As it turns out, the famous purity of “Leave It to Beaver” was a direct result of Lucille Ball and the comedy on display in “I Love Lucy.” But not for the reasons you might expect.
As arguably the most iconic television sitcom of all time, “I Love Lucy” remains the benchmark to which comedies are held to this day. Starring timeless performances from Lucille Ball and her true husband, Desi Arnaz, “Lucy” was comedy gold from day one. The hysterical antics of Lucy & Ricky Ricardo captivated audiences like no show before it, and largely shaped the 50s in which it aired.
As a result, television would never be the same when the show made its final curtain call on May 6, 1957. There would never be another show quite like “Lucy,” though many tried – and failed.
That same year, however, another instant-classic would pick up the reigns from “Lucy” in captivating America’s whole heart. “Leave It to Beaver” came on air right as “Lucy” was ending it’s tenure. But the show’s producers weren’t interested in carrying on Lucille Ball’s legacy. At all. In fact, they wanted to do the exact opposite.
Lucille Ball’s Approach to Comedy
“I Love Lucy” was chock-full of hysterical bits, romps, and slapstick comedy that left audiences rolling. For the show’s mastermind and star, Lucille Ball, this was the way it always had to be. In her memoir, Love, Lucy, Ball speaks to this extensively, offering insight into her approach to comedy.
“It’s looking at things from a child’s point of view and believing,” she writes within. “The only way I can play a funny scene is to believe it. Then I can convincingly eat like a dog under a table or bake a loaf of bread ten feet long.”
“I can’t do a funny scene unless I believe it,” the icon continues. “But I can believe wholeheartedly any zany scene my writers dream up. No cool-headed realist can do this.”
And it turns out that the producers behind “Leave It to Beaver” were the very “realists” Ball references.
“Realists” to Beaver
To this end, Facts Verse notes that everyone from the producers to directors of “Leave It to Beaver” weren’t interested in “I Love Lucy’s” brand of comedy in any manner. To them, going for the type of outlandish, slapstick comedy “Lucy” was anchored around was almost abhorrent.
In fact, if there were ever a joke on “Beaver” that got too much laughter – the producers would cut it completely. To the “realists” of “Beaver,” the endgame was to craft a “feel-good vibe” without relying on “lesser” comedy.
Wally Cleaver actor Tony Dow, elaborates on this to The New York Times.
“Jokes get in the way,” he remarks to the Times. “They get in the way of your concentration when you’re trying to get at a story. We would throw jokes out at the table reading.”
“We would throw jokes out at the table reading”
Harsh! The show features plenty of funny moments, sure, but nothing in line with “Lucy.” Not even close. And now we know why. Now, over half a century later, “Leave It to Beaver” is still remembered for its undeniable purity. To this end, Dow recalls this was very much a result of the atmosphere created on set – as well as their firm joke policy.
“There were drugs and alcohol when we grew up, but we had this tremendous core of support, first from our families, but also from the writers and others who worked on the show,” Dow says. “I remember there was this crewman who said ‘dammit’ or something once. Never saw him again.”
Wow. To be a fly on a Cleaver wall…
For all the latest from your favorite American icons, stay tuned to Outsider.com. Up next:
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[H/T Showbiz Cheatsheet]