Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were considered innovators in the TV industry when “I Love Lucy” first aired, and in the 1950s, they most certainly were. But looking back at the show now, it’s amazing to see what pushing boundaries meant, and how drastically times have changed, both on and off screen. Here, let us ‘splain:
1. Lucy and Ricky would have slept in the same bed
Thanks to shows like “True Blood,” “Masters of Sex” and “Game of Thrones,” sex and nudity are pretty much the norm for modern-day television. But for Lucy and Ricky’s 1950s marriage, even sleeping in the same bed on-screen was considered crossing the line. While they wouldn’t necessarily be turning into vampires and ripping each others’ clothes off if their show aired today, the Ricardos definitely wouldn’t be sleeping in two twin beds.
2. The 'Job Switching' episode would never have happened
“Let’s face it, Rick-- when it comes to money, there are two kinds of people: the earners and the spenders… or, as they’re more popularly known, husbands and wives.”
Think “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope or “House of Card’s” Claire Underwood would stand for that kind of talk from Fred Metz? Think again.
In the show, Ricky claims women are only capable of, “lying around the house all day.” We're glad his remarks led to the classic Lucy and Ethel chocolate factory scene.
3. Lucy would have been 'pregnant'
We know what you’re thinking—what about Little Ricky?? Yes, Lucy was “expecting” on the show (and in real life), she was “with child,” she was “having a baby,” but she never uttered the word “pregnant” to describe her state—that would just be distasteful. Each episode during the pregnancy was reviewed by a priest, minister and rabbi before it aired just to be safe. Today, we’re lucky if we don't get a zoomed-in shot of the obstetrician’s view from the delivery room.
4. Lucy would be getting drunk off more than Vitameatavegamin
Back before popular TV shows were centered around drinking (we’re looking at you, “Cheers,” “Mad Men” and “How I Met Your Mother”), innocent Lucy was getting tipsy by mistake—off a health tonic called Vitameatavegamin that unbeknownst to her contained alcohol. By the way she’s slurring her words towards the end of the commercial shoot, we can’t even imagine what Lucy’s drunk texts would have looked like had she lived in the age of iPhones.
5. Ricky wouldn’t have spanked Lucy
When Lucy really gets herself into trouble, it isn’t uncommon to see Ricky put her over his knee and give her a good spanking. This may have earned laughs from “I Love Lucy” viewers, but today hot-headed Ricky might have a domestic violence case on his hands.
6. Lucy and Ricky's interracial marriage would be a non-issue
“I Love Lucy” is applauded as the first program to feature an interracial couple on TV, and Lucille Ball has said that executives were hesitant to hire Cuban-born Desi Arnaz. Arnaz’s heritage heavily defines his character on the show (a pregnant Lucy even asks Ricky not speak once their child is born so that the baby will learn proper English), but today Lucy and Ricky’s cultural differences wouldn’t phase us, as we’ve grown accustomed to every type of couple on-screen—gay couples, interracial couples, May-December couples—isn’t that what makes shows like “Modern Family” worth watching?
7. Lucy would be spending money on shoes, not hats
Lucy loved her hats, and she was always hiding her latest purchases from Ricky. But today, pillbox hats are much more British royal than Manhattan housewife. And while hats are no longer a status symbol (unless you’re Kate Middleton), today’s shopaholics are wearing their money on the soles of their feet—red soles, to be exact. A modern Lucy could surely rock a pair of studded, sky-high pumps Louboutins, and she wouldn’t be hiding them from anyone.
8. Lucy would have a different approach to flirting
Lucy’s brand of humor has been carried on by funny leading ladies today, but her flirting techniques didn’t stand the test of time quite so well. In one episode, Lucy teaches a friend how to attract a man just by swinging her hips and batting her eyelashes. Sounds easier than twerking or maintaining the perfect online dating profile, right? If only it were still so simple—think of all the agony today’s “Girls” stars could have been spared.
9. Cuba might not be a family vacation spot of choice
In 1956, Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel all make a trip to visit Ricky’s family in Cuba. (And this wasn’t Lucy’s first time to the island—did you know she first met Ricky on a cruise to Havana?) The U.S. cut ties with Fidel Castro’s communist Cuba just a few years later. Only in recent years did it become legal for Americans to travel to Cuba, and it’s still not as simple as booking a flight or hopping on a cruise ship. Trips must be booked through a Cuban travel organization with an official license from the U.S. Department of State. (And Lucy’s concerns might run deeper than how to impress her in-laws.)
10. Lucy and Ricky’s rent would skyrocket
The Ricardo’s lived in a brownstone apartment on Manhattan’s ritzy Upper East Side (E. 68th Street, to be exact) and paid $105 per month. Now pick your jaw up off the floor and just try to calculate how much their rent would be today. They comfortably fit a piano and a fireplace in their living room! Lucy would have to get a full-time job if they even wanted a shot at affording those digs today.
11. They wouldn't be smoking everywhere they go
Smoking was so common in the days of “I Love Lucy” that the stars lit up everywhere they went—in fact, Philip Morris Tobacco was the show's sponsor, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz filmed commercials for the brand on the side. By today’s laws, Lucy, Ricky and company would have a much harder time finding smoker-friendly spots in New York City.
12. Lucy would’ve had an easier time spying on Ricky
Cunning Lucy was always dressing up in disguise and going out of her way to hatch an elaborate plan to snoop on Ricky. If she questioned her hubby’s fidelity today, Lucy could simply check his text messages, stalk his Facebook page or hack into his Gmail account, all from the comfort of her home. (And you know she would have no problem figuring out his passwords.)
13. It may never have happened!
Lucille Ball has said that her main motivation for transitioning her career from the big screen to TV was to be able to have children and spend more time close to home. Had she been a star today, she probably wouldn’t have thought that way—she’d just hire an army of nannies. Do you see Angelina Jolie becoming a sitcom star anytime soon? Yeah, that’s what we thought.