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‘Lucy’ From Scholarly to Charming

If you love Lucy, then the Voyager Co.'s first major TV laser venture will make you feel like that zany redhead facing all those chocolates. There’s so much going on on alternative audio tracks that it’s tough to know where to turn first.

“I Love Lucy’ ($50) is the first of the company’s Criterion Television Classics series, and there’s more than enough anecdotal material about the show’s origins in both written and audio form, some of the most interesting from Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll Jr., two of “Lucy’s” original writers.

You can watch two of the series’ classic episodes uncut--"The Candy Factory” (“Job Switching”) and “Vitameatavegamin” (“Lucy Does a T.V. Commercial”) on Side 2 (CLV, Extended Play), then read them in original script form by flipping to Chapter Stops 21 and 22 on Side 1 (CAV, Standard Play). You can tap into “The Candy Factory” at any one of 16 chapter stops, and do the same with “Vitameatavegamin” with 22 chapter stops.

For some, the most fascinating bits may be the Philip Morris commercials urging us to smoke those wonderful cigarettes so we’ll all feel better, with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in cartoon and human form telling us we’ve got to try them to improve our health!

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“Lucy” expert Bart Andrews offers insight on the history and development of the show.

Archival interviews with Ball and Arnaz themselves reveal serious artists who give full and unflinching credit to their writers, co-stars Vivian Vance and William Frawley and others involved in producing the ‘50s series that transformed television and our viewing habits.

Also on the disc are stills, clippings, synopses of all 180 “Lucy” episodes, audio excerpts from “My Favorite Husband” (the radio show considered “Lucy’s” forerunner), too-brief clips from the show’s prime Hollywood episodes and interviews with surviving cast and crew members, including director William Asher and stage manager Herb Browar.

In many ways, however, “Babalu Music,” a compilation of “I Love Lucy’s Greatest Hits,” ($30, 51 minutes) released by Fox Video and CBS Video, captures more of the charm and fun of the “Lucy” show than the heavy-handed Criterion disc (whose informative album liner notes are hampered by an odd layout).

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Weird Al Yankovic has put together a magical tribute in “Babalu Music” with 18 of the show’s musical numbers interspersed with classic scenes, excerpts often superior to the Criterion disc.

What “Babalu” emphatically proves is that Ricky and his orchestra at the Tropicana provided some of the show’s best moments--especially when Lucy tries to get in the act (“Sweet Adeline,” “We’re Having a Baby”).

Other surprises include Bob Hope, Ball and Arnaz as umpires in “Nobody Loves the Ump,” the “I Love Lucy” theme with words sung by Arnaz and a spirited “Babalu” that shows off Arnaz to good advantage.

The program is cleverly put together by Yankovic, who not only loves Lucy but also obviously respects her and the show. It is a state-of-the-art tribute with a special Yankovic production number (“Babalu Music”) at the end.

Hard-core “Lucy” fans will probably want both discs.


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