Magoosh English Lesson: I Love Lucy

Welcome to the next lesson in this series of Magoosh’s free English classes. In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at one of the most famous television shows in the history of American television I Love Lucy

Goals:

  • Learn terms related to the world of television
  • Explore one of the most influential TV shows in American TV history
  • Look at one of the most common prefixes used in English

 

Difficulty Level:  Advanced

Time: Approximately 15 minutes

 

I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy is the classic American TV show considered by many to be the most influential sitcom in television history. The show ran from 1951 to 1957 and aired 180 episodes over 6 seasons. 

The show is set in an apartment building in New York City, and the story revolves around the life of Lucille Ricardo (played by Lucille Ball) and Ricky Ricardo (played by Desi Arnaz). Their landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz, and best friends make up the supporting cast in most of the episodes. 

In the show, Lucy is an aspiring performance artist who wants to rise to stardom, and her husband Ricky is a Cuban-American singer whose band is quickly gaining popularity at nightclubs in the city. The dynamic between Ricky and Lucy is the glue that holds the show together, but the show features Lucille Ball’s talents in physical comedy.

I Love Lucy had a unique story, but it’s what happened behind the scenes that made the show so influential. At the time, most productions were shot live in New York City or Hollywood and then rebroadcast with kinescopes on the opposite coast (videotape and cable were not available at the time). 

However, some tv shows were starting to shoot on 35mm film just like the movies. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz demanded from executive producers that the show was shot this way to ensure the highest quality production. 

They also used a modern technique of the time by filming with three cameras simultaneously. In addition, they renovated two studios to allow a live studio audience to be present at every taping. The three camera setup with a live studio audience set a standard for sitcom production that is still used today.

Without a doubt, I Love Lucy is classic American television, and I would recommend any ESL student revisit some of the classic episodes to get a taste of American culture from that era.

 

Videos:

I Love Lucy English Pronunciation

 

Word Focus

  • Aired – (verb) – To broadcast a television show.

The TV show Friends aired from 1994 to 2004.

  • Set – (noun) – The collection of props, furniture, and scenery used in a television show, movie, or play.

Seinfeld is another sitcom that is set in New York City.

  • Supporting Cast – (noun) – The actors and actresses in a play whose characters support the main characters.

Most TV shows will not be successful without a strong supporting cast for the main characters.

  • The Glue that holds (something) together – (idiom) – Something that binds things (metaphorically) together into one piece. An expansion of the phrasal verb ‘hold together’ that turns into an idiom.

My grandmother was the glue that held our family together. When she passed, it all fell apart.

  • Physical Comedy – (noun) – Style of comedy that makes use of the manipulation of the body for comedic effect. 

Charlie Chaplin was one of the first physical comedians to gain fame on film.

  • Behind the Scenes – (noun) – Any area of a production (play, tv show, movie) that is out of sight from the public.

Access Hollywood is a daily TV show that features entertainment news and behind the scenes looks at productions.

  • Kinescopes – (noun) – The process of recording a television program on film by focusing a lense on a monitor screen. It significantly lowered the visual quality of a broadcast.

Smaller networks used kinescopes well into the late ‘60s but the format saw its decline in the ‘70s.

  • Videotape – (noun) – Magnetic tape used for storing and archiving video and sound. 

Though still used for archival purposes of old footage, videotape became obsolete in the early 2000s.

  • 35mm Film – (noun) – Standard film format used in most cameras through the 20th century.

35mm film was eventually replaced by digital projection in the 21st century.

  • Executive Producer – (noun) – The top executive involved in a production. They usually contribute to the budget and may be involved in accounting, legal, or production aspects of a show.

Executive producers have varying amounts of responsibility on a production. In fact, you can get an executive producer credit on a show or film just by investing money in it.

  • Live Studio Audience – (noun) – An audience present for the recording of a show.

Cheers was always filmed before a live studio audience.

 

Grammar Center

Let’s revisit this sentence from the passage above:

At the time, most productions were shot live in New York City or Hollywood and then rebroadcast with kinescopes on the opposite coast (videotape and cable were not available at the time). 

Ever notice how Americans like to make up words? More specifically, Americans like to add a prefix or suffix to words and give them a different meaning. Sometimes they make it into the dictionary and other times they end up as colloquialisms. 

For this lesson, we’re going to focus on the prefix re because you’ll hear this one a lot in casual conversation as well as formal writing.

Re means ‘again’ in English, but it is borrowed from Latin words with the same meaning. Naturally, English learners whose original language is Latin based (Spanish, French, Italian, etc…) will be familiar with this concept.

It’s important to know this prefix because American speakers will sometimes add ‘re’ to verbs in their speech simply to say they performed the action again or the action was performed again. 

You might hear someone say they ‘redid’ (past tense of redo) something though you would rarely see it in written text. 

Sometimes it’s the official and formal spelling and/or meaning of a word and sometimes it’s just colloquial speech.

A formal example you saw from this lesson series was in the word ‘retransmit’ which means to transmit something again. The prefix appears all over the English language: resubmit, rehash, reload, reformat, reimburse, reform, reignite, etc…

Re can be complex in certain situations and somewhat change the meaning of a word as in words like recall. If you call something, you contact or summon it. However if you recall something, it means to remember (another example!). Think of it as contacting or summoning a memory.

Remember, as advanced speakers you must be able to identify the meanings of a larger variety of words. Knowing and identifying prefixes like re can help you understand many words even if you don’t know the exact definition immediately.

 

Quiz

1. What word would best describe the writer’s opinion of I Love Lucy?

A. Innovative
B. Inspiring
C. Important
D. Influential

 

2. The writer describes the story in I Love Lucy as?

A. Unique
B. Influential
C. Popular
D. Boring

 

3. Physical Comedy is a form of comedy that comes from:

A. The mind
B. The body
C. The soul
D. The mouth

 

4. This was used for archiving footage for nearly a century

A. 35mm Film
B. Kinescope
C. Videotape
D. Cable

 

5. Re can be used both formally and colloquially.

A. True
B. False

 

6. Re is a common English prefix. Which of the prefixes below are also very common?

A. Un
B. Non
C. Super
D. All of the Above

 

Answers:

  1. D
  2. A
  3. B
  4. C
  5. A
  6. D

 

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