August 11, 2009

The Fab Four: the Ricardos and the Mertzes.

I grew up. Surprise. Important to note: while I was growing up, I watched a lot of TV. "Way too much" as I was occasionally reprimanded by my mom and dad. Ok. So, one of the shows that I watched religiously and never missed, was "I love Lucy". Even when I was put on a TV diet. Over the course of my life, and thanks to the re-run cycle (this show, which originally aired from 1951-1957, is the longest-running series to air continually in the Los Angeles area, more than 50 years after production ended) I have seen each episode at least 20 times, probably more. (I think I may have absorbed some Lucy-isms into my genetic code.....dunno, throught the tv waves or something)

For those with similar habits, no 'splainin needed. An often-used line by Ricky Ricardo, made the political headlines a few weeks back during the confirmation hearings on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In short, you want a deeper understanding of US culture? Watch "I Love Lucy".

So, we have Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. And we have Fred and Ethel Mertz (My cat got the honors of being named after Fred). Both couples live in an upper East side Brownstone in New York. The Mertzes are the landlords. And, back in the day, wives were supposed to be housewives. The happy homemaker. A nice, sweet subservient wife who can cook. Well, none of that for Lucy. She wants to break into show business at all costs. After all, her husband is a bandleader, has his own nightclub, the Tropicana. Easy, right? Well, no, not if your husband is insistent upon the aforementioned qualifications, besides the Latin Lover factoring in there as well. So, Lucy is forced to go to any extreme on her endless quest for celebrity. And Ethel gets to help in the aiding and abetting department whilst sparing with Fred over eating habits, in-laws, money.....you know, the usual debates married couples have.

Centerpiecing the show are the antics of Lucy and Ethel. Lucy used the "with me or against me" tactics way before Bush did. She really cracks the whip when she's got a plan. And Ethel, no children of her own, goes along in a sort of motherly-oh dear-hand-wringing way. Yet belts out some awesome one-liners that demonstrate a keen observant caustic wit ie "you can´t bullshit me. "

It's an ensemble cast - this foursome. Truly fabulous before anyone else got the label. And so many comedy shows must have looked to "I Love Lucy" for inspiration. Think Seinfeld, Rosanne, Sex and the City. Any great sitcom - Ricky, Lucy, Ethel and Fred are the Godparents of these shows. And giving this cradle of comedy its perpetual rock - the writers:
Madelyn Pugh Davis, Bob Carroll Jr. , Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf.

Fred Mertz: She said my mother looks like a weasel.
Lucy Ricardo: Ethel, apologize.
Ethel Mertz: I'm sorry your mother looks like a weasel.

Ricky Ricardo: Lucy's actin' crazy.
Fred Mertz: Crazy for Lucy, or crazy for ordinary people?

[while Lucy is trying out the new mind reading act at Ricky's club:]
Mindreader's assistant: What is your date of birth?
Lucy Ricardo: August 6th.
Mindreader's assistant: August 6th what?
Lucy Ricardo: August 6th period.

Ethel Mertz: Gee, this high altitude sure gives me an appetite.
Fred Mertz: What's your excuse at sea level?

Lucy Ricardo: We have to find Sylvia Collins a husband but where?
Ethel Mertz: I'll make the sacrifice - she can have mine.

Lucy Ricardo: This whole thing is Ricky's fault.
Ricky Ricardo: MY FAULT?
Lucy Ricardo: Yeah, if you hadn't have left Cuba to come to America, we wouldn't have gotten married and we never would've come to Switzerland in the first place.

Ricky Ricardo: [discussing operetta Lucy wrote, but does not know she wrote it] Who wrote this thing, anyway?
Lucy Ricardo: Who wrote it? Have you ever heard of George Gershwin?
Ricky Ricardo: Yeah.
Lucy Ricardo: Well alright then.

Ricky Ricardo: [sees pancakes on his plate] Hey! Tortillas!
Lucy Ricardo: [sarcastically] Yeah. I made them out of Aunt Jemima Tortilla Mix.
Ricky Ricardo: Oh, I keep forgetting here in America you call them Flap Cakes.
Lucy Ricardo: Come again?
Ricky Ricardo: Hot Jacks?
Lucy Ricardo: You were closer with tortillas. They are Hot Cakes!
Ricky Ricardo: Oh!
[tastes some]
Ricky Ricardo: No, these are Cold Cakes.

Ricky Ricardo: I can't afford it.
Lucy Ricardo: Those must have been the first English words you learned.

Lucy Ricardo: How would you feel if Fred was smoldering with jealousy?
Ethel Mertz: Fred wouldn't smolder if he banged into a blowtorch.

Lucy Ricardo: If some other woman were to take Fred away from you, you'd be singing a different tune, too.
Ethel Mertz: Yeah, "Happy Days Are Here Again".

Ethel Mertz: What are you writing about?
Lucy Ricardo: I'm writing about things I know.
Ethel Mertz: That won't be a novel that will be a short story

As a reward, in case you actually got this far, one of the funniest scenes ever. Lucy and Ethel working at a chocolate factory. In another of Lucy's "get-rich-quick" plans to buy something or other.

No comments: