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Episode #55: Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter

Listen to Episode 55 of the Podcast here while you enjoy the show notes.

SUMMARY - In Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter, the famous couple are preparing to shoot the very first episode of “I Love Lucy.” The careers and personal lives of Lucille Ball (played by Frances Fisher) and Desi Arnaz (played by Maurice Benard) have been full of ups and downs to this point, and they take this time to reflect on the dramatic path that led them to the show that would propel them to superstardom.

Screenplay by Cynthia A. Cherbak and William Luce; Directed by Charles Jarrott, and premiered on CBS on February 10, 1991.


It was a very slow introduction into this TV movie. The "I Love Lucy" theme song plays on loop while crews set up the studio

Then we hear the lyrical version as the two stars dance around it.

Eventually, we get into the story which is told through a series of flashbacks, initiated when a character stares off into space.

The movie tries to pack too much into a short time frame and so we get abbreviated Cliff Notes snippets of key points in their relationship.

The dialogue sounds like it's copy/pasted from a biography

The timeline and time skipping of the flashbacks got confusing pretty quickly.

We really don't see any positives of their relationship, which makes us question why they stayed together. A lot of it focuses on Desi's cheating.

There are a bunch of actors in this, but their roles amount to one or two lines. This is basically true for the people playing Vivian Vance and William Frawley.

The best parts of the movie were the reenactments of established Lucy bits, like her crashing Desi's stage show as this goofy person wanting to audition

Or this scene recreating part of the first episode. Frances Fisher makes for a solid Lucy and her performance is wasted here.

Awards Talk: This TV Movie did earn two Emmy nominations: Best Hairstyling (Jeffrey Sacino) and Best Costume Design (May Routh)


This week we don't have any true crime segment to talk about so we jump into TV.

We discuss how this TV movie compared in the ratings against its competition, since the plans were to make this a trilogy. Poor ratings (in the eyes of the producers) scrapped that.

It's main competition was another TV movie - The Chase

In the sports world, many eyes may have been focused on the 1991 NBA All Star Game. We give a brief breakdown

Moving on to music, here are your Billboard Bottom 5 Songs for the week of 2/16/91

100. Groove Is In The Heart - Deee-Lite

99. How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously - Pet Shop Boys

98. Feels Good - Tony! Toni! Toné!

97. Still Got the Blues - Gary Moore

96. Temple of Love - Harriet


Nikki 1-5 star scale - 1 out of 5

Jon 0-4 star scale - Zero out of 4

Would you watch it again? - Not a chance. The movie simply feels incomplete. There was likely too little time and too much subject matter for this TV movie. That meant that context and cohesion went out the window. Frances Fisher was a redeeming factor in what is otherwise a convoluted, confusing mess. There are other movies and documentaries that talk about Lucy and Desi that will certainly be better.

If you want to watch Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter, as of this recording in March 2022, it’s available on VHS, DVD. Check your local listings.


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Join us next time for Enchanted April available on Pluto TV, Digital Rental, VHS, DVD


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