As one of the most influential individuals in entertainment history, it should come as no surprise that “I Love Lucy” mastermind, Lucille Ball, would receive dozens of awards in her lifetime. One particular title, however, stands above the rest.
Conjure a golden-era television icon, and chances are it’s Lucille Ball. Few have – or will ever – reach the heights both Ball and her original Desilu masterpiece, “I Love Lucy,” achieved. And this went far from unnoticed, even when the icon was at the top of her game.
So much so, in fact, that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences christened Lucille Ball “The First Lady of Television” at a prestigious event in 1969.
Most celebrities see these sorts of “lifetime” awards in their twilight. For Ball, however, the “I Love Lucy” train was still rolling in the form of television reboots several times over. One of her later efforts, “Here’s Lucy” continued on until 1974.
As Variety notes, Lucille Ball “famously conceived” the idea of a TV comedy starring herself and her husband, Desi Arnaz, as a clever way to stabilize their marriage. At the time, Arnaz was often off touring with his band. Ball, however, had other ideas – and “I Love Lucy” was born.
Previously, the icon was known for her incredibly-successful CBS radio show, “My Favorite Husband.” The show proved so popular, even, that CBS was determined to bring the property to television.
‘I Love Lucy’ Takes Television By Storm
Still a “fledgling format” at the time, TV audiences hadn’t seen anything like what “I Love Lucy” was about to become. Needless to say: absolutely no one saw its meteoric, almost instantaneous overtaking of American pop culture coming.
“At every step, Ball and Arnaz made “I Love Lucy” on their own terms… Starting with writing the $5,000 check to finance the production of the pilot,” Variety cites of a show the trade has a long history with. Fascinatingly, the relationship stems all the way back to their days as the Daily Variety. This first incarnation of the trade was even the first publication to ever publish an advert for “I Love Lucy.”
Starting with its debut on October 15, 1951, audiences were completely onboard. From there, “I Love Lucy” became a gargantuan hit within weeks. This is, of course, in no small part due to Lucille Ball and her irreplaceable co-stars. From husband Desi Arnaz as the wild yet tender Ricky Ricardo, to neighbors Fred and Ethel Mertz (the latter played by Ball’s lifelong “sister,” Vivian Vance), no other entertainment property offered the sort of smart-yet-side-splittingly funny wit this quartet churned out (seemingly) effortlessly.
Some would argue, too, that no show will ever match “I Love Lucy”s consistency, either.