotter) and Jodie Foster (Paper Moon/Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice/The Courtship of Eddie's Father) - E! News has interviews with Zendaya, John and Jodie at 11pm on E!.
  • Jerrod Carmichael (The Carmichael Show) - Jerrod will be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.


New on DVD/Blu-ray

Father Knows Best - The Complete Series Three's Company - The Official 40th Anniversary Collection Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Too Close for Comfort - The Complete Series Check It Out! - The Complete Series

12/05 - Father Knows Best - The Complete Series
12/05 - The Odd Couple - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
12/12 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - The Complete Series
12/12 - Looney Tunes Collector's Choice - Volume 2 (Blu-ray)
12/12 - That Girl - The Complete Series
12/15 - Letterkenny - Season 11
12/19 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Official Restored Complete Series
12/22 - Three's Company - The Official 40th Anniversary Collection (includes The Ropers and Three's a Crowd)
01/09 - South Park - Seasons 11-15 (Blu-ray)
01/16 - Ghosts (UK) - Season Five
02/13 - Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
02/27 - The Really Loud House - Season One
03/12 - Ghosts (UK) - The Complete Series
03/12 - Looney Tunes Collector's Choice - Volume 3 (Blu-ray)
03/12 - Rick and Morty - Season 7 (Blu-ray Steelbook) (Blu-ray) (DVD)
04/03 - Too Close for Comfort - The Complete Series (VEI)
04/08 - Check It Out! - The Complete Series (VEI)

The Odd Couple - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) That Girl - The Complete Series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Official Restored Complete Series

More Recent and Upcoming TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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04/03 - Sony Pictures and Game Show Network Upfront; ABC Renews Grey's Anatomy and 9-1-1 for 2024-25
04/02 - Adult Swim's Smiling Friends Returns May 12; Stallone Drama Returning for Season 2
04/01 - Selena Gomez Gets New Food Network Series; Orphan Black Gets New Series
03/31 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of April 1, 2024)
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03/29 - Hulu Launches on Disney+; Under the Bridge Premieres April 17
03/28 - Netflix's Good Times Animated Comedy Trailer; Too Close for Comfort and Check It Out! Complete Series on DVD
03/27 - The Upshaws Part 5 This April; Max Orders Noah Wyle Medical Drama
03/26 - Apple TV+ Orders Star-Studded Comedy; Elizabeth Banks Joins New Peacock Series
03/25 - Disney Channel Orders Wizards of Waverly Place Revival; Paramount+ Animated Comedy Ark: The Animated Series
03/24 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 25, 2024)
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