The show was filmed, which was a big deal. At the time, most shows were archived by "kinescope," which is simply a movie camera taking footage of a TV displaying the show's live broadcast. Obviously, this produces really crummy-looking video; that's why most shows from the 1950s have either been lost or are of very little interest in reuse (videotape didn't become available until late in the decade). In contrast, I Love Lucy required two-camera pairs, one to broadcast the live TV and one to take down the results on film. Even better, the show invented the live-studio Three Cameras technique, which resulted in six cameras running simultaneously and was wildly expensive.
This show also invented the Rerun: when Lucille Ball became pregnant and needed a reduction in her workload, Desi came up with the idea of showing a previously-aired-but-much-loved episode instead of something new—which was only possible because Desilu had taken the trouble to film the original broadcast in the first place. "Reruns?" the network scoffed. "It Will Never Catch On." Well, the laugh's on them: I Love Lucy has been on the air literally non-stop since it was first produced; television historians have determined that since its original airing, the show has always been in syndication somewhere in the world. (Not coincidentally, this has made Ball's and Arnaz's estates filthy stinking rich.)
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