Monday, October 9, 2023

Life with Lucy: Lucy Gets Her Wires Crossed




Lucy Gets Her Wires Crossed, the fourth Life with Lucy episode, is just a sad affair. Predictable, rote, and slightly robotic, Lucy Gets Her Wires Crossed made one genuinely worried about literal safety of its star.

The M&B Hardware Store is facing stiff competition from rival retail store Hardware Heaven. An unexpected bit of good news comes to co-owners Lucy Barker (Lucille Ball) and Curtis McGibbon (Gale Gordon) when local television host Fred Dunlap (Dick Gautier) comes to the store. Seeing an opportunity to drum up business, Lucy talks Fred into having Curtis host a repair segment on Wake Up Pasadena as a Mr. Fix-It.

Curtis, fully aware that Lucy will inevitably make a mess of things, flatly refuses to let her be his cohost. It isn't until their granddaughter Becky (Jenny Lewis), intentionally or not, shows Curtis' hypocrisy in encouraging her to let her brother Kevin (Philip J. Amelio, II) play with her that he gives in. Unsurprisingly, Lucy does manage to make the Mr. Fix-It segment into a total disaster. She uses powerful glue that gets her stuck on everything she touches, which includes Curtis and the Wake Up Pasadena hosts. The wiring of the broken lamp causes a power outage in the studio, leaving everyone in the dark.

Four episodes into Life with Lucy and I think the few remaining viewers would have liked to have seen the lights turned off. There is an almost curious sense of desperation in Lucy Gets Her Wires Crossed, where people know that everything is predictable, but they were going to go through it anyway. 

Of particular note is Leonard (Donovan Scott), who has one of the worst lines that I have heard so far. Advising a prospective customer that the flyswatter she is looking for is on sale, he says the following. "Today we have a special, a two-for-one sale. You buy any two items and I, for one, will be thrilled!". I literally groaned at both the line and Scott's almost desperate delivery. It is almost a contest to see which was worse: the performance or the line. To be fair, I think it is the latter, because Scott was asked to deliver it, and there is only so much he or anyone else could do with such abysmal material.

That, however, pales in comparison to perhaps one of the most infamous moments in Life with Lucy: Lucy's efforts at fixing a reclining chair. In an effort to show that she is capable and competent enough to be on Wake Up Pasadena, she took it upon herself to fix a chair. Naturally, the chair goes haywire, thrashing the 75-year-old hither and yon. Yes, the studio audience appeared to be laughing and greeted the end with applause, but I think the television audience would be alarmed. It is not that Ball could not physically handle the comedy. It is that no matter how spry and agile she was, the sight of an old woman potentially flinging herself out of a chair would horrify viewers. 

Separate from that moment, Lucy Gets Her Wires Crossed just is not funny. The set-up is predictable, the supporting cast is barely there (again, Leonard is there for one scene and Lucy & Curtis' children are barely in the episode to where I don't even remember if they were). The sole bright spot acting wise save for Ball and Gordon was Lewis. As Becky, she made her suggestion that Curtis was speaking from both sides of his mouth believable, if not exactly true. I do not know if there is a parallel between excluding Kevin from a board game and excluding the accident-prone Lucy from humiliating herself and Curtis on television. Curtis is already openly nervous and stiff on the television show. Having to watch Lucy to try and stop her from bringing disaster would only add to the tension of things. 

Bless Lucille Ball and Gale Gordon from really trying to sell Lucy Gets Her Wires Crossed. Like the lamp that Lucy ended up destroying, however, something this broken could not be fixed. 


Next Episode: Lucy is a Sax Symbol

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