When I Love Lucy was first telecast on October 15, 1951, it was the beginning of a love affair with its audience that has endured for generations. A smash hit from the start, the program remained among the top three in ranking for popularity throughout all six of its seasons.
It was after a three-year stint playing Liz Cooper, the female lead in the radio sitcom My Favorite Husband, that Lucille Ball decided to give the new medium of television a try. She would use the Liz character she'd developed on radio as the basis for her new Lucy character.
It was Lucy's choice to have her real life husband, Desi Arnaz, play her TV husband, Ricky Ricardo. Ironically, studio execs balked at the idea, saying that Desi wouldn't be believable as Lucy's husband. Determined, Lucille and Desi hit the road, performing before live audiences in order to prove the match would work. In 1951, the pair funded and produced their own TV series pilot, and CBS finally recognized a winner. The show debuted that fall. The pilot cost Lucy and Desi $5000.00.
Although each show's plot was predictable, Lucy's madcap antics never were. Forever plotting and scheming to get her way, Lucy and her reluctant side kick, Ethel Mertz, played by Vivian Vance, were the perfect pair of co-conspirators. Whereas Lucy would eagerly throw caution and common sense (not to mention the wrath of her hot-tempered Cuban husband) to the wind, Ethel would attempt to be the voice of reason. Try as she might, Ethel inevitably joins in and the ensuing mayhem is pure comedic joy.
As wonderful as Lucy and Ethel's exploits were, the show's magic wouldn't have been complete without their male counterparts. Lucy is married to Ricky Ricardo, a Cuban-born big band leader. As was the typical 1950's stereotype of marriage, Ricky assumes his word is final...Lucy of course has other ideas in mind, and before Ricky knows it, his neat and tidy little world comes crashing down around his ears. It's about that time when Ricky breaks into his signature tirade in Spanish, and the audience is sure that this IS the last straw, but it never is. Before long, Ricky somehow manages to save the day, and forgive his beautiful, wacky wife...but not before making sure she's learned her lesson!