In retrospect, I cannot remember why I thought slightly well of Lucy Makes Curtis Byte the Dust, the sixth Life with Lucy episode to be shown. Maybe I've grown so immune to the overall awfulness of it all that I now feel generous. I think it may have to do with how Lucy Makes Curtis Byte the Dust almost completely excludes the other characters. Given how bad they have been overall, that ought to improve any Life with Lucy episode.
Lucille Barker (Lucille Ball) and her in-law/business partner Curtis McGibbon (Gale Gordon) area doing the tedious work of inventory. She is desperate to finish but naturally makes a right mess of it by accidentally turning on a powerful leaf blower, causing them and sole employee Leonard (Donovan Scott) to start all over again.
After this disaster, Lucy hits on the idea of bringing in a computer to keep inventory and orders for them. This does mean dumping Stanley (Dave Madden), Curtis longtime supplier and friend. Progress, however, waits for no man. Progress, however, never dealt with Lucy Barker.
Despite reading the instructions that clearly state to not place any magnets on the computer, Lucy keeps adding more and more of them, erasing their entire inventory. She somehow manages to get the inventory back, but inadvertently ordered 111 lawnmowers, not realizing she held the 1 key too long. At a whopping $4,192.67, Curtis is enraged at her continued incompetence. He's more enraged when, in trying to fix that mess, she ends up making another when she convinces the bank that that he is dead! In her total befuddlement, she had typed out "deceased" instead of "decreased". Eventually, all the elements sort themselves out. They even manage to get Stanley his job back, but beware. For reasons unknown, Lucy gets a robot named Rupert to help out at the store, potentially putting Leonard out of a job.
It's strange that Lucy Makes Curtis Byte the Dust did not aggravate me given that Leonard was more prominent in the episode than any of the McGibbon family: Ted, Margo, Becky and/or Kevin. The family pretty much disappeared altogether, which was a welcome event. I think Leonard's appearance did not bother me here because he was not there a lot. The absence of both the family and M&B's sole employee (for a relatively successful hardware store, there have never been any other employees there) made the episode more Lucy and Curtis focused. As such, we could see Ball and Gordon interact and work with each other more. They really should have been the focus of the series to start with.
To be fair though, given their ages, incompetence and resistance to the computer, it is a wonder why they did not give the job of handling the computer to Leonard. He would have been more familiar with computers than either of them, so the continuing chaos "Mrs. B." kept unleashing would probably not have occurred. We also get to see a nice moment with Madden's Stanley, bringing the reality of older people losing their jobs to technology to the show. While Madden's role was small, it did suggest that Gordon's Curtis had something of a life outside his work and family.
I think those are the reasons why Lucy Makes Curtis Byte the Dust work better than past Life with Lucy episodes. That, however, does not mean that Lucy Makes Curtis Byte the Dust was any good. It makes Lucy look less daffy and more stubborn moron. Again, I think a major issue is age. As she keeps reading the instructions she was given, she almost psychotically keeps sticking magnets even as she reads clearly and openly to not do so. One asks first, why did she not read the instructions prior to starting her magnet mania? Second, why does she keep disobeying the instructions despite reading them? Maybe a younger person could have pulled it off as a sign of idiocy. With the 75-year-old doing it, it looks like a sign of senility.
Her accidental ordering of 111 lawnmowers and somehow bizarrely thinking "decreased" was "deceased" end up reenforcing stereotypes of seniors being incapable of handling technology. The episode closing with her using a robot is downright dumb.
As Lucy Makes Curtis Byte the Dust is more a two-man show, it does wonders with its smaller cast. Gordon's eternal irritation (which to be fair is justified) balances the comedy with the horror. When he in a mix of anger and despair yells at Lucy, "GIVE ME BACK MY INVENTORY!", it is an actual funny moment. When Leonard comes to "pay his respects" to the family, Gordon's irritation at hearing Leonard tell Lucy, "I'm going to miss that old goat" is perfect.
Lucy Makes Curtis Byte the Dust is a better Life with Lucy episode than the ones that have been broadcast. It is a pity though that there would be only two episodes left before the show was cancelled.
Next Episode: Lucy, Legal Beagle