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Unknown Stories of WNY: The 'I Love Lucy' effect

The TV show was so popular that some cities reported huge increases in water usage immediately following the show.

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — Friday marked the 70th anniversary of the premiere of the classic show "I Love Lucy." It was a show that was so popular it is said to have even impacted public works across the country.

As a testament to the show's popularity was the legend of the "Lucy effect." There were stories of reservoirs in cities across the country dipping when the show went to commercial break. Gary Hahn of the National Comedy Center and Lucy-Desi Museum in Lucille Ball's hometown of Jamestown, NY says those stories were rooted in fact.

"We know there was a study done in Toledo where during when 'I Love Lucy' was in primetime, that water usage went down by 13 percent and then after the show ended on Monday night it went up by 21 percent," Hahn said. "There are actual studies that show that people were glued to their sets during 'I Love Lucy.'"

But "I Love Lucy" was more than just a nostalgic piece of Americana, it was a groundbreaking show, and its star, a ground-breaking force in Hollywood. 

"One of the pioneering things about 'I Love Lucy' is that they shot on 35 millimeter film with three cameras in front of a live audience," Hahn said. "And that combination had never been done before for a TV comedy and that basically invented how sitcoms are still filmed to this day."

Hahn adds that the audiences were unprecedented. 

"When Little Ricky was born, which was January of 1953 — on the same day that Desi Jr. was born — but when Little Ricky was born on the show they got a 71 rating and 92 percent share," Hahn said.

And if it seemed like Western New York's favorite redhead was more popular than even the president, well that's because she was.

"The next day was the inauguration of President Eisenhower which only had 29 million people watching, so 50 million fewer people watched the president get inaugurated than watched 'I Love Lucy,'" Hahn said.

Here in Jamestown you can take in the Lucy experience, everything from putting yourself into an episode, to walking through recreations of the sets from the show, and relive a show that continues to be one of America's favorites.