I learned a lot about the law from watching I Love Lucy. Wait a minute, shouldn’t that be Perry Mason or maybe Dragnet at least? No, Lucy, Desi, Fred and Ethel taught me quite a few basic (and some advanced) legal principles along with some terrific self-help tips and pointers. I’m not old enough to have caught the original series when it was first broadcast. I took in the reruns, reruns, and more reruns, and finally the DVD set (see I Love Lucy: The Complete Series, released in 2007).
I remember when Lucy and Desi went into business together with Fred and Ethel (Episode #92, from April 26, 1954). After some discussion of potential business ventures (today, we’d need to have a prospectus or offering circular to review), the gang decides to answer an advertisement (solicitation) about a diner. We learn negotiating tips when they arrive at the purchase price and terms and we are then introduced to the basics of partnership law as the foursome divide up the duties and begin business operations. Clearly, Fred and Ethel are stuck with the greasy spoon work, while Desi and Lucy greet the guests and handle the marketing end of the business. As the inevitable discord develops, we find our hapless couples engaged in an informal partition action, i.e., they split the diner in half, with “A Little Bit of Cuba” on one side and “A Big Hunk of America” on the other. The battle ensues over a lone inebriated customer and the original owner returns to buy back the business for a reduced price (all in just a half hour). In the legal world, the original owner might be sued for fraud, or at least be the subject of an action by the state attorney general. In our I Love Lucy world, we settle for a pie in the face. I think the pie in the face is somehow more satisfying than a lawsuit.
My professors at the University of Washington School of Law may want to disown me (again), since discerning the law from time spent with them and in the law library stacks is supposed to be the way I learned enough about the law to pass the Bar and engage in the practice. But, truth be told, I learned it all from watching I Love Lucy. Stay tuned for more episodes and I promise to share what I learned with you.