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Her big-eyed, full-lipped look didn’t start as comic fodder. She was a model, a movie starlet in the early 1930s and then an actress with minor roles in a handful of good films (“Stage Door”) and bigger roles in many more forgettable ones (“Dance, Girl, Dance”).

Then came television, which made Lucille Ball. In return, she and Arnaz, her husband, partner and co-star, made TV comedy what it is to this day.

First, they pushed the narrow-minded TV industry beyond its comfort zone, proving that audiences would accept a blue-eyed redhead married to a Cuban-born band leader with a heavy accent. (“Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!”)

Ball and Arnaz pioneered the three-camera sitcom with “I Love Lucy,” which was filmed like a stage play. Using multiple cameras eliminated the need to interrupt scenes to shoot from different angles and allowed actors to play to a studio audience.

Although “The Office,” ”30 Rock” and other comedies have popularized the single-camera format, multiple-camera “Two and a Half Men” has reigned as the top-rated sitcom in recent years and more new comedies are embracing the convention.

Creating a quality film record of the episodes — at a time most shows aired live and unpreserved — paid a huge dividend, making “I Love Lucy” episodes resalable as reruns and their production house, Desilu, the first studio to profit from program syndication.

Desilu became a powerful force in early television. Besides “I Love Lucy,” it turned out some of the top comedy shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including “December Bride,” ”Our Miss Brooks” and “Make Room for Daddy.” After Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960, he sold her his share in the company for $3 million. With a shrewd business sense, she built it into a major TV production company and in 1967 sold it to Gulf & Western Industries Inc. for $17 million.

Fanboys and girls, note: At Ball’s insistence, the studio produced the original “Star Trek” series and landed it on NBC.

Ball was known as a modest luminary, invariably sharing credit and especially when “I Love Lucy” drew praise. “Well, all of the credit should go to (writers) Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr.” Or, “Desi was a genius: He was responsible for the show’s success.” Or she cited co-stars Arnaz, Vance and Bill Frawley.

But people knew better. Gale Gordon, who played her sidekick from radio through three of her TV shows (“The Lucy Show” from 1962-68, “Here’s Lucy,” 1968-74, and short-lived “Life With Lucy,” 1986) called her a bit of a genius — “the only one I’ve ever really known.”

Ball was 77 when she died in 1989 of a ruptured abdominal artery after heart surgery. Arnaz is gone, and so are Vance, Frawley, Gordon and screenwriter Carroll. In April, fellow head writer Madelyn Pugh Davis died at age 90.

But their creation, with Ball at its center, is eternally vital and joyful. George Burns called it when she died, and his tribute remains true.

“I and 100 million others will miss her,” Burns said. “But we haven’t lost Lucille Ball because she’s still with us on television and we can see her on and on.”