I love Lucy and she loves me. We're as happy as two can be. Sometimes we quarrel but then, ha-ha! How we love making up again. Lucy kisses like no one can. She's my missus and I'm her man, And life is heaven you see, 'Cause I love Lucy, yes, I love Lucy And Lucy (beat) loves me!
A ground breaking Sitcom
from the husband-and-wife creative team of Lucille Ball
and Desi Arnaz, under the auspices of their studio, Desilu Productions. I Love Lucy
followed a young married couple through a series of wacky misadventures.
The show's plot often hinged on Lucy trying to convince her bandleader husband Ricky Ricardo (played by Arnaz) to let her appear in his mambo-centric variety show. Ricky insisted on his wife remaining home to do wife things
because he didn't have the heart to tell her she had no talent. Lucy would come up with a Zany Scheme
to subvert his authority, by either making her own money or sneaking into the show. Hilarity Ensues
(and this time, it really means it), and a lot of the humor in the episodes' last acts were built around Lucille Ball being a gifted physical comedian.
Ethel Mertz and her husband Fred, Lucy's neighbors and landlords (and in Fred's case, Ricky's business manager), rounded out the central cast. An old married couple who couldn't stand one another, Fred and Ethel were former vaudevillians that Ricky would occasionally bring into his show, super-charging Lucy's insecurities by leaving her the only member of the gang not
in show biz. Ethel would often be the unwilling sidekick to Lucy's harebrained schemes, and Fred would often be the muscle for Ricky's.
The show is popularly credited with featuring the first "inter-racial" or "inter-ethnic" couple on American television. It wasn't viewed that way at the time, however. Until The Sixties
, Latin Americans were not considered a separate racial group (and, admittedly, Ricky is white Hispanic); they were just "foreigners," and a lot of humor between Lucy and Ricky was in their cultural dissonance or in Ricky's funny accent. By today's standards, however, Lucy and Ricky were the first inter-ethnic married couple on TV.
The show was filmed, which was a big deal. At the time, most shows were archived by "kinescope," which is simply a movie camera taking footage of a TV displaying
the show's live broadcast. Obviously, this produces really crummy-looking video; that's why most shows from the 1950s
have either been lost or are of very little interest in reuse (videotape didn't become available until late in the decade). In contrast, I Love Lucy
invented the live-studio Three Cameras
technique. This show also invented the Rerun
: when Lucille Ball became pregnant and needed a reduction in her workload, Desi came up with the idea of showing a previously-aired-but-much-loved episode instead of something new—which was only possible because Desilu had taken the trouble to film the original broadcast in the first place. "Reruns?" the network scoffed. "It Will Never Catch On
." Well, the laugh's on them: I Love Lucy
has been on the air literally non-stop since it was first produced; television historians have determined that since its original airing, the show has always
been in syndication somewhere
in the world. (Not coincidentally, this has made Ball's and Arnaz's estates filthy stinking rich.)
It has erroneously been called the first television sitcom to deal with the subject of pregnancy and delivery. This is incorrect, as "Mary Kay and Johnny," the first television sitcom in the United States, had tackled the subject four years earlier. Nonetheless it was still a very sensitive topic at the time, and the Moral Guardians
were horrified. Viewer
reaction was actually quite positive, and the episode where Lucy gives birth broke the all-time viewer record up to that point. Because they couldn't actually say "pregnant" on air, they instead
popularized the euphemism "expecting." And now you know.
After the regular series ended, the cast carried on with The Lucy Desi Comedy Hour
specials — essentially long "I Love Lucy" episodes with greater emphasis on famous guest stars and exotic locations. These are often considered to be inferior to the original series, and the later episodes particularly suffered from the rapid deterioration of Lucy and Desi's marriage. In the following decades, Lucy was able to carry on the premise (if not the exact same character) on her own with The Lucy Show
, Here's Lucy
and Life with Lucy
In short, this show was responsible for more tropes
than anything on television before or since (excepting perhaps Star Trek
, which, by the way, was also
originally produced by Desilu Studios). As noted above, it has not stopped airing
since October 15, 1951. The entire reason
that The Oldest Ones in the Book
super-index has a cutoff date of November 8, 1960, is to include the complete first run of this pioneering series (which, including Re Tool The Lucy and Desi Comedy Hour
, lasted until April 1 of that very year).
- 555: Subverted in the episode "The Million Dollar Idea", in which the phone number given to order "Aunt Martha's Old Fashioned Salad Dressing" is Circle7-2099
- 99% of a Continuity Nod to the episode in which Lucy gives birth, in which Ricky calls Circle1-2099 for Fred to bring his make-up case.
- And when they are in Italy they place an oversees call to Murray Hill5-9099
- Accidental Misnaming: Lucy's mother constantly calls Ricky "Mickey" (and, on at least one occasion, "Xavier").
- Though it might actually be Malicious Misnaming, since she correctly calls their son "Little Ricky". Lampshaded with Ricky saying: "How do you like that? He's Little Ricky and I'm Big Mickey."
- Acme Products: In "The French Revue", the only words Fred can read on a French restaurant's menu is 'Acme Printing Service'.
- After Show: The Lucy Desi Comedy Hour
- All Just a Dream: Pretty much the entire episode "Lucy Goes to Scotland", save for the opening and very end.
- Animated Credits Opening: In the original US run, where these openings integrated the sponsor's product with stick figures of Lucy and Ricky.
- Apology Gift: Fred tries to play peacemaker between a quarreling Lucy and Ricky, by having a boquet of roses and a box of candy delivered to Lucy on Ricky's behalf.
- In another episode we find out Ricky keeps a box of chocolate in the back of the closet complete with gift tags for Christmas, Aniverseries, Valentines and other various holidays for times he forgot to get a gift .. including a generic 'forgive me for what I did' card. Mistakenly having given it to Lucy, he takes it back.
Lucy: You certainally don't think I'll be surprised now.
Ricky: You might...these chocolates are three years old!
