Lucy Does a TV Commercial

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"Lucy Does a TV Commercial"
I Love Lucy episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 30
Original air dateMay 5, 1952 (US)
Guest appearance(s)

Ross Elliott (The Director), Maury Thompson (Script Clerk)

Episode chronology
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"The Freezer"
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"Publicity Agent"

"Lucy Does a TV Commercial" is the 30th episode of the 1950s television sitcom I Love Lucy, airing on May 5, 1952. It is considered to be the most famous episode of the show.[1] In 1997, TV Guide ranked it #2 on their list of the "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time".[2] In 2009, they ranked it #4 on their list of "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time."[3][4] The initial episode was watched by 68% of the television viewing audience at the time.[5]


Ricky is given the opportunity to host a television show and receives a telephone call saying that he needs to find a girl to do a commercial spot for one of their sponsors. Lucy overhears this and begs that Ricky allow her to do the commercial. Ricky sternly refuses and asks to hear nothing more of it. When Ricky returns home from his band rehearsal, Fred stands by the television set and assists Lucy by asking Ricky to watch the upcoming program. Lucy flips up a sheet that was covering the TV screen and does a mock commercial while inside the set as Johnny, the bellhop of Phillip Morris fame. Ricky goes behind the set and plugs the cord back into its outlet. Lucy is startled, as the wiring of the television sets off a minor explosion behind her. Ricky becomes angry when he finds out that Lucy had taken out each part of the television set piece by piece (rather than sliding the whole chassis out) so that she could fit into the box.

The following morning, Lucy avoids Ricky. Noticing this behavior, Ricky asks Fred if he can wait for a telephone call from the girl who was going to do the commercial and tell her what time and studio she needs to be in. But as Ricky leaves, Lucy goes up to Fred and sneakily tells him that she will wait for the telephone call and deliver the message. Instead, once the girl calls, Lucy tells her that she is not needed for the commercial. Later that day Lucy goes to the television studio in the place of the original girl, identifying herself by her maiden name, Lucille McGillicuddy, to avoid arousing suspicion from Ricky, who considers Lucy untalented for entertainment. The director explains their sales pitch regarding the "Vitameatavegamin" health tonic to Lucy. What Lucy and the director are unaware of—but what the script clerk realizes to his shock—is that the tonic contains 23% alcohol, making it the equivalent of a 46 proof spirituous liquor, and that it is not meant to be taken more than once a day.[citation needed] Lucy begins her first take and obviously grimaces as she tastes the tonic. Feeling unsatisfied with the take, the director asks Lucy if she could do a few more.

After a couple more takes, it appears that Lucy has acquired a taste for the tonic, and its alcohol content. She begins to take bigger gulps when it comes to the part to taste the product and her speech becomes comically slurred. After several takes and a sequence of incorrect pronunciations of "Vitameatavegamin," it becomes apparent that Lucy is drunk, and the director asks if they could take her back to her dressing room in order to sober her up. When the television show begins, Ricky comes out and starts singing "El Relicario". Lucy comes from backstage before her cue due to still suffering the effects of the alcohol. She staggers toward Ricky, sways, and waves to the camera. She starts to sing along with Ricky and begins her sales pitch in the middle of his singing, despite Ricky's attempts to keep her offscreen. Ricky desperately carries her off the stage after her hilarious actions become very obvious.


  • In later reruns, the scene where Lucy is in a broken television set doing "The Lucy Ricardo Show" edited out the sponsor she announced, which was Philip Morris, which was sponsoring I Love Lucy. (Tobacco advertisements were banned from broadcast television beginning in 1971.) The DVD, as well as the colorized episode, restore this.
  • The Vitameatavegamin was originally 11% alcohol, but was increased to 23% on the show.[6][7] The bottle from which Ball was at first pouring the tonic, and later drinking from directly, actually contained apple pectin.
  • Vivian Vance is absent from this episode. Fred says that she was going to see her mother.
  • The central sketch had originally been created by Red Skelton and had been part of his vaudeville routine since the 1930s. Skelton granted Ball permission to use it in I Love Lucy.[8]
  • As of 2017, the dress Lucy wore while doing rehearsals for the commercial is now found in the closet of actress Laura Dern.[9]

Enduring popularity[edit]

The word "Vitameatavegamin" has since become a shorthand for this episode and for the I Love Lucy show in general.[10][11][12] In 2011, more than 900 Lucille Ball lookalikes gathered under a "Vitameatavegamin" sign to honor Ball's 100th birthday,[13] setting a world record for the most Lucy lookalikes in one place.[14] Also in 2011, a talking Lucy doll was produced which recites lines from this episode.[15]


  1. ^ Oppenheimer, Jess (1996). Laughs, luck-- and Lucy. p. 205. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  2. ^ The 100 Greatest TV Episodes
  3. ^ "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time" TV Guide; June 15, 2009; Pages 34–49
  4. ^ Empire, June 19, 2009
  5. ^ Walker, Rob (2008). Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are. New York: Random House. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-8129-7409-6. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2011-09-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Spoon Your Way to Health?". 1999. Archived from the original on 2012-03-09.
  8. ^ Clothier, Gary (May 16, 2011). "Lucy borrowed famous skit from Red Skelton". The Star-Democrat. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Juicy Lucy". Detroit Metro Times. August 17, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  11. ^ "Who's the new Lucy?". Entertainment Weekly. August 6, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  12. ^ "`Lucy' still has them laughing 60 years later". Daily News. August 3, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  13. ^ "'Lucy' look-alikes honor Lucille Ball's 100th birthday". Today. August 7, 2011. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  14. ^ "Kingston redhead among the Lucy look-alike Guinness record". Kingston This Week. August 14, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  15. ^

See also[edit]