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Bates Motel Recap, Episode 9: "Underwater"

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There's just one more episode left of the season, and I have a feeling that White Pine Bay is getting ready to show us its worst - though this week is no cakewalk. Except for Emma.

Corpses and Chronic

Zack Shelby’s corpse is being removed from the Bates House. Again.

“The smell is never gonna leave my brain,” Norma mutters, then IDs Jake Abernathy when Romero asks if she knows who might have left her such an unpleasant surprise.

“Why do crazy people keep gravitating towards me?” she asks, followed by an awkward silence. Not even Norman is going to touch that one.

The next morning, Norman and Dylan are hauling the mattress out to the dumpster. Dylan thinks it’s a waste of money—after all, hospitals don’t dump mattresses every time someone dies on one. He’s grousing about how Norma is going to milk this for the next year when Norma reveals that she's right behind them. She smells something, but it’s not the Shelby juice soaking the mattress: The trimmers are smoking pot on the porch.

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She stomps self-righteously over to the gang, who look like they could be extras from Dazed and Confused, and demands that they extinguish their wacky tobacky.

“You’re kidding, right?” the stoners are aghast. “You know where you live, right? What the local economy is? No one cares.”

Wrong. Norma cares. “No one prepared me for the colossal frickin’ facedive off a cliff that living in this crazy-ass town really is,” she says. “However, what happens on my property is still under my control, and it does not include people in torn jeans with tie-dyed clothing and dirty hair hanging out on my new furniture smoking a doobie. So take that as the law around here, because there doesn’t seem to be much of one otherwise.”

“OK, just chill,” lead hippie “Ra’uf” tells her. Yes, that’s his name.

“Chill your own ass,” she responds, exactly the way your mom would have said it.

Then she turns her attention to Dylan. She wants to know exactly what these wayward group of souls is doing for employment with his company.

“Processing stuff,” Dylan says, lamely.

“What stuff?"

“Stuff.”

Norma puts two and two together. “I hate this place. I hate it,” she whines. “We’re moving.”

Drowning

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A hand with black-polished nails is draped over the edge of a claw-foot tub. It’s Bradley, fully submerged in bathwater except her face. She’s wearing what looks to be a prom dress. She opens her eyes just in time to see Norman as he shoves her head under. She struggles and manages to come up for one last breath, but it doesn’t look good—and then Norman wakes up.

While Norman is just coming around, Emma has been up for awhile. She's at the motel bright and early before school to work on organizing files. Seriously? High school kids don’t wake up any earlier than absolutely necessary, do they?

Norma instructs her to trash everything that isn’t strictly related to the business. She also warns Emma that a group of nogoodniks have been smoking pot at the motel, and if she sees it happening, she has instructions to “Go out there and bust it up immediately."

“Bust it up?” Emma kind of chuckles, then realizes that it wasn't a joke. Norma is about to leave Emma to her strange early-hour organizing party when a man bearing a large bouquet of flowers shows up on the porch. She's delighted—until she checks out the attached florist’s card, which reads “See you soon...”

Norma isn't one to mess with ominous ellipsis, so she calls Sheriff Romero and leaves a message. “Tell him that someone sent flowers to me. The card says ‘See you soon.’” The dubious secretary promises to relay the information.

Now, off to those errands—namely, terrorizing her realtor.

“The motel business sucks, Matt,” she starts off, then lays into him about not telling her about the motel-obliterating bypass when she bought the property. He claims that nothing about the bypass was set in stone when she purchased.

“It was proposed!” Norma insists.

“Lots of things are proposed,” Matt says condescendingly, which is when Norma threatens to sue. She wants her money back, and she wants him to list the motel immediately. But no sign out front. “I still need to earn a living until it gets sold,” she says.

Back at her worthless motel, Norma is cleaning when she sees a black car—likely Abernathy—cruise by slowly outside. She goes back inside and Googles—excuse me, “Wikifinds”—“the safest cities in America. According to Wikifinders, the top cities include Brick Township, New Jersey; Kapolei, Hawaii; and Mission Viejo, California. (That’s not what Forbes magazine says.) 

The door opens and shuts. It’s just Norman, but she tells him to lock and bolt the front door.

“Welcome to my world, Juno,” he mutters to the stuffed pet under his arm.

Norma spots the strange new addition to the family and stops talking mid-sentence.

