"[Carole Lombard] came to me when I was deciding whether or not I should do "I Love Lucy", and she told me to 'give it a whirl'. And that's what I did. Then she came to me when I was deciding whether or not to sell Desilu. She told me I was done being a star, that it was time to start making stars. She knew I could do it, said I was the only one who could. (laughs) There's a reason everybody loved Carole."
An Alternate History work by user "Brainbin" of AlternateHistory.com, That Wacky Redhead explores the cultural side of the genre, showing how a different path taken in American television history could have altered not only popular culture, but also the wider world.Lucille Ball, beloved comedienne, star of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, and entrepreneur as the head of her television studio, Desilu, is visited in a dream by her late friend Carole Lombard. Once before, Lombard had persuaded Ball to "give [television] a whirl" and star in what would become I Love Lucy; Lombard's second visit, in late 1966, marks the Point Of Divergence. Ball is on the verge of selling Desilu to media conglomerate Gulf+Western, but Lombard warns her away from it, assuring Ball that her destiny is to remain a studio chief.The rest of the timeline chronicles what changes have been wrought, and all on account of That Wacky Redhead!Read it here or on Counter-Factual.Nethere.note He's currently re-posting it from the start; expect it to be a while until it syncs back up to the AlternateHistory.com version. An indexed version can be found here.
This work contains examples of:
For Want Of A Nail
In our timeline, Star Trek was Screwed by the Network in favor of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. In this timeline, it's the other way around, and the creator of Laugh-In quits... butterflies from which means no Laugh-In appearance by Richard Nixon, and because the 1968 presidential election was so close, the lack of his television appearance is enough to change enough voters' minds relative to our timeline that Hubert H. Humphrey wins instead.
It should be mentioned that there's a second nail involved with this point: The moment that this particular butterfly spawned was when NBC wanted to move Star Trek to the 7:30PM slot on Mondays... while pushing Laugh-In to 8:30. Lucy stepping in and speaking for Star Trek's behalf is what ultimately settled the argument, thus setting that particular stone.
As part of being a studio-head full time, Lucy dropped out of Yours, Mine, and Ours and, unable to find a replacement actor to fill her role, scrapped it all together. But, there's more. Without this film, The Brady Bunch never gets made. (Sherwood Schwartz created it to capitalize on the success of the film IOTL.)
That isn't the only show to be butterflied away due to changes with a movie: due to M*A*S*H being a box-office failure ITTL, M*A*S*H the show is never made.
As part of the deal that would bring Doctor Who to the states, Desilu also buys the US syndication rights to the back catalog—along with copies of all the tapes. Since Desilu is well aware of the money to be made in syndication, they carefully preserve these tapes for reairing as the era of junking old tapes at the BBC comes and goes. When the BBC figures out what a mistake they've made, Desilu can just send copies over to the BBC. That's right. The lost episode fiasco isaverted.
It goes without saying, but because Star Trek is handled with more care in this timeline, the show goes through some changes as well: "The City On The Edge of Forever" becomes the season 1 finale, bad episodes like "Spock's Brain", "Assignment: Earth" and "The Omega Glory" aren't produced, going to a season 5, "Yesteryear" being made an episode proper...
Because the Apollo 13 mission went off with out a hitch ITTL, the 1995 movie is butterflied away.
On a similar note, a recent update reveals that the Iranian Revolution never happened ITTL. Which means no Iran hostage crisis, which means no "Canadian Caper", which means, ultimately, no Argo.
So many changes occur to Star Wars (the most obvious being the ITTL title being "The Journey of the Force"), that it would be better to just link to the chapter.
Thanks to NBC fighting with Johnny Carson, Saturday Night Live never got made.note Specificly, IOTL, when Carson's contract was up for renewal in 1975, he got NBC to agree to airing the "Best of Carson" compilations during weekdays, leading to Dick Ebersol and Lorne Michaels creating "NBC's Saturday Night", later becoming SNL. Guess what didn't happen ITTL?
Michael Billington becomes the next Bond after George Lazenby, not Roger Moore.
A more literal example relates to ITTL's "Coming Soon to a Theater Near You! With Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel": Siskel and Ebert's coin toss to see who got top billing went in Ebert's favor ITTL.
