Today, we look at how the early episode of I Love Lucy, “The Freezer,” helped established a television comedy trope.
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
One of the fascinating things about I Love Lucy is how many of the concepts would seem kind of cliche, if not for the fact that the show was the first one to DO THEM. However, even if you WERE to take that view of the series, it still managed to deliver a ton of laughs out of those concepts, even if you WERE to think of them as cliche. Knowing that they were novel when I Love Lucy did them just makes it even MORE impressive.
In the case of “The Freezer,” Lucy and Ethel are complaining about the rising cost of meat. They decide that it would make sense to invest in a walk-in freezer for the basement of their apartment building (which is really just a converted brownstone owned by the Ricardo’s landlord/best friends, Fred and Ethel Mertz), so that they can buy meat in bulk and get a better price. They get a freezer pretty cheap, and get it installed. They then go to buy some meat to fill the freezer, but through a hilarious misunderstanding of how much meat is in a “side of beef” (Ethel notes that it can’t be much more than a side of bacon, right?), they end up 300 pounds of beef that costs about $500.
Knowing that Ricky and Fred will obviously be irate when they find out about this mistake, Lucy comes up with the idea of going to the local butcher and undercutting his prices with the women on line. It’s a brilliant piece of comedy showing Lucy essentially acting like a drug dealer slyly pulling the women away from the line to sell them cheaper meat. When one woman asks how they can charge so little, Lucy explains that they do it all in house. Very funny. Naturally, though, the butchers put an end to their attempt to steal their business, and so they still have hundreds of pounds of beef.
Things get crazier when Fred and Ricky come home, having found about the new freezer, and surprise their wives with 30 pounds of beef! They want to put it into the freezer, but Lucy comes up with an excuse (“I have to clean the freezer first!”) and then starts hauling the beef out of the freezer into the building’s furnace (which Fred had turned off while he was working on it). Ethel buys her time by playing to Ricky’s ego by asking him to sing some songs (as Lucy notes, “I’ll take care of the beef, you take care of the ham”). However, Lucy accidentally locks herself in the freezer while Ethel is buying her time, so that when they finally come down there, Lucy has practically frozen solid!
There’s a great bit where Ricky is trying to get her to conserve her energy, but the door to the freezer is so thick that she can’t hear him, so she thinks he is waving goodbye and waves goodbye to her, as well.
Finally, after she is saved and heated up, they all start smelling cooked meat – yep, while Lucy was recovering, Fred turned on the furnace! Lucy tells everyone to grab a knife, fork and some ketchup, as they’re about to have the biggest barbecue around!
It’s a tightly written script by Bob Carroll Jr., Madelyn Davis and Jess Oppenheimer, and well directed by Marc Daniels.
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