“How do you like her, mom?” Norman asks. To her credit, Norma tries her best to be supportive.

“Well, let’s see. Yeah! Yeah, look at that.”

“I had a really good day at school,” he reports, as though he’s a first grader. He tells her about the 4.0. “I really like this school, mom,” he says, subtly trying to convince her that he doesn’t want to move. Norma knows what he’s doing, though, and stops him in his tracks.

“It’s you getting the grades,” she says. “Not the school.”

Norman takes Juno into his room and pulls up the Interwebs to check out his drowning dream on “Dream Daemon.” As Dylan passes Norman’s doorway, he also spies Juno. She’s quite the conversation piece!

“What the hell is that?” Dylan wants to know. “That’s just weird, dude.” Then his eye falls on the computer and he sees what Norman is researching.

“It says here that drowning in a dream can mean you’re feeling overwhelmed in your life. That makes sense," Norman tells his brother.

“Yeah,” Dylan says, dismissively. “Just curious. Who were you drowning in the dream?”

After Norman confesses that he was dreaming about holding Bradley underwater, Dylan looks concerned. “You wouldn’t actually want to hurt anybody though, would you?”

“Of course I wouldn’t want to. I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone. Except you once in awhile.”

They both chuckle. It’s briefly cute, but it’s obvious that Dylan’s not totally buying that statement.

Take Your Daughter to Work Day

Downtown, Bradley spots Dylan and walks over to ask if Dylan can get her into her dad’s office to collect his things. He agrees, because why wouldn’t risk your own neck for a girl that you barely know? They give each other googly eyes.

“Well, I gotta go play high school now...” she smiles. More googly eyes.

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Later, over at the weed warehouse, Dylan runs into Gil and takes the opportunity to feel him out about Mr. Martin's office.

“I haven’t promoted you fast enough? You want an office now, too?” Gil tries to sound jokey, but he’s anything but. “I’m not feeling too friendly toward Jerry Martin. His little shenanigans cost me over $100 grand in that warehouse fire. He’s lucky I didn’t get his family to cover my losses,” he sneers. “You want his office? Take it.”

Dylan and Bradley organize a restaurant rendezvous to discuss how they're going to get into the warehouse. Based on Gil’s vitriolic reaction to the mere mention of Jerry Martin, Dylan wants to load up her dad's personal belongings by himself, then deliver them to her. Bradley agrees, but she seems disappointed.

“I just really want to see my dad’s office again. The way he set it up. The way he left everything,” she tells him. Her mom is so freaked out by his violent death that she got rid of all of his things, so Bradley has nothing left of her dad. She was hoping that by visiting his office, she would feel like she was with him again.

The speech moves Dylan, and he agrees.

“You sure?” Bradley asks.

“No. But I’m gonna do it anyways.”

Man on Fire

At school, Miss Watson is effusing over an incredible short story Norman wrote about a man who’s literally burning up on the inside. She wants to help him get it published, promising to help him edit it if he stops by after school. Also, she’s been reviewing his quarter grades, and they’re straight A’s. “I think this school’s gonna be good for you,” she smiles.

When Norman does come by the next day, Miss Watson starts waxing poetic about how he understands things beyond his years, “things about how hard life can be, about how we’re not really meant to be happy.” It’s a little odd—I feel like maybe we'll hear more about her personal life in the seasons to come. She snaps out of her lament and tells Norman to check with his mom to make sure she’s okay with it being published, since he’s still a minor.

Let it Slide

The hippies are singing the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Slide” on the motel porch. I’m suddenly transported back to my junior year of high school and a mixtape I made for an ex-boyfriend. I have a feeling that Carlton Cuse and crew are focusing on different lyrics than I was, though. “We’re gonna let it slide,” lead hippie sings, and that’s exactly what Officer Romero is about to do.

He walks up to the motel, presumably to follow up on the Flowers of Doom, and the trimmers freeze. When Romero asks where they’re working, the guitar player says they’re out at Gil’s dry dock.“You want some veggies?” he asks the sheriff. Norma is peering out between the blinds, hoping that Romero is going to bust them. He is not.

“No, I’m good. Thanks.” He almost cracks a smile, then heads inside to chat with Norma. It's not good news: he has no leads, because Jake Abernathy doesn’t exist. All of the information he gave when he registered was completely fake. Romero asks to dust room number nine for fingerprints, but Norma’s already cleaned it, and now there are a bunch of stoners in there.

