There Was 1 Word ‘I Love Lucy’ Writers Refused To Utter

I Love Lucy is often considered the greatest sitcom of all time. The series, which followed the married couple, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, aired its first episode in 1951 and wrapped production in 1957. During the show’s run, a lot happened in the lives of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, including the birth of their son. Writers made the tough decision to feature the pregnancy on the series, but they still refused to let their characters utter the word. 

I Love Lucy writers were afraid to say Lucy was Pregnant 

I Love Lucy writers had a tough decision to make in the 1950s. With Ball pregnant, they had to figure out a way to work the pregnancy into a storyline. There was one major problem, though. Television viewing audiences were still a little squeamish about the process of pregnancy. Lucy’s pregnancy was featured, but the show’s writers went out of the way to never actually use the word “pregnant.” 

Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo in 'I Love Lucy'
Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

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Throughout the pregnancy storyline, Lucy and Ricky were said to be “expecting,” and the word “pregnant” was never actually used during the show’s run. However, the term was featured in one of the episode titles. Viewing audiences didn’t initially know the episodes’ titles, though. 

Lucille Ball was not the first woman to have her pregnancy written into a TV show 

Ball is often credited with being the first pregnant woman to be seen on television. In fact, it is argued that the writers were so squeamish about using the word pregnancy because of the trailblazing nature of the storyline. Technically, that’s not true, though. 

Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo and Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo in 'I Love Lucy'
Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo and Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

I Love Lucy was the first television show seen by millions to work an actor’s pregnancy into the storyline, but Ball was not the first pregnant woman on television. That distinction goes to Mary Kay Stearns. Stearns starred on the show Mary Kay and Johnny alongside her husband, Johnny Stearns, from 1947 until 1950. The pregnancy and birth of the couple’s real-life son, Christopher, was written into Mary Kay and Johnny in 1948, according to Deadline

Writers did have more to lose with touch storylines on I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy writers weren’t the first to deal with a pregnancy, but they were the first team of writers who had something major to lose by using a controversial storyline. While Mary Kay and Johnny was the first show to feature a pregnancy, their viewing audience was much smaller, and their advertisement revenue was substantially smaller, too. 

The opening credits of 'I Love Lucy'
The opening credits of ‘I Love Lucy’ |

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In 1948, the year Stearns’ pregnancy was featured on Mary Kay and Johnny, there were just 2 million televisions in the United States. According to Cornell, 720,000 of those were in New York City. In 1953, when Lucy’s birth episode aired, 44 million people tuned in to watch.