Entertainment

10 Forgotten Lucille Ball Projects You’ve Probably Never Seen

It didn’t end with I Love Lucy. In honor of the comedy legend’s birthday, here are the TV shows, specials, and made-for-TV movies that kept Lucille Ball working from the ’60s to the ’80s.

1. Lucy in London (1966)

In the swinging ’60s, Lucy traveled to London as American secretary Lucy Carmichael. The hour-long special featured an original song by Phil Spector (!) and vignettes with Lucy visiting Madame Tussaud’s and performing as Kate in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Anthony Newley co-starred as Lucy’s tour guide Tony, but intended guest star Laurence Olivier (!) was forced to drop out.

2. Here’s Lucy (1968-1974)

Although Lucy already had a series, The Lucy Show, she wanted to do something that incorporated her real-life children Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. For this show, Ball became Lucy Carter, a semi-homage to Desi Arnaz. By 1974, Lucy was the last performer from TV’s classic age to have a weekly TV show. Whether it was canceled or Ball just pulled out is unclear.

3. Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974)

Remember when Lucy lusted after Arnold Schwarzenegger? Then you must not have seen Happy Anniversary and Goodbye. In the TV movie, Ball plays Norma Michaels. Along with her husband Malcolm (Art Carney), Norma decides the couple needs some time apart to explore. Evidently, Lucy wants to explore with the future governor of California.

4. Lucy Gets Lucky (1975)

This time she was Lucy Collins, a diehard Dean Martin fan determined to get into his show at the MGM Grand Hotel. Sounds an awful lot like a plot of I Love Lucy, but hey, different surname, so this is totally original. The title implies that Lucy ends up sleeping with Dean Martin, but I think “gets lucky” might be a reference to Vegas in this case.

5. What Now, Catherine Curtis? (1976)

In her later years, Lucy began to shift more toward drama, or at least dramedy. What Now, Catherine Curtis? was pretty firmly in the drama category, with Lucy playing the title character, a woman dealing with life alone after 23 years of marriage. It might seem a little heavy-handed, but this was a TV movie in the ’70s, so that’s really par for the course.

6. Lucy Calls the President (1977)

Can you guess which surname Lucy used for this special? No, you can’t, because it changes every damn time. For Lucy Calls the President, she was Lucy Whittaker, a woman who’s getting a visit from President Carter to discuss civic issues in Indiana. This was her last collaboration with Vivian Vance, who played Ethel on I Love Lucy.

7. Lucy Comes to Nashville (1978)

Lucy and country music — a natural fit, right? Hey, it was the late ’70s, and she was trying different things. For this musical special, Lucy went to Nashville and met up with country singer Barbara Mandrell and others. Alas, the clips from the special online are not the best quality, but then, you’d have to be both a serious country fan and a Lucille Ball devotee to seek this out.

8. Lucy Moves to NBC (1980)

Now things get meta: Lucy played herself in this 1980 TV movie, which was all about bringing Lucille Ball back to TV. Guest stars included Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and — wait for it — Gary Coleman. The whole thing is a parody of how TV shows get made, but it also included movie musical legend Donald O’Connor in a series of song and dance routines.

9. Stone Pillow (1985)

But what Lucy really wanted to do was serious drama, as in the maudlin but very popular TV movie Stone Pillow. She played an elderly homeless woman named Florabelle opposite Melrose Place star Daphne Zuniga. This was supposed to be Ball’s dramatic breakout but all it did was force her into making one last sitcom, something she’d said she never wanted to do again.

10. Life With Lucy (1986)

This one’s just painful to watch. Lucy’s final attempt at a sitcom was dreadful and loathed by fans and critics alike — although it did star a young Jenny Lewis before she grew up to have an impressive indie music career! The failure of Life With Lucy was apparently devastating to Ball, who never made another film or TV show and kept mostly to herself for the rest of her life. On the whole, however, it did nothing to diminish her reputation as a comedy icon.

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