I Love Lucy premiered on Monday, October 15, 1951; within a few months, it was bringing over sixteen million viewers a week, and its popularity only continued to increase. Lucy ran as a half hour sitcom until May 1957, and as monthly hour-long specials from November 1957 until April 1961.
I Love Lucy episodes follow a fairly consistent format; Lucy either wants something or wants to hide something, and goes about pursuing her desire in an outrageous fashion. She is almost always joined by her best friend and landlord Ethel, usually aligned in opposition against their husbands, Ricky and Fred. Recurring themes include Lucy’s desire to enter show business, division of the sexes, Lucy’s jealousy, elaborate plans (and their undoing), traditional husband/wife conflicts, and the use of trickery.
The show emerged in the prefeminist 1950s, a time when women were expected to be wives and mothers – and little else. They were not valued for their intelligence nor were they encouraged to achieve any sort of career success. Patriarchal dominance was at its most overt. The sharp increase of suburban housing, high marriage rates, the baby boom, greater importance placed on traditional gender roles, and a renewed emphasis on the value of the home all contributed to a “domestic revival” in the 1950s. I Love Lucy was a product of this time, and evidence of sexist gender representation within its episodes is abundant. Many arguments have been made that the show is, overall, degrading to women and reinforces the patriarchal ideology of the 1950s.