If Not for Lucille Ball – Star Trek Would Not Exist
Lucille Ball was far more than a ditzy redhead.
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, Co-founders of Desilu Productions, Founded: 1950
“Instead of divorce lawyers profiting from our mistakes, we thought we’d profit from them.” Lucille Ball
When the creators of such mega-hits as “Friends,” “Seinfeld” and “ER” cash their hefty syndication residual checks, they should take a moment to pay homage to Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball: two of the savviest and most innovative entrepreneurs to ever grace the star-studded streets of Tinseltown.
Desilu Productions, also credited as Desilu Studios, was the production company that started the Star Trek-franchise with the production of the, initially, un-aired 1965 pilot television episode “The Cage“, and the Star Trek: The Original Series television series which began airing in September 196
Luci and Desi Changed Television Production – and Put Hollywood TV Production on the Map
In addition to laying the groundwork for the multi-billion-dollar television syndication industry, the pair introduced many of the television production techniques that would become standard television practice. And, they almost single-handedly made Hollywood the television capital of the world.
In 1950, CBS approached Lucille Ball about moving “My Favorite Husband” to the fledgling medium of television. Seeing it as a chance to finally work with her real-life spouse, Ball asked the network to cast Arnaz in the role of her husband.
Lucille Ball in ‘I Love Lucy’: The First of Many Firsts
The network executives were reluctant, fearing viewers would have difficulty accepting the Cuban-born Arnaz as the husband of the all-American redhead. To prove that they could make the sitcom work, Arnaz and Ball formed Desilu Productions (the very first independent television production company) and used $5,000 of their own money to produce the pilot for “I Love Lucy.” In doing so, Arnaz and Ball made themselves their own bosses, providing their product to CBS rather than working directly for the network or a sponsor, which was then the common practice in television.
In 1962 Lucille Ball became the first woman to run a major television production studio, Desilu; which produced many successful and popular television series, including Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.
By 1964, Lucille Ball was sole owner of Desilu Productions, making her a true Hollywood power player (a rarity for a woman in the ’60s).
Though some within her studio apparently weren’t very excited by Roddenberry’s ideas, Ball took a liking to the writer and the Star Trek concept, and it was her influence that would eventually keep the show alive when most other shows would have died.
Desilu Prodcutions had a first-refusal agreement with CBS, which is why Star Trek was first pitched to CBS. However, CBS refused to buy it, opting for Irwin Allen‘s more family-oriented series, Lost in Space instead. When CBS passed on Star Trek, NBC was then approached.
Star Trek First was Rejected for Being “Too Cerebral”
In 1965, Roddenberry got a pilot order from NBC and produced the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage.” It was rejected by the network, reportedly because it was “too cerebral,” and for most shows that’s where the story would have ended. Luckily for Roddenberry, he had Lucille Ball on his side.
The story goes that Lucille Ball still thought the Star Trek idea had legs, and used her considerable influence in television to push for NBC to give Roddenberry a second chance. The network made the exceedingly rare move of ordering a second pilot from Roddenberry; who overhauled almost the entire cast of characters from “The Cage” and eventually created “Star Trek: Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
That pilot was accepted, the show was given a series order, and the rest is history.
Thank You Lucy for Star Trek and Everything!
If it weren’t for the Hollywood clout of an iconic redhead actress-comedienne-turned-tv-production-executive Lucille Ball, we would not have Star Trek today.
Star Trek – The Cultural Archetype
Desi Arnaz & Lucille Ball http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/197550
Little-known sci-fi fact: How Star Trek was saved by … Lucille Ball? http://www.blastr.com/2013-8-5/little-known-sci-fi-fact-how-star-trek-was-saved-lucille-ball
Memory-Alpha: Desilu http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Desilu
Wikipedia, Lucille Ball http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucille_Ball
Wikipedia, Lucille Ball 1944 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucille_Ball
“Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz 1955” by http://archive.org/stream/radiotv00macf#page/2/mode/2up Macfadden Publications] page 2 – TV Radio Mirror page 45. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.