Life with Lucy is a 1986 short-lived American sitcom from ABC that attempted to revive the extremely popular 1950's sitcom I Love Lucy to the 1980's. This show was notably TV actress' Lucille Ball (fittingly, as she was in her seventies when this show began production)'s last time she ever appeared on a prime time TV show.
ABC hoped this show would be a big hit, but it instead would become one of biggest TV bombs of the 1980's, partly because of ABC's decision to have Lucille Ball write the episodes herself (which involved her getting into pratfalls and stunts like she did in her previous show; read the Why It Sucks section for why it didn't work) and scheduling it on a poor time slot on Fridays. Reportedly, when news of the show's cancellation came to Ball, she was so saddened by the show's failure that she was convinced that TV no longer wanted her.
Ever since the show's quick cancellation, it has been listed on several worst TV shows of all time; In particular, TV Guide ranked this show 26th on their "Worst Shows of All Time" list in 2002.
Ball played a widowed grandmother who had inherited her husband's half-interest in a hardware store in South Pasadena, California, the other half being owned by his partner, widower Curtis McGibbon. Lucy's character insisted on "helping" in the store, even though when her husband was alive she had taken no part in the business and hence knew nothing about it. The unlikely partners were also in-laws, her daughter being married to his son, and all of them, along with their young grandchildren, lived together.
Why It Sucks
- It failed to live up to the impressive standards of its predecessor, especially since I Love Lucy has often been called one of the best sitcoms ever made.
- Having Lucille Ball do stunts in her seventies backfired, because it didn't make people laugh but instead made people concerned for her safety.
- The plots are boring and uninspired.
- Poor acting.
- This show was so bad, this resulted in the closure of Lucille Ball Productions, Lucille Ball's company, and Lucille Ball herself retired from acting in 1986 until her death 3 years later in April 1989.
Reception and cancellation
Fourteen episodes were written, thirteen videotaped, but only eight aired. On the day of the last filmed (but unaired) episode, producer Aaron Spelling learned of the show's cancellation by ABC; he decided to tell Ball's husband Gary Morton, who decided not to reveal the news to her until after taping ended. The last episode to be aired, "Mother of the Bride", featured Audrey Meadows, who was offered to be cast as a regular to give the show a new direction and Lucille's character a comic foil and partner, similar to the role previously played by Vivian Vance in Lucy's previous series. (This was the only 'Lucy' sitcom in which Vance, who had died in 1979, never appeared.) Meadows turned down the offer.
Life With Lucy's premiere episode on September 20 made the Nielsen's Top 25 (#23 for the week) for its week; however, subsequent episodes dropped steadily in viewership; Life With Lucy went against NBC's The Facts of Life in the same Saturday night lead-off timeslot and never gained ground against it. It ranked only 73rd out of 79 shows for the season (the seventh-lowest rated show on TV for the season), with a 9.0/16 rating/share. The show was never syndicated, nor was it ever released on home video; it briefly aired on Nick at Nite as part of a Lucille Ball-themed marathon in 1996, but otherwise has never been rerun (although episodes can be found on YouTube, as well as the five unaired episodes and at The Paley Center For Media in New York City and Beverly Hills, California). Biographies of the actress reveal that she was reportedly devastated by the show's failure, and never again attempted another series or feature film; her subsequent interviews and other TV appearances were infrequent. Lucy's last public appearance was as a presenter on the 1989 Academy Awards telecast in which she and fellow presenter, Bob Hope, were given a standing ovation. She died a month later, in April 1989. In a 1999 interview with the Archive of American Television, Aaron Spelling attributed the failure of the show entirely to Ball, only blaming himself for allowing her full creative control.
In July 2002, TV Guide named Life With Lucy the 26th worst TV series of all time, stating, in their words, that it was, "without a doubt, the saddest entry in [their] list of bad TV shows of all time". In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked the series at No. 21 on the list.