Post by Gerard Schildberger Post by John Levine Post by email@example.com
An aside, some old TV shows and movies are poor quality.
Some are, some aren't. All the old I Love Lucy shows look great
because they were shot on film. Ms. Ball was extremely smart and
realized the value of being able to use them repeatedly, not at all
like the ditz she played on T.V.
John Levine, Primary Perpetrator of "The Internet for Dummies",
"I Love Lucy" (TV) shows were shot on film because she (and her husband) owned
the Desilu Studios (later renamed to Culver City Studios). Because Lucy and
Ricky owned their own film studio (Desi+Lu), it was cheaper for them to record
in film (overall), as they had the cameras, camera operators, film stock, film
developing, film directors (which have a different skill set than TV
directors), and other such equipment and personnel.
That's the main reason why they could broadcast the re-runs so clearly. Also,
film lasts pretty long, but the early filming of a TV picture using kinescope
which would've required the "Lucy" shows to have TV cameras in addition to
having film cameras and other equipment. Later, videotape eventually became
good enough to be used for recording (and the playback) of TV shows.
But if the basic creative decisions had been made, the
business ones had not. CBS wanted the series done live in
New York. The East Coast was where the audience was, and
if the show was done in Hollywood, the East Coast would
have to see blurry kinescopes. Lucy and Desi wanted to stay
in Hollywood, so Desi negotiated. He suggested using their
production company, Desilu, to film the show ahead of time.
This solved the quality problem but would considerably
increase the production costs, originally budgeted at what
now seems a minuscule $19,500 an episode. Desi, picking a
figure out of thin air, guessed that the increase would
amount to $5,000.
After much hemming and hawing, Philip Morris and CBS agreed
to come up with an additional $2,000 each. But Lucy and
Desi, who were to be paid $2,500 each and own half the show,
would have to take a thousand-dollar salary cut between
them on each of the first thirty-nine episodes to make up
Arnaz made a counteroffer. He and Lucy would take the salary
cut, provided CBS gave them sole ownership. Since in 1951
most television shows were done live and preserved only on
kinescopes, yesterday's TV shows, CBS thought, were worth
about the same as yesterday's newspapers. So CBS readily
agreed. The suits figured they weren't giving up much.
But Arnaz knew that he and Lucy weren't giving up much
either. "In our income tax bracket," he explained, "we might
have ended up with about $5,000 of the $39,000 we were
losing [in salary cuts]. So in effect, we were buying the
other half of the series for $5,000."
That, of course, turned out to be the bargain of the century.
Because "I Love Lucy" was filmed, not performed live, for
the first time in television, there was something worth
selling after the original broadcast was over, and because
"I Love Lucy" turned into one of the biggest hits in the
history of show business, there was no lack of offers to
There still isn't. Today, forty-eight years after its
premiere, the price of broadcasting a single episode of "I
Love Lucy" is $100,000. That's not much compared with what
"Seinfeld" will get in syndication, but it's twenty times
what Desi Arnaz paid for half the rights to all the episodes.
What's not in Columbia anymore..