- As Himself: The list of celebrities appearing as themselves, everyone from Hedda Hopper to Bob Hope to Orson Welles. By the time of the After Show Comedy Hour, Lucy was so jaded at meeting celebrities, one episode had her scheming to get rid of a famous couple so she and Ricky could vacation alone. A variation: in "Lucy meets Superman", George Reeves is always refered to only as Superman, even when it is just the adults talking among themselves. This was most likely so as not to ruin the magic for kids watching the episode, but it also stands as a sad reminder of the typecasting that lead to the actor's downfall.
- Assembly Line Fast-Forward: The Trope Codifier, from the famous chocolate factory scene.
- Audio Adaptation: there was a brief attempt to adapt I Love Lucy as a radio show, but after a single, unaired trial episode was produced (using the same script as the TV episode "Breaking the Lease", fleshed out with descriptive narration from Arnaz as Ricky), the idea was abandoned. However, the radio pilot did have one positive effect. CBS executives had worried that Arnaz's accent was too thick for American audiences to understand. Hearing the radio pilot convinced them that his accent wasn't as thick and undecipherable as they had originally feared.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Fred and Ethel have a number of these moments, for all their bicker and back-and-forth nagging. In fact, it reaches hilarious proportions in one episode, where Ricky is entertaining on a cruise ship; in earlier episodes with scenes set near large bodies of water, Fred mentions his seasickness (and once even got woozy on a ship that was tied off at the dock), however, Fred suddenly does a 180 degree turn, and actually turns into a romantic. Ethel is actually concerned about Fred's unusual behavior at first, but is eventually entranced at the idea of her and Fred having a second honeymoon, and basically spend the rest of the episode enjoying various different activities on the ship in a lovey-dovey manner,
- Ethel moreso in general. Any slight indication that Fred may be spending time with another woman, Ethel starts sobbing at the prospect of losing her, "Beautiful, fat, old goat Fred".
- Averted in real life, as Vance and Frawley's working relationship could more accurately be called "Oh, Wow! They Really Do Hate Each Other".
- Ballet Episode: "The Ballet", which centers on Luci trying her hand at ballet. She ends up being better at slapstick comedy.
- BANG Flag Gun: In the episode "Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying to Murder Her" Lucy mistakes one of these for a real gun.
- Baseball Episode: "Lucy Meets Bob Hope".
- Big Applesauce: Most of the series takes place in New York City, except for three different trips, and ultimately, the Ricardos and Mertzes moved to a small town in Connecticut near the end of the series.
- Big Eater: Ethel, who was the butt of quite a few "fat" jokes from Fred. (Rather hypocritical of him really, since, despite Ethel's enormous appetite, he was actually much more overweight.)
- Bilingual Bonus: Ricky Ricardo often spoke Spanish which was nice for Spanish speakers.
- Special mention should go to "Ricky Minds the Baby" in which Ricky acts out the bedtime story "Little Red Riding Hood" to Little Ricky for 2 minutes using less than 10 words in English such as "hunter", "hello" and "Oh, my!".
- Bland-Name Product: Phillip Morris had the writers change "Lucky Bucks" to "Bonus Bucks" out of fear viewers would think of competitor Lucky Strike.
- Bridge: The popular game among the ladies.
Lucy(After Ricky announces he won't be able to play with the other three) Wanna play three handed Bridge, Ethel?
Ethel: Sure. I'll go get the Dummy.
- British Royal Guards: The European vacation story arc during the show's fifth season began in London where Lucy visited Buckingham Palace and missed out on seeing the Queen when she became preoccupied with desperately attempting to get a guard to crack a smile. The scene ends with the Changing of the Guard. If one looks really closely, one can see the guard's lips curling up slightly.
- Bob Hope: Guest starred As Himself on the 6th season premire episode, just before the Connecticut move. In an age when the Networks never acknowledged the existence of the others by name, Hope was allowed to end the episode saying "I may never go back to NBC!"
- Book Ends: The Europe trip is bookended by two variations of the 'Why don't you think I'd believe that?' gag - Ricky saying it about Lucy getting locked in the trunk, and Frank Nelson's Custom's Agent saying it about what Lucy and Ethel did with the 25lbs of cheese on the plane.
- The Hollywood trip is bookended by two instances of three of them ganging up on the fourth...Ricky, Lucy and Fred teaming up to make Ethel look like a fool to her hometown just before reaching L.A. and Ricky Fred and Ethel teaming up to guilt Lucy out of accepting a year's show business contract, nothing big just what she always dreamed of, just before leaving.
- Butt Monkey: Everyone at one point or another, usually Ethel at the hands of Lucy, Lucy at the hands of Ricky, Ricky at the hands of Lucy, or Fred at the hands of everyone.
- California Doubling: Justified. The show is set in the Big Applesauce, and the show was filmed in Hollywood, however, almost everything on the show takes place on a soundstage before a Live Audience, including exteriors (noticable with wrinkled, canvas flats for scenery), so it's easily overlooked and forgiven.
- Calvinball: In the episode "The Golf Game," Lucy and Ethel want to take up golf, and ask Fred and Ricky how to play. The men don't want their wives following them around the golf course, so they try to discourage them by inventing a set of crazy and overly complex instructions for play. The girls get back at the boys by convincing a famous golf pro to play exactly the way the boys taught them, leading Fred and Ricky convinced they'd been playing the game wrong all these years.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: Lucy. The infamous Vitameatavegamin Girl bit where Lucy gets drunk from the alcohol in the medicine after repeated takes. In her defense, it was 23% alcohol by volume; not proof, percent (46 proof).
- The Cast Showoff: All four leads, at various times. Justified in-show, as Ricky is a bandleader/singer, the Mertzes are former vaudeville hoofers, and Lucy aspires to a career in showbiz.
- Catch Phrase: "Lucy, you got some splainin' to do." - Ricky, despite being something of a Beam Me Up, Scotty!. "Waaaaaah" or "Ewwwww" by Lucy and "Oh, for corn's sake!" for Fred are more accurate.
