I Love Lucy: "The Young Fans"
Last year was the first year I learned about blogathons, so I wound up missing a lot of great ones. One of those that I hated to find out I missed was the Favorite TV Episode Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts, so imagine my joy when I discovered that it's been brought back this year. I'll be covering two different episodes, so check back in to see my second post. For the rest of the roster, you can click here.
I was lucky enough in my childhood that I grew up with some great TV classics, thanks to Nick at Nite's impressive line-up. Happy Days, The Brady Bunch, Cheers, The Partridge Family, The Cosby Show (slightly embarrassing to say now), and more were an integral part of my evenings, cuddled up in my bed with just the glow of the TV going. The best of them all, though, was I Love Lucy. I couldn't wait for that theme music, with the heart on satin heralding the beginning of something riotously fun. Hearing that music now still gives me goosebumps. When you tell people that a 1950s show is your very favorite, you're apt to get lots of raised eyebrows and the occasional, incredulous "Really?" When I was younger, it was absolutely adorable to adults that I would say that, something that irritated me even then. Saying it now, I get mixed reactions from my peers, ranging from bored to "Isn't it sexist?" All of it is infuriating. I've been telling myself for over a year that I need to write a post on I Love Lucy, a full-fledged love letter if you will, but I just haven't had the time to do it. (My blogathon addiction does not help. One more won't kill me, right? Right?) For now, I'll just have to dip my toe into the pool by writing about one episode, my favorite in fact.
Out of all of the episodes I could pick, my #1 does not include getting drunk on Vitameatavegamin, smashing grapes, a disastrous day at a chocolate factory, or getting pinned by an enormous loaf of bread that won't stop coming out of the oven. Oddly enough, my favorite doesn't have Fred and Ethel Mertz either, something I didn't realize until I watched it recently. That seems sacrilegious, I agree, but season 1's "The Young Fans" is so gleefully entertaining, you're liable to forget about TV's best second bananas for its 22-minute running time. Let's get to it!
Lucy and Ricky Ricardo are eating breakfast one morning when Lucy notices her husband speeding through his meal. For days now, he's been hounded by a teenage girl named Peggy (Janet Waldo, the original Judy Jetson) and he's hoping to make it to work at the Tropicana Club before she pops up. Lucy thinks the girl's infatuation is cute and harmless, but Ricky is starting to get annoyed, especially since he can't seem to go anywhere without Peggy appearing.
Unsure of how to disillusion Peggy, Ricky leaves the job to Lucy and heads out, but his wife doesn't fare much better. Peggy tries to act like she's wise beyond her years, bluntly telling Lucy that she is in love with Ricky and she hopes Lucy will give him up in time for the school dance Saturday -- the fact that he's married just makes it more "sophisticated." Reminding Peggy of Ricky's age doesn't help, either.
P: "He's so much more worldly than the boys I know."
L: "Well, I should hope so. He's a little older, too."
P: "I know! He's middle-aged!"
P: "He must be pushing 23!"
L: "Yeah, he's pushing 23 alright. In fact, he's pushed it all the way to 35."
Lucy tries a different tact, asking Peggy if there are any boys her own age that she likes. There is one named Arthur, but he's much too shy to ask Peggy out and he doesn't know how to dance. Lucy offers to teach Arthur and tells Peggy to have him come by later.
That afternoon, the doorbell rings and a lanky, awkward, young Richard Crenna shuffles in. With a puberty-cracked voice, he exclaims "I'm going to faint!" before the lesson has even begun. He starts to relax as he does some basic steps, but when Lucy tells him it's time they dance together, the boy about has a heart attack. After much goading, Arthur relents and Lucy immediately regrets it when he repeatedly stomps on her feet. Suddenly, Arthur becomes enamored, claiming he loves Lucy. Uh oh.
That evening, Ricky comes home to find Lucy soaking her feet. She recounts the situation to him, lowering her voice as she says "I had Arthur come over here and I gave him a dancing lesson to get Peggy off your neck." "What are you whispering about?" Ricky asks. "If my feet ever find out that it was my idea, they'll kill me." Just then, the phone rings and it's a very miffed Peggy. Arthur told her about his love for Lucy, so now as compensation, she thinks she deserves Ricky and she's coming right over to claim her prize. Before they can figure out what to do about that, Arthur calls to tell Ricky that he's also on his way over to have a man-to-man talk with him. Now what? Lucy laments that telling the kids their age doesn't seem to have an effect, leading Ricky to comment that maybe Lucy didn't age them enough. The familiar light comes in Lucy's eyes that tell you she's cooked up a scheme and the two go to work.
Donning hilarious costumes, Ricky and Lucy are excited to enact their plan. (In one of my favorite moments, they kiss each other while acting like they have no teeth. It's quite the sight.) When Peggy arrives, Ricky hides in the bedroom while Lucy tries to prepare Peggy for just how "old" her dream man is, saying that she always saw Lucy and Ricky when they were "put together." Peggy remains undeterred until Lucy brings him out in a wheelchair. Shaking and speaking in a high, feeble voice, Ricky's appearance completely freaks the teenager out. The worst of it comes when Peggy has to help Ricky's circulation by constantly moving his legs for him ("Keep jiggling, Peggy!").
The silliness reaches its apex when Arthur shows up. He's a bit put off by the sudden aging of Lucy, but he's still willing to declare his love. Her hearing aid and glasses are just minor things -- at least her hair is still that vibrant red. "Do you like my hair?" Lucy asks. Arthur replies dreamily, "Yeah!" "Well, here, you can have it!" she says as she pulls off her red wig to reveal gray hair underneath. Horrified, Arthur and Peggy sprint out of the apartment, and the Ricardos giddily laugh as they embrace.
"The Young Fans" is filled with clever one-liners and a great payoff at the end. It also highlights the underappreciated Desi Arnaz. I say "underappreciated" because the man is consistently overlooked in favor of the magnificent talent that was Lucille Ball. He was a great comedic actor, and he added a lot to I Love Lucy, both on the screen and off. He pioneered the three-camera format, produced the show, looked after the scripts to make sure they were top-notch, and more. Arnaz was often cast as the straight man to Ball's chaotic scene stealing, and you couldn't have asked for a better one. Without him, I don't believe I Love Lucy would be nearly as incredible as it is. What's nice about "The Young Fans" is that Ricky isn't trying to damper Lucy's schemes, instead joining in on the fun. Arnaz and Ball were, without a doubt, one of the best show business teams ever. Can you tell I love them?