Vitameatavegamin. If you know the word, you know one of television’s most classic sitcom episodes.
“I Love Lucy” still was in its infancy when the episode “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” aired in May 1952, toward the end of the show’s first season — and its immediate popularity did much to cement the series as a CBS mainstay. It would remain a hallmark of Lucille Ball’s career, so it’s little surprise the network has chosen it as part of its third annual, colorized “I Love Lucy Christmas Special” Wednesday (Dec. 23).
As with the earlier editions, the latest version combines two of the original “Lucy” stories. The first (also shown in the first two specials) logically is the 1956 “Christmas Episode” that finds Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (Ball and Desi Arnaz), along with friends and neighbors Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance), decorating a tree while recalling the birth of Little Ricky.
Then, instead of Lucy stomping grapes or working a chocolate-factory conveyor belt as in the past specials, she picks up a bottle of a health tonic to pitch in an ad during a TV appearance by Ricky (who has told her she can’t do the spot). She samples what’s in the bottle … and keeps sampling it. And the hilarious trouble begins.
While it has vitamins, minerals, meat and vegetables, Vitameatavegamin also is almost one-fourth alcohol. Lucy clearly isn’t crazy about her first spoonful of the mixture, but as it begins to have its effect on her, she becomes much more sincere about delivering the line, “It’s so tasty, too!” She also becomes much more intoxicated, leading her to an all-time-great transposing of words as she addresses viewers: “Do you pop out at parties? Are you unpoopular?”
Lucy’s advice on joining the product’s “happy, peppy” consumers has endured as a high mark for comics on television ever since it first aired, and Ball herself cited it as her favorite “I Love Lucy” episode. Small wonder, since her drunk act is riotously effective, right up to the point where her alter ego ditches the spoon and starts chugging Vitameatavegamin straight from the bottle.
If there’s any question of how satisfied CBS is with the “I Love Lucy Christmas Specials,” consider that for the first time this year, there’s also “The Andy Griffith Show Christmas Special” on Christmas night. The concept is the same, with two previously black-and-white episodes (“The Christmas Story” and “The Pickle Story”) now in color … so in a couple of instances, what’s old will be new again in highly entertaining ways as this holiday season continues.