- "Aye-yi-yi-yi-yi!" for Ricky. In one of the England shows, he translates it as 'Blimy!' to a confused Englishman.
- Celebrity Lie: In "Harpo Marx," Lucy had been bragging in letters to Carolyn Appleby about all the celebrities she's been hanging out with in Hollywood, even promising to produce some when she comes out for a visit. When Ricky refuses to help, though, Lucy schemes to have near-sighted Carolyn lose her glasses and then to pose as various celebrities. Meanwhile, Ricky bumps into Harpo and asks him to pay the girls a visit.
- Celebrity Paradox: In an early episode Lucy mentions Tennesee Ernie. Later Cousin Ernie visits (and hangs on).
- Character Development: Of the four of them, mostly Fred. While they all retain consistent personalities throughout the entire series, Fred comes off as a Defrosting Ice King, as his grumpy and cantankerous demeanor slowly mellows with each season; watch any episode from the first season then compare to one from the last couple of seasons, and you'll notice a difference.
- The Chew Toy: What Lucille Ball comedy is complete without slapstick characters? All four characters play this role at one point or another, but Lucy and Ethel tend to get roughed up more often than Ricky or Fred.
- Clip Show: The I Love Lucy Christmas Episode, where the gang decorates the Ricardo tree and recalls moments from Lucy's period of expectancy. It was kept out of the syndication package and did not receive another broadcast for 25 years.
- Clock Discrepancy: The episode in which Lucy gets her passport.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Lucy's Mother. Although the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
- Comic Book Adaptation: One of the first TV series to be adapted as a comic book, via Dell Comics. In the 1990s, Malibu Comics published several titles based on the series, including a 3-D special.
- Compilation Movie: One was produced in 1953 by bridging together three episodes from the first season. Since technicians were not able to remove the studio audience's laughter, the movie also featured a unique opening where Desi introduces himself and the other leads to a live studio audience, and a closing scene where they bow during the viewers' thunderous applause. Unfortunately, fear of competition with another Lucy/Desi movie, The Long Long Trailer, prevented a theatrical release. The film eventually went missing, until 2001. It became available on DVD six years later.
- Continuity Nod: In the episode in which Ricky and Lucy decide to buy the house in Connecticut, Fred mentions and produces the "99 year lease" the Ricardos signed at the end of the episode "Breaking the Lease". Later on in the same episode, Lucy and Ethel remind each other of past events happening in the apartment, such as Lucy wallpapering Ethel into the wall.
- Corpsing: An occupational hazard of working with Lucille Ball, with Arnaz probably being the most frequent victim. Just look at him in the Vitameatavegamin scene.
- Costumer: In one episode, they visit Scotland and Lucy dreams she and Ricky are the leads in a Highland historical romance.
- Counter Zany
- Sometimes taken to mounting levels of on-the-spot planning, improvising and zany consequences. A married couple and their friends, any two of whom are liable to be on the same side at any given time? How many plans could you get out of that? You'd be surprised.
- Courtroom Episode: The season 2 episode "The Courtroom" combines this with The Rashomon, with the Ricardos and Mertzes suing each other after breaking each other's TV sets.
- Cranky Neighbor: Fred Mertz.
- Crossover: Lucy and Desi appear in character in an episode of The Danny Thomas Show ( aka Make Room For Daddy ) which makes sense since Thomas's show was also a Desilu Production. However, since Lucy Carter from "Here's Lucy" appears on an episode of Thomas's After Show Make Room for Grandaddy in the 70s, and Lucy Carter once met Lucille Ball on Here's Lucy .... that means that Lucille Ball, Lucille Ricardo,and Lucille Carter all exist in the I Love Lucy, Make Room for Daddy/Grandaddy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show Universe.
- Crushing Handshake: In a memorable episode, Fred's grip was actually enough to bring John Wayne to his kneesnote , but when he tries it on Ethel, Ethel's grip actually brings Fred to his knees.
- A Day in Her Apron: "Job Switching" has Ricky and Fred tending to the housework while Lucy and Ethel get jobs at a chocolate factory.
- Deadpan Snarker: Fred could be this at times, such as when Lucy tells a joke wrong and Ricky corrects it.
Fred: It wasn't exactly a belly laugh ether way.
- Disguised in Drag: Fred dressed in women's clothing in "Ricky Asks for a Raise" in order to fool the Tropicana owners (long story).
- Disproportionate Retribution: "The Courtroom" had Fred completely overacting to Ricky damaging the new TV he had just given as a gift. Yes, Ricky was being stupid trying to fix a TV despite obviously having no skill in doing so, even after Fred read the warning label, but it's not like the Mertz's lost anything in the accident. At most, Ricky would be obliged to get a new TV or having the present one professionally repaired, but instead Fred blows his temper, marches down to Ricky and Lucy's apartment and kicks in their own TV's screen.
- Distracted by the Luxury: Besides Lucy's lifelong quest for a mink coat, her personal finances were usually in the red because she couldn't stop buying cute dresses or hats.
- Domestic Abuse:
- Several characters mention fear that Ricky will hit Lucy because of some of her more extreme schemes, but it's unknown if Ricky really ever did or would. Essentially, it's played roughly the same way as The Honeymooners did. In this show, at one point, one of Lucy's schemes cost Ricky his job, and when he heard the news, he hit himself in the hand as Lucy began giving him things to smash to take his anger out on, and he threatened to punch her in the nose more than once. Really the most he ever did was spank Lucy, and it was played for laughs as if she were a child. One episode was the focus of this when Ricky accidentally hit Lucy in the eye with a book and it swelled up. Fred and Ethel thought he actually did hit her (they were eavesdropping outside their apartment and mistook her narrating a chapter from said book as the two arguing).
- In the fifth season when Fred fears Ricky will punch him in the nose for accidentally sending his band to the wrong town during his European tour Lucy assures Fred that no matter how mad Ricky has gotten with her he never once struck her.
