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I have watched literally every I Love Lucy and I think I can probably say the same thing about several other old shows. I can say that while I recall explicit mention of the year in which a Twilight Zone and maybe Outer Limits episode was made and other mentions of public figures like LBJ that would allow one to know pretty close to the current year, I Love Lucy never mentioned the current year. I think rarely they Fred might talk about some old show biz experience occurring in the 1920s (he had a vaudeville act) but even that sort of thing would tend to date episodes. Of course the copyright date was shown, but I read Roman numerals were used specifically to obscure production dates.

There were also episodes with current movie stars like Harpo Marx or John Wayne which also would indicate when it was. The original Superman, George Reeves appeared and since he passed away in 1959 that also gave an upper limit of the production year.

I read that all of the above stuff was done because it was felt that old shows when rerun would be of less interest. But if so, why did, non-sitcoms mention current date?

Anyway, the question is as in the title: Did I Love Lucy manage to not mention the current year ever in any show? Can the same be said of other shows of that time? (I am not sure about later shows like Seinfeld.)

One thought is that perhaps they, in the 1950s, did not understand what inflation would be like. Occasionally money comes up. I recall on their cross-country trip they stop at a "hotel" or "motel" and they are charged what we are led to believe is an outrageous price and what turns out to be a dollar, the equivalent of about 15 or even 20 today. But they also may have had an inkling about inflation, because I actually can't think of too many times money used to pay for ordinary things is mentioned.

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    Imho this question makes no sense. There’s no reason to mention production year in a scripted TV show script. Also “ I read Roman numerals were used specifically to obscure production dates” is a ludicrous concept. Roman numerals are both ridiculously easy to read and also widely understood and taught in many schools. Using Roman numerals obscures nothing. The idea that viewers would be put off by knowing the date of production of a show also makes no sense. Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 3:19
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    Roman numerals are still used, just look at the credits of any BBC TV programme for a start. They obscure nothing.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 8:34
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    I'm struggling to think of any sitcom or in fact any non-historical non-political/satire long-running TV show that mentions the current year or contemporary real-life political figures? It just... doesn't usually come up. Why would it? Closest I can think of is The Simpsons which mentions contemporary political figures a couple of times, but only during relevant celebrity cameos or deliberate forays into satire? Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 15:32
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    I think that the question is interesting enough and I vote to reopen. An episode of Get Smart from the 1960s implied that LBJ was president, but Get Smart was an unusual sitcom where the protagonists often killed people. Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 18:11
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    Check out this link. There were calendars on 2 episodes; however, the year was blocked out in the image shown. Interesting... metv.com/lists/… Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 17:08

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I'm going to directly address I Love Lucy and skip most of the "what if" part if that's alright - This show is historically credited with "inventing the rerun" during Ball's pregnancy and that clearly demonstrates there was no thought put towards reruns at the show's inception.

"Prior to I Love Lucy rerunning its episodes during the summer, shows typically went on a summer hiatus and were replaced with summer replacements, generally lower-priority programs"

Remember, the first television sitcom was broadcast was in 1947 and it's listed in the Guinness book of world records as Mary Kay and Johnny, the first ILL was 1951, that's only 4 years apart. During the broadcast run, there was no question that the show was made between the years 1947 and 1957 if you were watching ILL during its original broadcast (1951-1957).

Moreover, the first "talking picture" was 1927, the first television broadcast was 1928, so this contextually narrows the window for when it was made even if you (as a person of that era) were not well versed in the "new technology".

I think the question, the primary part of the question, is valid. Did they ever mention the year? No, probably not, they did not have to and there really wasn't any reason to because television "was in it's infancy", it dated itself. Also, mention of politics on an entertainment program was probably highly frowned upon - remember that this is the era where also during 1947 the first Mccarthy era Hollywood blacklist appeared and it took down a lot of prominent people, Even Charlie Chaplin was labeled a communist in 1952, one year after ILL began broadcast.

To very briefly address the controversy which for some reason has manifested around the Roman numeral theory, I personally can tell you that if you flash a ton of Roman numerals quickly in front of me I might not be able to read them because once you get out of the tens or hundreds position it all starts to bleed together. The first commercially available VCR the Sony U-matic didn't become available in Japan until 1971 and without an ability to pause live tv (with a VCR, DVR, ETC), the average person might not "on the fly" know that MCMLVII was read as 1957, given that in 1950 3.2% of people in the United States over 14 could not read or write in ANY language. Certainly outside of a liturgical training, private education or institutes of higher education people were very unlikely to be well versed in Latin. It was not more likely that someone in the era of interest would be able to read Latin or Roman numerals than it is today.

