CBS aired a special half-hour I Love Lucy Christmas special on December 24th, 1956, midway through the sitcom’s sixth and final season. Due to concerns about the special’s long flashback sequences (featuring scenes from earlier episodes) and its obvious Christmas theme, it was not included alongside the 179 regular episodes in the syndication package for I Love Lucy .
In 1989, the vice president for CBS Video was putting together Christmas-related programming for a video release, learned about the existence of the special and went hunting for it in the CBS vaults . After the original negative was found, CBS executives decided to show the special in prime time. Portions of the episode were colorized. It aired Monday, December 18th, 1989 from 8:30-9PM and drew a over 29 million viewers, beating Monday Night Football on ABC .
The I Love Lucy Christmas special is now available on DVD in its original black-and-white format with the colorized portions included as a bonus.
Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 Update: I was mistaken about the version of “Christmas Special” broadcast by CBS in December 1989. It was not colorized. When the network showed the episode again a year later on December 10th, 1990, however, the segments that were not flashbacks were in color. All of the flashbacks remained in black and white. The colorized version was watched by 18.2 million viewers .