The Lucy Show

TV classics: The Lucy Show

USA 1962-68, six seasons, 156 episodes 30 minutes each, CBS, black & white (first season) and color (seasons 2 through 6). Narrated by: Roy Rowan, Cast: Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, Gale Gordon, Mary Jane Croft, Candy Moore, Ralph Hart, Jimmy Garrett, Dick Martin

Plot summary:  Lucy Carmichael, a widowed mother of two, lives with her divorcée friend Vivian Bagley and her son. Together, they master the ups and downs of everyday life, including money troubles and men.

Review: On Monday, Lucille Ball would have turned 101. In loving memory of a comedienne who has remained popular for many decades on television until today, I have decided to have a look at her first show without Desi Arnaz, The Lucy Show which is available on DVD (some of you may be pleased to know).

Two years after the completion of Lucy-and-Desi-Comedy-Hour in 1960, Lucille Ball returned to playing another incarnation of her famous Lucy character on CBS. Starting out in black and white and insisting on her original I Love Lucy time slot on Monday nights, Ms. Ball and her network did not expect her new show to last longer than a season. Reunited with co-star Vivian Vance from her previous hit show, her new format, however, was instantly embraced by her audience, as well as by the industry, rewarding her with a two Emmy awards and two additional nominations.

Starting out as a widowed mother of two, the new Lucy lived with her best friend Vivian, TV’s first divorcée mother, and had to face the challenges of everyday life as a single parent. Undergoing many changes in casting and plot throughout its six successful seasons, The Lucy Show proved to be a steady favorite on CBS and featured guest stars such as Ann Sothern. Shot in color from its second season on but broadcast in black and white till 1965, the show also did well in ratings until Lucille Ball bowed out of her own show after selling Desilu Productions. She moved on to star in Here’s Lucy for another six years, a show her new production company Lucille Ball Productions owned the rights to and thus continued the tradition of Lucille Ball having control over own program.

The Lucy Show sample episode

What’s My Line?

TV classics: What’s My Line?

USA 1950-67, 17 seasons,  876 episodes, 25 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Presented by John Charles Daly. Panelists: Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Louis Untermeyer, Hal Block, Steve Allen, Fred Allen, Mystery celebrity guests: Julie Andrews, Eve Arden, Desi Arnaz, Fred Astaire, Lauren Bacall, Lucille Ball, Candice Bergen, Polly Bergen, Carol Burnett, James Cagney, Claudette Colbert, Sean Connery, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Errol Flynn, Joan Fontaine, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, James Garner, Bob Hope, Grace Kelley, Gene Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Hedy Lamarr, Angela Lansbury, Jack Lemmon, Sophia Loren, Myrna Loy, Allen Ludden, Paul Newman, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Jane Russell, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Ann Sothern, Jimmy Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Tierney, Lana Turner, Robert Wagner, Betty White, Joanne Woodward, Jane Wyman, Robert Young et al.

Game summary: Four panelists are trying to guess the occupation of their guests and the identity of the mystery celebrity of the week.

Review: What’s My Line? was one of the longest running and most popular game shows on American TV. Launched as early as in 1950, the show was broadcast weekly on CBS for seventeen successful seasons until it was continued on a daily basis in syndication. Transferred to radio as well as to audiences worldwide, the format was a big success and didn’t go off the air until 1975. In its history, What’s My Line? featured a lot of famous mystery celebrity guests such as Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Myrna Loy, Elizabeth Taylor or Robert Young, some of whom appeared more than once.

With its easy format, the game show was an entertaining half hour of guessing what the weekly guests were doing for a living, for the panelists as much as for the TV audience. Broadcast live in the beginning, What’s My Line? lived of the chemistry between its regular panelists and their host John Charles Daly. Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf stayed with the show the longest while the fourth spot on the panel was usually given to a famous incoming guest. The thrill of the show lay in the variety of professions the panelists had to guess by asking funny as well as witty “yes-and-no only” questions. The mystery celebrity guest was always the cherry on top of each episode when the blindfolded panel of four queried its way to revealing who was sitting next to their host.

Like so many of the classic game shows, What’s My Line? is a lot of fun to watch these days. The panelists, guests and celebrities are entertaining and hilarious at times. The program is innocent for today’s standards, classy and polite. The game is harmless and relaxing, a perfect show to watch at the end of a hectic day.

Selected clips available on youtube (see links above).

