Ball’s Final Sitcom Deserved Better
Thirty-six years before Nicole Kidman played out Lucille Ball’s life during the I Love Lucy era, on September 20th, 1986, the legendary Ball partnered with producers Aaron Spelling [Charlie’s Angels] and Douglas S. Cramer (Wonder Woman) and came back to the small-screen a sitcom that chronicled the updated adventures of hers originally-iconic Lucy persona.
This time, the actress played grandmother Lucille Barker, who resided in Pasadena, California, with her daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren, and in-law grand-father/hardware-store-business-partner Curtis McGibbons, played by Gale Gordon.
As Lucy fans around the globe know so well, Gordon had appeared with Ball on each of the earlier Lucy incarnations in one capacity or the other. On I Love Lucy (CBS, 1951–57), in which Ball co-starred with husband Desi Arnaz, she had originally cast Gordon as neighbor Fred Mertz. But the actor was unavailable for the role that ultimately went to William Frawley (who later appeared on CBS’ My Three Sons with Fred McMurray). Gordon, however, did at least have the chance to guest-star on Love and its later expanded edition, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (CBS, 1957–60).
But after Ball and Arnaz divorced, and the Hour was no more, the comedic actress returned to TV with The Lucy Show, (CBS, 1962–68), and this time Gordon was available on a regular basis, and was cast as the banker Mr. Mooney to Ball’s Mrs. Carmichael. A few years later, Ball reworked her TV presence once more and played Lucy Carter on Here’s Lucy (CBS, 1968–74) with Gordon portraying brother-in-law Harrison Carter.
Some 12 years after Here’s Lucy left CBS, Life With Lucy arrived on ABC.
In between those years, Ball guest-starred on variety shows like The Dean Martin Show, and The Bob Hope Specials, and made a few of her own specials for CBS, some of which had dramatic elements. She then dramatically exited the “Tiffany” network for a short affair with NBC.
Yet it was with ABC’s Life With Lucy that the actress returned to her beloved red-headed roots on a weekly…