At the dawn of the 1960’s, Carl Reiner a former writer and cast member on Your Show Of Shows, sought to create a sitcom that explored what happened when daddy left home and went to work in the writer’s room of a television variety show. Since the show was based on his own life, Reiner cast himself in the lead role. However, the initial pilot, titled Head of the Family wasn’t received well and the series was recast. Dick Van Dyke, fresh off a Broadway success in Bye, Bye Birdie, was cast in the lead and the show was subsequently renamed for him. Surprisingly, The Dick Van Dyke Show was almost canceled after the first season, but got a last minute reprieve. Early in the second season, The Dick Van Dyke Show became a top ten hit, perhaps partly due to the fact that it followed the new #1 hit, The Beverly Hillbillies, on Wednesday nights.
Van Dyke starred as Rob Petrie, the head writer of the fictional Alan Brady Show. Rob’s fellow writers Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) and Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam), tough-talkers who made their way up through the vaudeville circuit, are great for a quick gag. College educated Rob is the thinker of the group; the one who comes up with the big words that lends The Alan Brady Show the facade of class. The egotistical and somewhat clueless Alan Brady is played by Carl Reiner in a recurring role.
A young Mary Tyler Moore plays Rob’s wife, Laura. A former dancer, Laura was quite different than most wives seen on television up to that time. She wore Capri pants (!) more than occasionally and could match her husband joke for joke. Laura also wasn’t afraid to show up at Rob’s office when the need arose. Most importantly, Rob and Laura were clearly in love and despite the night table that separated their single beds; it’s obvious they joined each other often.
The fourth season of The Dick Van Dyke Show has a couple of genuine classic episodes, with some very funny ones along the way. In “Never Bathe On Saturday,” Laura gets her big toe stuck in a bathtub spigot (“I was playing with a drip!”) in a hotel full of the most unhelpful staff ever. Written by Carl Reiner, Mary Tyler Moore was initially unhappy to learn she would be off screen for much of the episode. However, Reiner assured her that half the audience wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about her lying naked in the tub behind the locked bathroom door; the other half would be laughing at Rob’s clumsy attempts to rescue her. In “Baby Fat,” Alan is preparing to star in a new Broadway play by Harper Worthington Yates (Strother Martin, in an obvious send up of Tennessee Williams) and hires Rob to “punch up” the dialogue with a few jokes. Rob sees the opportunity to finally be seen as an artist and not just as a television writer. Unfortunately for him, the new Rob isn’t the Rob that Alan hired. If you only get an opportunity to see a couple of episodes from the fourth season, make sure it’s these two.
The great thing about The Dick Van Dyke Show is that despite the fact that the 32 episodes on this set are nearing the half century mark, there age is irrelevant. You can watch any episode, at anytime and be thoroughly entertained. There is no humor that was strictly funny in 1964. The situations Rob and his colleagues, or Rob and Laura find themselves in are funny and somehow relatable, even today.
It should also be said that creator/writer and his staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit for continuing to strive for excellence, even after the series had settled comfortably onto its fourth season, garnering several Emmys and moving past the 100 episode mark. The Dick Van Dyke Show truly is, one of the great comedies in television history.
Image Entertainment has done a great job, providing a solid 1080p, VC-1 encoded presentation in the series original 4:3 aspect ratio. Apparently new scans from the 35mm negatives, these transfers make you hope that other classic shows (I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, etc.) make their way to Blu-ray. Black levels and contrast are flawless considering we are talking about a series that’s nearly 50 years old. Sharpness is good and there’s no obvious edge enhancement in play. The presence of film grain would seem to indicate the lack of DNR.
Audio is provided via a Mono DTS-HD Master track and the show has never sounded better. Dialogue is crisp and clear, with no real defects worth noting. I didn’t notice any hiss, pops, or crackles. Image has really done itself proud here. No subtitles are available.
This set offers an impressive slate of special features:
- Remembering Don Rickles (SD) Dick Van Dyke recalls the episode “4 ½,” which featured legendary comedian Don Rickles.
- Clip From the Animated Program The Alan Brady Show (SD) originally aired on TVLand in 2003, this is a CGI animated clip from the Alan Brady show with Carl Reiner voicing his character from The Dick Van Dyke Show. Rose Marie voiced his secretary and Dick Van Dyke shows up to lend his voice to a decrepit old writer named Webb.
- Mary on the Danny Thomas Show (SD) Mary Tyler Moore in a bit with Danny about an audition he did with her that quickly devolves into him ranting about a superstition that involves people turning into a camel.
- TV Academy Tribute to Carl – Dick Van Dyke (SD) Recorded in 2012, Carl Reiner talks about Joseph Kennedy reading his first script for Head of the Family, which would eventually become The Dick Van Dyke Show. Dick Van Dyke than joins Carl and the two reminisce about doing the series and some of their favorite bits from the five seasons it was on television.
- TV Academy Tribute to Carl – Ray Romano and Brad Garrett (SD) Ray Romano and Brad Garrett congratulate Reiner on his TV Academy Tribute, while Ray acknowledges he probably wouldn’t have a career on television if it weren’t for guys like Reiner paving the way.
- DVD Exclusive Awards: The Dick Van Dyke Show: Season One (Best Overall DVD, TV Program) (SD) Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon from Nip/Tuck present the award to Dick Van Dyke and Paul Brownstein. Van Dyke gets a standing ovation from the crowd and cracks a few jokes about DVD and his name being similar.
- TV Academy Tribute to Carl – Rose Marie, Larry Matthews, Bill Persky (SD) Carl Reiner, Rose Marie, writer and director Bill Persky and Larry Matthews (Richie Petrie) come to the stage and then Reiner tells the crowd how he came to cast Rose Marie.
- Diagnosis Murder: Dr. Mark Sloan Meets Rob Petrie (SD) during an episode of Diagnosis Murder, Van Dyke’s character, Dr. Mark Sloane, is welcomed to a radio station where he walks by a booth Rob Petrie happens to be working in. It’s just a quick sight gag.
- Dick Sings the Theme Song at the Hollywood Bowl (2001) (SD) Van Dyke is welcomed on stage by Mary Tyler Moore and a few assorted television moms so that he and a trio of professional singers can perform the theme song to The Dick Van Dyke Show.
- “Never Bathe on Saturday” features commentary by Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke.
- Remembering “Never Bathe on Saturday” (SD) Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore and Carl Reiner share some recollections of this hilarious episode.
- Remembering “Baby Fat” (SD) Carl Reiner shares his memories of another classic episode.
- Remembering the Motorcycle (SD) Dick Van Dyke recalls making the motorcycle noises and the audience reaction. Mary Tyler Moore reflects on Dick’s child-like quality that could make everyone laugh.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show Remembered (SD) This must-see special, hosted by Charles Kuralt features cast interviews and details about the history of the show and great clips.
- Emmy Awards (1964-1965) Outstanding Program Achievement in Entertainment (SD) Carl Reiner accepts the award for Outstanding Program Achievement for the second year in a row.
- Nick at Nite Promos (SD) Dick Van Dyke and Reiner appear in a few short promotional spots for Nick at Nite’s airing of The Dick Van Dyke Show reruns.
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