The ‘I Love Lucy’ Emmys Tribute Reminded Us Why We Love TV

Monday night’s Emmy Awards spent much of its runtime reminding viewers why we love television. Onstage cast reunions for shows like Martin, Cheers, and Grey’s Anatomy gave us a hard dose of wistful nostalgia for the heyday of cable television. At the same time, modern talents like Abbott Elementary’s Quinta Brunson were paired with legends like The Jeffersons’ Marla Gibbs to present awards to the night’s winners. These moments were adorable—a collection of super-sweet tributes that appropriately revered the medium of television. But when one thinks of the foremost achievements in TV history, there’s one bawdy, hilarious redhead that can’t be forgotten.

What Little Ricky from I Love Lucy Looks Like Now - Twins Who Played Baby  Ricky Jr.

After teasing their appearances for a good half of the telecast, Blackish star Tracee Ellis Ross and Poker Face’s Natasha Lyonne paired up to pay tribute to what is perhaps the greatest American sitcom: I Love Lucy. Take a guess as to which iconic scene Lyonne and Ross would be parodying and you’re probably correct. That’s right, the I Love Lucy chocolate factory sequence, where Lucy and Ethel try their hands at a new job that’s far more than they bargained for.

A grayscale shot of Lyonne and Ellis hovering over a conveyor belt opened their tribute, with Ross wearing a red wig that glowed auburn even against the black-and-white filter. “Ah, OK, I see you went all in!” Lyonne quipped to Ross, who quickly responded, “I always do, Natasha Lyonne.” After all, if the pair of great comedic actors were paying tribute to the redhead Lucille Ball, it couldn’t just be Lyonne sporting her signature crimson locks.

Ross and Lyonne were there to present the award for Best Comedy Series, but before they could, they first had to recreate one of the most outrageous sitcom scenes to ever air. “Copy you, Miss Balls!” Lyonne said, telling Ross that she’d do her best to mimic the I Love Lucy scene. The assembly line before them revved up, and Lyonne and Ross quickly began shoving chocolates into their decolletage. Like Lucy and Ethel before them, Ross and Lyonne became overwhelmed, and Ross threw chocolates behind her.

Some audience members, like Steve Martin, seem less than enthused over the tribute—likely fatigued by this being one of the last of the night’s three-hour show. Jessica Chastain, on the other hand, brimmed from her seat, cheering them on. (Gingers supporting gingers!)

Finally, the envelope containing the category’s winner came down the line, and Lyonne and Ross announced that The Bear had won the award for Best Comedy Series for its first season. Yes, that’s despite the fact that its second season has already aired. But in this moment, none of that really mattered. It was a lovely, silly tribute that drove home this telecast’s message that television is an incredibly important medium. It’s a space for artists to create moments that stand the test of time and still make us laugh to this day, just like the I Love Lucy chocolate factory scene. For a show that had to be delayed due to a major industry reckoning, that kind of reminder is critical.

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