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How Do You Feel About Colorizing Classic ‘I Love Lucy’ Shows?

This week, classic TV fans watched five episodes ‘I Love Lucy’ on the big screen in honor of comedienne Lucille Ball’s birthday.

I Love Lucy fans marking what would have been star Lucille Ball’s 108th birthday got a special treat this week. Theaters across the country showed five episodes of the series.

The five fan favorites, however, were different than what you’d remember from your childhood: they were presented in color. That means you could see Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and their landlords and best friends Ethyl and Fred Mertz in living color.

For years now, CBS has aired episodes of classic programs around Christmas that have been colorized. I Love Lucy has been part of those showings. The colorized episodes featured the show’s Christmas-themed story and one other classic. In the Christmas show, Fred buys Little Ricky a Christmas tree. They all end up wearing Santa costumes to surprise the boy, then realize there’s a fifth Santa — the real one — among them!

A good selection of episodes

Two years ago, I posted a list of my favorite 10 episodes of the series. Three of the five shown this week were in my list:

  • Lucy Does a TV Commercial: Lucy lands a TV commercial gig and has to demonstrate a miracle nutritious formulation. What they don’t tell her is said concoction has a high alcohol content.
  • Job Switching: Lucy and Ethyl try to prove to Ricky and Fred that they can bring home the bacon. They end up working in a candy factory with hilarious results.
  • L.A. at Last!: The Ricardos and Mertzes arrive in Hollywood and Lucy’s first stop is the famed Brown Derby to see how many celebrities she can spot. Her visit doesn’t go so well for poor William Holden.

It’s difficult to narrow a selection of “favorite” episodes for a show like I Love Lucy to just 10 shows, much less five. But the distributor definitely chose well.

Should they colorize classic black-and-white TV?

At least once, CBS presented colorized episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. For fans of that show, color episodes aren’t generally as well-received. By the time the show went color, at the start of its sixth season, star Don Knotts had left. The show lost the magic chemistry between Griffith and Knotts and it was never the same. For many of us who love the show, seeing the opening in color often means an inferior show.

But I Love Lucy is different: the comedy and chemistry is there. There’s no automatic aversion fans have to color episodes with that program.

And from what I’ve seen of the colorization process, it has come a long way. The colors look authentic based on what I’d expect to see from 1950s decor.

But judge for yourself:

The coloring is done subtly. Backdrops that might otherwise be shaded in eye-popping colors are muted down so the focus is, as it always was, on the stars.

Her trademark red hair seems a little too red (or orange!) in the clip above. But depending on the scene, it’s still pretty close to what it looked like in this trailer made at the time:

Another nice thing about colorizing a show like this is helping it appeal to a younger audience. Some younger viewers hate black and white shows. Therefore, it’s an automatic turn-off for them to see a show not in color.

I think that’s a sad commentary, but then I’ve seen some incredibly well-done productions that happened to be in black and white.

Happy birthday, Lucy! And thanks for all the laughs for all these years!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.