3/29/17

THE MANY CREDIT SEQUENCES OF 'THE LUCY SHOW'



Last week I posted a clip from 'The Lucy Show' (scroll down, baby) which featured Lucy and Vivian Vance meeting Joan Crawford. It renewed my interest in the series, which was Ball's second and which came four years after 'I Love Lucy' had ended its run. As a child I remember watching 'The Lucy Show' with mixed feelings. It was funny, of course. Ball was always wildly watchable and beyond funny with both physical and verbal humor. But what happened to Ricky and Fred? And why did Ethel's name change to Viv? Why did Lucy work in a bank and why had she moved from New York to Los Angeles? The answers are: 1) Ricky and Lucy got divorced and Fred got a role in 'My Three Sons'. 2) With the disappearance of Fred, Ethel reverted to her stage name Vivian Vance. 3) Because the character she played, Lucy Carmichael, worked in a bank in the book on which the series was based (called "Life Without George") and moved to LA as a lifestyle change after...er, losing George.

The show, which ran for seven years (1961-68), started out in black and white and quickly went to color in its second season. This required a new title sequence. All in all, the show had five separate title sequences in its seven year run, as opposed to the single (and iconic) title sequence that was used for 'I Love Lucy' during its seven year run. Why so many title sequences for the later show? One theory that I would posit is that the sixties were a time of much cultural change and movement, as opposed to the fifties which were much more complacent and happy-with-itself.  Nothing changed much in America between 1951 and 1958 whereas much changed in America between 1961 and 1968. The multiple credit sequences of 'The Lucy Show' are a distillation of the style and fad progressions of the sixties. I've posted a very nice video above which shows all of them.

First comes the black and white animation pass, which was used for the first season only. It's crisp, simple and a little bit funny. The caricatures of Lucy and Viv are inoffensive and the joke at the end is a mild laugh at best. Things change, though, when color rears its beautiful head the following year. Credit sequence #2 takes us into the multiple-box split screen fad which begins to look somewhat like modish record album covers of the early sixties. There's a new energy to it but it still traffics in an 'easy listening' mode. We're not in 'the sixties' yet, but we're not in 'the fifties' either. Version three is the Richard Lester/Beatles/'Tom Jones'/'The Loved One'/'A Thousand Clowns/Nouvelle Vague' attempt. It's the in-your-face wack-out version complete with stop-motion, weird rhythm changes, hip and edgy cutting etc. My guess is this one is season three. Number four is the one I remember seeing the most in reruns so my guess is that this is the one that lasted the longest. It features a Kaleidoscopic theme, with lots of swirling Lucy's and a kind of 'candy box' vibe to it--more glamour and less fad. Lucy's beauty shot that ends this pass reminds us of what a 'gorgeous hunk of woman' (Desi Arnaz's phrase) she really was underneath all the madcap. Finally we get to the closer--and by now we're in the sixties even if Lucy and the show aren't quite. This one features alternate drums, strange bouncing balls, and an iffy connection to the psychdelic, albeit a trip one might experience at the house at 1000 N. Roxbury Dr, Beverly Hills 90210 (Lucy's address).

'The Lucy Show' was a hit, even though we don't remember it with quite the reverence that we do her previous legendary series. Ever the hard-nosed businesswoman, Ball decided to end the show after season seven, giving her the opportunity to syndicate it and make a pile of dough. Once the checks were cashed, she turned around and started series number three, 'Here's Lucy', which lasted exactly seven seasons before being sold wealthily into syndication. Smart cookie.

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