CBS Home Entertainment fully honors a primary purpose of physical media in releasing the complete '80scom "Life With Lucy" on October 8, 2019. DVDs are an ideal way to enjoy rarely syndicated shows; getting to discover that a program that you watched back in the day is better than remembered and deserves to be weighted due to its role in television is a bonus.. All this can be equally said about the CBSHE DVD release of the "Happy Days" spinoff "Joanie Loves Chachi." "Joanie" is on the list of posts due to be copied from Unreal TV 1.0 to this current site.
The "Life" (as well as is recalled as to "Joanie") includes unaired episodes. In this case, it is five.
The "Life" release also is notable for coming on the heels of the (reviewed) must-see CBSHE August 2019 DVD release of 16 colorized episodes of "I Love Lucy." The labor-of-love extras in both "Lucy" sets are just as much see as the main event.
IMDb perfectly provides much of the premise of "Life" by describing it as "Lucy Barker is a grandmother living with her daughter's family while constantly getting into comedic predicaments." CBSHE brings us most of the way home by stating that widowed Ma Barker "has inherited half of her husband's hardware store with his business partner Curtis McGibbon (Gale Gordon). Things take a turn for the hilarious as Barker insists on helping out in the store despite knowing nothing about the business."
The rest of the story is that Curtis is the father of the husband of daughter of Lucy. Curtis and Lucy both move in with that nuclear family (complete with two central-casting sitcom kids) in the pilot. One spoiler is that Uncle Jesse keeps his bachelor pad.
The first of copious armchair quarterbacking while writing this post on a Monday morning is that acclaimed TV veterans Gary "Mr. Ball" Morton and Aaron Spelling apparently do not follow their usually good instincts by airing the pilot before the second episode instead of running an edited version of E1 later in the season.
Seeing Ball burst onto the set a decade after wrapping up "Here's Lucy" is a treat for sofa spuds everywhere. Further, we see her and Curtis separately move into their new full house. Further, Lucy reorganizing everything in the hardware store alphabetically is classic "Lucy." This is not to mention anyone who has seen a single episode of a "Lucy" series knowing what is coming as to a comically large fire extinguisher (and a leaf blower on a counter in a later episode).
The issue is that the second episode is even stronger than the first and more fully honors the spirit of the three prior series of Ball. It is almost certain that airing that one first would have helped "Life" last more than 13 episodes.
This second outing has John Ritter follow in the steps of comedians before him who do Ball a solid by appearing on her series. In this case (as often is as to the pioneers of television), Ritter also is paying back it back as to Ball having hosted a retrospective of "Three's Company" during the run of that series.
Staying true to form, Ritter plays himself coming to the hardware store looking for a hard-to-find item. His trademark physical humor and the decades-long track record of Ball as to injuring and humiliating her special guests stars makes Ritter a goner from the start. A mention of his then young son (now TV star) Jason Ritter is a sweet moment. Another aside is that Jason is the little boy who appears with Joyce DeWitt in "Company" opening credits at the San Diego Zoo.
Lucy double downs by bringing Ritter home with her after temporarily disabling him; this leads to her accompanying him to a play rehearsal. Another series of comedic unfortunate circumstances leads to Lucy being a last-minute replacement for the actress appearing with Ritter in the live-stage production. Of course, that pair plays this to the max.
An even more special treat comes midway in the season. Audrey "Alice Kramden" Meadows of the '50s classic sitcom "The Honeymooners" guests as the sister of Lucy. Her character is much more like her critical mother-in-law on the Ted Knight "Three's Comp[any" clone "Too Close for Comfort" than she is like Alice. That is not to say that there are not many times that Lucy does not want to send Audrey to the moon during their "Life" episode.
The "sit" that drives much of the "com" in the Meadows episodes relates to the arrival of Audrey stirring up sibling rivalry. These hurt feelings relate to Audrey showing that anything that Lucy can do, she can do better as to her niece planning a renewal of her wedding vows. Of course, a frosting fight/heart-to-heart between Lucy and Audrey makes everything better; "Life" doubles down this time by doing the same by trapping Lucy and Curtis in a tree house.
Along the way, we get a couple of occasions on which accidentally overhearing a conversation leading to hurt feelings. This is not too mention a variation on a chestnut by having a guard goose corner Lucy and Curtis in the store. "Life" deserves credits for solid unexpected twists in that one.
Probably as known by many even before reading his post, "Life" is not the strongest "Lucy:" series. Seventy-five year-old Ball already had had health issues that were apparent to varying degrees in the show. Further, as one critic noted, Ball was too old and had accomplished too much to be put through what this series demanded. This relates to personal disdain in watching the "TV Land" awards opening ceremony that had stars such as Jerry Mathers, Bob Denver, and Bernie Koppell fly around Peter Pan style despite all of them at least being around 70 years old.
The final commentary is that the premise of "Life" is not absurd for Ball. However, a more apt concept would have been the one of the early '90s Britcom "Waiting for God."
"God" has a strong-willed independent woman and her more laid-back male neighbor at an assisted-living facility strive to prove that they were more vital while scheming against their Colonel Klink in the form of "that idiot Baines" who administers the facility with a penny-pinching attitude that showsa complete lack of regard for the residents.
Morton and Spelling could have gotten there first and doubled down on this by having Ball and Gordon play the leads at a facility for aging actors. Meadows and other contemporaries could have played fictionalized versions of themselves.
The aforementioned extras are a three-part "Hour Magazine" profile and "Entertainment Tonight" segments that showed that Ball was the real McGillicuddy as to television comedians.