I Love Lucy is stuck in my brain for some reason. When contemplating what case studies I could look at to tackle this idea of family and TV, I Love Lucy popped straight into my head.
Interesting, I think, considering I’ve never actually watched an episode. Nor have I really got any idea what its about. Which begs the question, why is this show so iconic? To the point that a guy in their 20’s born 4 decades post its release has its name in his memory? And considering how I’ve chosen this as a key case study for the early days of television, how did families back then relate to this show?
Watching the pilot you get this feel for Americana. Lucille and Ricky, along with the Mertzes, living in America and dealing with life with a smile. It’s understandable that it was such a success considering the enormous anxiety that undoubtedly fuelled the nation post World War II.
It’s interesting to note that in an exhibition curated by the Library of Congress entitled I Love Lucy: An American Legend, words are written to this effect ‘I Love Lucy initially centered on the relationship between bandleader Ricky (the “I” in I Love Lucy) and Lucy Ricardo and their friends, the Mertzes. However, it soon developed into the relationship between millions of American television viewers and their Monday-evening neighbors’. This kind of connection to the television is an aspect that one must consider when analysing the effect I Love Lucy had on a nation, and indeed worldwide considering ‘It has been dubbed into twenty-two languages and seen in eighty countries’.
The suggestion here is that the viewer connects with Lucy and her world as if it is a part of their own. As if Lucy is as much a real, … as their own neighbour. Such a suggestion ties directly into a query I had when posting about Francis L. F. Lee’s article from the Asian Journal of Communication – that of ‘are certain genres more likely to prompt a collective family viewing over others? And hence is the opposite true, with some genres pushing towards a more heterogeneous approach?’.
It would seem that this kind of wholehearted, warm, positive sitcom is widely received and to great applause. Which is is stark contrast content wise when compared to more recent reality TV examples of brash, crude, argumentative programs that seek to exploit the subjects it documents.
Regardless, why is it that I Know Lucy? Well in part it is due to the countless reruns that grace our television sets each week. So too, it’s through references in pop culture. In cartoons that deal with family (Family Guy for one, referencing Season 2, Episode 4: Job Switching where Lucy and Ethel going to work at the chocolate factory. Drake and Josh too), in Sesame Street.
If we are to consider this the essential starting point for content that is aimed at families, and about families, where have we come to now?
And also, who is Lucy? How does she compare to the women shown from similar times in contemporary popular shows such as Mad Men? In making such connections we hope to be able to chart the change in the relationship between families and each other, the way they watch TV, and the change in content as a result and also as an initiative of the companies creating it.