19 Jan: I Impregnated Lucy

When Lucille Ball’s character gave birth on “I Love Lucy” on 19th January 1953, 44 million people tuned in: an astonishing 72% of TV-owning Americans, surpassing the number who watched President Eisenhower’s inauguration the following day.

The episode, ‘Lucy Goes To The Hospital’, almost didn’t make it to TV due to the strict morality codes of the 1950s, which frowned upon any explicit content, including pregnancy. 

Despite network concerns, Ball and real-life husband Desi Arnaz (who played her on-screen husband Ricky), insisted the storyline could be done. Their scripts were vetted by clergymen, and the sponsors, Philip Morris, insisted Lucy was not to be portrayed smoking – even though, at the time, they had not publicly acknowledged any dangers of smoking during pregnancy.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover how Arnaz and Ball pioneered a plethora of significant sitcom tropes; explore how the show’s blend of reality and fantasy, both on and off-screen, left an indelible mark on American TV; and explain how ‘enceinte’ became the word du jour…

Further Reading:

• ’How ‘I Love Lucy’ Changed Motherhood on TV’ (TIME, 2021): https://time.com/6046897/i-love-lucy-little-ricky/

• ‘More than 60 years ago, a pregnant Lucille Ball couldn’t call herself “pregnant”’ (AV Club, 2013): https://www.avclub.com/more-than-60-years-ago-a-pregnant-lucille-ball-couldn-1798239435

• ‘I Love Lucy – Lucy Goes Into Labor (This is it!)’ (CBS, 1953):