In 1969, PBS gets $25 million in funding for its creation, not the eventual $22 million it got under the Nixon administration IOTL.note The planned funding was $20 million, but Nixon wanted to cut it in half IOTL. Thank's in part to a testimonyFred Rogers gave, it was then decided to make it the $22 million.
Tentative plans to air some form of continuation to Journey of the Force, perhaps in the form of a holiday special, were nixed by none other than George Lucas, who refused to condone such a blatant cash grab as long as none of said cash would be filling his coffers.
CBS, very desperate, gave George Carlin his own variety show in 1980. It became the Turn-On to "The Richard Pryor Show"'s Laugh-In.
Dallas is named Texas Tea (or just Texas), and the Ewing family is called the Walsh family (and John Ross "Jock" Ewing and J.R. are called Thomas R. Walsh, Sr. and T.R., respectively).
Jumping back to 1968 for a minute, this coverage of the 1968 presidential election reveals that one of the factors in Humphrey's lead was "the announcement of a bombing halt in their quagmire of an overseas conflict, and a resulting peace conference."note Nixon's people, seeing that he was going to lose, weren't able to pull out of those talks as opposed to IOTL.
IOTL, a clerical error in 1974 caused It's a Wonderful Life to fall out of copyright. One guess as to what happened ITTL...note So, you're probably wondering if this changes anything. Trust me, it does.
In regards to another big bombshell of the timelinenote Involving "Star Trek" post TOS and Next Voyage., I'm just going to say the words "this page", "last response", and "not happening".
Though later comments indicate that it is less solid than it first seems. It refers specifically to the OTL Star Trek spin-off/sequel series/movies, not to Star Trek on TV or the big screen in general. Beyond that, it has also been confirmed that Star Trek will have further appearances in other media — tabletop gaming, for instance.
SelectaVision does better than in IOTL: a projected 200,000 figure in the beginning of 1978, with over 250,000 being shipped New Years Day with over 100 launch titles.note IOTL, only 100,000 were sold in 1981, with only 50 launch titles.
Let's not forget a little fact: it came out in 1977 ITTL. IOTL? 1981.
Now, Google "Three Mile Island accident". Look down. Now up. That too is no more. I'm doing a parody. (insert Old Spice theme here)
Thanks to Lucas winning the Trial of the Century, Paramount ends up owing a billion dollars. Even pending appeal the $100 million bond is enough to put the company's futures in doubt.
Robin Williams never overcame his cocaine addiction. This wound up killing him.
Subsequently, although the specifics aren't known yet, Word of God says that John Lennondoesn't die; at least, on December 8, 1980. Nope; Williams takes that date.
Thanks to ABC being in such dire straights ITTL, they were convinced to pick up The Muppet Show for syndication (after agreeing to air "The Muppets Valentine Show") in 1974, two years before the show's OTL premiere.note Plus, OTL's Muppet Show was produced under ATV, a UK television company, due to no American television companies being interested.
Speaking of the Olympics, we do not boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
The international reaction [to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan] was overwhelmingly hostile, but President Reagan did not choose to pursue heavy sanctions against the USSR, or even agree with a proposed boycott of the Moscow Olympics, as part of a gentleman’s agreement that had emerged between the two superpowers – the Soviets would turn the other cheek to the continued American military presence in Iran, so long as the United States ceded any interests in Afghanistan, formally establishing both states in their respective spheres of interest and extending the Iron Curtain across the Caspian Sea to the Indus Valley.
Jumping back a bit, wanna know the background information of Battlestar Galactica in a "Moonshot Lunacy" world? See here.note Of note, although the actual number isn't revealed until "Evening in America", is the fact that it lasts five seasons.
Although it goes without mention, it still doesn't hurt to address this: No. Galactica. 1980.
Due to Monty Python and Camelot's moderate success, investors were interested in doing a second film. That fell apart because of the Pythons not liking any of their suggestions, and the only idea they liked was the one that the investors refused to do. Long story short, Monty Python's Life of Brian is never made.
To make a long story short, as of 1984, Paramount (thanks in part to losing Lucasfilm v. Paramount, having to pay $1,000,000,000 in damagesnote which they could only afford to pay 1/10th of due to only having a $100 million bond kept in escrow after the 1980 ruling, and Charles Bluhdorn dying of a heart attack two days later) ultimately no longer exists.
