HomeEntertainment‘I Love Lucy’ Was the First Sitcom to Reach the Top in Nielsen Ratings

‘I Love Lucy’ Was the First Sitcom to Reach the Top in Nielsen Ratings

by Jennifer Shea
Photo credit: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

“I Love Lucy” brought about a lot of firsts: first show to air reruns, first television millionaires, the first to use of multiple cameras with a live studio audience, and one of the first shows to film in Los Angeles.

Now add another first to the list: First sitcom to hit No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings.

Not only did the show climb to the top of Nielsen’s charts, but it stayed there for four of its six total seasons, according to the Lucy Desi Museum. And the show finished its 161-episode run in that top spot.

Only “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Seinfeld” managed to tie that achievement, per MeTV. Those shows also ended their respective runs on top.

‘I Love Lucy’ Also Won Multiple Emmys

Over the course of the show, “I Love Lucy” received 20 Emmy Award nominations, winning five times. That included a 1956 Best Actress Emmy for star Lucille Ball.

In 1991, the show got inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. And in 2012, a survey conducted by ABC News and People magazine ranked “I Love Lucy” the Best TV Show of All Time.

Ball would later pick up two more Emmys for her work on “The Lucy Show,” according to Gold Derby. Ball was apparently flabbergasted by these later wins, saying “I don’t believe it” after Carl Reiner announced her name in 1967.

Lucille Ball Did Not Enjoy the Business Part of Show Business

As the first woman to head a major studio, Ball is often lauded as a visionary show-business figure. But her daughter Lucie Arnaz told Yahoo Entertainment that Ball really didn’t enjoy the business end of things and in fact didn’t have much business acumen.

“My mother did not have a great business mind, didn’t want one, was not interested in that end of it at all. She wanted to play in the sandbox, period,” Arnaz said. “She wanted to go to work and play those characters and have fun and do shows. My father was a great business mind and he ran the studio and she was never happier than when she could rely on that.”

Moreover, most of Ball’s good decisions came from her instincts as an entertainer, not her business savvy. She was without question a gifted comedienne, at her best doing physical comedy in front of a live audience. And that was the experience she drew on when it came time to make important calls as the chief of Desilu.

“She gets a lot of credit for being the first woman this, the first woman that, the big businesswoman… but she did not like to do that,” Arnaz continued. “And she wasn’t particularly good at it. What she was good at was instincts, she had great instincts, so once in a while she made a couple of calls that were pretty brilliant, like, ‘No, don’t cancel Star Trek. No, I think Mission: Impossible is fun, let’s leave it on.’ You know? Those were smart calls, but it wasn’t what I would call business sense.”