Fred: Well, you're bigger than me!
Lucy: Honestly, Fred. Ricky's bark is worse than his bite.
Fred: You mean he bites too?!?
- In one of the California episodes, Lucy lies out in the sun, planning to get a little red so Ricky will think she is sunburned and won't hit her. Of course she gets more burnt than she planned and then has to wear a rough tweed suit with a high collar in fashion show.
- Dresses the Same: Lucy and Ethel purchase the same dress for a performance they're doing together (at two different stores, no less).
- Eating Pet Food: Lucy is forced to eat a dog biscuit while trying to hide the fact that she didn't get rid of Fred (the dog).
Lucy: They have it all over doughnuts for dunking!
- Elvis Presley: In one episode Ethel can't use the pay phone because "...some teenager was talking to her girlfriend about that Elvis....Whats-his-name!"
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Many of the episode titles are simply descriptions of the plot: "Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying To Murder Her," "Lucy and Ethel Buy the Same Dress," "The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue," etc.
- Fake Charity: The Ladies Overseas Aid.
- They choose a made-up name, not realizing that there was a charity named this. The proprietor of the TV Store who had donated the prize contacted the national chairwoman who accepted the "donation." Lucky for Lucy and Ethel because they were about to be arrested for fraud.
- Famed In-Story: Later episode celebs such as Bob Hope and Orson Welles can't believe all those stories about Lucy meeting celebrities can possibly be true. And then they meet her....
- Fawlty Towers Plot
- Fed to the Beast: The show plays around with this quite a bit in the musical Scottish episode, in which Lucy dreams of returning to her ancestral Scottish village only to discover that as the last known member of the McGillicutty clan, she's slated to be fed to a two-headed dragon (played by Fred and Ethel). Though the dream ends before she can be eaten, this inspires considerable Black Comedy as the villagers first test her to determine whether she really is a McGillicutty ("Aye, that ye are; none of the McGillicuttys ever could dance worth a hoot!") and compliment her that she looks "good enough to eat!" Ricky also does a hilarious singing lament about his being "In Love With A Dragon's Dinner."
- Foreign Cuss Word: Ricky's Spanish tirades when Lucy pushes him beyond the brink are often thought to be these; in fact, he's usually saying something to the effect of "What am I going to do with this crazy redheaded girl?"
- Foreign Language Tirade: Ricky may be the Trope Codifier for this one.
- Forgotten Birthday: In one episode, Lucy asks Ricky not to recognize her birthday. When he follows through with it, she becomes sad and runs out to the park, where she meets up with "The Friends of the Friendless." Despite the name, they're not a cult. We think.
- Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: Quoted above, though they did actually appear in the show. This version of the theme made a Theme Tune Cameo when Ricky sang it to Lucy during her surprise birthday party. One could also find it on home video releases of the series.
- Depending on who you ask, the lyrics were ether written when the theme was written, or quickly created specificly for this episode.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Lucy (choleric), Fred (melancholic), Ethel (phlegmatic), and Ricky (sanguine).
- Funny Foreigner: Ricky could be regarded as a mild one of these.
- Fun with Foreign Languages
- Furry Fandom: Ricky's nightclub acts include dressing showgirls up as prancing horses and Ferdinan the Bull.
- In the Scotland episode, Ethel and Fred are in-story Nightmare Fuel as a two headed dragon.
- In one episode Fred plays a Frog in Little Ricy's school play.
- Get Rich Quick Scheme: Lucy would form these on occasion, but not out of simple greed. Usually it was because she had spent too much of her allowance and Ricky refused to give her any more.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar
- History Marches On: In "Lucy Gets Ricky on the Radio", one of the questions on the radio quiz show was, which of the 48 states was the last to be added? Of course, this was before Alaska and Hawaii bumped the U.S. up to fifty states.
- Which leads to a Hilarious in Hindsight moment ... After Lucy is corrected that there are 48 states, she says, "Oh, yes, I forgot Alaska and Hawaii!"
- Hollywood California: Ricky gets the starring role in Don Juan, forcing the Ricardos to take an extended trip to Hollywood, with the Mertzes tagging along.
- Hollywood Homely: Ethel, and to a lesser extent Lucy. While both were never referred to as ugly, many a times there would be a reference to how attractive the two are, especially Lucy, when presented next to the younger, fancier Marlyin Monroe-esque types they would be seen as frumpy and unkempt. This is ironic as both Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance began their careers as Models/Showgirls.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Lucy Ricardo. Lucille Ball was no diva, but she was no slouch either, as seen when she starred in Mame.
- Housewife: Lucy is an example of a rebellious housewife.
- Impossible Leavening: In "Pioneer Women", a loaf of bread with this trope applied ends up expanding to fill the entire oven, and when the door is opened, it stretches out of the oven, far longer than the oven is deep, and pins Lucy to a wall.
- Incessant Music Madness: In a late episode, Little Ricky receives a snare drum and plays it incessantly. Soon, his parents' movements match the beat he's playing.
- Insane Troll Logic: In "The Gossip", Ricky makes a bet with Lucy that she can't go longer than Ricky can without gossiping. Trying to lure her into a trap, he pretends to speak in his sleep by saying some juicy gossip, which Lucy can't help but tell Ethel. Ricky reveals the whole thing was a hoax to get them to lose the bet, but Lucy realizes that this means Ricky and Fred were the ones to gossip first. Ricky denies this to be true:
: Now wait a minute, girls, wait a minute, you have misconstrued the entire point of this situation. Now you see, if
the story were true, then we would have been gossiping. But the story was not
true. We made it up. The whole thing was friction
. So we were not gossiping. Now, you girls believed
that the story was true so you were
gossiping. Now, that's the whole thing.
- Intoxication Ensues: "Vitameatavegamin contains vitamins, meat, vegetables, and minerals" — and 23 percent alcohol.
