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1980s / Life With Lucy - 1986
Lucille Ball had 23 years of successful sitcoms from 1951 through 1974. During the next dozen years, Ball appeared only in specials and did the occasional game show. In 1986, after some serious negotiating, ABC persuaded the 75-year-old Ball to come out of retirement and do another sitcom, Life With Lucy, alongside 80-year-old Gale Gordon. Lucy would be paid for 22 episodes even if the series was cancelled before they aired or were even made. She also insisted that Bob Carroll and Madelyn Pugh--her two primary writers from I Love Lucy--would have final script approval. Lucy played a widow who moves in her with daughter's family. The first episode aired on Saturday, September 23, 1986. It ranked 23rd for the week. The reviews were not kind. Critics felt the scripts were old-fashioned and predictable. Some Lucy fans cringed watching the elderly Lucy and Gale perform stunts they did years earlier. Lucy’s timing was a bit off as well because she now needed cue cards to remember her lines. As the weeks went on, Life With Lucy steadily fell in the ratings. Within two months, it was among the lowest-rated shows on television. Lucy was shocked because she had never failed in a series before. There were occasional bright spots, though: Lucille Ball was likely at her personal best in an episode featuring John Ritter. (Each was a huge fan of the other.) An episode titled 'Mother of the Bride,' in which Audrey Meadows (of The Honeymooners) appeared as Lucy's sister, probably was the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, nothing could save what was becoming a major disappointment for ABC. Even though 13 episodes were filmed, only eight made it to the airwaves before the series was axed. 'Mother of the Bride' was the last one to air on November 15, 1986. Lucy was apparently devastated by the show's cancellation, tearfully declaring to longtime friend Ann Sothern that TV viewers only accepted a younger Lucy--not Lucy as a grandmother. ABC never aired any reruns. Life With Lucy has not yet been made available on DVD.