Was ‘I Love Lucy’ the First Major Network TV Pregnancy?

I LOVE LUCY, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, (Season 1), 1951-57
Everett Collection

Back in 1952, when TV couples still slept in separate beds side by side, actress and star of hit sitcom I Love Lucy Lucille Ball discovered she was pregnant. She and real-life husband Desi Arnaz, who was also her husband on TV, went to the network to tell them, assuming the show would be canceled.

It’s hard to imagine now, when many shows have relied almost too much on sex as a topic, but back then, no one talked about how babies were made. Not on television anyway. At the time, only one other show had written a pregnancy into a series after being unable to successfully hide the actress’s bump: Mary Kay and Johnny, the first to not only discuss pregnancy but also to have a couple sharing a bed. But this series was not on the scale of I Love Lucy.

I Love Lucy Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz

Executives from CBS and Philip Morris Cigarettes (I Love Lucy’s sponsor at the time, because although the act of having children with your spouse was a big no-no on television, cigarettes were still okay to glorify and even smoke on planes) initially opposed the idea of Lucy’s character discussing a pregnancy, reportedly calling for a priest, a minister, and a rabbi to approve each of the Season 2, Episode 6 “Lucy Is Enceinte” scripts before they would concede. (Sounds like the setup for a joke!) “Pregnant” was considered a vulgar word to use in 1952, so all attempts were made to avoid using it, substituting it with words like “expecting.” They never actually say the word pregnant. But the point got across, and it was a huge success, changing television forever.

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May 2022

Celebrate top TV moms from the ’50 to the ’90s including 8 things you didn’t know about Donna Reed plus weird and wacky TV moms.

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