After the twin horrors of Lucy and the Guard Goose and Lucy and Curtis Are Up a Tree, one would think that anything afterwards would be better. Lucy's Green Thumb the eleventh of thirteen Life with Lucy episodes and the third unaired one, was better to be sure, but it is still pretty abysmal.
Lucy Barker (Lucille Ball) has come up with yet another health concoction that makes everyone gag. Separately, the rest of the family dumps the green juice into Melvin, the potted plant that has not grown. To everyone's surprise, Melvin grows quickly in the span of a few hours. Lucy's business partner/in-law Curtis (Gale Gordon) sees Lucy's awful drink as a new fertilizer that will make them rich.
Pity that Lucy cannot quite remember exactly what she put in the mix.
Curtis spends much time berating and raging at her. His son Ted (Larry Anderson) comes up with a method to jog her memory. He has Lucy reenact her steps until she finds that the secret ingredient is turnip. Now they are all ready to debut the newly christened "Gigantagrow". Curtis gleefully called a press conference to announce the miracle plant food and the whole family is there to bask in their soon-to-be fortune. Right as Lucy explains what happened to Melvin, he starts wilting in front of everyone. While the McGibbon-Barker family may end up not being rich, they at least have each other.
Lucy's Green Thumb is pretty much a disaster. It starts out badly, with wild applause for when Ball shows up. I can understand the reaction to her entrance. Here she is, a literal living legend, coming into view. However, it is distracting because one focuses so much on "the legend" that the current situation is lost. The episode should be around Lucy Barker, not Lucille Ball.
Things do not improve when Ball breaks out into her exaggerated crying when she is overwhelmed by her failure to remember all the ingredients in her green drink of death. It evokes too much of Lucy Ricardo, Lucy Carmichael and Lucy Carter. It was like seeing someone long past their prime trot out a guaranteed hit only to find it rote rather than amusing.
Yes, it is unfortunate that age is an issue with Lucy's Green Thumb. Suggesting that a senior citizen cannot remember things makes the situation look unintentionally bad and ageist. I am sure that Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Davies did not intend to do this. However, Carroll, Jr. and Davies were 68 and 65 years old respectively when they wrote Lucy's Green Thumb. It is a sign that they were writing material for someone well over forty years younger. How could they have thought a major plot point being a then-75-year-old unable to remember would be funny and not creepy? In her exhaustion, Lucy says, "Yesterday? When was yesterday?". Given her advanced age, it just comes across as sad.
Lucy's Green Thumb is beset by other problems both in logic and execution. Curtis really should have confirmed the press conference with Lucy instead of just scheduling it, a strange lapse of judgment from someone who has been seen as saner versus zany. Her inability to remember the formula should have forced him to cancel or postpone the conference. It had to go on because the plot required it to.
Moreover, Donovan Scott's Leonard continues to be a drag on the show. I think Scott really did try his best, but he was awful. When Lucy tells him that she does not remember the formula, Leonard becomes uncharacteristically enraged. "LUCILLE?! HOW COULD YOU DO SOMETHING SO STUPID?!?!" he screams out while shaking her hysterically. Leaving aside the elder abuse played up for laughs, this whole section ends up being shocking. Granted, it was planned and rehearsed, but Ball's expression makes it all the more horrifying. Leonard tries to say that his reaction took the place of Curtis', but it does not work.
Leonard has always been pretty nice and subservient to "Mrs. B.". Seeing him go insane, especially given that he probably would not benefit financially or in any way from "Gigantagrow" makes his meltdown more horrifying. Had Curtis done that, it would have worked given his past behavior. For Leonard to basically go bonkers makes it almost murderous.
About the one good thing in Lucy's Green Thumb is of all things the editing. The transition from a small to large Melvin is quite smooth and effective. Apart from that, though, Lucy's Green Thumb is another poor Life with Lucy episode. As she struggles to remember the formula, Lucy breaks out into howls of sorrow. "I'm just a big flop!", she cries.
Famous last words...
Next (Unaired) Episode: Breaking Up is Hard to Do