The I Love Lucy television show first aired on this day in 1951. It starred then-Hollywood legend Lucille Ball, whose zany and fresh comedic antics helped turn the sitcom into the most watched television show of its era.
Ball’s trademark blazing red hair and slapstick humor was an unlikely pairing with her co-star, Desi Arnaz. Arnaz, who played Lucy’s husband Ricky Ricardo, was also her real-life husband during the run of the show. Arnaz was a dark-haired Cuban American singer and bandleader, whose memorable heavy accent and exclamations on the show continue to resonate to this day.
CBS executives at the time questioned whether the U.S. television audience would accept the idea of an All-American redhead married to a Cuban. Those fears quickly turned to celebration as I Love Lucy went on to become one of the most popular television sitcoms of all time. Sixty-three years after its debut, reruns of I Love Lucy are still viewed by more than 40 million Americans each year.
On the show, Lucy and Ricky were joined by co-stars Vivian Vance and William Frawley, who played Ethel and Fred Mertz. Vance and Frawley were perfectly cast as the Ricardos’ neighbors, landlord, and best friends. To this day, I still laugh thinking about the scene of Lucy and Ethel working in the chocolate factory on the production line.
Lucille Ball not only broke new ground as a leading female character of a television sitcom, she also served as the first woman to head a television production company, Desilu, which she and Arnaz formed. As a very active studio head at Desilu, Ball “pioneered a number of methods still in use in television production today such as filming before a live studio audience with a number of cameras, and distinct sets adjacent to each other.”
Whether it’s a television studio, and large corporation, or a small or medium size business, chief executives need to be willing to move outside of their safe zone in order to innovate and try new approaches. Success in business comes from bold leadership, a strong team, and promoting a culture that embraces an inventive spirit.