I Love Lucy is generally regarded as one of the best comedies in television history. Lucille Ball remains one of the funniest comediennes ever to grace the small screen. As I Love Lucy entered its sixth season on CBS in 1956-57, the show was number one in the ratings and a financial success.
However, strife within the cast and crew was casting a dark shadow over everything. The marriage of Lucy and Desi, strained for years, had finally collapsed beyond repair, the always contentious relationship between William Frawley (Fred Mertz) and Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) was so bad the two actors refused to do scenes together that required them to touch. To top it all off, the series creator/producer Jess Oppenheimer had left the show after season five, with the belief that the best days (and script ideas), for I Love Lucy were gone. Since Oppenheimer did a lot of work with character development and punched up dialogue whenever required, his loss is notable.
After a majority of season four had been set in Hollywood and season five had split time in Hollywood and Europe, season six finds Lucy and the gang back in New York—for the most part. Ricky has finally achieved his dream, purchasing the Tropicana and renaming it Club Babalu.
It is a pretty well known fact that when shows are struggling for plotlines inevitably their response is to add a new character, preferably a cute kid, to the cast to try and mix things up—think Cousin Oliver during the last season of The Brady Bunch or Sam during the last couple years of Different Strokes. Little Ricky was not a new character. In fact, his birth back in 1953 had been one of television's biggest events, coinciding with the birth of Lucy and Desi’s real life son, Desi Arnaz Jr. Since Little Ricky’s birth he had been seen sparingly, brought in briefly usually to set up a joke for his parents. With the start of season six, Little Ricky (Keith Thibodeaux) had magically morphed from a toddler to a five-year-old. Cute and precocious, the tyke was now a much more important part of Lucy and Ricky’s storylines. Adding to the package, Thibodeaux was a drum prodigy who could meld well with his TV father’s entertainer persona.