- Is This Thing On?: Fred installs an intercom between his guest house and the Ricardo's main house. Lucy tests it with the "Testing 1,2,3" method.
- Lucy also does the "Testing 1,2,3" gag on her voice when she trys to talk correctly to the Charm School teacher.
- It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Often used by Ricky trying to say words in English - like one time he explained that a Mind Reading act at the club was achived through "e-lec-tron-NEEKS".
- It's Quiet... Too Quiet: In "Lucy Gets Chummy With the Neighbors", Ethel and Fred visit Lucy and Ricky, but nobody's home. Both remark that it's too quiet, and Ethel adds that she doesn't like it so quiet. Suddenly, Ricky storms into the house and shouts in Spanish, having just gotten in a fight with Ralph Ramsey.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Fred, and to a lesser extent Ricky
- Ethel, Fred and Ricky in "Lucy and the Dummy" for making Lucy give up her lifetime goal of an acting contract, for her own good of course.
- The Key Is Behind the Lock: Lucy gets locked in a walk-in meat freezer and a steamer trunk, both times with the key in her pocket.
- Knife-Throwing Act: In "Lucy Tells the Truth," a white lie leads to Lucy taking a job as the assistant in a knife act.
- Interesting in that it's revealed to be fake (the "thrower" feints tossing the knives and they are pushed out of the board behind her) in the show.
- Knitting Pregnancy Announcement: Subverted when Lucy and Ethel think their husbands are going to join the army and take up knitting. The husbands notice them doing this, and naturally assume they are both having babies.
- Laugh Track: Not in the show itself, as it was done in front of a live audience - but virtually every canned laugh since then is laughter from this show.
- Large Ham: Lucy, any time she ends up on stage.
- Living Prop: Ricky's band members in scenes set at the Tropacana/Club Babalu.
- A literal example - the baby chicks let lose in the house.
- Locked in a Freezer: The famous episode where Lucy buys a walk-in freezer, and locks herself in while moving all the meat she bought into the furnace.
- Loud of War: Lucy and Ricky tried to get out of their lease by having a loud Cuban jam session late at night. Fred and Ethel turned the tables by selling tickets to the "concert."
- Lying Finger Cross: Subverted in one episode where Ricky forces Lucy to take a vow. Lucy, with one arm behind her back, begins saying the vow, but then Ricky pulls her arm out to reveal her crossed fingers, and uncrosses them.
- MAD: "I Love Luny" (not during the series' original run, but in the 1980s!).
- Mad At A Dream:
- In "Ricky's Old Girlfriend", Lucy dreams that Ricky left her for Carlotta, leaving her poor and homeless on the streets with only a button given to her in her coin cup. Ricky, of course, doesn't get why she's so angry at him when she wakes up.
- In, "Lucy Goes to Scotland," Lucy has a near-entire episode dream sequence, in which being the last of the McGillicuddy Clan, she's to be fed to a cantankerous two-headed dragon (Fred and Ethel) that awakens every thirty years, and eats only McGillicuddy's. At one point in the dream, she meets Scott McTavish McDougal McCardo (Ricky), who falls in love with her, and vows to prevent the dragon from eating her, even if it means sacrificing his own life... but when the dragon is brought to the village for its meal, Scotty chickens out at the last minute, and Lucy is thrown to the dragon. Lucy then wakes up, and proceeds to hit Ricky with her pillow in a fit of rage, despite Ricky not knowing why she's upset with him.
Lucy: You coward!
- The Magic Poker Equation
- Malaproper: Ricky on occasion, due to his lack of familiarity with English idioms.
- Meaningful Name: In a gag often Edited for Syndication since it takes place at the beginning of the scene, Lucy uses a book entitled How To Sing by F. Alsetto.
- Men Can't Keep House: The episode "Job Switching" had Ricky and Fred invoke this trope along with A Day in Her Apron.
- Mirror Routine: Lucy (dressed as Harpo Marx) and Harpo Marx.
- Mistaken for Cheating
- Morally Bankrupt Banker: Mr. Mooney. Though he did continue to employ Lucy despite her antics, so he must have some compassion.
- Multi-Part Episode: The Dancing Star/Lucy Meets Harpo Marx , Cousin Ernie Visits/Cousin Ernie Hangs On and Lucy Visits Grauman's/Lucy Meets John Wayne. Also the hour long episode with Talula Bankhead fits this format - the first half hour deals with Lucy meeting and trying to make a good impression on the star, the second half dealing with Lucy trying to get her to preform for the PTA.
- Musical Episode: Plenty, considering Ricky is a band leader.
- Never Say "Die": Or "pregnant" for that matter.
- Noodle Incident: The 4th of July party Lucy organized for her Women's Club.
Ethel: Poor Ricky — his eyebrows didn't grow in for a month.
- Oh, Crap: Pretty much any time Lucy said, "Eeeeeeeeew!"
- One Steve Limit: Subverted with Fred the Landlord and Fred the Dog.
Little Ricky: Mommy, Mommy, Fred ran away!
Ethel: Which Fred?
Little Ricky: MY Fred!
Ethel: Oh, nuts!
- Pie in the Face: "The Diner" ends with a big pie fight between the Ricardos and Mertzes.
- Playing a Tree: Ricky in Little Ricky's school play.
- Playing Gertrude: Ethel is supposed to be much older than Lucy, closer in age to her husband Fred, but Vivian Vance was actually a full 22 years younger than her onscreen husband (and only two years older than Lucille Ball). Vance was annoyed that she was paired with such an older man, which caused some Real Life animosity between the actors behind the scenes.
- Rumor has it that no one got along well with William Frawley, who played Fred Mertz. He was just generally difficult to work with. Vance especially hated him, and the feeling was mutual. The pair reportedly refused to speak to each other outside of tapings or rehearsals, and Hollywood legend has it that Vance, learning of Frawley's 1966 death while dining at a restaurant, promptly ordered champagne for everyone in the place.