Subsequently, Desilu was sold Paramount's half of the lot "at a bargain price", meaning the famous "Wall" that separated them would come down.
Lucille Ball, along with George and Marcia Lucas, would cut this ribbon in a grand ceremony featuring many Desilu and Paramount stars and staffers, past and present. Ball famously quipped: "If this wall can finally come down, maybe there’s hope for the one in Berlin, too."
The era of tape wiping still occurs, even for Doctor Who (except it was spared any permanent damages thanks to the deal with Desilu).
Well... sort of. "The Feast of Steven"note The Christmas Episode of "The Dalek's Master Plan" still winds up being wiped before Desilu could step in. As such, that particular episode is the only missing episode for Doctor Who.
The creation of home video and the Home Video Wars still happen.
In spite what was mentioned above, "Day and Night" (which gave "a more comprehensive picture of all that was available to American (and Canadian) television audiences in the early 1970s") revealed little changes ITTL in that regard.
Also, the Greenpoint oil spill also occurs but is discovered in 1976, instead of OTL's 1978.
Despite The Greenpoint Dilemma being a factor in killing the concept of microwave power, microwave ovens stick around.note Confirmation; 8th response.
"Dallas" may be called "Texas", but we still end up asking that famous question: "Who Killed J.R"- er, "Who Killed T.R"?
While Deep Space isn't a Star Trek spin-off (Herb Solow vetoed it when suggested), it still has some similarities to our Tartikoff/Roddenberry-involved space-station show... such as a resident merchant alien character whose name begins with 'Qu' and ends with 'rk'.
The Muppet Show still ends by 1981, with the added bonus of it being picked up in 1974 by ABC.
Despite Canada going against the USSR and the score this time being "5-4", we still have the "Miracle On Ice".
Guess what, the Soviet Union still invades Afghanistan.
Amazingly enough, Charles Bluhdorn winds up dying of a heart attack as IOTL, within the same time framenote IOTL: February 20, 1983. ITTL: February 25, 1983.
Actor Allusion: A casting version in-universe: After Jimmy Stewart was picked to play Pa Kent, "the production team could not resist the opportunity to stunt-cast Ma Kent, choosing Donna Reed (Stewart’s one-time co-star in It's a Wonderful Life, his personal favorite film) for the role".
"On-set lore had Stewart continuously flubbing his lines by referring to Reed’s character as “Mary” instead of “Martha”."
The date Elvis Presley and Desilu reached a licensing agreement that allowed him to be featured prominently in a couple episodes of Rock Around the Clock was August 16, 1977. You know. The day he died on the toilet IOTL?
The response from Aquarius to Houston's inquiry about any problems with landing on the moon? "No, Houston, we haven’t had a problem here."note Or, as it may end up down the line, "Houston, we don't have a problem."
Similarly to the Elvis allusion, the date of the Futureshadowing Barbara Waters/Lucille Ball interview that opens the timeline is the date that Life With Lucy premiered IOTL.
What do John Lennon and Robin Williams have in common? The date December 8, 1980.note Lennon died on that day IOTL because of Mark David Chapman shooting him. Instead, TTL sees Williams dying via a cocaine overdose.
We still have a saying involving a president traveling to a foreign land as part of improving foreign relations: "Only Reagan could go to Moscow."note TTL's "Only Nixon could go to China".
A subtle one: TTL's "Battlestar Galactica" (simply known as "Galactica") ends in 1980. ...getit?
It's pointed out that the ceremony in 1984 ITTL that concerned Desilu being sold Paramount's half of the lot was similar to the one in 1967 IOTL that concerned the reverse: Paramount being sold Desilu.
Also, the economy is in "better absolute shape" in ITTL's 1975.
Despite NASA going through difficulties, it's still a LOT better than OTL's NASA. And, given that John Glenn, who promised to revitalize the space program, won the 1980 election...
Book Ends: It has yet to happen, but Brainbin has said the last post will bring us back to the 1986 interview that opened the timeline.
