‘I Love Lucy’ Star Lucille Ball Never Hosted a Variety Show: Here’s Why

by Joe Rutland

Wouldn’t it make a little sense that sometime in her career, “I Love Lucy” star Lucille Ball might host a variety show? It never happened.

Ball appears before a crowd of UCLA students in a 1978 episode of “America Alive!” Host Jack Linkletter introduces her and her husband, Gary Morton, to the students at some point.

Morton would help Ball field questions from the UCLA students. One of them asked if she’d ever been offered her own variety show. The “I Love Lucy” star said “many times” but she declined to do one.

“I think it’s terrific but they aren’t doing too well in the ratings but what the hell is,” Ball said about the state of variety shows circa 1978.

Lucille Ball Did Not Want To Be A Mistress Of Ceremonies On Variety Show

“You know, everything is having trouble in the ratings,” Ball said. “They can’t seem to find themselves. But the reason I don’t cotton after a real variety show is that I just don’t want to be a mistress of ceremonies.”

Lucille Ball told the UCLA student she wanted to be more of a singer-dancer type that could do so on the spur of the moment. She points toward dancer-actress Shirley MacLaine as someone who could be a good variety show hostess or performer.

“But I know your interested in variety,” Ball said to the UCLA student. “You want to direct in it or act in it?”

“Well anything I can get,” the student replies. Lucille Ball offers a teaching moment in her answer. She tells the student that “you better learn how to do something and not just say ‘anything I can get’ ’cause they got a lot of sweepin’ up to do,” she said. “You know they give you a broom and say ‘show business.'”

TV Legend Said She Was Spending Her Viewing Time On PBS

In this 1978 question-and-answer session, Lucille Ball said she spends most of her time watching PBS. The students applaud her answer.

“The public service programs have been capturing my interest because of a lack of other things,” Ball said. “And I’m seeing the same thing over and over again in the others. It’s not like I dislike them.”

For a little background, “America Alive!” was an NBC show that lasted just one season. Morton was Ball’s second husband; obviously, her first one was “I Love Lucy” costar Desi Arnaz. Ball died on April 26, 1989, at 77 years old in Los Angeles.

What were Ball’s TV series? She did four of them. “I Love Lucy,” “The Lucy Show,” “Here’s Lucy,” and “Life with Lucy.” Only the final one did not do well in the ratings and was canceled after one season. It was Ball’s last show on network television. In fact, it was the only series she didn’t do on CBS. It was on ABC.