- The Precarious Ledge: In "Lucy Meets Superman" Lucy dresses up as Superman for little Ricky's birthday party after promising that Superman would show up but then it looked like he might not. She crawls out on the ledge of the building to come in through the window but the "real" Superman note does show up while she's out there. She gets her cape stuck on a drainpipe so she's stuck out there in the rain. Superman goes out on the ledge and helps her get unstuck.
Ricky: Lucy, of all the crazy things you done in the fifteen years we been married this is —
Superman: Wait a minute, Ricardo! Do you mean to say that you've been married to her for fifteen years?
Ricky: Yeah, fifteen years.
Superman: And they call me Superman!
- Pretty in Mink: Lucy's second life goal aside from getting in the show has always been to have a mink coat. In one episode, Lucy thinks a mink coat Ricky rented for a play is for her for their anniversary (which he forgot), and he spends the episode trying to trick her into losing it, until he fesses up. It turned out she tricked him. It wasn't their anniversary at all.
- Product Placement: The characters frequently made gags about Philip Morris cigarettes, who sponsored the first four seasons. Several of these gags were removed in syndication, but reinstated on home video.
- In a possible lampshade hanging over the deal, Lucy reminds Ricky that when he auditions for television producers, he'll need a "pretty girl" to show off the sponsor's products, then holds a box of Philip Morris up to the camera.
- One gag that reruns retain in some form: When Lucy hosts her own TV show in an emptied TV set, she dresses as Johnny Roventini, the Philip Morris Bellhop. The syndicated version of the episode retains scenes of Lucy wearing the costume and holding cigarettes, but cuts parts where she actually refers to the brand by name.
- One episode with a scene of Fred and Ricky meeting and eating at a stationary/luncheonette counter features a cardboard standee of the Phillip Morris bellhop in the background.
- This exchange as pregnant Lucy keeps changing potential baby names.
Lucy: I always liked 'Phillip' if it's a boy...
Ricky: And 'Morris' if it's a girl?
- In the episode in which Lucy insists on a second wedding ceremony due to a typo on the Ricardo's wedding licence, the hotel owner who is the small town's Justice of the Peace, the Sherriff, and Gas station Attendant is apparently also the Bellhop. As he puts on the bellman's cap he shouts "Call for Phillip......darn, I always forget the rest of that."
- When celebrities appear, especially during the Hollywood Arc, you can be sure to hear "Oh, I just finished filming" such-an-such a movie title, followed by the Ricardos saying "We'll be sure to catch it when it comes out" or "I've heard such great things about that!"
- One episode features the foursome going out to see The Most Happy Fella... a show Desilu Studios just happenend to invest in.
Ricky: I don't know anything about this show, do you?
Fred: Well, one thing I know is the hero's not married.
Ricky: How do you know that?
Fred : Look at the title!
- When the show goes to Paris they make sure to mention American Express a lot.
- In one Hollywood episode Lucy asks Fred to buy Q-Tips for her, mainly so he can misunderstand and bring back Pool Room Cue Tips instead.
- An in-show example: When Ricky gets an offer to do a live "Mr and Mrs TV Show" (in the episode of the same name), every line in the script is an ad for the sponser, Phipps Department Store.
- Projectile Toast: a Running Gag
- Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: "And your nose is continued on the next page."
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Lucy's pregnancy was written into the show when Lucille Ball became pregnant in real life.
- The "Home Show" episode in which Lucy wins the furniture was written because Lucy hated the furniture on the set and requested a believable way of changing it in-story.
- In one episode Lucy writes a novel called "Real Gone With The Wind" in which she tells a story involving thinly vailed versions of herself, Ricky, and the Mertz's.
- Rebellious Spirit: Lucy is one, big time.
- Recycled Premise: Prior to I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball played a scheming, nutty housewife in a radio show titled, My Favorite Husband, wherein her character was married to a dull, inoffensive, American banker. Execs wanted to adapt the series almost wholesale because it tested so well, whereas Ball and Arnaz wanted to take things in a different direction (and use the series as a vehicle for improving their marriage). Even though the shows have different characters, some episodes of I Love Lucy reused storylines and gags from the radio show, since they shared three writers (Bob Carroll, Madelyn Pugh, and Jess Oppenheimer). After I Love Lucy became a hit, CBS tried to make lightning strike twice by adapting My Favorite Husband itself as a TV show (with a different cast and crew), but that show went nowhere and was soon forgotten.
- Another reason Ball and Arnaz abandoned My Favorite Husband — that series was based on the novel Mr. and Mrs. Cugat by Isabel Scott Rorick. (In fact, the lead characters were named George and Liz Cugat for the first 20 episodes. Their last name was changed to "Cooper" to avoid confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat and his wife.) By creating their own (albeit similar) concept, Desilu managed to avoid paying royalties to Rorick.
- Re Tool: The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour
- Reverse Psychology Backfire: Ethel has this when she tries to talk Little Ricky into playing his drums in "Little Ricky Gets Stage Fright".
Lucy: Did it work?
Ethel: Well, sort of. I said, "Little Ricky, you don't want to play those nasty old drums, do you?" and he said "No."
- Road Show: An early version of story arc.
- Rule of Three: In the episode involving the jewel thief on the train, the Mertzes go to the dining car three times. All three times Lucy pulls the emergency brake, splattering them with food.
- Subverted: The fourth time they go, they wear rain slickers, anticipating an emergency brake pull by Lucy. It happens.
- Running Gag: Several, including Lucy's hair being dyed (henna rinse was an old-fashioned hair colorant).
I need to get my hair dyed-WASHED!
- Saint-Bernard Rescue: While in the Swiss Alps, Band Manager Fred accidently sends the band to the wrong city. After Ricky fires him Lucy says, "You can't fire Fred! What are you gonna do? Get a St Bernard to manage the band?". Later on while the foursome are out climbing a mountain Fred whistles for a passing St Bernard, saying he could use a snort of brandy.
