‘I Love Lucy’ by the numbers: 10 facts about Lucille Ball and the hit sitcom

‘I Love Lucy’ by the numbers: 10 facts about Lucille Ball and the hit sitcom

Lucille Désirée Ball was the face of “I Love Lucy” for six years while she starred as fictional housewife Lucy Ricardo.

Joined by her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, who played Lucy’s onscreen spouse, Ricky Ricardo, the comedy duo captured the hearts of millions of Americans.

Here are 10 number-based facts about Ball and the hit television sitcom ahead of National I Love Lucy Day, which takes place on Oct. 15 each year, and is dedicated to celebrating the Ricardos.

1951 – “I Love Lucy” made its television premiere on Oct. 15, 1951, according to IMDb.

4 Emmys – The Television Academy has awarded “I Love Lucy” four Emmy Awards, including the Best Situation Comedy award (1953 and 1954), Vivan Vance’s (who played Ethel Mertz) Best Series Supporting Actress award (1954) and Ball’s Best Actress-Continuing Performance award (1956). 

Circa 1955: Portrait of American actor and comedian Lucille Ball (1911-1989) and her husband, Cuban-born actor and bandleader Desi Arnaz (1917-1986), holding heart-shaped cutouts.

181 episodes – There are 181 episodes of “I Love Lucy’s” and they’re spread across six seasons, according to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, a nonprofit gallery dedicated to preserving the legacy of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Jamestown, N.Y.

44 million viewers – The “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” episode from season two aired on Jan. 19, 1953, and attracted 44 million viewers, according to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum.

The episode reportedly had higher viewership than President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration, which was hosted the next day. The museum reports that “I Love Lucy” had 15 million more viewers than the inauguration.

In the episode, Lucy gave birth to Enrique Alberto Ricardo IV, better known as Little Ricky. 

1 special – There’s one “I Love Lucy” Christmas special – “The I Love Lucy Christmas Show” – and it aired on Dec. 24, 1956, according to IMDb.

The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum reports that the episode was one of the first holiday specials in American television history

It was removed from regular rerun syndication for several years, but the episode made a colorized reappearance in 2013 that attracted 8.7 million viewers over the holiday season, according to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum.

$4,000 – Ball and Arnaz were reportedly paid $4,000 per episode, according to “The ‘I Love Lucy’ Book,” a trivia book written by American author Bart Andrews.

17 years – Desilu Productions, the television production company Ball and Arnaz started in 1950, and operated until 1967. 

The studio was purchased by Gulf+Western – a clothing and mass media conglomerate – and it was later renamed to Paramount Television, according to Deadline Hollywood, an entertainment news website.

1957 – The last episode of “I Love Lucy” aired on May 6, 1957. Ball was 46 years old at the time.

American actress Lucille Ball (1911 - 1989) and her husband, actor and musician, Desi Arnaz (1917 - 1986) attending a formal event, USA, circa 1955.

1991 – The Television Academy inducted “I Love Lucy” into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1991. The sitcom earned this honor 40 years after its first broadcast.

1997 – Ball’s autobiography, “Love, Lucy,” was published in 1997 by Penguin Random House. It was published eight years after her death.


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