“God knows what they tracked in with them," she moans.

“It’s sort funny how you went into the service industry,” Romero says, wryly. “You’re don’t seem very keen on serving anybody.”

“I’m as keen as I need to be,” she responds, and asks what he intends to do about Abernathy.

The answer? Nothing. He has no leads, no evidence, no license plate, no locations he might be going. To appease her, Romero says he’ll have her house patrolled on the half hour.

“Let me know if anything else happens,” he says, and walks out the door.

After a moment, Norma thinks of a good retort (isn’t that always the way?) and flings the door open to yell after him, “Oh, like what? Like he digs up a couple of more dead people and puts them in my bed?”

“Yeah, like that,” Romero deadpans. “Goodnight, Norma.”

The stoners are baffled.

This is Emma on Drugs. Any Questions?

Earier in the day, Emma caught one of the trimmers smoking weed on the porch. When she goes to "bust it up immediately," he asks if she wants some.

“No, I don’t want some," she says. "Do you want me to blow up?”

“You won’t blow up," he assures her. "I’ve seen smokers with O2 tanks in Vegas. You know, playing the slot machines...” He chivalrously offers Emma some “killer” weed cupcakes instead. She declines and asks him to put the joint out so she won’t get fired. He obliges, then watches her walk into the office, intrigued.

The cupcake magically appears on the reception desk later. There’s a card attached that says “Emma - Hope I didn’t get you in trouble. Gunner.” He's signed it with a peace sign, obviously. After she answers a wrong number phone call from someone looking for “Dave," she decides to give the laced cake a go. And man, does she dig in with gusto.

Upstairs, Norman is at his laptop, presumably working on his story about the man living in a constant state of internal combustion. Norma enters and announces that she’s found them a beautiful little cottage in Oahu.

“I won’t do it,” Norman tells her. “This is just another of your stupid ‘starting over’ ideas and I’ve been through enough of them. I like it here.”

Norma, unfazed, insists that they will be able get jobs in the hotel industry now that they have experience.

“We’ve been open for three days,” he hisses.

“They don’t have to know that,” she shrugs.

“No matter where we go, things will always be the same. Because you do things that don’t make sense. YOU. You’re crazy!” he yells. After a brief pause, he apologizes. “I’m sorry mother. I didn’t mean that.”

Comic relief! Emma appears out of nowhere and reports that there may be video monitoring equipment in the office. She felt like she was being watched, which made her nervous, so she came up to see Norma(n).

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“Have you ever thought about how long those stairs are? I just kept climbing, and climbing...” she says in a dreamy tone of voice.

“Oh my God. Are you high?” Norma asks.

Emma is still carrying on about the stairs. “Like it was an escalator. That you climb. One more step just kept coming out of nowhere like I was in space or something...”

She then confirms that she got baked on baked goods.
“I heard it’s fun, but I’m not having any fun yet. When does the fun start?”

To help counter Emma’s bad reaction, Norma tells Norman to get her some toast and juice. Will that really stop a bad high? Norman doesn’t seem overly concerned about Emma’s condition, high or otherwise. What he is concerned about, however, is about apologizing for his little outburst. “Mom. I’m sorry. I don’t think you’re crazy.”

“Get the toast,” Norma snaps.

Inappropriate Relationships x2

Dylan and Bradley have just jumped down from the rafters into Gil’s warehouse when someone starts shooting at them. Lucky for Dylan, it’s just Remo—but he isn’t impressed that Dylan has a stowaway. He’s even less pleased when he realizes who the girl is.

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“You got any idea what kind of a position you put me in, bringing her down here?” he asks Dylan. Dylan promises that they’ll be no more than 10 minutes; Remo reluctantly gives them the go-ahead.

Bradley immediately tears up when she sees her dad’s office.

“Everything’s just how he left it,” she says. Dylan asks if she wants a minute.

“No. I like having you here,” she says. She searches desk drawers for a meaningful gold pocketwatch, but finds a stash of love letters instead. I caught a glimpse of the line, “My one and only Master”—was Bradley’s dad in on the sex slave trade, or is he just a bit 50 Shades?

The letters are signed “All my love, B,”—and “B” isn’t Bradley’s mother. Bradley drops the letters and runs out of the warehouse.

Dylan picks up the letters and I think he takes them, then runs out after Bradley.

