This post is part of Me-TV's Summer of Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Go here to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go to the Me-TV Network website to learn more about Me-TV and view its summer line-up of classic TV shows.
From 1951 to 1960, actor-bandleader Desi Arnaz was a familiar face on TV screens as the perpetually perplexed husband (nightclub entertainer Ricky Ricardo) to wacky housewife Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) on the popular sitcoms I Love Lucy (1951-57) and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-60). It didn’t occur to individuals until many years after those programs went off the air to realize that—while certainly not taking anything away from Lucy—Desi played an integral part in his wife’s success; his comedic instincts far outshining his straight man role. Arnaz also became a respected small screen mogul behind the scenes; it was his decision to purchase the RKO studios in 1957 that expanded the TV empire the couple had founded as Desilu, which in the beginning was formed purely to sell the I Love Lucy pilot to network executives.
Because of the complicated legalities involving just who officially owned the rights to the series—Arnaz Productions, United Artists Television, MGM and CBS Television Distribution all laid claim to the show, as well as Eve Arden’s estate—it took a while for the series to finally surface on DVD (which it did, courtesy of MPI and Desilu, Too in July of 2010). For syndication purposes, the sitcom was seen spottily since its cancellation…mostly in scratchy prints from 16mm. Thankfully, everything has been entangled and the show can currently be seen on Sundays at 2pm EDT on Me-TV.
Back in February 2009, when the plans to release The Mothers-in-Law to DVD were first being talked about, my friend Linda at Yet Another Journal argued that replacing Carmel in the second season with Richard Deacon was a slight disappointment in that Deac approached the role of Roger Buell in too conventional a manner. After revisiting many of the episodes for the blogathon, I have to agree that she’s right; I still liked Deacon, but sometimes it seemed as if he were a clone of Rudley’s Herb Hubbard; he lacked the “off-the-wall” (as Linda aptly puts it) quality that Carmel originally infused in the character. The dynamic between the Roger and Kaye characters changed as a result of the casting switch as well—they started to morph into Ethel and Fred Mertz instead of the couple that affectionately addressed one another as “Cookie” (Kaye) and “Cutes” (Rog). The disappointment is particularly present in one of my favorite second season episodes, “Love Thy Neighbor... if You Can't Make Them Move” (10/06/68), which is a flashback to when the Buells first moved next door to the Hubbards (it would have been grand to see Carmel in this).