The Ann Sothern Show

TV classics: The Ann Sothern Show

USA 1958-61, 3 seasons,  93 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Cast: Ann Sothern, Ann Tyrrell, Don Porter, Jesse White, Jack Mullaney, Ernest Truex, Reta Shaw

Plot summary: Katy O’Connor is the assistant manager of the Bartley House hotel in New York City where she has to deal with her friend/roommate/secretary Olive, the hotel staff, peculiar guests and her quirky boss(es).

Review: The Ann Sothern Show was a TV show that followed another TV series called Susie aka Private Secretary starring most of the same cast including its leading lady. Although the setting and plot had been changed, in a way Ann Sothern’s Katy O’Connor picked up where Susie MacNamara had left off due to contract issues which ended an otherwise successful show. Once again, Ann Sothern played a funny and capable character who was surrounded by mayhem and mishaps at the workplace.

Supported by her Private Secretary colleague Ann Tyrrell starring as Katy O’Connor’s best friend Olive, Miss Sothern performed her way through an entertaining set of ninety-three episodes with an otherwise changing cast. After battling with her first boss Jason Macauley (beautifully portrayed by Ernest Truex) for a good run of twenty-three shows, Ann Sothern was reunited with another co-star from her previous series, Don Porter, who was again cast as her love interest boss, complementing Miss Sothern’s comedic talent and style.

Apart from the show’s decent cast, The Ann Sothern Show welcomed a bunch of lovely guest stars, including Cesar Romero and I Love Lucy‘s own Lucille Ball. Produced by Desilu Productions, the show was predestined to feature the famed Lucy Ricardo as Katy O’Connor’s friend to answer Ann Sothern’s previous appearance on The Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz Hour as Private Secretary‘s Susie MacNamara. Both cameos belonged to the first crossovers in TV history and are still great fun to watch.

Unfortunately, The Ann Sothern Show has not yet been released on DVD and reruns or online streamings are rare. I hope that the show will get a chance to shine again in the near future, because not only is it fondly remembered by Ann Sothern fans, but the show itself also has the potential to easily win over a whole new audience who appreciates genuine comedic talent.

Susie

TV classics: Susie aka Private Secretary

USA 1953-57, 5 seasons,  106 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS (summer reruns on NBC), black & white. Produced by: Jack Chertok Television Productions. Cast: Ann Sothern, Don Porter, Ann Tyrrell, Jesse White, Joan Banks

Plot summary: Susie MacNamara assists talent agent Peter Sands at his New York office and beyond, devoted and sweet-natured secretary that she is.

Review: Susie MacNamara is a good-hearted, savvy and fair-minded private secretary to New York talent agent Peter Sands. As a former actress, she knows how to handle her job with wits and charm, always eager to assist her boss beyond office duties and thus creating comedic moments whenever she interferes with his romantic life. Susie is close to her boss, but in sweet 1950s tradition, the plot never suggests anything beyond a deep sense of trust and mild flirtation between the talent agent and his capable secretary.

Apart from handsome Peter Sands (Don Porter), Susie regularly mingles with her best friend and office receptionist Violet Praskins (Ann Tyrrell) and, on involuntary occasion, with her boss’ main rival Mickey Calhoun (Jesse White), called Cagey. Cagey is loud and unhandy, a direct opposite to Susie’s indulgent boss, and seems slightly intimidated by Susie’s shrewdness. He has thus nicknamed her Foxy, a moniker that becomes her.

Private Secretary aka Susie was produced by Jack Chertok for the duration of five seasons until Ann Sothern walked out of her contract in 1957. She continued her TV career one year later on The Ann Sothern Show which ran until 1961 and featured her fellow Susie cast members. The part of Susie MacNamara was reprised by Ann Sothern on the first episode of The Lucy – Desi Comedy Hour (previously knows as The Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz Show). She was rewarded with three consecutive Emmy Awards (1955-57) for her portrayal of Susie while she show itself won an Emmy for best Sitcom in 1955.

For TV enthusiasts, Susie is a real gem to watch. The cast is beautifully put together, always supported by an enjoyable group of guest stars and smooth comedy plots. Ann Sothern’s sizzling on-screen chemistry with co-star Don Porter adds to a positive cliche of the loyal, delightful secretary who does not mind working over hours for her charming boss without making it tacky. Susie is pure entertainment and a great example of a recreational program from the 1950s. It puts a smile on your face and proves once again how dramatically comedy programs have changed over the decades. As always, it depends on what you are looking for, but all I can say is give this package of fun a chance in our fast-paced times. You may end up looking for more episodes of this addicting show.

Selected episodes available on DVD. Susie sample episode