Bittersweet Ending: Thanks to Desilu picking it up, Night Gallery fares a tad better ITTL... but because of the more vigorous production schedule, Rod Serling ends up dying a few months earlier than IOTL.note For the curious: IOTL Death: June 28, 1975. ITTL Death: January 7, 1975
"Those Were The Days" had one as the Series Finalenote Keep in mind, it's essentially "The Stivics Go West", but it's really the series finale:
"Thus, the series concluded with Richard and Gloria departing Astoria, Queens, along with their son Michael, to the sunnier pastures of California (as so many Americans before them had done); Richard had accepted tenure at a small liberal arts college in the Bay Area, and Gloria had already arranged for interviews in hoping to secure a new management position at one of any number of the retail establishments there. Archie and Edith, by contrast, were now left alone at 704 Hauser St. The poignant final shot of the series finale framed the two, having retreated to their iconic living room chairs after saying their final goodbyes, and gazing into nothingness, overcome with their emotions, as if thinking “Well, what now?”."
The Muppet Show has one too: "Boss Lady", aka. Lucille Ball finally gets to appear on the show... only for Lucy-style antics to occur...
"The episode, naturally, ended with the Muppet Playhouse in a wreck, and Ball livid to the point of incomprehensible babbling. Kermit, meanwhile, pledged to take his show on the road, instead."
The timeline itself is set to end this way, with the final post going to take us back to the 1986 interview where Lucy announces she's retiring.
Bowdlerized: Pointed out in-universe, NBC's early 1970's nickname is referred to as "Negroes, Blacks, and Coloreds".
Breather Episode: In between "Fight the Power"note Which, along with describing The Greenpoint Dilemma, explains how microwave power fell out of favor ITTL. and "Appendix C, Part IV: The Trial of the Century" is "You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby", which details ITTL's Women's Lib movement. Well... up to the last paragraph, anyway...
Played with: the world is surprisingly altered for what might at first seem to be a relatively minor pop-cultural change — but the resulting history is no worse than ours (in some ways, it is even a better world), just different.
Examples include: "The Journey of the Force" instead of "Star Wars", "Galactica" instead of "Battlestar Galactica", "Those Were The Days" instead of "All in the Family", "Greased Lightning" instead of "Grease", ect.
Character Title: The timeline is named after the person who makes the change possible, Lucille Ball.
Contested Sequel: In-universe, Star Trek acquires one in the form of a '70s miniseries Star Trek: The Next Voyage, with many fans disparagingly calling it either "Star Trek: The Soap Opera" or, more to the point, "Soap Trek".
Cousin Oliver: This comes up in both "Barefoot in the Park" and "The Bill Cosby Show". Ironically, this happens despite the trope namer not existing.
And by recent info, it seems his plans to sue Paramount have done some serious damage to George Lucas' reputation in Hollywood. ...although, given that he won said trial, that may change...
Curb-Stomp Battle: As IOTL, the Soivet Union dominates the 1980 Summer Olymics, ultimately earning 50 medals. Why not OTL's 80? Well, you can thank East Germany and the USA for participating instead of boycotting the games.
David Versus Goliath: How the Canada-USSR 1980 Olympic hocky game was described: Canada being David, the USSR being Goliath.
This is also how Lucasfilm v. Paramount is described, at least going by C. A. Baxter's book David and Goliath: The Authorized Account of Lucasfilm v. Paramount, the Trial of the Century.
Dueling Movies: The China Syndrome, about a nuclear power plant accident, and The Greenpoint Dilemma, about a microwave power plant accident, come out within months of each other in 1979. China Syndrome flops big time, lacking the resonance of the Three Mile Island disaster (which doesn't happen here) and tripping over the different political dynamic of environmentalism ITTL.
Deal with the Devil: A self-described methophorical one: in order to get a Democratic majority in the House of Represntatives in 1980, the Democratic Party had to welcome George Wallace and his "schismatic Alabaman faction" back into it.
Dewey Defeats Truman: The troubled production on "The Journey of the Force" (plus some gossip floating around Hollywood) cause some of the trade papers (like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety) to label the movie "Lucas' Folly". And then it became a smash.
Conversely, Paramount has "The House on the Other Side of the Wall".
"Star Trek: The Next Voyage" has "Soap Trek" and "Star Trek: The Soap Opera".
