When Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz created i love lucy, viewers fell in love with the talented performers. Although network executives were nervous about the show at first, it quickly became a hit. A few years after their execution, Ball and Arnaz made another brave move, including getting Ball pregnant on the show.
The result of this decision changed the world of television and is often hailed as the first time a pregnancy has been acknowledged on a major television show. But it wasn’t the first time Ball had been pregnant while she was filming. i love lucy.
Pregnant for the pilot
In 1951, a pilot episode of i love lucy was filmed in an attempt to get CBS to pick up the sitcom. According to IMDb, when the show aired, the first episode was recreated, rather than using the pilot. The original pilot was thought to have been lost and was not seen on television until 1990.
The plot of the pilot was identical to the first episode, but there were some details that were different. For example, the famous gang leader’s last name in the pilot was Lopez. When the show aired, he was changed to Ricardo, so he wouldn’t be confused with the real-life gang leader, Vincent Lopez.
Ball was his inimitable self in both the first episode and the pilot, trying to audition for Ricky’s show as a clown and keeping the audience on edge with his antics. However, there was a big difference between the two appearances. In the pilot, she was six months pregnant with her daughter, Lucie Arnaz.
When the famous sitcom began filming, Ball had already given birth. Since the pilot episode did not air, viewers did not get a chance to see her perform while she was pregnant. But Outsider reports that a few years later, she was expecting her son, Desi Arnaz Jr.
At the time, the National Association of Broadcasters had adopted a set of ethical standards known as the Code of Practice for Television Broadcasters. These guidelines were very strict. They did not allow anything that could be construed as sexual to be shown on television. A pregnancy suggested that despite the separate beds they slept in, the Ricardos must have behaved like married people at some point.
While some executives thought that Bell’s pregnancy should have been hidden on the show, Arnaz and Ball disagreed. Ultimately, they agreed to allow Lucy’s character to become pregnant. However, the word “pregnant” was never used by any of the actors. To soften the reality of the situation, they only referred to her condition as “expecting” or “with a child.”
‘I Love Lucy’ changed television forever
Despite concerns over the controversial election, the gamble paid off. According to Ranker, the episode in which Lucy has her baby aired on January 19, 1953 and drew a huge audience of 44 million people. It was watched by 71.7 percent of all TV households. President Eisenhower was inaugurated the next day and was unable to compete, drawing only 67.7 percent of viewers.
Ball and Arnaz’s actual son was born on the same day the episode aired, to the delight of fans. The couple didn’t know in advance whether they were having a boy or a girl, so when the arrival of their child “followed the script” of the show, they were even happier. The taboo against pregnancy on television was broken.
Advertisers were originally nervous about the idea of a TV show with a pregnant character. But in the end, the response was so overwhelmingly positive that it changed his mind, as well as the television landscape.
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Lucille Ball Was Pregnant Twice on ‘I Love Lucy’ – Home