Dick Van Dyke Show, The


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About

The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran from 1961 to 1966 on the CBS network, ushered in the golden age of the situation comedy (even more than I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners), poised as it was on the threshold between the comedy-variety star vehicles of the 1950s (frequently still grounded in vaudeville) and the neorealist socio-comedies of the early 1970s (whose mainstay Mary Tyler Moore carried its pedigree). It was among the first network series to electively bring itself to closure, in the manner of M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Cheers, and has proven one of the most resilient in syndication. And more than any other social document, it managed to operate largely contemporaneously with the New Frontier and the thousand days of the Kennedy presidency.

The show was largely the autobiographical exegesis of Carl Reiner, whose previous tenure in workaday television had been with the legendary stable of writers surrounding Your Show of Shows and the Sid Caesar sketch vehicles of the mid-1950s. This same group went on to literally redefine American humor: on the Broadway stage (Neil Simon); dominating the high and low roads of screen comedy (Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, respectively); and in television, both early and late (Larry Gelbart, M*A*S*H). But first and foremost was Dick Van Dyke, based loosely on Reiner's 1958 novel Enter Laughing (he directed a tepid screen version in 1967), in which his Alan Brady is a thinly veiled Caesar--a comic monster, sporadically seen but ubiquitously felt.

Brady's writing staff comprises the college-educated Rob Petrie (the eponymous Dick Van Dyke), assigned to interject new blood into his team of more experienced subordinates, Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally Rogers (Rose Marie), loosely patterned after Show of Shows writers Mel Brooks and Selma Diamond. This sense of autobiography even stretched to the Petries' New Rochelle address (Reiner's own, save for a single digit), as well as his immediate family (son Rob Reiner in turn became the archetypal early-1970s post-adolescent as Michael Stivic on All in the Family, raising certain intriguing Freudian possibilities in the evolution of the sitcom.) Rounding out the domestic American Century optimism is Rob's wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore).

As author David Marc has noted, for all intents and purposes, the movies destroyed vaudeville once and for all, and as a form of penance, made it into a kind of "biblical era of modern mass culture." This impulse was inherited wholesale by television of the 1950s (a quick survey of I Love Lucy reruns should suffice), and in turn carried forward rather elegiacally in the many blackouts built into this show within a show. Van Dyke, a gifted physical performer, never missed an opportunity to reprise his mewling Stan Laurel, or engage in a bit of Catskills schtick (invariably veiled in nostalgia). Entire episodes were given over to aging radio scribes or vaudeville fixtures who had been brushed aside by the space-age wonder of broadcast TV. Even sidekicks Buddy and Sally, real-life vaudeville veterans often seemed little more than human repositories of the history of formalist comedy ("Baby Rose" Marie was a child singer on radio; Amsterdam, a cello prodigy whose act recalled Henny Youngman or Jack Benny, co-hosted the Tonight Show forerunner Broadway Open House in 1950, and--in a bit of New Frontier prescience--wrote the paean to U.S. imperialism "Rum and Coca-Cola" for the Andrews Sisters).

Yet perhaps to counterbalance these misted reveries, the show just as often displayed an aggressive Kennedy-era sophistication and leisure-class awareness. Initially competing for the central role were Van Dyke and that other Brubeck hipster grounded squarely in Midwestern guilelessness, Johnny Carson (and if truth be known, another prominent casualty of afterhours blackout drinking). Meanwhile, all the hallmarks of the Kennedy zeitgeist are somewhere in attendance: Laura as the Jackie surrogate, attired in capris pants and designer tops; the Mafia, via the imposing Big Max Calvada (executive producer Sheldon Leonard); Marilyn Monroe, represented by the occasional Alan Brady guest starlet or lupine voluptuary; intelligence operatives who commandeer the Petries' suburban home on stakeout. Camelot references abound, with a Robert Frost-like poet, a Hugh Hefner surrogate, Reiner as a Jackson Pollack-modeled abstract painter, or Laura's praise for baby guru Dr. Spock.

