Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Classic TV: The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961)

Back in the day, reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show were inescapable in syndication, so I can say I have seen most, if not all, of the episodes of the series during its 5 year run (1961-66). When my good friend Ivan Shreve announced he was hosting a blogathon over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, I was only too happy to offer some commentary.

The focus of the series was actually in two parts. One was the writers' office at the fictional Alan Brady Show, where Rob Petrie (Van Dyke) was the head writer, working with Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) & Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam), and in turn answered to Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon, ex-Leave It To Beaver), who had to endure Buddy's relentless barbs & insults about his lack of hair. Brady himself (Carl Reiner) didn't appear too often, else it would've taken away the focus from his writers.

The other half of that focus was on Rob's home life with wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) and son Richie (Larry Matthews), and neighbors Millie & Jerry (Ann Morgan Guilbert & Jerry Paris). One had to wonder if Rob was the luckiest guy on the planet, considering how hot Laura was. The plots were driven by conflicts either at work (deadlines for important shows, mostly) or at home.

One of the funnier bits in the series run came from this rendition of "I Am A Fine Musician", as performed by Rob, Laura, Buddy, & Sally. Gwert9876 uploaded this clip to YouTube:

As I noted earlier, the series became a regular presence in syndication throughout the 70's & 80's and well into the 90's before being picked up by different cable outlets. After the show ended, Rose Marie moved into a steady gig as a panelist on The Hollywood Squares. Richard Deacon & Morey Amsterdam would make frequent appearances there, as memory serves. As we all know, Mary Tyler Moore marked the 40th anniversary of her own solo series last year, which was an even bigger success, lasting 7 incredible years. Dick Van Dyke would return first with The New Dick Van Dyke Show, marking its own 40th anniversary this year, but then reinvented himself as a dramatic actor, most notably in the 90's crime drama, Diagnosis: Murder. More recently, Van Dyke, teaming again with son Barry, went back to the detective wellspring with a series of made-for-TV movies under the Murder 101 title, this time playing a college professor, but it really wasn't all that different from Diagnosis. Those movies are shown every few weeks on Hallmark Movie Channel.

When you think about it, when Mary landed her solo series, she borrowed the formula from The Dick Van Dyke Show, substituting a TV newsroom for a comedy writers' office, for example, and found the magic was still there. The best ideas, then, never grow old.

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

This was a fun show and thankfully it didn't wear out its welcome like so many shows tend to do.

Congrats on your guest commentary. It was a good read.

Ann Guilbert appeared as Fran Fine's grandmother, "Yetta" on "The Nanny" series (gaining a whole new fan base) & Jerry Paris went on to do most of his work behind the camera writing and directing shows like "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley".

They all really were a talented bunch!!

hobbyfan said...

I think Paris cut his directing teeth on the Van Dyke show before the series ended, I'm not sure.

It's just too bad they don't make sitcoms like this too often anymore.