Two ‘I Love Lucy’ episodes come back in color this December

By Yvonne Villarreal
Los Angeles Times via McClatchy Tribune

LOS ANGELES — There was never any doubt that “I Love Lucy” was full of color. But for those whose imaginations need some help, CBS will air in December a one-hour special featuring two newly colorized classic episodes of the 1950s series.

The “I Love Lucy Christmas Special” will consist of the seldom seen “Christmas Episode” and the grape-stomping classic “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” airing Friday, Dec. 20, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The show — which featured Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as the Ricardos’ friends and landlords, Ethel and Fred Mertz — is celebrating its 62nd anniversary.

The holiday episode, which has the Ricardos and Mertzes reminiscing while decorating a Christmas tree, was first broadcast in December 1956 and went into hiding, failing to be included in the series’ long history of repeats while in syndication. It was rediscovered in 1989, with select airings since then.

“Lucy’s Italian Movie” was originally broadcast in March 1956 and became an instant classic in the art of talking with one’s hands and the finesse in slathering crushed grapes across a foe’s face. The episode finds the Ricardos and Mertzes in Rome, where Lucy is invited by a famous Italian film director to appear in his next picture, “Bitter Grapes.” And Lucy does what Lucy does: She gets in a pickle.

There will be no interruption between episodes, with the main titles and end credits of the two episodes coming at the beginning and end of the hour.

CBS, whose studio owns the rights to the “I Love Lucy” library, didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry on the decision to colorize the episodes with a “vintage look,” as the news release states. Perhaps just a way to hold the interest of a younger generation. It wouldn’t be the first time color was applied to the classic series — photos from the series have been hued up on postcards, tin lunch pails, etc..

Not that it needs the tinting for a boost. When waxing on the show’s 62nd anniversary, Los Angeles Times TV critic Robert Lloyd wrote: “Shot to film, the series _ the first multicamera sitcom _ retains a pristine clarity that keeps it feeling oddly contemporary, black-and-white notwithstanding.”