As America’s funniest and most beloved TV couple, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo have been a constant presence on television sets globally since the iconic sitcom “I Love Lucy,” premiered on CBS in 1951. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were bright stars in a growing television universe, delighting their record-breaking audiences each and every week with Lucy’s hare-brained schemes and hilarious antics. But as America enjoyed Lucy and Ricky, Ball and Arnaz were actually facing problems that easily could’ve brought an end to their new-found success and marriage.
Aaron Sorkin, with his trademark spitfire dialogue and dizzying pace takes audiences into one week at “I Love Lucy” which nearly became a faint memory when famed radio show host Walter Winchell suggested its leading lady was a Communist Party member. Being labeled as a “red” ruined careers with a mere mention. Let’s be clear. Being The Ricardos is not a film about “I Love Lucy”, but a chronicling of razor sharp comedian/business woman in an interracial marriage during a time where Hollywood shunned such unions, but being pregnant wasn’t necessarily met with joy and elation either. Add infidelity, a troubled marriage, squabbles between its leads, sponsors and producers, plus a film career derailed, one is left with a perfect recipe for an intriguing project that is riveting from start to finish.
With an ensemble cast which includes J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman, audiences take the ride of a lifetime through a chapter in history that didn’t have social media, cancel culture or opinions at every given turn. Yet, these legends scrambled for a week desperately trying to come up with a solution that worked for everyone, yet simultaneously saved their livelihoods. Nicole Kidman inhabits the energy, verve, sex appeal, headiness and unquenchable comedic prowess of Lucille Ball stupendously. Kidman’s physical recreation from the famous grape stomping scene is brilliant and reminds audiences of her comic brilliance while placing us right inside that amazing mind of hers. Javier Bardem beating those bongos busting out in song is everything, but it is the respect given to icon Desi Arnaz that you remember most. He bring dignity and charm to an image we have only seen on our television screens. Having been on numerous sitcom sets myself, I became nostalgic for mulit-cam studio audiences watching with great admiration for how Production and Costume designers Jon Huttman and Susan Lyall replicated this era down to every minute detail.
Nina Arianda and J.K. Simmons blow the lid off of Fred and Ethel Mertz. Between Vivian Vance’s insecurities over weight and Bill Frawley’s drinking and anything but sunny disposition, we learn that appearances on all fronts had been deceiving for the viewing public. We learn about one of the first women showrunners in an industry that once again did not embrace women in charge. In addition, this industry doesn’t give this couple nearly enough credit for their contribution to television production including mulit-cam shooting and producing such now iconic hits as the original “Star Trek” series. From start to finish, Aaron Sorkin provides a nostalgic slice of television straight from the horses mouth complete with anticipation, humor, intrigue and drama that could only be one of the reasons we will forever be in love with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.