CBS to air two colorized ‘I Love Lucy’ episodes in December

CBS Christmas special
Vivian Vance, left, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and William Frawley in a scene from “I Love Lucy’s” Christmas episode.

There was never any doubt that “I Love Lucy” was full of color. But for those whose imaginations need some help, CBS will air in December a one-hour special featuring two newly colorized classic episodes of the 1950s series.

The “I Love Lucy Christmas Special” will consist of the seldom seen “Christmas Episode” and the grape-stomping classic “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” airing Friday, Dec. 20, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The show -- which featured Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as the Ricardos’ friends and landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz -- is celebrating its 62nd anniversary.

The holiday episode, which has the Ricardos and Mertzes reminiscing while decorating a Christmas tree, was first broadcast in December 1956 and went into hiding, failing to be included in the series’ long history of repeats while in syndication. It was rediscovered in 1989, with select airings since then.

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“Lucy’s Italian Movie” was originally broadcast in March 1956 and became an instant classic in the art of talking with ones hands and the finesse in slathering crushed grapes across a foe’s face. The episode finds the Ricardos and Mertzes in Rome, where Lucy is invited by a famous Italian film director to appear in his next picture, “Bitter Grapes.” And Lucy does what Lucy does: gets in a pickle.

There will be no interruption between episodes, with the main titles and end credits of the two episodes coming at the beginning and end of the hour.

[Update 12:41 p.m.:  The decision by CBS whose studio owns the rights to the “I Love Lucy” library, to colorize the episodes with a “vintage look,” as the news release states, is a way to reach younger viewers.

“‘I Love Lucyhas perhaps the broadest demographic appeal of any series in the history of television,” said Ken Ross, EVP and general manager of CBS Home Entertainment. “Once new generations of kids - who might not be open to trying black and white - watch it, they’ll love the series. With this special broadcast, we want to give families something to enjoy together during the holiday. We think the respectful manner in which the colorization was done will bring joy to ‘kids of all ages.’”]


It wouldn’t be the first time color was applied to the classic series -- photos from the series have been hued up on postcards, tin lunch pails, etc., and clips, such as this, have made the rounds.

Not that everyone thinks it needs the tinting for a boost. When waxing on the show’s 62nd anniversary, Times TV critic Robert Lloyd wrote: “Shot to film, the series -- the first multicamera sitcom -- retains a pristine clarity that keeps it feeling oddly contemporary, black-and-white notwithstanding.”

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