This much loved, top rated US comedy series from the 1960's very nearly didn't make it on the air because then CBS chief, Jim Aubrey, disliked it so intensely that he had to be persuaded by the shows sponsors, Proctor and Gamble, to put it on. When in turn, the sponsor's enthusiasm flagged, the series looked destined for the TV scrap heap. Yet from 1961 to 1965 The Dick Van Dyke Show picked up no less than 15 Emmy Awards.
Originally created by Carl Reiner for the CBS Comedy Spot a 'try out' series of single comedies which also included an episode where Harpo and Chico Marx played a couple of bungling jewel thieves (The Incredible Jewel Robbery). Reiner's entry was called Head Of The Family in which he cast himself as the main character. The premise was that Reiner played Rob Petrie, a comedy writer who discovers that his son is being teased at school because 'my daddy doesn't have a job that is as important as the other kids fathers'. Rob tries to assure the disillusioned lad that his job is just as important, if not more so. There must have been some early moves towards making this a series but executive producer Sheldon Leonard persuaded Reiner to step down from the starring role in order to secure a full run because he felt the overall feel of the pilot to be 'too Jewish' and 'too New York'.
And so, the show was recast with former game show host Dick Van Dyke playing the role of Rob Petrie, head writer for the fictional Alan Brady Show. In the role of his wife (Laura), the producers cast a virtual unknown by the name of Mary Tyler Moore, whose only previous claim to fame was as the 'Happy Hotpoint Elf' in television commercials. The situations took place in two locations; Rob's TV studio office in New York, where he worked with man hungry Sally Rogers and wisecracking loud-mouth Buddy Sorrell, or in his New Rochelle home where along with his wife and their son Ritchie, he could often be found entertaining his next door neighbours, Jerry (Jerry Paris) and Millie Helper. Back at the office the arrogant Mel Cooney, the Brady show's producer and brother-in-law to the star, constantly harassed Rob and his team. Brady himself did not appear for the first few seasons but when he eventually did it was in the form of Reiner himself.
The show's cabinet-load of awards included Outstanding Writing in Comedy (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965), Outstanding Comedy Programme (1963, 1964, 1966), and Outstanding Programme Achievement in Entertainment (1965). Both Van Dyke and Tyler Moore received Emmy's for their performances. The show came to an end in 1966 due to a pact between the producers and cast made in 1961 that they would do no more than five years. Dick Van Dyke went on to co-star with Julie Andrews in one of the most famous Disney films of all time, 'Mary Poppins', and as Ian Flemming's Professor Potts in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', before returning to TV in 1971 with The New Dick Van Dyke Show, this time playing chat show host Dick Preston, and her later enjoyed success as a crime solving doctor in the popular Diagnosis Murder. Mary Tyler Moore starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show that was made by her own production company MTM, which also produced various spin-off series such as Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant, as well as enjoying a successful big screen career as a character actress in such noteworthy films as Robert Redford's Academy Award winning 'Ordinary People.' Jerry Paris also became a successful producer and director working on Happy Days amongst many others.
On May 11 2004, CBS aired a reunion special, The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited. Produced by Carl Reiner, the show reunited cast members Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Larry Mathews, Ann Morgan Guilbert, and Jerry Van Dyke. Reiner reprised his role as Alan Brady. Deceased cast members Morey Amsterdam, Richard Deacon, and Jerry Paris were remembered in flashbacks. The special involved Alan Brady asking Rob and Sally to write his eulogy so that he knows in advance what will be said about him after he dies. The Petries and Sally, along with Rob's brother Stacey and longtime friend Millie, discuss ideas that are shown in flashbacks to the old show. The special ends with Van Dyke and Tyler Moore, out of character, reminiscing about the series with the use of more flashbacks.
Published on December 7th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.