For the last few years, CBS has reached back to its glorious past and, in a possible reflection of the current state of TV comedy today, has aired special presentations of its 1950s classic I Love Lucy in PRIME TIME.
Friday night’s special (airing, coincidentally or not, on the 30th Anniversary of Desi Arnaz’s passing) paired the 1956 Christmas Show –originally meant for that singular airing and never included as part of the syndication package — with the fourth season classic “Lucy Gets Into Pictures” to draw 6.7 million viewers. This was 10% below last year’s special and a new December low, but it was good enough to not only win its time slot, but to also win the night opposite originals on ABC (Last Man Standing, Dr. Ken, Shark Tank and 20/20), NBC (Caught on Camera and Dateline Friday) and college football on FOX.
Last year’s Christmas special — which aired on Christmas Eve Eve (a Wednesday) and paired the 1956 Christmas show with the first season classic “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” — generated 7.4 million viewers to win the night.
Not bad for a 65-year-old show.
But the other airings have done just as well or even better:
- The first special aired on Friday, December 21, 2013 and consisted of the non-syndicated 1956 Christmas show paired with the fifth season classic “Lucy’s Italian Movie” to generate 8.65 million viewers and win its time slot.
- The second special aired on Sunday, December 8, 2014 and consisted of the 1956 Christmas show paired with the classic second season opener “Job Switching” to generate a recent prime replay high of 9.36 million viewers.
Since then, the I Love Lucy Christmas Special has become an annual event — with a Superstar Special airing the following May.
- The first May special aired on Sunday the 18th in 2015 — pairing the fourth season classic “L.A. at Last!” with the sixth season classic “Lucy and Superman” to generate 6.41 million viewers (second in the time slot behind The Billboard Music Awards but well ahead of new episodes of The Simpsons and Brooklyn Nine Nine on FOX).
- The second May special aired on Friday May 21, 2016 and consisted of the two-part fifth season opener “Lucy Visit Grauman’s” and “Lucy and John Wayne”. Though the special generated a May low and a recent prime replay low of 5.43 million viewers, it still won its time slot opposite an original Grimm on NBC and an original Beyond the Tank on ABC.
With 171 other episodes available, perhaps these twice-annual specials could be upgraded to monthlies…