I Love Lucy was off the air by the time I was watching TV of course but the reruns were on every single day. This, in the days before cable TV when there were literally a handful of channels to watch. So, if you are choosing between about a dozen channels and there is a show that is on every couple of hours somewhere, you notice it. And at the time, we only had a black and white TV, so the program didn’t feel dated.
There is not a modern equivalent that I can think of to help you understand how popular the show was. When Lucy had a baby, 72% of all the TVs in the country were tuned to that show. There were only a few networks at the time so the programs that were really popular were REALLY popular. Roughly 3 networks. No DVR. No VCR. If you wanted to watch a program, you stopped whatever you were doing and you watched it. And that’s how America watched Lucy and came to love her. In fact, the show was number one in the ratings by a very wide margin when it went off the air. There was no slow fade. The show was felled by marital problems between Lucy and Desi.
The show was miles ahead of it’s time from a technical perspective. Back in the ’50s, shows were shot on a kinescope and savable only in very low quality, murky black and white. I Love Lucy was the first show shot on 35 mm film. Crisp images you could show again and again. No one had thought of reruns or syndication at the time. In fact, ILL basically invented the rerun because of this. The show was the first shot with 3 cameras in front of a live audience, a method so perfect, most scripted shows are still done this exact way almost 60 years later. The show was done with a live audience rather than using the canned laughter that was popular at the time. You can even hear the actors that aren’t in the scenes being filmed laughing along with the audience. At that time, commercials were often integrated into the show. Once in a while, you can see the shows in their original format on TVland and Lucy or Ricky will wax poetic about Chesterfield cigarettes or Sanka. Oh, please note that Ricky Ricardo was the sharpest dresser in the history of television and I’ll stand on Don Draper’s modern art glass coffee table and scream it.
When I got my first VCR and figured out that the shows were shown in chronological order in reruns, I had boxes of tapes of all of the shows and we’d watch them all the time. So, yeah, I really did Love Lucy.