Classic Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke sitcoms return to CBS primetime
Lucy Ricardo and Rob Petrie have joined the list of holiday-season television staples also including Rudolph, Frosty and Charlie Brown.
Classic, colorized episodes of “I Love Lucy” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” now fuel annual CBS specials, and the latest versions air Friday, Dec. 14. The episodes are intact from their original showings, though they initially were produced in – and broadcast in – black-and-white.
‘The I Love Lucy Christmas Special’ starts with a story familiar to anyone who has seen earlier versions — and to many people who were watching TV on Christmas Eve in 1956. “The Christmas Episode” always is the first half of the “Lucy” yuletide-special hour, with clips from previous tales illustrating how different life became for Lucy and Ricky (Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz) after son Little Ricky (Keith Thibodeaux, aka Richard Keith) was born.
Don’t worry, “Lucy” fans: Neighbors and friends Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley, Vivian Vance) are on hand, too, helping the Ricardos decorate their holiday tree while recalling times gone by.
The adult characters also are present in the episode that serves as this year’s companion piece in the “Lucy” Christmas special, ”Pioneer Women.” The ladies engage in a bet with their husbands over who can last the longest without modern conveniences (or as modern as they were in the early 1950s) …one byproduct being one of the longest loaves of bread ever seen on the home screen. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
(Worth mentioning: It wasn’t a prop. It was quite real, and it was divvied up after the filming for the cast, crew and audience. If you see “Hunk of Stale Bread From ‘I Love Lucy’” on an Internet auction site, don’t scoff.)
In the “The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now in Living Color!” hour that follows, the two stories aren’t necessarily seasonal, but they were chosen by series creator (and, as Alan Brady, sometimes co-star) Carl Reiner to represent what he believes to be Van Dyke at his best. Reiner also wrote both, the first of which is 1961’s “Where Did I Come From?,” with that question from young Richie (Larry Mathews) prompting related memories from Rob and Laura Petrie (Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore).
Then, “Never Bathe on Saturday” (first shown in 1965) finds Laura in a decidedly Lucy-like predicament … with her toe getting stuck in a bathtub spout while she and Rob are on their second honeymoon. Since the bathroom door is locked, Rob can’t get in to free her.
Consider the return of Ball and Van Dyke and company to CBS’ primetime lineup a holiday gift once again, then. And chances are very good it won’t be the last time.