‘I Love Lucy’: How Lucille Ball’s Pregnancy Was Written Into the Show

by Clayton Edwards
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I Love Lucy may seem like a wholesome family show today. However, when it aired, it pushed boundaries for several reasons. Firstly, Lucy and Ricky were an interracial couple. That was not exactly the norm back in the early fifties. In fact, Lucille Ball had to fight to get producers to allow Desi to play her on-screen hubby. Then, there was the issue of Ball’s real-life pregnancy. It took some quick thinking and serious envelope-pushing to work that into the show.

At the time, the rules about what you could show, say, or do on television were incredibly strict. Even completely natural everyday things were taboo for TV. For instance, Leave it to Beaver producers had to fight to show a toilet in their show. It wasn’t even being used for its intended purpose. Furthermore, they were only allowed to show the tank. So, when Lucille Ball became pregnant with Desi Jr., many thought that I Love Lucy was doomed.

TV censors wouldn’t allow anything that even hinted at sex. So, pregnancy was forbidden. It’s insane to think that something so natural was so frowned upon. After all, without pregnancy, none of us would be here. However, censors were stringent on what was and wasn’t okay for audiences to see. Censors wouldn’t even allow the word “pregnancy” on television. Words and phrases like “with child,” and “expecting,” were almost as frowned-upon. It was a strange time, really.

However, Lucille Ball was, indeed, expecting. There was no real way to hide her quickly expanding abdomen. So, they had to figure out a way to work her “condition,” into I Love Lucy.

How They Worked the Pregnancy Into I Love Lucy

 Producers informed Desi Arnaz that his wife’s pregnancy could be disastrous for the show. This angered the actor/producer/father-to-be. “What is so wrong if she has a baby in the show as Lucy Ricardo?” he wanted to know. Studio executives suggested that they could hide it in episodes of I Love Lucy. According to Time, they suggested that Lucy sit behind chairs or tables. However, Arnaz knew that his fiery wife would have none of that. At the same time, he wasn’t happy about it either.

Desi knew there was a solution somewhere. So, he and I Love Lucy writer Jess Oppenheimer set about finding it. No one had ever written a pregnancy into a script before. So, it wasn’t going to be easy.

Finally, Arnaz and Oppenheimer put a script together that would reveal the pregnancy to the I Love Lucy audience. They kept it tame and stayed as far away from the dreaded “p-word” as possible. Instead, they went for “with child,” or “expecting.” Then, they went over the heads of television censors. Arnaz and Oppenheimer went to the clergy. They took copies of the script to a priest, a minister, and a rabbi. All of them approved the script.

The Big Announcement

The big announcement came during a nightclub scene in an early December episode of I Love Lucy. Lucy had been trying to tell Ricky about her pregnancy all day. However, he was busy with work. So, she went to the club where he was performing. Then, someone hands Ricky a note saying that someone in the club was going to have a “blessed event.”

After asking all of the couples in the crowd if they’re expecting, Ricky sees Lucy. Then, it dawns on him. He and Lucy are the ones who will have a blessed event. Ricky conveys this to the  I Love Lucy audience in the most Ricky Ricardo fashion you could imagine. While kneeling in front of his wife he says, “It’s me. I’m going to be a father. How about that?”

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