Sophisticated film homages appear throughout: Vertigo's "Portrait of Carlotta" becomes "the Empress Carlotta brooch"; Citizen Kane's "Rosebud" turns up as son Richie's middle name. (According to confidante Peter Bogdanovich, Orson Welles reportedly took a break every afternoon to watch the show in reruns.) Civil rights are often squarely front and center as well, with Leonard claiming that one racially themed episode, "The Hospital," specifically allowed him to cast I Spy with Bill Cosby, in turn the medium's first superstar of color. Even Van Dyke's own little brother, Jerry Van Dyke, is afforded a brief nepotistic berth from which to triumph-- in his case, over painful shyness, social ineptitude, and a somewhat pesky somnambulism, rather than innate ruthlessness and the reputation as White House hatchet man. And for purists, there's even a working conspiracy of sorts--the name "Calvada," scattered portentously throughout (Big Max "Calvada," "Drink Calvada" scrawled on a billboard, the name of their production company)--which is, in fact, a modified acronym for the show's partners: CA-rl Reiner, Sheldon L-eonard, Dick VA-n Dyke, and DA-nny Thomas.

But more than vague inspiration, the Kennedys provided direct participation as well. In 1960, Reiner wrote a pilot titled Head of the Family, virtually identical in every way, save for casting himself in the lead role. The package made its way to Rat Pack stalwart Peter Lawford, a burgeoning producer and brother-in-law of the future president. Family patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy, seeking to oversee family business during the campaign, read the pilot personally, and in turn volunteered production money. Although the pilot was unsuccessful, its recasting led directly to the later series.

The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966 with a final episode surveying Rob's "novel"--a collection of favorite moments from the five-year run--which Alan Brady dutifully agrees to adapt as a TV series, thus reupping the autobiographical subtext one more level and providing Reiner the last laugh. This was perhaps in light of CBS's decision to enforce a full-color lineup the following season. As such, the series' cool, streamlined black-and-white mirrors perfectly the news images of the day, and functions as one of the few de facto time capsules on a finite and much-celebrated age.

-Paul Cullum

CAST

Rob Petrie.......................................... Dick Van Dyke  

Laura Petrie..................................... Mary Tyler Moore  

Sally Rogers............................................. Rose Marie  

aurice "Buddy" Sorrell................... Morey Amsterdam  

Ritchie Petrie .......................................Larry Mathews  

Melvin Cooley..................................... Richard Deacon  

Jerry Helper............................................... Jerry Paris  

Millie Helper................................ Ann Morgan Guilbert  

Alan Brady ................................................Carl Reiner  

Stacey Petrie...................................... Jerry Van Dyke

PRODUCERS

Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard, Ronald Jacobs

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

158 Episodes

CBS

October 1961-December 1961   Tuesday 8:00-8:30

January 1962-September 1964   Wednesday 9:30-10:00

September 1964-September 1965   Wednesday 9:00-9:30

September 1965-September 1966   Wednesday 9:30-10:00

FURTHER READING

Butsch, Richard. "Class and Gender in Four Decades of Television Situation Comedy: plus ca change...." Critical Studies in Mass Communication (Annandale, Virginia), December 1992.

Hamamoto, Darrell Y. Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and Liberal Democratic Ideology. New York: Praeger, 1989.

Haralovich, Mary Beth. "Sitcoms and Suburbs: Positioning the 1950s Homemaker." Quarterly Review of Film and Television (Los Angeles, California), May 1989.

Javna, John. The Best of TV Sitcoms: Burns and Allen to the Cosby Show, The Munsters to Mary Tyler Moore. New York: Harmony Books, 1988.

Jones, Gerard. Honey, I'm Home!: Sitcoms, Selling the American Dream. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1992.

Leibman, Nina. Living Room Lectures: The Fifties Family in Film and Television. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Lipsitz, George. "The Meaning of Memory: Family, Class, and Ethnicity in Early Network Television." Camera Obscura (Berkeley, California), January 1988.

Marc, David. Demographic Vistas: Television in American Culture. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.

____________. Comic Visions: Television Comedy and American Culture. Boston, Massachusetts: Unwin-Hyman, 1989.

Rowe, Kathleen. The Unruly Woman: Gender and the Genres of Laughter. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Spigel, Lynn. Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Weissman, Ginny, and Coyne Sanders. The Dick Van Dyke Show: Anatomy of a Classic. New York: St. Martin's, 1983. 

Highlights
Sheldon Leonard on how The Dick Van Dyke Show got on the air; why it was not successful at first; on network censorship issues; on the classic episode "That's My Boy?"
07:09
Jay Sandrich on working on the pilot of The Dick Van Dyke Show, on how Mary Tyler Moore was cast, and the talents of Van Dyke
03:48
Garry Marshall on the writing process for The Dick Van Dyke Show
02:25
Bill Persky on writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show and on the controversial subject matter of the baby swap
Mary Tyler Moore on where she envisions The Dick Van Dyke Show's "Laura Petrie" would be today (1997)
00:34
Who talked about this show

Howard Anderson, Jr.

