The Internet was abuzz today with a report that grinchy old CBS was getting that warm, cuddly holiday feeling and had announced it would air back-to-back episodes of I Love Lucy, colorized and without commercial interruption, and call it The I Love Lucy Christmas Special, on December 20.
Portions of that report were true.
The I Love Lucy Christmas Special will feature colorized episodes of the 1950s CBS comedy series: the seldom-seen “Christmas Episode,” and “Lucy’s Italian Movie” (aka The Grape Stomping Episode). The network said the episodes were “colorized with a vintage look,” for all you purists out there, “in a nod to the 1950s period in which the shows were filmed.” That would be The Black-and-White TV Period, but we’ll let it go. “The Christmas Episode” finds the Ricardos (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) and Mertzes (Vivian Vance and William Frawley) decorating Lucy and Ricky’s Christmas tree and reminiscing about how their lives have changed since the arrival of the Ricardos’ son, Little Ricky. Flashbacks are in black-and-white — to emphasize the time lapse, CBS explained. Flashbacks recall the night Lucy tells Ricky she is pregnant, the time she shows up unexpectedly as part of a barbershop quartet, and the day Ricky and the Mertzes rehearse taking Lucy to the maternity ward. “The Christmas Episode” was first presented as part of the series in December 1956. The episode wasn’t included in the series’ long history of rebroadcasts, first on CBS Daytime and later in syndication, the network noted, adding that it was thought to be “lost” until CBS “found” it — in 1989.
“Lucy’s Italian Movie” finds the Ricardos and Mertzes visiting Rome, where Lucy is invited by a famous Italian film director to appear in his next picture, Bitter Grapes. She mistakenly thinks is about the wine industry, so she visits a local vineyard for research and winds up soaking up more local color than intended. CBS owns the episode, and the network colorized it. Two episodes makes for a cheap holiday special, and CBS is airing it on a Friday –- a night on which it has nothing to lose. It’s the weekend before Christmas, so the company probably will sell some DVDs off of the broadcast.
Oh, that part of the report about CBS airing the special without commercial interruption? CBS wants you to know it will be running it with all the advertising you’ve come to expect during the holiday season. Advertisers love holiday programming — even if it’s 60 years old. Look at Rudolph! Look at Frosty the Snowman! Advertisers line up to get in those shows. CBS might be getting sentimental for the holidays, but it’s not stupid.