“People are complicated,” he tells her. “He’s still your dad. He still loved you. I know that he had to love you, because who wouldn’t?” Oh, what a line. She thinks so, too, and they hold each other tight.

At home, Norman’s holding someone too. Norma came in and asked if she could sleep with him, because she’s understandably still freaked out by rotting body in her bed and her weirdo sex slave ringmaster stalker.

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Norman agreed and offered to sleep on the floor so she could have his bed, but Norma wouldn’t have it. And that’s why they’re now cuddled up close in his tiny twin-size bed. After reminiscing about the sleepovers they used to have in her room when Norman was just a tot, Norma puts an arm over his chest. She apologizes about her latest moving kick. “It’s alright mother," he assures her. "I’m sorry I said you were crazy. You’re not crazy.”

She kisses him and snuggles into his neck. It’s ... not normal.

Norma's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Back at school, Norman has changed his mind about having his story published. He doesn’t think his mom would approve. There's no point in even asking, he says. “She wouldn’t get it.” A beat later, Miss Watson wants to know how the therapy is going.

“I went once,” Norman shrugs.
Miss Watson sighs, then suggests that perhaps Norman doesn't really need to tell his mother about publishing the story.

“That doesn’t seem right,” he says.

Miss Watson gets weirdly close—personal space, lady—and says that she’s had a lot of troubles in her own life, so she can see when things aren’t fair. “What I’m saying is that, what is the likelihood she’ll ever know?”

Real estate agent’s office. Our pal Matt sees Norma coming and tries his best to avoid her, but it’s too late. She wants an update on the open house, which is when he lays it all out for her.

“There’s not gonna be an open house. I looked into it, and there’s no market for your property, not with the new bypass road going in. I can’t get you your money back.” In fact, he’s not even sure he can get half of her money back. He advises her that it’s probably just best to walk away.

“Are you kidding me? I will sue you!” she yells at him.

“Uhh, you can,” Matt smirks. “But I’m 30,000 in debt, I live with my girlfriend, and my mom owns my car, so...” Norma shows him the business end of her purse, smacking him with the full force of it. Repeatedly.

Then she goes outside and gets in her car, where she has a ticket. Could this day get any worse? Oh yeah, it could: “Jake Abernathy” is in the back seat, and he’s got a gun to her head.

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Turns out that he’s been searching for $150,000, the cash Shelby owed him from the last batch of girls. It’s gone missing, and none of their mutual contacts has it. That leaves one person: Norma. He wants her to bring him the money tomorrow night at midnight. (A flair for the dramatic, I think.)

Norma agrees—and maybe she’s just playing along, but she seems genuine. Did she really take the money? Whether she did or didn’t, she’d better show up with the payout, because Abernathy isn't playing.

“I know where you live,” he tells her. “If I have to go to your house, I’ll kill your sons first. And then I’ll kill you. Goodnight.”

I do so prefer that my murderous blackmailing sex traffickers are polite, don’t you?

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 
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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About I Love Lucy
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

When I Love Lucy premiered on October 15, 1951, no one could have predicted that it would become one of television’s most beloved and enduring programs of all time. But a combination of innovative filming techniques, the dogged perfectionism of star Lucille Ball, top-notch writing, the “can do” attitude of the production staff, and the business savvy of Desi Arnaz, I Love Lucy topped the Nielsen ratings for four out of its six seasons and picked up a handful of Emmys along the way. And even though the show’s main stars couldn’t stay married to one another (Lucy and Desi divorced in 1960, after 20 years of marriage), they remained the best of friends. As Desi would proclaim until his dying day, “I Love Lucy was never just a title.”

1. CBS DIDN’T THINK AMERICANS WOULD BUY THAT LUCY WAS MARRIED TO A “FOREIGN” MAN.

When CBS approached Lucille Ball with the offer of turning her popular radio show My Favorite Husband into a television show, she was agreeable with one condition: that her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, would be cast in the role of her spouse (played on the radio by Richard Denning). The network balked—there was no way that American viewers would accept average housewife Liz Cooper (her character’s name on the radio series) being married to a “foreign” man with an indecipherable accent. Never mind the fact that Lucy and Desi had been married more than a decade; such a “mixed” marriage was unbelievable.

