Sunday, November 26, 2017


During the Christmas holidays CBS colorizes old classic sitcom episodes and airs them in prime time.  It started with I LOVE LUCY.  Last year they aired two colorized DICK VAN DYKE SHOW episodes and this year they're colorizing two more.   They always look awful.  And of course they're cut down to accommodate the larger number of commercials networks now inflict upon us.

But I thought you'd like to see what I LOVE LUCY looked like in REAL color.  

This is an amazing video. Someone in the audience of a 1951 taping of I LOVE LUCY took color home movies. Because of the sprockets I'm guessing he only shot when there was a lot of other noise on the set, or between takes. But anyway, here are scenes of the Copa nightclub and the Ricardo apartment, intercut with clips from the actual episode. This was the first time in my entire life that I saw the color scheme for the Richardo apartment. If you're a TV historian (or geek like me) you'll love this video.


Jeff Alexander said...

Mister Levine:

I am so glad that there is someone who believes as I do that colorization is a disgrace. I have thus far boycotted all showings of the colorized shows, not just for the colorization but also like you said because of the editing to conform to a locked-in time period (instead of one-hour, why not make it 90 minutes and fill the time with a couple of interviews? But then, why encourage them???)
I have said this on Facebook postings and it bears repeating here -- colorization of movies/TV shows is akin to taking crayons or watercolors to the black-and-white photography of Ansel Adams or Diane Arbus.
There is a classic TV historian (I will not mention the name here but I am sure you know who it is) who has gone on record that while he opposes the colorization of classic movies like Casablanca, he does not have a problem with colorizing black-and-white TV shows. I am amazed that he would think that way.
Also, that clip you posted is available on an I Love Lucy DVD set (I can't remember which one) and is a great look at the real color of the day. Thanks for posting!

Linda Ginsburg said...

Happy Holidays Ken! Peri Gilpin tweeted this yesterday. It's about the Frasierverse, a fan created site with literally dozens of ideas for FRASIER spin-offs. David Isaacs went through a fair bit of them and his head was reeling.

Down the rabbit hole indeed.

Tracy E. Carman said...

I'm not a big fan of colorization any more than I am of recently remastered CDs with Digitally Extracted Stereo. In the DVD colorized season's of BEWITCHED, they didn't even match Elizabeth Montgomery's eyes to correct color.

In the case of music, I'd rather hear an original mono copy of INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS by Strawberry Alarm Clock than the "Stereo" one they electronically created for the ERIC RECORDS CD release.

Some things are just better off left alone!

blinky said...

Where are the great conga players today?

DyHrdMET said...

I like that CBS is showing classics like I LOVE LUCY and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. It helps bring the next generation an appreciation of 2 classic sitcoms. But those shows were perfect the way they were - in black and white. That's not something that should be messed with. Looking at the color footage of their apartment, I would think the color scheme was made for black and white film and would have been different had the show been filmed and airing in color.

Edward said...

I am pro- colorization if done correctly. Most of the B/W movies and TV shows are unwatchable. The first generation of colorization under Ted Turner in the late 1980's left a lot to be desired, but I would expect that 30 years later, the process has greatly improved.

Hall of Shame to the producers of "Roman Holiday" Audrey Hepburn in B/W was a horrible decision. That movie needs to be colorized.

Linda Ginsburg said...

The link to Peri's tweet doesn't work. Here's the article she tweeted about:

VP81955 said...

Remember RCA's ersatz "stereo" versions of Elvis Presley's '50s records or the "duophonic" process Capitol used? All mercifully sent to the scrapheap of history. Would that colorization suffer a similar fate. And it all began with Hal Roach creating a color version of "Topper" in 1985; the "ghostly" Cary Grant and Constance Bennett didn't need color to look magical.

Myles said...

Part of the issue here, I believe, is that most (if not all) advertisers these days refuse to buy airtime for B&W programs. In other words, CBS has to colorize their classic catalogue in order to get it back on primetime at all. An unfortunate reality nowadays.

A few years ago, when CBS first began colorizing I Love Lucy on a yearly basis, I was furious. I've since calmed down a bit, but I'm still not thrilled by it. While there's no doubt that today's projects are far better looking than earlier attempts, there's no denying that you're looking at something artificial. The palette draws so much attention to itself it can be hard to focus on the show at hand. I do, however, have to admire the attention to detail the I Love Lucy team have put into selecting the colors used - I know a lot of research has gone into actual car colors of the era and such. At least they're attempting to be as authentic as they can.

