Today marks the 25th anniversary of the end of Life with Lucy. It ended up being the last TV series that legendary comedienne Lucille Ball ever did. She long resisted returning to television, reasoning that she couldn’t top what she’d already done. It turned out that she was right.
Life with Lucy debuted on Saturday, September 20, 1986 and reunited Ball with her longtime co-star, Gale Gordon. In the new series, Ball plays a widowed grandmother named Lucille Barker who’d inherited her husband’s half-interest in a small Pasadena hardware store. The other half is owned by grumpy Curtis McGibbon (Gordon). While Curtis is away on vacation, his helper Leonard Stoner (Donovan Scott) becomes ill so silent-partner Lucy steps in and decides she likes being active in the business.
She’s also moved in with her daughter, Margo (Ann Dusenberry), and her husband Ted (Larry Anderson), who also happens to be Curtis’ son. They have two cute kids — played by Jenny Lewis and Philip J. Amelio II — and Lucy plans to help take care of them and ease the financial burden while Ted attends law school. After a disastrous week at the hardware store with Lucille, Curtis announces that he’s moving in because he doesn’t trust his grandchildren will be safe with her in the house.
ABC committed to a full season order without seeing a pilot. The ratings were positive for the first week but the critics savaged the show, viewers fled, and the numbers fell. Thirteen installments were produced but only eight aired before ABC pulled the plug. The last airing was on November 15, 1986.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why the show failed. Written by I Love Lucy writers Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Davis, the series seemed very quaint and dated, especially when compared to modern competitors like The Golden Girls. Tastes had changed and Ball couldn’t compete with memories of her younger self. It was the only time that one of her shows was cancelled.
But, how does the series look today — as a rerun? Decide for yourself. Here’s the first episode:
What do you think? Would you like to see this show released on DVD? Is it really a bad show?