Flipping Channels: Seeing Red Over CBS's Colorized I Love Lucy



There are various shows from the early days of television that seldom appear today, even in the age of TV Land and YouTube. One is the famous Christmas episode of I Love Lucy from 1956, which among other things featured the entire cast at some point in Santa Claus costumes, and also had very imaginative (for that era) use of flashbacks that gave the audience new insight into the Ricardos and Mertzes.

For some of us I Love Lucy is the definitive half-hour comedy, not Seinfeld or Friends, but that's a debate for another day. CBS kept the Christmas episode out of syndication and pretty much out of sight for more than 30 years before finally allowing it to be released in home video on VHS back in 1989. It never pops up, however, on any of the cable networks that air I Love Lucy reruns.

But CBS (WTVF-Channel 5) is bringing it out of the vault 7 p.m. Friday for a rare showing, pairing it with the episode many feel is the funniest in the series, the grape-stomping madness called "Lucy's Italian Movie."

Unfortunately, CBS is (ugh!) colorizing both episodes, although CBS Home Entertainment executive Vice President Ken Ross supports that decision.

"Why not see grapes in purple rather than black and white?" Ross tells TV Guide. He adds that "It looks like it was shot in color in the '50s. It doesn't look like a 2013 show." Lucie Arnaz also endorsed the move, saying, "I am happy it continues to bring joy to folks 57 years later, whatever color it is."

Well, that's certainly a sentiment few would dispute. CBS also used the occasion to announce that the first season of I Love Lucy will be on Blu-Ray in March with a bunch of extra features. "We're calling it The Ultimate Lucy," Ross tells TV Guide. "It's going to be breathtaking."

I'll assume they're not going to colorize that package.

The Voice hits a high note
NBC hasn't had much go right the past few years, but The Voice is one of its few success stories. It's blossomed into a huge hit, a franchise so successful it can be used as a cornerstone program to launch two different series (Revolution and The Blacklist).

Plus it generates two things that make network suits swoon these days: constant social media buzz and big numbers among the 18-49 set.

The Voice won an Emmy last year, unseating The Amazing Race and further reaffirming its claim to have dethroned American Idol as the prime singing competition program. Whether that's true or not will be determined when the revamped Idol returns in 2014, but one thing is clear: it's the most popular show NBC airs during the week.

The current season concludes starting 7 p.m. tonight and ending in a two-hour finale 8 p.m. Tuesday (WSMV-Channel 4), placing Lady Gaga within striking distance of Christina Aguilera, and you can bet there's plenty of concern over what's going to replace it on Mondays. The Voice has almost totally destroyed CBS' former prominence on Monday night, but NBC's smart enough (at least for now) not to risk overexposing it by putting it on for more than one programming cycle.

Football rules
It just might be the supreme irony that at a time when there's more concern about football's link to permanent disabling injury than at any time since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, it's also enjoying unpredecented television popularity. In this time of audience fragmentation and virtually complete bloc programming, both pro and college football grabs viewers across all demographic boundaries.

The Dec. 8 Carolina Panthers/New Orleans Saints game on NBC topped all programs for the week with an audience of 19.1 million viewers. Fox had two shows in the Top 10. One was the post-game pro football show. The other was the Saturday night Ohio State/Michigan State game that drew almost 14 million viewers (13.9).

Let's put it another way: Fox draws more people for an NFL post-game scores and bull session than for anything else on their entire network.

Climb every Nielsen
Whatever else may be said about Carrie Underwood's recent turn on The Sound of Music, she gave NBC what it wanted: a huge one-night sensation. The Sound of Music Live! drew an audience of 18.6 million and was the second highest rated program that week, as well as the top non-sports show.

It did so well NBC is now planning a similar production (or two) next season. The initial suggestion was Peter Pan, which Mary Martin was doing on network TV when folks like yours truly was a kid. Wonder who they'll get for that one, should that be the choice? Calling Taylor Swift.

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