Granted, the process can yield good results with a lot of time and energy. I've seen fan-made colorized scenes which look absolutely amazing, like vintage footage shot in color, but to do an entire program with such painstaking detail would be cost prohibitive - hence the flat, computer generated look commercial endeavors have.

What bothers me the most about this practice isn't so much the colorization, but rather the entitled attitude by those fans who "demand" it. They refuse to accept these shows in B&W and insist that they be altered to suit their preferred tastes. I had exposure to B&W shows at a very young age, so my eye has always been used to it. If people nowadays were simply to give B&W a chance, they'd get used to it as well. But no, the product has to be adjusted to suit them instead.

Apparently, very few colorization houses are around any more, as interest has largely died out. The outfit doing I Love Lucy and Dick Van Dyke is one of the last ones in operation, I understand. Though nice to see these shows back in primetime (albeit cut to ribbons), I do hope this tradition comes to an end in the near future.

J Lee said...

When you see some of the black and white shows that have actual color footage, one of the things that catches your eye is how odd the color choice in the backgrounds seem at times, until you learn they were chosen because they 'read' the best in B&W. The color photos of the Addams' Family home look as if Gomez and Morticia must have been fans of "My Little Pony" based on the amount of pink on the walls and floors, while the interiors of George and Gracie's home on the lone color episode of "The Burns & Allen Show" make you think Gracie was a bit flighty about her paint color preferences as well as everything else.

Jeff Maxwell said...

It was my good fortune to have met Desi Arnaz on a long-forgotton series. He played an auto mechanic sent to repair a stalled car, and I was his goofy assistant. Spending two solid hours under a car with an icon was truly a thrill. It was tight quarters and hot, but he couldn't have been more friendly, humble and funny. We had a good time.

When we met, I was struck by his deep tan and vivid features. This post made me realize that was the first time in my life I had ever seen Desi Arnaz in color. Living color. He looked great, but it was actually kinda weird.

Bad anything, including colorization, stinks. It's hard for me to watch Lucy in color, but I have, and I still laugh. Is that proof that laughing is color blind?

Mike said...

I don’t love the Lucy colorizations on CBS - the color is oversaturated.

This guy does amazing colorizations:

If only you could make them look like that, I wouldn’t mind as much.

D. McEwan said...

Wow. Fascinating footage.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Last night PBS ran Ron Howard's Beatle documentary, Eight Days a Week. It appeared that a few of the clips had been colorized. One interview in particular I remember originally seeing in B & W. I'm not 100% sure, but I'll check it out more closely when they repeat it. The question is WHY would Ron do it? The only reason I can think of is that the ratio of B & W to color was too great. If it is true it was totally unnecessary. The only things I'd like to see colorized are WWII clips. Ironically, one of the problems with modern movies set in the 20's or 30's is that they're IN COLOR. I'm so used to seeing the film footage from that time in B & W that it doesn't look real with color. Although, we all know that in real life everything is in color. (Except for zebras, penguins and nuns)

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Desi Arnaz hosted the Feb. 21, 1976 broadcast of "Saturday Night Live," then called "NBC's Saturday Night," I think.

Haven't seen the full broadcast in 40 years, but recall that Arnaz seemed to be having the time of his life that night.

Mibbitmaker said...

Kevin - I have that episode on my SNL season one DVD set. I'm sure those SNL sets aren't very expensive anymore, especially used. It was a great episode. My favorite part is Babbaloo turning into a studio-wide conga line near the end of the show, with the cast and writers.

I'm very anti-colorization, though the computer-colored Looney Tunes do look pretty good compared to the earlier redrawn versions. I'd still rather they stay in b & w as they were meant to be.

I saw the I Love Lucy real color video on YouTube a few years ago. It's really great to see. I've also seen Three Stooges home movie footage on color on there, too. Curly era! I assume it was real color, but I don't know for sure.

Maureen said...

When CBS airs colorized versions of the old shows, I just change the settings on my TV to black and white, and they're perfect.