2. LUCY AND DESI HAD TO TAKE THEIR SHOW ON THE ROAD TO CONVINCE THE NETWORK BRASS.

Arnaz had a successful career touring the country with his rhumba band, which was one of the reasons Lucille wanted him to get cast as her TV husband—to keep him off the road and close to home. In an effort to show the network (and potential sponsors) that they could work together as a comedy team, they crafted a sort of vaudevillian skit that was inserted into the middle of performances by the Desi Arnaz Orchestra during a tour in the summer of 1950. The audiences roared over Lucille’s antics and her interaction with Desi as she interrupted his band’s concert confusedly, cello in hand, thinking she had an audition scheduled. The “Professor” skit not only convinced the network powers that be that the couple could, in fact, be convincing as husband and wife—it also was such a hit that it was incorporated into episode six of I Love Lucy’s first season.

3. THE SHOW BROKE GROUND IN SEVERAL WAYS, SIMPLY BECAUSE THE ARNAZES WOULDN’T MOVE TO NEW YORK.

Lucille and Desi wanted to work in Los Angeles, near their home and their new baby daughter Lucie. But in 1951 the majority of television shows were broadcast from New York, and that’s where sponsor Philip Morris wanted their show to originate as well. In those days the U.S. wasn’t wired for television from coast-to-coast; shows broadcast live could only be transmitted so far. As a result, such shows were preserved on kinescopes (a movie camera aimed at a TV monitor that recorded the show in negligible quality) and shipped to distant stations.

Philip Morris objected to I Love Lucy being performed in California and the kinescopes sent to New York; their biggest cigarette market was up and down the east coast and they wanted the best TV picture quality for that area. Desi Arnaz suggested that the show be filmed with three cameras, like a stage play, which would provide the same quality picture for every market. But multi-cameras had never been used on a situation comedy before, and there were many obstacles involved, not the least of which was accommodating a live studio audience (Desi knew that Lucille worked best when she got immediate audience feedback).

Desi hired legendary cinematographer Karl Freund to help solve the dilemma, and along with writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer and director Marc Daniels, they built a set, and the necessary filming equipment was strategically placed. CBS balked at the additional expense involved in this undertaking, so Arnaz struck a deal: he and Lucille would take a large cut in their salaries and their company, Desilu Productions, would retain ownership of the films in exchange. The enduring high quality of the 35 millimeter film was part of the reason that I Love Lucy became so popular in rerun syndication, and Desilu’s 100 percent ownership of the series made Lucille and Desi the first millionaire TV stars.

4. ONLY LUCY WAS ALLOWED TO MAKE FUN OF RICKY’S FRACTURED ENGLISH.

After a few episodes were filmed, it became an unwritten rule that only Lucy would ever poke fun at her husband’s pronunciation problems. The writers had allowed other characters to make remarks, but in each case the “joke” was met with stony silence from the studio audience. For some reason, it seemed cruel when anyone other than Lucy “mucked” Ricky’s English.

5. SMOKING WAS REQUIRED ON-CAMERA.

I Love Lucy almost never made it to the air because CBS had trouble securing a sponsor for the show. Finally tobacco giant Philip Morris signed on at the 11th hour. As a result, lots of smoking was featured in each episode, and the name “Philip Morris” was worked into the dialogue whenever plausible. There was, however, one small problem: Lucille Ball was a Chesterfield girl. She eventually overcame this little hurdle by having a stagehand stuff any on-camera Philip Morris packs full of Chesterfield cigarettes.

6. WILLIAM FRAWLEY WAS FAR FROM THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY FRED MERTZ.

Lucille Ball was eager to have Gale Gordon, whom she’d worked with on her My Favorite Husband radio show, play crusty neighbor and landlord Fred Mertz. But Gordon, who had a steady gig at the time on the Our Miss Brooks radio program, asked for more money than Desilu had to offer. Character actor William Frawley knew Ball in passing (they’d met back in the 1940s) and phoned her personally when he read about her upcoming TV show in the trade papers to inquire if there might be a part for him. CBS and Philip Morris were wary of hiring Frawley, who had a reputation for being a heavy drinker. But Arnaz (no stranger to the bottle himself) thought that Frawley was just curmudgeonly enough to bring Fred Mertz to life. He met Frawley for lunch at Nickodell’s on Melrose Avenue and offered him the role with the proviso that if he missed work for any reason other than legitimate illness, he’d be written out of the show.

7. DORIS ZIFFEL WAS ALMOST ETHEL MERTZ.

Lucille had worked with Bea Benaderet in radio and wanted her to play Ethel Mertz. But Benaderet had just signed on to play Blanche Morton on the TV version of The Burns and Allen Show and was unavailable. Barbara Pepper was a personal friend of Ball’s, and the two had worked in films together, so she was the next serious consideration for the role. Pepper was the right age and body type to play Ethel, but she was also a known alcoholic and the network nixed her after Frawley was hired; two heavy drinkers in the main cast was too risky. I Love Lucy had already gone into early rehearsals by the time director Marc Daniels saw Vivian Vance performing in a play at the La Jolla Playhouse and recommended her to Arnaz. Pepper did play background characters on several I Love Lucy episodes and would go on to land the role of Doris Ziffel on Green Acres.

8. THE “MERTZES” DESPISED ONE ANOTHER OFF-CAMERA.

Vivian Vance was 22 years younger than her TV husband and resented having such an “old poop” play her spouse. Frawley responded in kind, referring to her variously as “that sack of doorknobs” or just plain “b*tch.” But all that animosity was strictly behind the scenes and known mostly only to the series’ writers and directors. Frawley and Vance were savvy enough to not jeopardize their jobs on TV’s most successful show by openly airing their mutual hostility. Even co-workers like Keith Thibodeaux (Little Ricky, a.k.a. Richard Keith) and Roy Rowan (the show’s announcer), who were on the set daily, had no idea that things were less than cuddly between the two actors until years after I Love Lucy ceased production.

9. DESI ARNAZ HAD LIFTS IN HIS SHOES (AND HIS LOVESEAT).

Arnaz listed his height as 5’11” in most official biographies, but those who worked with him knew that in reality he was 5’9” and wore four-inch lifts in his shoes. Lucille Ball stood 5’7” in her stocking feet, and when she wore heels she seemed to tower over her husband. Desi Arnaz Jr. would later explain to an interviewer that his father “was a Cuban with a Latin male’s pride,” which is why it was important to him to be taller than his wife. A dual-purpose, subtle additional cushion (undetectable by the viewing audience) was added to the Ricardos’ loveseat so that Ricky would be taller than Lucy while seated, and would also give him the extra boost needed to gracefully rise from a sitting position up onto his elevator shoes.

10. ARNAZ FLATLY REJECTED A SCENE THAT INVOLVED RICKY CHEATING ON HIS TAXES.

Desi Arnaz was an unabashed believer in the American Dream and was very patriotic when it came to his adopted homeland. Desi was 17 years old when Fulgencio Batista overthrew the Cuban government and the Arnaz family fled to Miami with little more than the clothes they were wearing. The family lived in a warehouse with some other refugees and Desi got a job cleaning birdcages for a man whole sold canaries to pet stores. As he said during his acceptance speech on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town in 1954, “From cleaning canary cages to this night in New York is a long ways. And I don’t think there’s any other country in the world that could give you that opportunity.” So when a scene in original script in the episode “Lucy Tells the Truth” called for Ricky to fudge some numbers on his income tax return, Arnaz refused to play it and asked the writers to remove it. He didn’t want the audience to think that Ricky would cheat the U.S. government.

11. THE CANDY LADY WAS A BIG DIPPER IN REAL LIFE.

“Job Switching” (often referred to as “The Candy Factory Episode”) has long been a fan favorite, particularly the scene where Lucy and Ethel are stuffing their faces and clothing with chocolates while trying to keep up with a speedy conveyor belt. The previous scene featured Lucy hand-dipping chocolates with a real-life dipper that stage manager Herb Browar found at See’s Candies on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Amanda Milligan had never seen I Love Lucy (she watched wrestling on Monday nights), but Browar hired her anyway; he thought her deadpan expression would make her the perfect straight woman for Lucille to react to. During rehearsals Lucille was worried that the scene just wasn’t going to be funny on film because Milligan seemed hesitant to hit her in the face as the script specified. When the cameras were rolling, Milligan hauled off and smacked Lucille so hard that Ball feared her nose had been broken. Despite her pain and ringing ears Ball didn’t call for a “cut” because she did not want to have to do another take! During a break in filming Lucille asked Milligan “So, how do you like working in show business?” An unsmiling Milligan, who’d spent eight hours per day for the past 30 years putting swirls on chocolates, replied, “I’ve never been so bored in my life.”

12. LUCILLE WAS TOO STRESSED TO APPRECIATE THE HUMOR IN ONE OF HER MOST POPULAR EPISODES.

Another fan favorite was, interestingly, not one of Ball’s favorite episodes. It wasn’t until “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” was voted tops in many viewer polls over the years that she acknowledged that it was a funny episode. During filming, she was too nervous and worried about messing up her lines (imagine having to say “Vitameatavegamin” that many times during a spiel) to appreciate the humor.

Ball was many things, including a great physical comedienne, but one thing she was not was an improviser or extemporaneous speaker. Every slurred word of her drunken Vitameatavegamin pitch was in the script. Lucille even came up with a backup plan, lest she forget her lines: she had script supervisor Maury Thompson made up and placed off-side in front of her podium holding up her lines (there were no cue cards on the I Love Lucy set), much like a real commercial setting.

By the way, that stuff Lucy was pouring onto the spoon was apple pectin.

13. BECAUSE THE SHOW WAS FILMED IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE, THEY HESITATED TO YELL “CUT” AND RESHOOT SCENES.

As a result, the occasional blooper was left in and sort of papered-over. One classic example occurred in “Redecorating the Mertz’s Apartment,” at the breakfast table when Lucy is musing aloud about how to repair both the Mertz’s marriage and their tacky apartment. See how Desi saves the scene after she mistakenly says “paint the furniture and reupholster the old furniture:”

14. LUCILLE’S PREGNANCY CREATED PANIC BEHIND THE SCENES.

During season two, Ball discovered that she was pregnant. While the Arnazes were overjoyed (Lucille had previously suffered three miscarriages before giving birth to daughter Lucie in July 1951), they were also concerned about the fate of their hit series. Other than the late 1940s sitcom Mary Kay and Johnny (which also starred a real-life married couple), a visibly pregnant female had never starred on a TV series. It would be impossible to conceal Lucille’s condition because, as Desi told the network, “she got as big as a house when she was carrying Lucie.”

Eventually, the network agreed to write Ball’s pregnancy into the show, and Desi hired a local Catholic priest, a minister, and a rabbi to sit in while each episode was filmed to determine whether there was anything objectionable. CBS deemed that the word “pregnant” was vulgar, so it was replaced with “expecting” (or, as Ricky pronounced it, “‘spectin’”). The scene at the Tropicana, where Lucy finally breaks the news to Ricky, was genuinely emotional for the actors, who both started crying and Desi had to be prompted “sing the baby song!” Director William Asher reshot that scene, but decided that the raw emotion in the original take made for a more poignant moment and used it.

15. LITTLE RICKY AND DESI ARNAZ JR. WERE BORN ON THE SAME DAY.

The Arnazes already knew that Lucille would give birth via Caesarian section when her time came (as that was how Lucie had been delivered), and Ball’s obstetrician regularly scheduled all his C-sections on Mondays. As luck would have it, I Love Lucy aired on Monday nights, so with the pregnancy episodes timed just so, Ball went to the hospital the same night that Lucy Ricardo did.

What the Arnazes did not know in advance, however, was the gender of their pending bundle of joy. I Love Lucy head writer Jess Oppenheimer had decided that the Ricardos would have a boy, so when Desi Arnaz Jr. was born, Desi Sr. joyfully called Jess to announce proudly, “Lucy followed your script! Ain’t she something?!” (By the way, a record-breaking 71.7 percent of American televisions were tuned in that Monday night to see the Ricardo baby, which topped the number of folks who watched Dwight D. Eisenhower get sworn in as President the following day.)

16. LUCILLE TRULY SUFFERED FOR THAT ICONIC GRAPE-STOMPING EPISODE.

“Lucy’s Italian Movie” faced a variety of obstacles. First was getting a vineyard to donate the necessary grapes for stomping. The company that ultimately agreed did so with the proviso that it must be mentioned in the script that foot-pressing was an outmoded method of making wine in Italy. Next was the local extra cast to wrestle Lucille in the grape vat; Teresa Tirelli didn’t speak any English and an interpreter had to explain the scene to her. Apparently something was lost in the translation because Tirelli didn’t grasp that this was supposed to be a filmed-from-the-waist-up fake fight and she literally held Lucille’s head under the grape mush until the star very nearly drowned. And even though the show was broadcast in black and white, Ball, Arnaz, and the production staff were sticklers for detail so a formula for a purplish/blue dye had to be worked out that would properly tint Lucille’s flesh and hair without irritating her skin or reacting with the chemicals used to keep her permed locks that famous henna color for that final scene.

