Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Television's Queen of Comedy bet her kingdom to give American Television two of its greatest dramatic hours.

In 1966, the mighty CBS Network resumed its annual ritual of convincing and cajoling TV's reigning redhead,Lucille Ball, to continue with her hit series on the TIFFANY NETWORK, THE LUCY SHOW.

This was a complex negotiation , each year, because they were dealing with two Lucy's.

One was the driven and demanding actress, who rehearsed every LUCY SHOW script until it looked like it was spontaneous to the large and loyal audience.

But, in addition to her comedic career, the "other" Lucy was the president of DESILU STUDIOS, the production company that she and her ex-husband, video visionary and pioneer producer, Desi Arnaz, founded in the early 1950's to launch I LOVE LUCY.

Here's a brief historical detour:

In the 1950's and 1960's, DESILU was to television , everything that MGM was to the movies in the 30's and 40's. No surprise. Both Ball and Arnaz  had started their Hollywood careers acting  in feature films. They actually met at RKO STUDIOS, which they purchased and folded into DESILU in 1957. DESILU was a small studio with the biggest hits on the little screen.

Most of their work landed on CBS. It was a prolific and profitable partnership.

But , back to 1966...

To keep Lucy on the air and in the fold, CBS offered a financial incentive that was tailor-made for a studio executive. Because of her show's formidable ratings ( high, but not I LOVE LUCY high), she was given a "development" fund. It was her choice to invest in the production of pilot episodes for new DESILU series, or keep the money for herself.

She elected to invest in DESILU's future and with it in two unique pilots. One was for NBC and  was described by its creator, Gene Roddenbery as "WAGON TRAIN  to the stars."

That show was STAR TREK.  Do I need to say more?

Producer Bruce Geller had a different, but intriguing, vision for another show that would have the intensity and action of  sophisticated "heist" films like RIFIFI or TOPKAPI, but set in the shadowy world of espionage against an international backdrop. DESILU took it to CBS.


Both pilots , shot in COLOR, made their way to the Fall 1966 Prime Time Schedule. Both made television history and both left amazing legacies that manifested themselves  in feature films.

The legend and lore of STAR TREK fills volume after volume.

The heritage of  MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, like the operatives who work for the Impossible Mission Force, has a lower profile.

The terse and tense exposition of the show changed the architecture of  action dramas on television. The stories were meticulously crafted and often had to be written backwards to make sense. It was well known that in the late 1960's President Lyndon Johnson was one of the show's biggest fans. The show had a pace and a presence that was Spartan but suspenseful. Propelled by Lalo Schifrin's pulsating theme and eccentric casting ( Wally Cox as the point-person in a Spy caper?:) , the show ran from 1966 to 1973 on CBS.

Here, from the DON FOLEY you tube site, here is the 1966 Pilot for MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE.



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