Shows like Andy Griffith that started out in B&W and transitioned to color remind me of what movies went through when they transitioned from silent to talkies. The TV studio sets weren't ready to be broadcast in color any more than some of the movie actors were ready for talkies. The walls on the Andy Griffith set were such a hideous shade of green I've always assumed those are the original set colors and no one bothered to update them for color broadcast. One of the reasons I can't stand watching Andy Griffith after season 5 is that it's just plain ugly.

VP81955 said...

And I hate seeing the colorized Fleischer-era "Popeye" cartoons. The B&W originals are so exquisite.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Actor Rance Howard, Ron Howard's father, died Nov. 25 at 89.

Bill O said...

Desi always took credit for the three camera system. When they tried to show him the set up in his SNL run-thru - he went all Ricky Ricardo on them. "Don't 'splain three cameras to me. I INVENTED three cameras!!"

Anonymous said...

The sad truth is The Kids These Days won't watch black & white. It's not actually the kids--mine are now in their 30s and had zero interest in any show that wasn't color. I remember the first time we watched the Wizard of Oz together: "Just wait. You're going to start to like this in a few more minutes." If you didn't grow up with it, it takes a deeper appreciation of the art of film to appreciate b&w. That turns out to be a rather small subset of viewers.

Andy Rose said...

In an interview for the Tom Shales/James Andrew Miller book on SNL, Lorne Michaels said Desi got so worked up performing "BabalĂș" that Lorne was genuinely afraid the old man was going to have a heart attack and drop dead on live TV.

@Mike Bloodworth: I saw that same Beatles documentary. I believe the only things they colorized were the full concert performances, but it was totally unnecessary. I'm of the opinion that colorization is fine as long as it looks good, but the color work on that show was sloppy. The Fab Four looked like the world's tannest Liverpudlians.

Jacob said...

"Most of the B/W movies and TV shows are unwatchable."

What does that even mean?

Edward said...


It means that I change the channel with 95% of B/W shows due to the horrible quality.

B/W in a HD world just does not work.

McAlvie said...

What fun! Why, oh, why do they think colorizing old shows improves them? I'm no film geek, but I should think that a lot of thought went into producing b&w film, how to make best use of shades and shadow and so forth. You certainly get a better sense of atmosphere. But there, in these days of special effects just for the sake of having them, I guess that doesn't impress anyone.

Okay, stepping off that pedestal. Ken, thanks for sharing this. It was quite interesting. I've often wondered why they bothered with color on sets, but I can see in this bit that color was probably used for the tone that it lent to the shades of gray. So the club isn't in the colors you might expect, but probably the colors that worked best with the medium. It's why b&w is still, somehow, acceptable to the eye. That's incredible to realize how much thought must have gone into a set!

McAlvie said...

ps - and I enjoyed the reminder of why everyone really did love Lucy. What a talent! To be offbeat and silly in one scene and yet somehow never go quite over the top, or if she did she pulled it off and was somehow still classy. You never feel that the two Lucy's are in conflict.

Paul Duca said...

J Lee is correct...and live shows had their own issues. The shirts that looked white on the home screen were actually light blue. Apparently white clothing would cause a visual effect on the screen called "halatations". Because LUCY is on film, though, Desi's shirt is white.

Frederick Herman "Freddy" Jones said...


I read your post with great interest.

Unfortunately, I'm a little behind in my reading, but I'm glad to have caught this post.

I enjoyed the video. It reminded me of a behind-the-scenes clip of "The Andy Griffith Show" that is part of a DVD collection, I believe.

Even though I was not alive when these shows aired, rest assured there is still a segment of the "younger generation" that appreciates and values what came before.

Here is the clip:

Frederick Herman "Freddy" Jones said...


I re-read your post with great interest.

Since you have to approve this comment, I guess you will see it for sure.

I just wanted to share with you some links...

A home movie from "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" (1958) which does not feature Lucy, but it still cool:

Also, this guy colorizes clips from shows and promo photos from classic TV shows like The Munsters and I Love Lucy. He doesn't use the cheap, automated method. He goes frame-by-frame and rotoscopes.

Here are two I Love Lucy clips:

Two for The Munsters:

Here is the opening to My Living Doll:

Check out his website for other clips and colorized still photographs which are really cool: