Of all the television sitcoms, one of the very best was The Dick Van Dyke Show. A comedy classic, it ran for five years from 1961 to 1966.
What made the show so special? Well, there were a number of things.
First, there was the writing. Created by Carl Reiner (Rob Reiner's father), the program centered on the life of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), both at work and at home. The program had great stories, sparkling humor and intelligence. And the characters were multi-dimensional people you could relate to, each with their own special quirks.
Another strength of the program was its casting. Dick Van Dyke was perfect in his role as Rob Petrie the Head Writer of a fictional TV variety series called The Alan Brady Show. Sharing his office were writers Buddy Sorrell, played by Morey Amsterdam, and Sally Rogers, played by Rose Marie. The interaction between the three was believable and funny.
Series creator Carl Reiner played Alan Brady, and Richard Deacon was the balding Mel Cooley, producer of the Alan Brady Show. Buddy and Mel were perfect foils for one another, with Buddy forever targeting Mel with one-liner insults.
The program's portrayal of Rob's home life in New Rochelle, New York was just as inspired. Mary Tyler Moore played Rob's wife, Laura, with comic genius, and Larry Mathews was excellent as their young son, Ritchie. Then there were the Petrie's neighbors and friends, the Helpers. Jerry Paris played Jerry Helper and Ann Morgan Guilbert was Millie Helper. Paris also directed a number of episodes.
A notable guest star in several episodes was Dick Van Dyke's real life brother, Jerry. Jerry Van Dyke played Rob's brother Stacey Petrie, a shy man who became anything but shy when he sleepwalked.
The program's opening scene where the show's stars are first introduced was always fun to watch. First you would see Rob entering the house and then.... Well, then one of three things would happen: Rob would trip over the living room's ottoman; or he would step around the ottoman; or, in a few episodes, he would step around the ottoman and then trip on the carpet. You never knew which opening you were going to see, but each demonstrated Dick Van Dyke's great talent for physical humor.
Another strength of the program was the theme music by Earl Hagen. It was a very catchy tune that fit the program to a T.
In all, 158 episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show were made. All were in black and white, and when it ended the show was still at a peak in popularity.
A few of my favorite episodes include:
- where Laura blurts out on TV that Alan Brady is bald and wears a toupee.
- where Rob begins sneezing whenever at home and fears he is allergic to his family.
- where Laura gets her toe stuck in the bathtub faucet spout.
- where Laura dyes her hair blonde to rekindle Rob's romantic interest.
- where Rob watches a horror movie and then has a nightmare involving walnuts, aliens and missing thumbs.
Although The Dick Van Dyke Show ended its run in 1966 its popularity lives on. The program can still be seen in television reruns, and all of the episodes are available on DVD. In addition, there was a reunion TV special in 2004 where all surviving series members appeared.
So the next time you're in the mood for some good clean comedy entertainment there isn't a better choice than The Dick Van Dyke Show.
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