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Howard Anderson Jr. on creating the opening titles for The Dick Van Dyke Show
00:40

Ken Berry

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Ken Berry on playing a choreographer on The Dick Van Dyke Show
06:31

Allan Burns

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Allan Burns on wanting to write for The Dick Van Dyke Show and receiving an inspirational letter from Sheldon Leonard
03:55

Robert Butler

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Robert Butler on directing The Dick Van Dyke Show
03:16

Hal Cooper

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Hal Cooper on being hired by Sheldon Leonard to direct two episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show
04:38

Warren Cowan

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Publicist Warren Cowan on publicizing the series The Dick Van Dyke Show
00:38

Michael Dann

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Michael Dann on wanting to air an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in which the son walks in on his parents making love
03:12

Richard Dawson

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Richard Dawson on getting on The Dick Van Dyke Show
05:42
Richard Dawson on working with the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:24
Richard Dawson on differences between The Dick Van Dyke Show and The New Dick Van Dyke Show
01:39

Sam Denoff

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Sam Denoff on writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show; working with Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard
08:12
Sam Denoff on the "That's My Boy?" episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:35
Sam Denoff on the atmosphere on The Dick Van Dyke Show; why the show is still funny
10:47
Sam Denoff on the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show; Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke
07:35
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show; "That's my Boy"," I'd Rather Be Bald than Have no Head at All", "The Gunslinger"
13:54
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "That's my Boy"
04:06
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - " I'd Rather Be Bald than Have no Head at All"
01:58
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "The Gunslinger"
00:51
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"
01:29
Sam Denoff on specific episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "October Eve"
02:25
Sam Denoff on why The Dick Van Dyke Show is so fondly remembered
00:56
Sam Denoff on how JFK's assassination affected the cast and crew of The Dick Van Dyke Show
02:04

Dick Van Dyke

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Dick Van Dyke on how The Dick Van Dyke Show came about, originally written for and by and starring Carl Reiner
Dick Van Dyke on the physical comedy aspect on the Dick Van Dyke Show ; the pratfalls
Dick Van Dyke on how The Dick Van Dyke show impacted television
Dick Van Dyke on how he was approached by Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner to star in what became The Dick Van Dyke Show, formerly called Head of the Family starring Reiner
05:54
Dick Van Dyke on the only script he didn't like "Art v. Baloney"
00:15

Ruth Engelhardt

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Ruth Engelhardt on the role of the advertiser in the early days of packaging television shows, and on controversy over The Dick Van Dyke Show and The New Dick Van Dyke Show
05:38
Ruth Engelhardt on Mary Tyler Moore wanting a raise on The Dick Van Dyke Show
00:56
Ruth Engelhardt on packaging The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show, and That Girl
06:09
Ruth Engelhardt on the continued popularity of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and on working with Carl Reiner
03:23

Jamie Farr

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Jamie Farr on meeting Carl Reiner and getting a part of The Dick Van Dyke Show
00:53
Jamie Farr on appearing on The Dick Van Dyke Show
02:26

Lowell Ganz

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Lowell Ganz on his early interest in television and the influence of The Dick Van Dyke Show
04:11

Earle Hagen

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Earle Hagen on working on the music (including composing the theme) for The Dick Van Dyke Show
08:06

Alan Jaggs

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Alan Jaggs on editing The Dick Van Dyke Show
03:18

Barry Kemp

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Barry Kemp on his favorite TV shows growing up
00:33

Sheldon Leonard

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Sheldon Leonard on how The Dick Van Dyke Show got on the air; why it was not successful at first; on network censorship issues; on the classic episode "That's My Boy?"
07:09
Sheldon Leonard on how The Dick Van Dyke Show came about
07:55

Barry Livingston

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Barry Livingston on appearing in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show
02:10

Gavin MacLeod

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Actor Gavin MacLeod on appearing on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show
02:10

Rose Marie

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Rose Marie on being cast as "Sally Rogers" on The Dick Van Dyke Show
03:47
Rose Marie on co-starring in The Dick Van Dyke Show
27:27
Rose Marie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and her final thoughts on the character of "Sally Rogers"
16:03

