- by Michael Rickard II
"And They Call Me Superman" The Man of Steel Meets Lucy
The 1950’s was considered the Golden Age of television, with some great shows making it to the airwaves. Two such shows were I Love Lucy, the legendary situation comedy that entertained Americans and The Adventures of Superman, an action-adventure series based on the iconic superhero. On January 14, 1957, TV audiences got to see Lucy meet Superman in one of TV’s funniest meetings. The episode, “Lucy and Superman” shows both programs’ impact on culture as well as the type-casting that plagued Superman star George Reeves.
The episode sees Lucy working to salvage her five-year-old son “Little” Ricky’s birthday party after another couple schedules a birthday party the same day as Little Ricky’s. With both children attending the same class in school, the other party’s entertainment line-up such as a magician, a clown, and a puppet show seems certain to draw away all of Ricky’s guests. When Lucy discovers Superman is appearing in New York City at Macy’s Department Store, she convinces her husband Ricky to get him to appear at the party as Ricky knows him from his time in Hollywood.
Two of TV's most popular characters from the 1950's.
In typical Lucy fashion, things look great when she reveals Superman is appearing at the party. The other child’s mother cancels her party, knowing she can’t compete with Superman. Then in typical Lucy fashion, things go awry when Ricky tells Lucy that Superman is flying out that afternoon and will be unable to make the party without missing his flight. Naturally, Lucy asks why Superman needs to take a plane.
One of the odd things about the episode is that at no time is “Superman” acknowledged as actor George Reeves. As others have noted, the episode doesn’t even describe him as “the actor who plays Superman.” Reeves of course, was typecast as Superman, something evident by the lengths the show’s writers went to in order to make no separation between the TV character and the actor who played him. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, “The announcement ‘Our guest star tonight was George Reeves, star of the Superman series’ was deleted from the episode after its first network broadcast” (“The Adventures of Superman”).
A colorized version of the episode was eventually released
With Superman having flown the coop, Lucy decides to save the day by disguising herself as Superman. She gets her partner in crime Ethel Mertz to help her with her latest harebrained scheme. Dressed in a Superman shirt and cape, Lucy is going to enter through her fourth-floor apartment’s living room window. She’ll run around so fast the kids won’t recognize her and let them think Superman has shown up. When Ethel asks Lucy why she’s wearing a helmet, she tells her that’s to hide her red hair. Lucy enters the Mertz’ vacant apartment, exiting a window onto a ledge.
Meanwhile, Ricky shows up and lets Ethel know Superman agreed to stay once he found out it was a children’s birthday party. TV’s Man of Steel makes a dramatic entrance, diving through the kitchen into the living room. Ethel tells Lucy the real Superman has arrived, but Lucy is unable to return because Ethel is showing the apartment to a couple who unexpectedly showed up.
Lucy watches the action while she's stuck on a ledge four stories up.
As Superman entertains the kids, Lucy repeatedly tries to enter Ethel and Fred’s vacant apartment. However, when she does, a woman screams. In one of the episode’s funniest moments (of which there are many), her husband asks her what she saw:
Husband: Was it a bird?
Husband: Was it a plane?
Husband: What was it?
Wife: It was Superman!
Naturally, the husband finds her story far-fetched, but tells her they’ll find another apartment. The couple lock the window before leaving, stranding Lucy outside. As if things couldn’t get any worse, it begins raining. Lucy realizes she’ll have to enter through her apartment window and braves the ledge, avoiding a flock of pigeons. Unfortunately, her cape gets stuck on a pipe, trapping her on the ledge.
Back in the apartment, Superman tells Ricky he wishes he could have met Lucy as he’d heard so much about her. Ethel inadvertently reveals Lucy is on the ledge as one thing leads to another and someone says this is a job for Superman. Superman rescues Lucy from the ledge as a perplexed Ricky shouts this is the craziest stunt she’s done in their 15 years of marriage. It’s at that point that George Reeves utters the immemorable line, “And they call me Superman.”
Just another day for Lucy and Desi
“Lucy and Superman” is a hilarious sitcom episode that stands the test of time. This episode aired during I Love Lucy’s sixth season and The Adventures of Superman’s penultimate season. While Lucille Ball would go on to have a long, successful Hollywood career, George Reeves took his own life on June 16, 1959 (although theories persist he was murdered).
Wikipedia contributors. "Adventures of Superman (TV series)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Dec. 2017 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventures_of_Superman_(TV_series)#Stamp_Day_for_Superman. Accessed 6 Aug. 2018.
Wikipedia contributors. "Lucy and Superman." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Jul. 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_and_Superman. Accessed 5 Aug. 2018.