There was a practice in film and television of not showing "modern" cell phones (which is why for a block of years you see actors using the same outdated flip phones) which is similar to the suggested use of Roman numerals as production year obscura - to not immediately hint that something a person is watching is a rerun - but as you can tell from current film and television where there are entire plots surrounding smartphones - they have abandoned the practice.

Given the facts, it's safe to conclude I Love Lucy was not intentionally obscuring the year of production so as to secure itself as a re-runnable property, but that doesn't mean they went out of their way to mention it either.

I think this is a valid question, I hope you feel this is a valid answer.

Incidentally, by searching google for only a few seconds I found this link which directly references episodes of "the lucy show" which also starred Lucille Ball in the 1960's and several episodes feature plots surrounding the world's fair. The world's fair in the United States is very easy to date because it is not held in the US every year. The evidence is there, it is up to you to put together the pieces.

You may, however, find that these are not the droids you're looking for.

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  • In the normal course of conversation, current year or current events come up. Bur the one time it really would have been explicit on ILL, u'd know roughly what day of the month it was even, sure enough the year is blocked. I think ILL was not the only sitcom to do this -- closest I saw of date in Andy Griffith Show is mention of current US population as being 180 million. What is curious is how in both Twilight Zone and Outer Limits they do mention year at least once, maybe many times. LBJ is mentioned when he was VP in TZ Hocus-Pocus and Frisby -- why are sitcoms different with dates?
    – releseabe
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 1:04
  • I think how interesting it would be in old Our Gang to simply a close up of a coin in a kid's hand, say a really nice but older Barber Dime from 20 years before. Or one of the adults mentions not Hoover or Roosevelt but some more minor public figure who was active during the 1920s or 1930s -- maybe Dewey, who was still a prosecutor in those days. I think these old shows are already valuable resources to hear old speech patterns and accents and to see manner of dress and old cars. But more could have been included had they not deliberated excluded it.
    – releseabe
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 1:10
  • I had never heard of Mary Kay and Johnny nor even the actors although the woman passed away only a few years ago in her 90s. (everyone in ILL wd be well over 100) This shows you the tremendous impact of ILL: it started after MKJ with actors who have been gone for many decades now but I think even a young person today might know ILL/Lucille Ball but if one in 10.000 people could identify either title character in MKJ I would be surprised. Of course ILL ran more seasons and more recently and Desilu produced Star Trek which means, perhaps, that Desilu will be recognized in 200 years.
    – releseabe
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 1:13
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    She also looks a bit like old pictures of my grandmother - I don't think it's a coincidence that 2 of the first female sit com stars fit into a similar mold. I also think that perhaps part of what you are looking at is a difference in the way advertising was done then and how it is done now, some early tv (probably I love lucy and others) had ads which ran separately from the main program but still featured the stars doing product plugs, those might not always be a part of what we see now. There was also no reason to state the year directly, to contextualize the year was irrelevant to the plot
    – shigginpit
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 1:32
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    If you look about 10 years into the future you can see the Andy Griffith show doing product plugs for general mills, these type of "in show" ads youtube.com/watch?v=4MIQoxMekhU are closer to the explicit timeline you are hoping to find. Andy Griffith isn't the only one but it's all the links I have time to pull up right now, you can search google for, for example, American car makers or Aplliance companies, or Cigarette companies and their association with various old tv shows, I believe you will find some of "out of show" ads I'm speaking of
    – shigginpit
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 1:35
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There are several times in the series that the year is indicated. In the episode “Lucy’s Night in Town”, the Ricardos and the Mertzes go to see a new musical called The Most Happy Fella, a play in which Lucy and Desi actually invested in 1956.

A lot of references to the current year were in the Hollywood episodes when Lucy came across certain celebrities like Cornel Wilde, Richard Widmark, and John Wayne.

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  • Can you provide links or some sort of evidence that the current year is actually in the episodes that you mentioned? Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 11:43
  • I remember The Most Happy Fella and the episodes with current celebrities do indeed indicate the time but that is different than explicitly saying the year.
    – releseabe
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 23:56
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    I think the closet to saying a year would be when they find a car. Fred bought a 1923 Cadillac. They ended up getting a 1955 Cadillac, but I would need to see if they say the year. And yes, they didn’t explicitly say a year in the Hollywood episodes. But promoting a movie that just came out is practically saying it. It’s easy to find the year for the movie. That’s the closest I’ve come up with so far. I’d have to rewatch them to know for sure.
    – beebojones
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 2:49

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