Garry Marshall

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Garry Marshall on the writing process for The Dick Van Dyke Show
02:25
Garry Marshall on the origin of The Dick Van Dyke Show episode, "Brother Can You Spare $2500?" (airdate: January 6, 1965)
00:36
Garry Marshall on some episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show based on his and Jerry Belson's lives
01:02
Garry Marshall on the origin of The Dick Van Dyke Show episode, "Long Night's Journey Into Day" (airdate: May 11, 1966)
01:56
Garry Marshall on the writing atmosphere on The Dick Van Dyke Show
02:33
Garry Marshall on Mary Tyler Moore disliking a Dick Van Dyke Show script
01:37

Mary Tyler Moore

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Mary Tyler Moore on where she envisions The Dick Van Dyke Show's "Laura Petrie" would be today (1997)
00:34
Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "My Blonde-Haired Brunette" (airdate: October 10, 1961)
01:47
Mary Tyler Moore on her audition with Carl Reiner for The Dick Van Dyke Show
00:51
Mary Tyler Moore on initially disliking The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Never Bathe on Saturday" (airdate: March 31, 1965), when Laura's toe is stuck in a faucet
02:03
Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "The Curious Thing About Women" (airdate: January 10, 1962)
01:31
Mary Tyler Moore on filming The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "Turtles, Ties, and Toreadors" (airdate: December 4, 1963) without an audience due to JFK's assassination
01:29
Mary Tyler Moore on her feelings about the end of The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:21

Howard Morris

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Howard Morris on guest-starring as "Mr. Holdecker" on The Dick Van Dyke Show for the episode "The Masterpiece"
00:48

Dick Van Patten

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Dick Van Patten on working on The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:00

Bill Persky

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Bill Persky on writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show and on the controversial subject matter of the baby swap
Bill Persky on some of his favorite Dick Van Dyke show moments
Bill Persky on The Dick Van Dyke Show's "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" episode
Bill Persky on the legacy of The Dick Van Dyke show; on shooting the show on the day JFK was assasinated
Bill Persky on the legacy of the Dick Van Dyke show

Carroll Pratt

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Carroll Pratt on providing a laugh track for The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show
04:33

Carl Reiner

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Carl Reiner on creating and producing The Dick Van Dyke Show
22:50
Carl Reiner on producing The Dick Van Dyke Show
12:02

Rob Reiner

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Rob Reiner on his father Carl Reiner's series The Dick Van Dyke Show
04:02
Rob Reiner on the way marriage was portrayed on The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:00

Lee Rich

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Lee Rich on shows he packaged - The Dick Van Dyke Show
00:18
Lee Rich on his involvement with The Dick Van Dyke Show
09:26

John Rich

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John Rich on directing and motivating actors on The Dick Van Dyke Show
00:27
John Rich on getting hired to direct The Dick Van Dyke Show; on Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard; on banning set visitors on the first 3 days of rehearsals
08:47
John Rich on the visual aspects of The Dick Van Dyke Show; Dick Van Dyke's physical comedy; and the creation of the classic "ottoman" opening
08:17
John Rich on negotiating his deal on The Dick Van Dyke Show with Sheldon Leonard; on his directing style on The Dick Van Dyke Show
07:42
John Rich on Carl Reiner and other Dick Van Dyke Show writers
00:57
John Rich on his favorite episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "Where Did I Come From?" - the birth of Rob and Laura's son
00:40
John Rich on Proctor & Gamble and CBS having issues with the "That's My Boy?" episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show
03:51
John Rich on his favorite episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show - "Where Did I Come From?" - the birth of Rob and Laura's son
00:03

Jay Sandrich

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Jay Sandrich on working on the pilot of The Dick Van Dyke Show, on how Mary Tyler Moore was cast, and the talents of Van Dyke
03:48

Doris Singleton

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Doris Singleton on The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:15
Doris Singleton on coming into an established ensemble cast on The Dick Van Dyke Show
02:05

William Tankersley

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William Tankersley on Standards & Practices issues on The Dick Van Dyke Show
01:19

Grant Tinker

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Grant Tinker on the development and sponsorship of The Dick Van Dyke Show
06:00
Grant Tinker on CBS' James T. Aubrey canceling The Dick Van Dyke Show after its first season, and Sheldon Leonard's reaction
04:37
Grant Tinker on Mary Tyler Moore getting cast on The Dick Van Dyke Show and shared advertising on the show
03:30
Grant Tinker on his allegiance to The Dick Van Dyke Show 
04:26

Lou Weiss

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Lou Weiss on packaging The Dick Van Dyke Show
03:22

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