Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz were the beloved stars of the 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy.” Since making their onscreen debut, the couple remains memorable within classic TV history for a multitude of reasons. The love they shared off-screen translated into the relationship they had within the script of the hit American sitcom. And all the while, they managed to restructure some of the most strongly held beliefs within the industry. At the time “I Love Lucy” aired, it was entirely unheard of for actresses to address their pregnancies in front of the camera. However, Lucille Ball did just that not once, but twice, all the while filming her hit series.
Techno Trenz reports “I Love Lucy” is widely regarded as the first major network program to acknowledge a pregnancy onscreen. When the hit sitcom first aired, producers had recorded a pilot in 1951. However, instead of airing the pilot episode when the show went live, they instead showed the official first episode. That said, the outlet reports the two were nearly identical.
There were two significant differences though. Lopez, the name of the famous bandleader in the hit series, later became Ricardo. Writers made the decision so the character would not become confused with the real-life bandleader, Vincent Lopez.
However, more significantly, Lucille Ball was six months pregnant with her eldest child, Lucie Arnaz, while filming the pilot, as per IMDb.
Lucille Ball’s Pregnancy Changed the Face of Television
Lucille Ball might have been pregnant twice while filming “I Love Lucy.” However, viewers never actually got to see her pregnancy with her daughter Lucie. Because the pilot episode never actually aired, Lucy Ricardo was only ever pregnant once within the show’s script.
However, when filming season two, Lucille Ball became pregnant with the couple’s second child, Desi Arnaz, Jr. This could have potentially caused problems with Ball’s television role. At the time, The Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters remained very strict. Anything that might appear sexual was prohibited from airing on television. However, in the end, the network agreed to allow Lucille Ball’s pregnancy to feature in the fictional world of “I Love Lucy.”
That said, the “I Love Lucy” stars still had to follow strict guidelines. The script might have acknowledged the actress’s pregnancy. However, the actors could not use the term “pregnant,” instead replacing the word with “expecting” or “with child.”
As per the outlet, the episode in which Lucy Ricardo gives birth aired on January 19, 1953. The couple’s fictional child was born the day before the “I Love Lucy” star gave birth to Desi Arnaz Jr.
Network executives were initially reluctant to incorporate the actress’s pregnancy into the “I Love Lucy” script. In the end though, the risk paid off.
When the 1953 episode aired, “I Love Lucy” saw an audience numbering 44 million. 71.7% of television-equipped households tuned in. The next day, President Dwight. D Eisenhower was sworn into office, though viewership fell, with just 67.7% of households tuning in.
After “I Love Lucy” drew such massive viewership in featuring Lucille Ball’s pregnancy, the taboo on the subject within the world of television ended.