Thursday, August 4, 2011
There's nothing that sticks in the minds of TV fans like a good theme song, especially with a sitcom. A jaunty opening theme can, in fact, essentially make a show. It's no exaggeration to say that sitcoms like Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, and more recently Cheers had their success -- and lasting impact -- sealed through their memorable theme songs that instantly bring to mind the series.
In her TV career spanning several decades and several different incarnations of her eponymous show, Lucille Ball had a terrific collection of theme songs, starting of course with the wonderful I Love Lucy theme written by Eliot Daniel, and heard in Wilbur Hatch's unforgettable orchestration. We heard this at the beginning of the 181 episodes of the series -- its original run was 1951 - 1957 -- and it's never been off the air since.
Lucy and the entire ILL ensemble followed up with a thirteen episode run of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour from 1957 - 1960, with a variation of the I Love Lucy theme. You can watch the beginning of one of the episodes to see the difference.
Two years later Lucy returned to series TV with The Lucy Show, co-starring Vivian Vance, TLS ran for 150 episodes from 1962 - 1968, and of course in many reruns though it wasn't as eternal a syndication staple as was I Love Lucy. Once a station had I Love Lucy, corning the market on Lucille Ball meant another acquisition of a show with a huge amount of episodes, and most stations simply didn't need both. Thanks to the net and DVDs, the very funny The Lucy Show is now beginning to get exposure again.
The Lucy Show went through quite a few different opening themes, beginning with this one utilizing cartoon stick figures, much like the original network style for I Love Lucy (the heart logo came in during syndication runs).
Season two (and beyond) of The Lucy Show was filmed in color but broadcast in black and white (color in syndication runs, though). This is a vibrant open with wonderful Lucy images.
For some reason I really remember this third season version of The Lucy Show open, with the musical stings emphasizing certain comic moments, especially the Chaplin walk.
This is another version of The Lucy Show in color show open, with the kaleidoscope images. You'll also enjoy seeing that iconic, glamorous and somewhat haughty Lucille Ball caricature again!
This next one is evidently a seldom-used Season 5 The Lucy Show open which uses familiar audio but a different version of the theme song.
This next one is a different version of the theme written for Season 5 (heard in the previous opening), with an animated open that Lucy evidently disliked -- including her disembodied head on a jack-in-the-box -- and so it was quickly changed out. Definitely worth looking at, though!
Lucy's next series was Here's Lucy, created by Lucille Ball to be produced by her new production company; she had just sold off her previous company Desilu to conglomerate Gulf & Western. Here's Lucy premiered in the fall of 1968, with her own two children Lucie and Desi, Jr. as co-stars. Here's Lucy would end up running for another six years, until 1974, for a total of another 143 episodes of Lucille Ball comedy!
Here's basically the same theme but with Lucie Arnaz elevated to full 2nd billing in the last couple years of the show.
Lucy's last TV series was Life with Lucy which premiered in 1986 and unfortunately only filmed 13 episodes. Of course the Lucy magic and talent was still there, but it was years later and maybe nobody really wanted to see Lucille Ball as a grandmother -- she had previously been basically ageless. The theme song is fairly generic and not very memorable, and the show's demise could at least have had as much to do with that as anything else. Remember what I said about a good theme song at the beginning here....
Thanks for the memories, Lucy!
Grateful acknowledgements to YouTube users schmoe56789, kbirdusa, jgknightboyz2000, minnowtrappermd, and hepburnflicks for all the great clips!