YouTube re-introduced me to the charm of I Love Lucy and its spin-off shows. Perhaps the classic sitcom subconsciously reminds me of watching it with grandma during days off from school. I’ve also watched behind-the-scenes footage of Desi Arnaz addressing a live studio audience and, with comic flare, introducing the show’s characters moments before cameras began to roll. Someone posted color film apparently shot by an audience member and edited it into a sequence with corresponding black and white segments from the actual episode. The color film highlights Lucille Ball’s striking red hair and, in this particular instance, a sharp blue hat she wore for a sketch. You suddenly remember the show is not real and consists of performers, real people who in a less-connected world found a simple formula that entertained viewers at home around the world.
I’m surprised I Love Lucy still makes me laugh. I wonder if my sense of humor is less sophisticated or perhaps the show truly is, like Mickey Mouse, a timeless classic attractive to all generations. The show clearly demonstrates how technology, colloquialisms and the roles of women inside and outside the home have changed. But, in many ways, the decades have changed little about people and the everyday, instinctive interactions between men and women and married couples.
But the fairy tale stories surrounding the show and Lucille Ball offer me lessons with extremely rough edges. The show and its spin-off, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, often included guest stars who, in their day, held the fame and fortune of today’s Brad Pitt. But I only knew some of these stars after visiting Wikipedia, which quickly reminded me time after time that people the public once assumed held the world in their hands were no longer with us. I feel somewhat uneasy about how only a touch of a finger can fast forward me from larger-than-life personas in their prime to decades later when it all ended. Despite the reruns, I imagine some of today’s younger generations have only a vague concept of I Love Lucy and the genius of its star character. Wikipedia also explained how Vivian Vance (Ethel) apparently disliked William Frawley (Fred) enough to pass on pairing with him on a future project. (I guess their on-screen bickering reflected heavy doses of reality.) And a Barbara Walters interview with Lucille made it clear as black and white that her marriage to Desi was a disappointment. The glamorous Hollywood marriage only was such in the public’s desires and imaginations.
All this reminds me of simple life lessons that are complicated to implement. We stress over life’s small moments and ultimately forget why it even matters. Work creates tension because work is a means to money. Money is a means to a lifestyle. Lifestyle often leads to materialistic purchases we persuade ourselves we need to achieve status and greater happiness. Enough never seems enough. To stay aboard this fast running train, we spend our lunches, meetings and even visits to the park staring down at smartphones searching for new emails or distractions to fill a void. We magnify the unimportant and forget to watch our families smile or the striking mountains passing us while we drive. Rush hour is every hour and the end is a constantly moving target that nearly comes closer.
We imagine the personalities surrounding the success of I Love Lucy over the years had it all: the fame wrapped in fortune. From their studios, they spread worldwide magic. But Barbara Walters interview with Lucille reminded me in the end, no matter our status or bank accounts, people generally want the same treasures in life: happiness, health and love. Fame, fortune or a new BMW may momentarily realign our thinking, but even those with so much seem to eventually realize the basics are our true foundation for tranquility. And this re-occurring conclusion leads us to our common expressions of “life is short” and “smell the roses.” In reality, that is a religion so few practice.
I don’t believe I Love Lucy is meant to conjure up such deep or simplistic thinking depending on your point of view. But this is my experience. Fame, fortune and achievement earn you a Wikipedia entry, but our legacies, even if not publicly appreciated, should strive for much more than that.