Lucy writerMadelyn Pugh

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A writer, Pugh started in radio, and with her writing partner, Bob Carroll Jr, worked on a radio show on CBS, My Favorite Husband. The duo then teamed with the show’s head writer Jess Oppenheimer to write a pilot for a new TV series about a Cuban bandleader and his crazy red-headed American wife. When I Love Lucy starring Lucy Ball and Desi Arnaz debuted on October 15, 1951, it was a hit — the most-watched show on TV for four of its six seasons, and in the Top 3 for all seasons; it has been shown in reruns continuously since. Oppenheimer eventually left the series, and two other writers came, but only Pugh and Carroll were there for the entire time, and worked on every show (including the hour-long follow-on series, usually known as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour).

“My mother never accepted an award where she didn’t immediately say, ‘I could not have done this without my writers’,” said Lucy Ball’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz. “She always put them first.” Pugh loved Lucy back: “Lucy was willing to do anything if it was funny,” she said years later. “She’d black out her teeth, wear funny wigs. She never said, ‘What do you mean setting fire to my nose?’ And she didn’t care how dangerous it was. It was very freeing to write anything in the world and know she had the nerve to do it.” Pugh and Carroll (who died in 2007) were work partners for 50 years; in addition to various “Lucy” shows they worked on The Paul Lynde Show, The Mothers-In-Law, and were producers for Alice. All along, “Bob and I never had any arguments,” Pugh said, “which with teams is very rare. Neither one of us liked fussing and fighting.” Pugh died April 20 at 90.

From This is True for 24 April 2011