The funniest “I Love Lucy” episodes for kids

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

12 Comments

  • rednalgne says:

    I remember the one with John Wayne having some funny moments. I wouldn’t be surprised if for the most part the plot was lame but he and William Frawley are terrific together.

    • Holly Hester says:

      It seems like the plot on a lot of the later episodes where they go to Hollywood are kind of lame, but still funny. I don’t really remember the John Wayne one but I’ll look it up. Thanks!

  • Kris C. says:

    Why shield kids from the past? Gender stereotyping happened…and it still happens today albeit less, thank goodness. A lot of that stuff goes over kids head’s too (like it did mine way back when). Plus, if anything, I think those shows are a great tool for opening up conversations and teaching lessons with my kids, such as “Yes, it’s true…husbands used to think their wives shouldn’t work. How crazy is that? Husbands and wives should respect each other and talk about and make decisions together.” and “So many people used to smoke before they found out that it causes cancer. Now we know not to touch tobacco.” Even in current moves of today that my kids watch (they rarely watch tv), there are tons of issues that crop up that can lead to healthy discussions about relationships, how to treat people (or usually, how NOT to treat people), the effects your words have, etc. IMHO.

    • Holly Hester says:

      That’s so true. I guess I just remember that even though I never said anything about gender stereotypes to my parents — like, what’s up that the negative woman thing? — I definitely noticed it when I watched TV and it did have an effect on me. I wished I could have stayed in my all-powerful girl bubble longer. Having said that, it is great to open up conversations. I don’t really let anything slip by without me telling my kids what my opinion is. Just today, Emmy and were talking about how J.K. Rowling is a woman and yet pretty much all the lead characters in Harry Potter are men. Harry, Dumbledore, Snape, Voldemort. A woman wrote a whole series where the main character is a guy! I told her that it irked me a little and I wished at least Dumbledore was a woman — the most powerful wizard of all time a woman — that would’ve been awesome. Anyway, I don’t know how I got off on that, but I hear ya. These things are all teachable moments.

  • Miriam says:

    Show them the William Holden episode where Lucy tries to disguise herself by wearing a fake nose and ends up lighting it on fire.

  • Kris C. says:

    You had me at “video store”. LOL!! Yet…sob. I miss browsing the long aisle waiting for a title to jump out at me. Funny I was just laughing with a friend about the grape-stomping episode. Actually, I was the only one laughing because sadly enough she hadn’t SEEN it. I mean, come on…it’s pure Americana. I’m definitely going to have to hunt down these Lucy episodes to show my kids. I’d also say, hunt down a video store, but I’m not about to come all the way out to California…even if it obviously IS the last video store standing. lol. You crack me up!

    • Holly Hester says:

      Yes! Can you believe our town has a video store???? We actually had two but one closed. I love browsing the aisles at the video store. It’s so retro! And you should track these Lucy episodes down — they are amazing!!!

  • Claire says:

    I loved “I Love Lucy” so much too when I was a kid! I’m a lot like you guys. No TV during the week and just a few hours on the weekend so I understand trying to find good quality shows. I, too, am wary about showing the old shows due to how they portrayed women and men’s roles. I got the original “The Jetsons” DVD for them a few months ago and cringed at practically every episode due to the portrayal of Jane and George’s gender roles. Jane wasn’t allowed to drive because she was a woman and then a whole episode was dedicated to laughing about women’s driving abilities! Yikes! I didn’t like my kids watching that one. That was from 1962 or something. Maybe I’ll try the Jetsons from the 80’s. I would hope it’s better? I loved that show as a kid so I wonder what gender stereotypes were planted into my brain by watching?

    Thanks for the episode ideas from “I Love Lucy.” It helps a lot as I’ve wanted to get them into the show but had the same reservations!

    • Holly Hester says:

      It’s hard with old movies and TV because I love them but I hesitate on the gender role sexist thing. I think it does help to just talk about it with them and also avoid the truly terrible ones. But Lucy — she’s was a really strong role model in real life — I keep stressing that.

  • vicki says:

    no political comment being made or stance being taken, just pure observation, honest…..it just struck me…odd?….funny?…interesting?….something……the things you didn’t want emerson to see in the lucy episodes, but you didn’t mention having a problem with her seeing lucy & ricky smoking, especially since you are so pro natural and organic and all. it would make me think you believe kids can watch things without being affected adversely by what they see except that you’d already said you are shielding her from seeing or knowing about certain other things. Just curious….no judgement, truly.

    • Holly Hester says:

      I guess I’m not too worried about them smoking. They know it’s bad for them. They know it causes cancer. When we hit the teenage years it will be a different discussion. But also with smoking — studies show it’s a habit that has been modeled not so much by media but by actual life — in other words, kids that end up smoking have been around a lot of adults smoking their whole lives. Their parents smoke, etc. Absolutely no one in my children’s lives smokes at all — it’s not modeled behavior at all. Certainly that doesn’t mean they won’t smoke — but it diminishes their chances quite a bit. Plus with these old movies and TV shows everyone smokes — it’s hard to avoid. (I did tell them that Ricky died of lung cancer, which he did. So sad.) That’s for the thought though — it’s certainly something to think about!

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