Back in the 1950s The Birds and the Bees were too taboo for television, which meant sitcom characters were never allowed to sleep in the same bed or show a baby bump. So Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz took a gutsy step when they showcased Lucy’s pregnancy on I Love Lucy.
At the time, Ball and Arnaz were married both on screen and in real life. So, it was a perfectly typical turn of events when Ball fell pregnant with her second child, Desi Jr., in 1952. However, the couple worried that their show would end because it would be too risqué for audiences to spot her “condition.”
In most cases, when an actress was pregnant, the production team would strategically hide her pregnancy from the camera. She’d stand behind vases, stay seated, or do anything else to keep her midsection out of the frame. But Ball and Arnaz wanted their fictional family to grow. The real-live baby was a great way to add an onscreen child. So they stayed strong and said they wouldn’t hide the pregnancy, even if it meant losing their jobs.
Lucille Ball Could Not Say ‘Pregnant’ on ‘I Love Lucy’
CBS gave them a shock when it agreed to let the couple carry out a pregnancy storyline. Until then, only one series had allowed a woman to speak of pregnancy on screen, Mary Kay and Johnny. The show was not a major network production, though. So to most, I Love Lucy was the first to cross the line.
While Ball and Arnaz had permission to reveal the obvious, they had to follow one ridiculous rule—they couldn’t use the word “pregnant” onscreen. According to Time, the word broke The Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters because it was considered sexually suggestive. So, the writers had to use creative synonyms such as “with child” or “expecting.”
As one would expect, the average viewer was not offended by Lucy’s very normal condition. That season of I Love Lucy ended up being a huge success. And when the fiery redhead went into labor during the episode titled Lucy Goes to the Hospital, fans were right beside her. As MeTV wrote, 72% of American households with televisions turned in that day. That meant more people tuned in for the episode than they did to watch President Dwight D. Eisenhower swear into office the following night.
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