I Love Lucy is a landmark American television sitcom starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley. The black-and-white series originally ran from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957, on CBS. After the series ended in 1957, however, a modified version continued for three more seasons with 13 one-hour specials, running from 1957 to 1960, known first as The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show and later in reruns as The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour.
I Love Lucy was the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and was the first to end its run at the top of the Nielsen ratings (an accomplishment later matched by The Andy Griffith Show and Seinfeld). I Love Lucy is still syndicated in dozens of languages across the world. A colorized version of its Christmas episode attracted more than 8 million viewers when CBS aired it in prime time in 2013 – 62 years after the show premiered.
The show was the first scripted television program to be shot on 35 mm film in front of a studio audience, and won five Emmy Awards and received numerous nominations. Another award that the show won was the coveted George Foster Peabody Award for "recognition of distinguished achievement in television." In 2002, it ranked second on TV Guide's list of television's greatest shows, behind Seinfeld and ahead of The Honeymooners. In 2007, it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME." I Love Lucy remains popular, with an American audience of over 40 million each year.
Perhaps the key to its success lies within the show's mastery of a graceful transition -- from sense to nonsense. Each episode opens with a plausible situation (home economy, child rearing, post-dating a check) thrown awry with exaggerated absurdity (Lucy is starched, frozen, stuffed with chocolate, locked in a trunk and lowered to the deck of a ship by helicopter, just to name a few). Yet somehow, the show and its heroine never seem to lose touch with the audience.
While the comic brilliance of Lucille Ball and the magic chemistry of the four main characters were cornerstones of the show, I Love Lucy owes much of its success to a behind-the-scenes band of brilliant creators. The show gave birth to the rerun; was the first to use a three-camera setup before a live audience; and overcame many technical obstacles of early TV through ingenious lighting, set design and editing.