Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One More Reason To Love Lucy

August 6 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball. You may not realize it, but if you're a Star Trek fan, you owe her a big thank you. If it hadn't been for Lucy, there would be no Trek.

After Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, he began shopping it around to various studios around Hollywood. They all turned him down, except for one: Desilu, the studio formed by Lucy and husband Dezi Arnaz. By the time Roddenberry pitched his idea to Desilu, Lucy and Dezi were divorced and she was the sole owner of the studio. Lucy must have seen something she liked in the series and gave it the green light. The rest, as they say, is history.

Star Trek was an expensive show to produce and as hard as it is to believe today, suffered from dismal ratings during its original run. The Desilu bean counters pleaded with Lucy to cancel it (along with Mission: Impossible, another expensive Desilu show), but she refused, saying that she liked it. As Lucy was one of the most successful, shrewd and powerful women in television, you didn't say no to her. Perhaps she knew a good thing when she saw it. Maybe she saw the value in a product that could be syndicated. Or maybe she thought Spock was sexy. We may never know.

By the end of Star Trek's second season, Lucy decided to sell Desilu. She sold the studio (and all its TV properties) to Paramount, which was the beginning of the end for Star Trek. Paramount kept it on the air for another season before ultimately pulling the plug.

You know the rest of the story. Star Trek became a huge hit in syndication, often scoring higher ratings than first run shows. That led to a worldwide army of rabid fans, a series of movies, FOUR more TV series and a merchandising empire rivaled by no other.

And to think we owe it all to a dizzy redhead.


  1. Funny, I've been watching Star Trek on Netflix and it's interesting to see how they tweaked and retooled the show in the first half dozen episodes or so. This includes the pilot with Captain Pike from 1964. It starts out and everybody, male and female, is in the color coded tunic and slacks. Understandable for sailors on a military vessel. Then the women lose the pants turning the tunic into a mini-dress. I wonder what genius on the show thought to give the audience eye-candy. They probably thought the ratings stink so what could it hurt if we saw some legs? It was 1966 after all.

  2. It was probably NBC that came up with the mini skirts for the Trek women. They didn't like the women dressing like the men in the pilot, or the character of Number One, a female second in command.

    The mini-skirts may have been nice to look at, but they made absolutely no sense in the world of the show. Lt. Uhura wasn't just some phone operator, she was a navel officer for gosh sake. A highly trained and decorated officer. Can you imagine if that happened in our Navy? Making the women officers dress like strippers in mini-skirts and go go boots? I don't think the women would stand for it.

    It wasn't just 1960s Trek that did this. The highly politically correct Star Trek: The Next Generation dressed its male officers in two piece uniforms, while the female officers had to wear one piece skin tight catsuits. Again, nice to look at, but it made no sense story-wise.


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