The American run of Doctor Who (from season 8 to season 12) is considered the "Yank Years" of the show.
The popularity of space that came about from the space program is most often referred to as "Moonshot Lunacy", with a fan-base of "Moonshot Lunatics" (or "Moonie Loonies").
Five Second Foreshadowing: It's pointed out that "[t]he New York Post went with the most regrettable headline possible (in hindsight), 'BLOODIED BLUHDORN', when they emphasized the damage [losing the 1983 trial] had done to [Charles Bluhdorn]" about a paragraph before it's revealed that he died of a heart attack two days later.
Ted Turner: I look at the example set by Miss Ball at Desilu, and I think: "Well gee, now there's a great way to get started".
Footnote Fever: As a result of the timeline becoming more and more detailed, this follows hand-in-hand. As a point of reference, this post has 30.
Foreshadowing: Maybe, but: "As far asyouknow, 'Leningrad' may never become an obsolete term ITTL".note Though within the context of the TL proper, that is less of a spoiler/foreshadowing than it might seem. Word of God is the the TL will end in 1986 — even if the USSR falls roughly on schedule, it wouldn't have the slightest effect on That Wacky Redhead.
More in-line with the boundaries of the timeline itself, we have this bit from the end of "Appendix C, Part IV: The Trial of the Century":
More pressing for Paramount, and indeed, for every studio in Hollywood, was that all the details of the case were now a matter of public record – and in an election year, the gory details of Hollywood accounting being laid bare to the voting public had dangerous, and previously unforeseen, consequences...
"Appendix A, Part VII: The Search for More Money" ends with a scene at Desilu Studios, which ends with Lucy considering the idea of a Star Trek miniseries after seeing the success of Roots. And then "Star Trek: The Next Voyage" is announced.
From Bad to Worse: A self-described example for Paramount: two days after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Lucasfilm Limited (5 to 4) in Lucasfilm v. Paramount and awarded them $1,000,000,000 in damages, it was discovered that Charles Bluhdorn died of a heart attack.
Gone Horribly Right: Since it's implied that George Carlin deliberately went over the top in... his "vocabulary" on "The George Carlin Show" to "demonstrate the absurdity of censorship regulations", this trope is in effect. There is a reason it's considered the next Turn-On.
"[H]is little experiment, to put it bluntly, went horribly right. Several network affiliates did not return to show after its first commercial break – this on top of over a dozen that had refused to air the show in the first place."
In The Style Of: Funnily enough, the chapter "Love in the Afternoon" (which covers daytime programing, like Soapnote Yes, it's actually a primetime spoof of daytime programming, but the same logic applies.), begins and ends like Soap.
Opinion Changing Dream: The change in timeline's happens because Ball has a dream wherein the ghost of Carole Lombard tells her to stay a producer, similar to the actual dream she had that encouraged her to do I Love Lucy.
Seasonal Rot: Naturally, this comes up a lot. This timeline's version of Star Trek suffers it in its fifth and final season, as opposed to our timeline's version, which suffered it (as well as underfunding) in its third and final one. invoked
Something Completely Different: The appendix entries, which either (currently) discuss ITTL's Star Trek franchise (the Appendix A entries), "serious alternate history" (the Appendix B entries), anything George Lucas related ((retroactively) the Appendix C entries) or nothing, as it was an April Fools' Day post (the Appendix E entry).
Certainly, it seemed that the dispassionate judges, stubbornly unimpressed with provocateurs such as the “rogue accountant” C.A. Baxter, were far more willing to back the status quo, and the major studios, than the populist juries.
Why "attempted"? George and Marcia Lucas decide to go to the Supreme Court to appeal the ruling. Oh boy...
Take a Third Option: President John Glenn plans to find a middle ground between Reganomics and the Great Society
Tempting Fate: Thanks to Laugh-In being Screwed by the Network, when promoting Turn-On, Schlatter boasted that "Turn-On is going to make Laugh-In look like Lawrence Welk". And... well...:
Well, he was right... so much so, that one might say he was a little too on-the-nose. “Turn-On” premiered on ABC on February 5, 1969, a Wednesday, at 8:30. It was cancelledfifteen minutes later.
