The I LOVE LUCY 50th Anniversary Special

DVD Box Cover - I Love Lucy 50th AnniversaryIn celebration of the 50th Anniversary of "I Love Lucy" in 2001, Lucie Arnaz, along with her brother Desi Arnaz. Jr served as creators and producers of a CBS Television Special in salute of the infamous and timeless sitcom that starred both their parents, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. "The 'I Love Lucy' 50th Anniversary Special" debuted on November 11, 2001 to huge ratings. Its subsequent airings in 5 continents and production to DVD have garnered rave reviews.


The sitcom that served as the model for sitcoms, I Love Lucy, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary on October 15, 2001. Before a month had passed from that date, a special aired: a 2-hour-long (including commercials) tribute to I Love Lucy, its stars, and the people who produced the show. It has significant contributions from Lucy and Desi's children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. They are shown visiting the house Lucille Ball grew up in, as well as discussing Desi Sr.'s life in Cuba and afterward, and participating in a dance number tribute in their father's style.

There is no actual "host" for the feature: Whoopi Goldberg and Dick Van Dyke caught my eye as being the closest things to a "host" this show had. However, they are just two of a galaxy of stars that recur throughout the course (Cher, Roseanne, Larry King, Richard Crenna, Paul Rodriguez, and many more!). This special has a number of behind-the-scenes anecdotes, trivia, and history. It features many of the "long lost" animations - with Lucy-and-Desi stick-figure caricatures - that haven't been seen since the 50's. It gets a lot of feedback from modern entertainers as to how I Love Lucy influenced them, and the show's impact on people to this day. But the highlight of the special has to be the clips from the various episodes...with the top 10 episodes as chosen by the fans being counted down throughout the feature.

A surprising-seeming omission from the special is any participation from the surviving people who worked in front of the cameras during the show's run. While it is great to hear from writers Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis, and recordings from producer Jess Oppenheimer, it feels unseemly to not hear from Keith "Little Ricky" Thibodeaux (who now goes by the name Richard Keith), or only-surviving-adult-cast-member Doris "Caroline Appleby" Singleton. However, while I have no personal knowledge of the reasons for their exclusion, I will give the feature's producers the benefit of the doubt. Keith is now part of a Christian dance group in the Southern U.S., and Singleton is over 80 years old. Both may have declined to participate if asked, or were otherwise unavailable. Everyone else is, of course, deceased. The shows producers certainly provided a memorable anniversary show, despite that limitation!

The DVDs: "50th Anniversary Special"
After airing for the first time on November 11, 2001, this special was broadcast twice more (each time pulling down great ratings) before being put onto DVD. It is a very straightforward affair: an 85-minute feature with no supplements and a bare-boned navigation system. The "Main Menu" of the DVD only features a "Play" option. There *are* chapter stops on the disc at each of the places where a commercial break from the broadcast would be, but there is no "scene selection" menu (nor any listing on the DVD case's insert).

The video quality of the new segments recorded for this feature is, of course, perfect. Whether it's Whoopi Goldberg's or Dick Van Dyke's "hosting" segments, interviews with the scads of stars, or the reminiscing sections with Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr., the framing portions of the special are as good as or better than you'd find on broadcast TV.

As you would expect, the quality of the highlight clip segments of this feature will vary from clip to clip. It is, however, much better than one expects for footage of this age! If you look at the screenshots that accompany this review, you will see just how clear and good-looking this footage is. Obviously, they have been remastered at some point recently. There are a few exceptions in the episode highlights, but they are few and far between. The worst looking footage is the home movie of Lucille Ball in a wheelchair after having the baby...but that quality level is to be expected.

I am very amazed and pleased over the quality of this footage. I had to stop at one of the two clip sequences from the episode with guest Bob Hope, and exclaimed to my guests watching this with me, "This is how the Bob Hope Ultimate Collection DVD set ought to have looked!!"

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