The 1980s is one of the most important eras in the modern era of television. It was this era that brought audiences what are by today’s standards, some of the most timeless programs of all time; shows, such as Golden Girls, Star Trek: The Next Generation and The A– Team. They and so many others have gone on to huge success since they debuted. Of course for all of the great, timeless series that launched in the 1980s and went on to set a certain precedent for shows within every genre, there were just as many shows that premiered in the 1980s that were less successful, and with good reason. They include the likes of Automan, Manimal and Lucille Ball’s finale series, Life With Lucy. That series in question was released on DVD for the first time ever Tuesday through Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment on a two-disc set. The collection is a presentation that Lucille Ball’s most devoted fans will appreciate in part because of its episodes. This will be discussed shortly. The bonus content featured with the set adds to the set’s appeal and will be addressed a little later. The set’s average price point rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. When it is considered alongside the set’s other noted elements, the whole of the set becomes a set that is one of this year’s top new family DVD/DB box sets, even despite the fact that the series is easily the least enjoyable and memorable of Lucy’s TV shows.
ABC’s short-lived sitcom Life With Lucy – the fourth and final of actress Lucille Ball’s series – is unquestionably the least enjoyable and memorable of her career. It was so bad that after only eight episodes, it was cancelled; this despite the fact that 13 episodes were produced. Now thanks to Paramount Home Entertainment, all 13 episodes from the short-lived series are available on DVD for the first time in Life With Lucy: The Complete Series. The episodes exhibit pros and cons with both the writing and acting. When Ball – who allegedly had a large amount of creative control in the show – was on-screen with her longtime friend and co-star Gale Gordon (who also is famed for his role as the first Mr. Wilson in Dennis The Menace), the two shined. Fellow co-star Donovan Scott added his own comedic touch, as did famed celebrity guest stars, such as John Ritter, Peter Graves and Audrey Meadows. However, whenever Ball was on screen with her “family” cast mates, the result was far less entertaining. Every bit of the acting felt forced, and the writing felt equally lacking in any real substance. The jokes were also poor and poorly timed. If not for the noted interactions between Ball, Gordon and Scott, those cringe-worthy performances in the family’s living room and kitchen would have made the show completely unwatchable. As a matter of fact, in its original run, those moments were so overpowering, that they played into the show’s demise. Of course now, audiences can see the episodes that did not air along with those that did whenever they want and decide on what they like and dislike the most. Having that full display of episodes helps audiences to see for themselves why this piece of television history remained in the vaults for such a long time. Keeping that in mind, releasing it was a gamble for Paramount Home Entertainment, but a gamble nonetheless that will pay off at least among the most devoted of Lucille Balls’ (and Life With Lucy’s) fans. The inclusion of all 13 episodes of Life With Lucy plays its own important part in this set’s presentation, and is just one of the reasons that the show’s noted viewers will be willing to watch it at least every now and then. It is just one of the most important of the set’s aspects. The bonus content featured with the collection plays its own important role in the set’s presentation, too.
The bonus content featured with the new home release of Life with Lucy: The Complete Series is a group of brief interviews that Ball conducted shortly after the series first aired. Three of the segments are pulled from a daytime talk show called Hour Magazine, which aired from 1980 to 1989 and featured interviews with various celebrity figures. The other interviews were pulled from episodes of Entertainment Tonight. Ball’s interviews on Hour Magazine are the more engaging and entertaining of the bonuses, as viewers get a slightly deeper discussion from Ball about life on and off-screen. She talked, in one of the brief, five-minute segment, about working with Gordon, who sat next to her and shared his own comments about working on the series and other shows in which Ball starred. Viewers also find out firsthand that Ball’s “family” cast mates – Larry Anderson, Ann Dusenberry, Philip Amelio and Jenny Lewis – were not overly experienced in on-screen acting when they joined the cast of Life With Lucy. That might account for why the scenes that involved them and Ball felt so forced and lacking in entertainment. There are also some clear cheap shots that she takes at her then ex-husband Desi Arnaz that leave little doubt as to her feelings about him. Those feelings are not good, either, not to give away too much information.
Ball’s Entertainment Tonight interview segments are entertaining, but not overly engaging, as they offer brief insight into life on set and bringing her own classic brand of comedy to the new series. On a related note, it was allegedly Ball’s insistence on using her vintage brand of comedy to the show that played a very prominent role in the series’ lack of long-term success, according to other interviews that were not featured in this set as extra content. Keeping that in mind, the Entertainment Tonight segments do add some interest to this set, but not as much as the Hour Magazine interview segments. Collectively, the two do just enough to add something more to the collection and make it a little more worth watching, if only occasionally.
Keeping in mind what the set’s primary and secondary does for its presentation, the set’s average price point of $37.14 slightly questionable. That price was obtained by averaging prices from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Book Sellers and Books-A-Million. Considering the fact that the set features 13 episodes and only a handful of bonuses (the promo spots are not even worth noting as they add nothing to the set’s presentation), that price seems a bit steep to say the least. That is especially considering the fact that the lowest of the set’s price listings comes in at $34.99 (at Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy). The set’s most expensive listing is at Barnes & Noble Booksellers — $40.41. Knowing the low response that the series received in its original airing more than 30 years ago and how little content is featured here overall, it would have been wiser for the set’s pricing to have been lowered to at most $25, if not lower. Other TV series’ box sets with equal and less content (and sometimes more, such as the recent re-issue of Lost in Space: The Complete Series – which was released last year exclusively through Walmart) are priced lower. The noted Lost in Space set retailed for $19.99 in store at Walmart. To that end, the pricing of this set is questionable. Audiences would do well to find the lowest price (again, noted here) and pay that if at all. Otherwise, it is sadly not a set worth the purchase unless viewers are the most devoted Lucille Ball fans and TV history buffs.
Paramount Home Entertainment’s brand new home release of ABC’s short-lived sitcom Life With Lucy is a set that the most devoted of Lucille Ball’s fans will appreciate. That is because it features all 13 episodes from the series. That means the five episodes that never made it to air are featured here along with the series’ other sets, complete with all of the series’ highs and lows. Once more, this makes the set appealing primarily for a very targeted audience. The bonus content featured with the set adds a little bit of engagement and entertainment to its whole, though mainly through the Hour Magazine interview segments. Those elements make the set worth an occasional viewing. However, the set’s average price point is a bit steep. That being the case, unless one is among those truly devoted Lucille Ball fan, it would make more sense to watch it on Netflix or borrow it from the nearest library should said institution have it in stock to check out. Keeping all of this in mind, Life With Lucy itself proves to not be the most entertaining series, but still important in its own right, because it shows how much Ball’s career and acting ability had declined by that time. It makes this collection important for the most devoted television history buffs and Lucille Ball fans. More information on this and other titles from Paramount is available online now at:
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