Actually, this fate was tempted in an earlier chapter:
Schlatter was enraged; he decided to teach the network a lesson and abandoned "Laugh-In" to its fate, quitting as showrunner to focus on a show he was developing for ABC called "Turn-On", which would have a strong counter-cultural bent that, he was sure, would attract audiences in even greater numbers than "Laugh-In" had.
Thirteen Is Unlucky: Defied Trope in this timeline as, thanks to better funding and scrutiny by the Humphrey Administration, the Apollo 13 moonshot goes off without a hitch.
T-Word Euphemism: The author never refers to "the V-word" explicitly, only referring to it as an "overseas quagmire", as part of an In-Joke about how that topic tends to dominate American-penned Alternate History timelines set in this period. It helps that it apparently ended in 1969 through peace talks.
It's been revealed that Brainbin's going to use "the 'overseas quagmire' approach" with Princess Diana.
And now we have Appendix C, Part V: The Studio Strikes Back. Near the end, it stated that in 1982, Lucasfilm v. Paramount gets overruled by the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals and in response, George and Marcia Lucas decide to appeal this by going to the Supreme Court.
Brainbin: As might be expected, it sets the scene for some major battles to be fought in the future.
Finally, as the President left the rally, making his way down the ropeline, shaking hands and expressing his unmatched charisma, Hinckley saw his opening and took it. Opening the box he had smuggled into the event, Hinckley let loose with the first of six 9” diameter lemon curd pies, and then a second before being wrestled to the ground by courageous onlookers and restrained by the Secret Service.
Less than 72 hours after George and Marcia Lucas had won their Oscars for The Journey of the Force, they (on behalf of their studio, Lucasfilm Limited) filed suit against Paramount Pictures for breach of contract, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Thus began the Trial of the Century...
In celebration of another job well done, Pryor and Williams headed to their favourite haunt, the Medina nightclub in Century City, to pursue a weekend-long bender in the private backrooms. Two would enter the glittering, Arabian Nights-style façade that night, but only one would leave. Robin Williams died of a cocaine overdose early in the morning of December 8, 1980; the funeral was held shortly before Christmas, with a visibly shaken Pryor delivering the eulogy.
Unsurprisingly, stock prices for all the Gulf+Western subsidiaries plummeted precipitously as a result of the verdict. There would be no further appeals, as there had been after the 1980 ruling; the conglomerate was on the hook for a billion dollars. Then the situation went from bad to worse.Two days after the verdict was handed down, on February 25, 1983 (a Friday), Charles Bluhdorn was found dead in his bedroom at age 56. The cause of death was a massive heart-attack; observers ranging from his closest intimates to his fiercest critics judged that the shock of the verdict had essentially killed him.
This is not the only example; Word of God is that such 'sub-PODs' are sprinkled through the timeline
For example, Tartikoff toyed with making his and Roddenberry's Deep Space series into a Star Trek spin-off, but Herb Solow vetoed it.
The tropes that have been effected by butterfliesnote Whenever there's mention of a trope "not existing", we're referring to its OTL name. It's kinda unlikely to completely erase a trope from existence.:
The main reason being the Pythons themeselves. Given how unpredictable they can be (and are), it is very unlikely that they would create the same material as IOTL, and as such not create the OTL tropes.
The long-awaited second film to be produced by the troupe (the first had been a compilation of popular sketches)note that film being "And Now For Something Completely Different", which currently doesn't have a trope page was finally released in 1974, after repeated delays for additional fundraising, re-writes, and re-shoots. American investors wielded considerable influence on the ultimate shape of the film at every stage of development – beginning with the title.
There's also accounting for stuff like the film being more historically accurate and such.
After some deliberation, the ITTL equivalent has been given the name "Vanishing Cop Epidemic", after Captain Millernote the ITTL name of the show. It's been reasoned that since the show has it's share of characters being introduced and then forgotten (something that carried over from IOTL), it would make sense that it would be the Trope Namer here.
Cousin Oliver: Since The Brady Bunch never got made, this trope doesn't exist.
As for the TTL counter-part, we have "Baby Grant Syndrome" (due to "Barefoot in the Park" caving to public pressure and deciding to add in the titular baby in during, what would wind up being, the show's last season).