- Subverted in one episode when Lucy suffers a St Bernard attack from Richard Widmark's dog.
- The Scrooge: Fred is a mild one.
- Second Banana: Vivian Vance's Ethel to Lucille Ball's Lucy, most of the time.
- Series Continuity Error: What is Ethel's middle name? What is Ricky's first name?
- Ricky's first name is Enrique in one episode, Ricardo in another.
- And Ethel's middle name is "May". "Ethel May Potter" was her name before she got married.
- But it's also mentioned as being "Louise" in "Lucy and Ethel Buy the Same Dress" and "Roberta" (which was also Vivian Vance's real-life middle name) in "The Million Dollar Idea."
- In an early season episode about Ricky teaching Lucy a lesson by taking her camping, Lucy has Ethel secretly drive out to the campsite to help her out. In a later episode leading up to the California trip, Lucy offers to teach Ethel how to drive.
- Another Ethel example: In the early episode "Breaking the Lease", Ethel plays songs such as "Sweet Sue" just fine on the piano. In one of the final season Connecticut episodes, Lucy, Fred and Ethel try to form a musical trio to back up Little Ricky's drumming and Ethel plays the piano about as well as Fred and Lucy play their instruments.
- In fact, Lucy actually asks Ethel if she knows "Sweet Sue" and Ethel says she never learned that one.
- Shout-Out: One of the pairs of potential baby names is "Robert or Marilyn", refering to Lucy's head writers who would go on to write for her all the way up to Life With Lucy.
- In Charm School the men are at a party discussing golf when Ricky says, "I just read an article by Harry Ackerman...." Harry Ackerman was a television producer who, along with other CBS shows such as Gunsmoke and Dennis the Menace, helped develop I Love Lucy.
- In one episode, Lucy tries to give herself a perm in order to save money, but she does it for too long and ends up with an afro. Fred teasingly calls her Little Orphan Annie.
- The Show Goes Hollywood: The show had a season-long arc set in Hollywood where Ricky gets a part in movie.
- Significant Reference Date: In "Lucy Gets A Paris Gown", Lucy wants to get a new designer dress while in France. Ricky reads a letter Lucy wrote in Hollywood, promising Ricky if he'd buy her a Hollywood designer dress, she would NEVER ask for another designer dress. The note is dated 2/28/55 — The broadcast date of the episode "The Fashion Show" in which Lucy gets said dress. Extra coolness points awarded when you realize the writers had no idea what a rerun was at this point...let alone that anyone in the future would create episode guides, listing airdates.
- A Simple Plan
- Sitcom: The Trope Codifier for years.
- Slapstick Knows No Gender: This show is both one of the earliest and best known examples of the trope.
- A good rule of thumb: If Lucy enters a scene wearing pants, you are about to see some fantastic physical hijinx.
- Sleeping Single: Famously, however it's often forgotten that the twin beds were pushed together throughout the entire first season. It wasn't until after Little Ricky was born that the nightstand was put between them.
- Subverted, however, with Ethel and Fred — in "First Stop" we find out that they have a nightly ritual that involves Ethel tying Fred to the bed (not ''that'' way).
Lucy: You do that every night?!?
Ethel: Yea, but it took years of practice.
- Smoking Is Cool: The show was produced and aired during an era where smoking was not only cool, but accepted in contemporary society, and in some contexts, expected. All four series leads were smokers and lit up during various episodes, especially those aired in the first three or four seasons. This began to be toned down by 1956, when Little Ricky became more a part of the stories (and Phillip Morris no longer the show's main sponsor).
- Special Guest: Frequently, particularly when Ricky went to Hollywood and some movie or TV star — like John Wayne or George Reeve — would appear on the show.
- Spexico: Lucy seems to think Cuban culture is a mixture of Mexico, Spain, and Brazil of all places.
- Spiritual Successor: The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy, Life with Lucy
- Springtime for Hitler: An attempt to stop people from ordering Aunt Martha's Old Fashioned Salad Dressing with a tv commercial featuring an audience member picked at random (Lucy) dissing the product instead created three times as many orders from people saying "Keep up with the comedy bits!".
- Status Quo Is God: Subverted. Ricky went from being a nobody bandleader, to a noted bandleader, to a Night Club Manager, to a Night Club Owner, to a bit Movie Player, to the point in one of the Lucy Desi Comedy Hour where Ricky tells Lucy "...It's just one picture I'm gonna be in! We're just gonna be back from California in two weeks!"
- Also subverted in that as time went on Lucy got considerably less excited about meeting the Celebrity of the Week.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Less because of any chauvinism on Ricky's part, and more because Lucy really can't do anything else (though not for lack of trying, which is the basis for a great many episodes).
- Sticky Situation: To show Ricky how ridiculous he looks with a moustache, Lucy has Fred attach a big bushy beard to her face with spirit gum. Problem is, it's not spirit gum, it's cement.
- In one episode Lucy and Ethel wallpaper the Ricardos' bedroom. 'Nuff said.
- Stylistic Suck: Lucy's operetta, The Pleasant Peasant, boasts several Painful Rhymes, as well as a contrived plot.
- Not to mention the characters. Ethel played the secretly-a-princess peasant Lily... of the Valley. Fred was Squire Quinn who ran the Inn, down by the River Out. Ricky was rehearsing his song, "I am the good Prince Lancelot. I love to sing and dance-a-lot." When the check bounced and the movers came in to repossess the props and costumes in the middle of the play, no one was really concerned.
- Suburbia: The Ricardos and Mertzes move to Westport, Connecticut in season 6.
- Subways Suck: Especially when you have a loving cup stuck on your head.
- Swapped Roles: "Job Switching"
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Lucy dressed as a man semi-often to further her schemes. For example, an episode features her dressing as a hot dog salesman with a fake 'stache and as a baseball player to try to get Frank Sinatra to let her go on the show.
- Syndication Title: When the show was retooled into the Lucy Desi Comedy Hour, reruns were shown on CBS under the titles Lucy in Hollywood, Lucy in Europe, and Lucy in Connecticut.