17. LUCILLE EXASPERATED GUEST STAR HARPO MARX.

Ball was a long-time admirer of Harpo Marx, but when it came to actually working with him, she was unprepared for his “never the same way twice” approach to his comedy routines. In the Hollywood episode where she was required to mirror his moves, she insisted on incessant rehearsals to get the bit just right. But Harpo’s attitude was “I’ve done this bit for 35 years, why do I need so much rehearsal?” In the end, this was one of the few instances where the scene was re-shot several times after the studio audience had left and was later pieced together by editor Dann Cahn.

18. THE LONGEST LAUGH ON THE SHOW LASTED 65 SECONDS.

When Lucy hid dozens of eggs and then danced the tango with Ricky (resulting in the inevitable blouse full of scrambled yolks), the audience roared for so long that ultimately some of the laughter had to be edited out in the final film. Neither Ball nor Vance had used eggs during rehearsals so that their onscreen reactions would be more genuine when the shells cracked and the albumen slimed its way down their flesh.

19. ARNAZ REQUIRED AS MUCH REALISM AS POSSIBLE, NO MATTER THE COST OR DIFFICULTY.

No matter how wacky the situation, Arnaz tried hard to maintain some veracity, thinking that that the audience would believe it (and thus find it more humorous) if the actors believed it. So when a scene in “Pioneer Women” required an eight-foot-long loaf of bread to pop out of the oven, the producers found a New York bakery willing to bake one. (It was rye bread, by the way, and when filming was finished it was cut up and served to the audience.) Likewise, in “Deep Sea Fishing” when Ricky and Fred entered into a bet with Lucy and Ethel to see who could catch the biggest fish, two 100-plus pound tunas were purchased at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, packed in ice into child-sized coffins and air-shipped to Hollywood.

20. THE “UH-OH” LADY HEARD IN THE STUDIO AUDIENCE WAS LUCILLE’S MOM.

Quite often when Lucy Ricardo was stepping into a precarious situation, a woman in the audience could be heard uttering “uh-oh.” That was Dede Ball, who attended every taping and tended to get wrapped up in the proceedings. I Love Lucy sound engineer Glen Glenn was the co-founder of Glen Glenn Sound, and in the 1960s and ‘70s his company was one of the leading providers of laugh tracks, or canned laughter, to TV sitcoms. Many of the yuks used in their recordings were culled from I Love Lucy and The Red Skelton Show, which is why Dede’s “uh-oh” could be heard years later on shows she’d never seen, much less been in attendance.

Additional Sources:
A Book, by Desi Arnaz The Lucy Book, by Geoffrey Mark Fidelman Meet the Mertzes, by Ron Edelman and Audrey Kupferberg The “I Love Lucy” Book, by Bart Andrews Lucy & Ricky & Fred & Ethel: The Story of I Love Lucy, by Bart Andrews Laughs, Luck….and Lucy, by Jess Oppenheimer

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Michael Loccisano / Getty Images
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Pop Culture
Steven Spielberg’s Anthology Series Amazing Stories Is Being Rebooted for Apple
Original image
Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Steven Spielberg may be best known for his Oscar-winning work as a film director, but he’s also put forth some prestige television shows. His best known example, Amazing Stories—which ran from 1985 to 1987—offered a lighter take on a fantasy/sci-fi anthology series for a post-Twilight Zone world. Now, The Wall Street Journal reports that the program is being revived for Apple, with Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal, American Gods) being tapped to lead the project.

After making a deal with Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg’s production company, Apple announced it will release a 10-episode season of the rebooted series with each episode telling a new story in the genres of fantasy, horror, or science fiction. Fuller will act as both showrunner and executive producer. A release date has yet to be announced.

Amazing Stories will mark Apple's first foray into original content, joining other producers of streaming-only shows like Netflix and Hulu. And with a budget of $5 million per episode, Apple appears to be tackling the program just like any major network would.

When Amazing Stories, named after the early science fiction pulp magazine, debuted in 1985, it was praised for packing Spielberg’s cinematic flair into 30-minute packages. Big names like Martin Scorsese, John Williams, Clint Eastwood, and Brad Bird all contributed to the original project. Details as to who might be on board for the revival are still pending.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]

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