Life with Lucy: The Last Episode Aired 25 Years Ago Today

Life with Lucy endedToday 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?

Canceled and renewed TV show

8 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Sal Paradise says

    Egads, I tried to watch this and rate it as a ‘stand alone’ program, such as what would it be without Ball’s reputation and back story. In short, the concept was pretty lame. It seems to run with the idea of Ball’s Lucy character at that age, and what she would have been like. Given that I think it might have been better had it offered some connection to the old shows. Instead, it just drops ‘Lucy Ricardo’ into the concept, 36 years since the last real I Love Lucy show aired (Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour). Ball’s programs after that all suffered from a poor supporting cast. Except for the first year of ‘The Lucy Show’, with Vivian Vance, she carried the show. Much to old to do that in this program, you can see right away that she’s just too old. The Ricardo character just to physical for her at that age. Ball’s husband at the time, Gary Morton, talked her into doing the show. It’s clear that he didn’t have the eye for what worked for Ball that Desi Arnaz had. Arnaz was on his death bed when the show started, and as noted by his daughter, Lucie Arnaz, wasn’t really aware of things then. It’s too bad, because other than actually getting a chance to see her perform and please her legions of fans, the show was not a good vehicle for her. As noted, she passed away in 1989, just 3 years after this show went off the air. Maybe it was just too much to expect at that age. But, her other programs, such as I Love Lucy, the Comedy Hour and the first 2 years of The Lucy Show were classics and formed the foundation of modern tv comedy.

  2. Ernie says

    HEEEEEEEECK YES!!!!! They should be released!!! Maybe, just maybe Life With Lucy was ahead of it’s time? Now I’ve NEVER watched this first episode, and I was laughing at all the right times! Shoot, I went back at several parts like 3 times in a row! I VOTE FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES ON DVD!!!

  3. ILoveLucy says

    This is the perfect clip to show. “Mom could live here for twenty-five years and when he come’s over for dinner there’s just a vague chance he might bump into her.” Seconds later: “Twenty-five years! Twe- Margo, did you say twenty five years!”

    Who knew she only had a little less than 3 left.

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