We are a Waldorf family, which technically means we are media free. So instead of staring at a computer eight hours a day, our children are supposed to be playing with faceless dolls, singing while sweeping the floor and canning whole turkey dinners. But as most Waldorf families know, it’s not how much media you watch, it’s how much media you talk about. In fact, Waldorf translated from German roughly means “To watch television in secret.”
We actually don’t do a lot of media. No video games or computers and we don’t have cable at our house. We just have this old TV that is covered up with a Waldorf silk and all week long we pretend it doesn’t exist.
But on the weekends we take a super secret mission to the video store. There, after my kids and I have made sure the coast is clear and there are no other Waldorf families around to catch us, we slither out of the car and belly crawl into the store to rent something fun.
And lately, we’ve been renting “I Love Lucy”. Even though I loved this show when I was growing up, I didn’t want my kids to watch it because of the retro ideas about women. The whole thing about Ricky being in charge (Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do!) and forbidding Lucy to have a job is not something I wanted my kids to see. Especially Emerson. She has no idea the kind of crap women have gone through (and continue to go through) and I’d like to keep it that way as long as possible.
But then I started to think about Lucille Ball and what a powerful woman she was. She was starring in a show named after herself in the 1950s. And she was in charge! It was her production company. Plus, there was a female comedy writer on staff. (Very rare back then.) Her name was Madelyn Pugh and she helped pave the way for female TV writers like me.
So after a very lengthy and tedious speech to my children about Lucille Ball, Madelyn Pugh and the breaking of the glass ceiling, I showed them an episode of “I Love Lucy”. I chose the chocolate factory episode because it’s a classic.
And I have never seen them laugh harder at anything they’ve ever watched before.
I’m not kidding. Screaming, can’t catch your breath, laughing. They fell in love with Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel before my very eyes. It was marvelous. And I fell in love with those guys all over again too. All four of those actors are sooooooooo good. There is not a weak link in the bunch. And the clothes! Everyone looks so glamorous. So chic! I’ve been begging Bill to start dressing like Ricky ever since we started watching these things. A suit with a hanky and a cool hat? Bring it. Plus, Ricky and Lucy are always smoking, which makes them look even cooler. (Come on, you know it does.)
If your kids haven’t seen “I Love Lucy”, might I suggest you start with these episodes —
1. Job switching — This is the official title for the chocolate factory episode. Even though Lucy and Ethel are hilarious stuffing chocolates in their mouths, Ricky and Fred kill it in the scene where Ricky tries to make dinner.
2. The Handcuffs — Lucy and Ricky get stuck in handcuffs together and Ricky has to perform with Lucy hiding behind him. I’m laughing even thinking about it.
3. The Anniversary Present — Lucy thinks Ricky is cheating on her so she climbs out onto some scaffolding outside their building to spy on Ricky. The only problem is the people in another apartment are so loud she can’t hear Ricky. This episode is like a lesson in great comedy writing. I bow down to the writers on this one.
4. First Stop — This was one of my favorite episodes as a kid and I wanted to see if I still thought it was funny. It is. Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel are in bunk beds in a cheap motel as a train passes inches away from their room. What more could you ask for?
5. Lucy meets Harpo Marx — This is an important episode to show kids because it’s the meeting of two comic legends, Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx. They do a mirror thing with each other that is completely wonderful plus Harpo plays the harp! Like a whole song! It’s just great.
6. Lucy’s Italian Movie — This is the grape stomping episode. The fight between Lucy and the other woman in the barrel had my kids jumping up and down laughing.
7. Lucy goes to the hospital — The episode where Lucy gives birth to little Ricky is not only hilarious, but touching. Don’t forget — Lucy and Desi were actually married and Lucy was pregnant during this whole storyline. 71 percent of America watched this episode when it aired. Nothing on TV comes close to those ratings now. My favorite part of this episode is that the big funny scene isn’t Lucy acting wacky, but it’s Ricky, Fred and Ethel panicking. Lucy is just an observer and it’s nice to see the other characters show off their talents.
So those are my suggestions. I think it’s a good starting point to get kids excited about the show. What are your favorite Lucy episodes?
You know, as a parent, I feel like it’s not just my job to tell my kids that the world is a beautiful and magical place, but to show them what I mean when I say that. And to me, the fact that all these people were born so long ago, (William Frawley was born in 1887!) and they are still making my children howl with laughter is pure magic.
I’m thinking of buying the box set.
(And hiding it under a basket of wool when Waldorf families come over.)