Saturday, June 13, 2015

Lucy Carmichael: TV's Worst Mother

The Lucy Show cast. After the third season,
 everyone but Lucy herself disappeared.
Recently I've been watching reruns of The Lucy Show on YouTube. I don't know why, maybe because it's comforting. Lucille Ball was on TV constantly during my childhood. The Lucy Show and I Love Lucy were on during the day while Here's Lucy was on at night. When I stayed home sick from school, the morning was taken up with repeats of Lucy and then game shows in the afternoon. So I guess seeing these shows makes me feel like a little kid wearing pajamas and lying in bed.


During the first three seasons of The Lucy Show, Lucy's character Lucille Carmichael had something resembling a real life. She was a widow with two children, Chris and Jerry, sharing her home in the little town of Danfield, NY, with her friend Viv, a divorcee with a small son of her own, Sherman. Each week she would scheme to get money out of a trust fund from her banker--played by Charles Lane in the first season and then Gale Gordon as Mr. Mooney for the rest of the run. Yes, it was very shallow and sitcomy, but Lucy Carmichael seemed like a real, if somewhat kooky woman struggling to make ends meet after her husband has died. In the first season, Dick Martin, later of Laugh-In, made regular appearances as her neighbor Harry whom she could count on for a date, but was more of a chum than a romantic prospect. The most bizarre aspect of Lucy's character was she never mentioned her late husband except in the pilot. Probably because this was a comedy and the main intention was to get Lucy into crazy situations and any talk of sadness would not fit in. Viv did talk about her ex-husband Ralph plenty--usually in the most disparaging terms.

Then in the fourth season, Lucy moved to Los Angeles, ostensibly to be near her daughter Chris who was enrolled in college and to put her son in military school. The truth was Vivian Vance did not want to do the show anymore since she lived on the East Coast and the show was shot in Hollywood. Vance didn't wish to keep commuting away from her husband. So her character was dropped and in order to save money, the kids were dropped too. Somehow Lucy wound up working for the transplanted Mr. Mooney and her main objects in life seemed to be to meet movie stars and eligible bachelors.

The odd part was after a few episodes, along with her late husband, she never mentioned her children again. She was such a devoted mother back in Danfield, often getting herself into weird situations just to be near her kids. What happened to Chris and Jerry? Did they become hippies and drop out? The timing would have worked out since the show was set in the mid to late 60s. Jerry went to military school so he could have been drafted and died in Viet Nam, would Lucy have grieved and would the funeral have turned into a farce as she accidentally lost the body? Or would she have forgotten her son existed?

She did have visits with Viv, but the kids never came up nor did Viv's son Sherman.

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