- In the 70s the Comedy Hour episodes were syndicated as one hour specials under the title We Love Lucy. When Nick At Nite aired them, they restored the Comedy Hour title (minus the Ford/Westinghouse sponsor tags, of course). A March 2012 marathon on the Hallmark Channel had them back to We Love Lucy.
- Tablecloth Yank: Lucy does this is one episode (much to the delight of the audience).
- There Was a Door: In the episode "Lucy and Superman", Lucy (who is going to pose as Superman) plans to use the (several-story) window.
Ethel: Isn't there any other way Superman enters a room?
Lucy: Well, sometimes he comes bursting through the wall, but you know how Fred would feel about that.
- This Is My Side: "Men Are Messy", "The Diner"
- Three Cameras: Again, a first for television.
- Title Drop: In the very last Comedy Hour "Lucy Meets the Mustache", Ernie Kovacs manages to slip the phrase "Take a Good Look" into the dialouge. Take A Good Look was a comedy/game show Kovacs hosted at the time.
- Title Sequence Replacement / Product Displacement: The original animated intros featured cartoon-Lucy and cartoon-Desi interacting around a giant Philip Morris cigarette pack. For decades, only the heart-logo intros made for syndication were seen. A Criterion laserdisc of the show presented episodes with the animated openings, and TV Land later reintroduced them to broadcast (now with a slightly less giant vintage TV set showing the network logo on its screen). The Ultimate Blu-Ray sets offer a choice between the animated or heart intro.
- Trickster Archetype: Lucy is the female example of this.
- Troperiffic: At least half the tropes in all following sitcoms owe their lives to this show. Reruns! It invented reruns!
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: In the episode "Cousin Ernie Hangs On", Lucy complains to Ethel that "We've found there's only one thing Cousin Ernie does well, but there's not much of a market for a Professional Eater!" In the last few years eating contests have become more and more popular, and there are now indeed some people who only participate in these events, living off the prizes and corporate sponsorships for their existance. Cousin Ernie would be a natural.
- Lucy's editing of Ricky's pilot in "Home Movies" looks like something that would be right at home on Laugh In.
- Tuckerization: In-universe, Little Ricky names all of his pets after people he likes (many of his different pets are named after his classmates from school), and as such, named a puppy he brought home Fred. Later, in the final episode, where the puppy Fred goes missing, Hilarity Ensues with Little Ricky, Lucy, and Ethel calling for him, while Fred himself either answers when he thinks they're calling for him but are actually calling for the dog, and doesn't answer when he think they're calling the dog but are calling him.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Fred and Ethel, due to Vivian Vance Playing Gertrude.
- The Unintelligible: Little Ricky could sometimes be this - one of the adults will generally laugh and say "Heh heh...did you hear that? He says..." and repeat the line of dialogue for the audience.
- Unknown Rival: Xavier Cugat is often mentioned as a rival to Ricky, since they are both Cuban bandleaders. However, Cugat never made an appearance on the show. Also ironic in that in Real Life, Cugat helped give Desi Arnaz his start in show business as a guitar player in his orchestra.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Enciente" and "expecting" for "pregnant"; it was the Fifties, and you weren't allowed to say "pregnant" on television.
- Not even in the episode titles that the audience did not see.
- Vacation Episode: Most of the fourth season (and part of the fifth) was taken up with an entire vacation Story Arc in Hollywood. Another arc later in the fifth season involved the Ricardos and Mertzes touring around Europe, while a shorter sixth season arc had the group visiting Miami and Cuba.
- We Named the Monkey Jack: Little Ricky named his dog Fred.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- In the show's third episode, "The Diet", we get a scene involving the Mertzes' dog, Butch...who's never seen again.
- In the episode with Little Ricky bringing home Fred the puppy, a whole bunch of other pets are shown and mentioned in this one episode only.
- Whole Episode Flashback: Whenever a rerun aired in between new episodes, the cast prepared a new introduction in which one of the characters brings up the events of that episode in conversation. They also used such introductions during Lucille Ball's maternity leave, when showing five never-before-aired episodes that Lucy participated in before she gave birth.
- A Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour episode has Lucy relating to columnist Hedda Hopper the story of how she and Ricky first met, with the expected Whole Episode Flashback ensuing.
- Work Off the Debt: In "Equal Rights" Lucy and Ethel have to wash dishes after Ricky and Fred make them pay for their own meals with money they don't have after they complain that they should be treated just the same as men.
- You Look Familiar: Elizabeth Patterson first played Mother Willoughby in "The Marriage License," then returned during the second season to play babysitter Mrs. Trumbull.
- Charles Lane also had multiple appearances, usually as a different clerk at a government office or business each time.
- Mary Jane Croft played a former classmate of Lucy's in "Lucy Is Envious" and a nosy airplane passenger in "Return Home from Europe" before becoming a semi-regular as Connecticut neighbor Betty Ramsey in season 6.
- Frank Nelson played eight different characters, including radio host Freddy Filmore and Connecticut neighbor Ralph Ramsey.
- Ball's close friend Barbara Pepper appeared in eight episodes, each time as a different character.
- The actor who played the Ricardo's milkman in one New York episode returned to play Bobby the Bellboy in the Hollywood episodes.
- Lucy fails to notice that the man she hired to teach the foursome proper English looks exactly like the guy she sold her furniture to a few months earlier.
- Your Favorite: Lucy's favorite breakfast is waffles.
- Little Ricky's favorite bedtime story is Little Red Riding Hood.
- Zany Scheme: Pretty much every episode. Stereotypically it involves Lucy trying sneak in Ricky's nightclub, but there are plenty of different schemes, and the nightclub one was more done in spoofs than the actual show. Usually Lucy created a Zany Scheme based on some real-life trial like playing matchmaker, getting a refrigerator, or earning some quick cash for a new dress. As stated before, Hilarity Always Ensued.