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"Oh, Rob!"

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator



The Dick Van Dyke Show is an American television sitcom that initially aired on CBS from October 3rd, 1961, until June 1st, 1966. The show was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam and Mary Tyler Moore. It centered on the work and home life of television comedy writer Rob Petrie (Van Dyke). The show was produced by Reiner with Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. The music for the show's theme song was written by Earle Hagen.

The series won 15 Emmy Awards. In 1997, the episodes "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth" and "It May Look Like a Walnut" were ranked at 8 and 15 respectively on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2002, it was ranked at 13 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

The two main settings show the work and home life of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), the head writer of a comedy/variety show produced in Manhattan. Viewers are given an "inside look" at how a television show (the fictitious The Alan Brady Show) was written and produced. Many scenes deal with Rob and his co-writers, Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally Rogers (Rose Marie). Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), a balding straight man and recipient of numerous insulting one-liners from Buddy, was the show's producer and the brother-in-law of the show's star, Alan Brady (Carl Reiner). As Rob, Buddy, and Sally write for a comedy show, the premise provides a built-in forum for them to be making jokes constantly. Other scenes focus on the home life of Rob, his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), and son Richie (Larry Mathews), who live at 148 Bonnie Meadow Road in suburban New Rochelle, New York. Also often seen are their next-door neighbors and best friends, Jerry Helper (Jerry Paris), a dentist, and his wife Millie (Ann Morgan Guilbert).

The Dick Van Dyke Show was preceded by a 1960 pilot for a series to be called Head of the Family, with different actors playing the parts, although the characters were essentially the same, with the absence of Mel Cooley. In the pilot, Carl Reiner, who created the show based on his own experiences as a TV writer, played Robbie Petrie, although the name was pronounced with a long "e", as opposed to the short "e" used in the later program. Laura Petrie was played by Barbara Britton, Buddy Sorrell by Morty Gunty, Sally Rogers by Sylvia Miles, Ritchie by Gary Morgan, and Alan Sturdy, the Alan Brady character, was played by Jack Wakefield, although his face was never fully seen, which was also the case with Carl Reiner's Alan Brady for the first several seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The pilot was unsuccessful and producer Sheldon Leonard liked Reiner’s script but didn’t think Reiner was right to play the lead which led Reiner to revamp the show. There were two finalists for the lead in the revamped show. Johnny Carson and Dick Van Dyke. Leonard ultimately went with Van Dyke because of his successful stint on Broadway in Bye, Bye Birdie. In a 2013 interview with Parade Magazine, Van Dyke described the unlikely series of events that led him to acting. “It was all pretty hard,” he said. “I was the anchor on the CBS morning show for about a year when I was 29 and I didn’t have a clue! I think my newsman was Walter Cronkite and CBS didn’t know what to do with me! They had me [do] that, children’s shows, game shows, and I didn’t fit anywhere in those things so they finally let me go and I started going into the theater.”

As a teen, Mary Tyler Moore had auditioned for a role as Danny Thomas' daughter on his self-titled sitcom. Thomas rejected her, saying that "no one would believe a girl with a little button nose like hers could be a daughter of mine." Years later, when Moore auditioned for the role of Laura Petrie, she not only caught Carl Reiner's attention, but also jogged Danny Thomas' memory. Van Dyke was initially hesitant about Moore since she was 11 years younger. Moore (only 23 at the time) had told producers that she was 25 because she heard that Dick Van Dyke had said she might be too young for the part. Dispite the age difference the onscreen chemistry between Van Dyke and Moore was magical and countless viewers actually believed the two were married in real life.

At least three episodes were filmed without a live studio audience: "The Bad Old Days," which featured an extended flashback sequence that relied on optical effects that would have been impractical to shoot with a live audience in the studio; "The Alan Brady Show Presents," which required elaborate set and costume changes; and "Happy Birthday and Too Many More," which was filmed on November 26th, 1963, only four days after President Kennedy's assassination.

The original opening credits for the show were just a packet of photos of the cast spilling onto a table and being shown individually on the screen. These credits were used only during the show's first season. For the remaining four seasons, two other memorable openings were used: the famous shot of Rob entering the room, greeting his wife and friends, and tripping over the ottoman, and an almost identical version in which he enters, walks toward the group, and expertly sidesteps the ottoman. These two versions were used randomly for the opening credits. A third variation, in which Rob enters, sidesteps the ottoman, and then stumbles anyway, was introduced in season three and was used occasionally. According to Van Dyke, before each episode, viewers would bet on which opening would be used that week.

Carl Reiner had considered moving the production of the series to full color as early as season three, only to drop the idea when he was informed that it would add about $7,000 to the cost of each episode. According to Morey Amsterdam, the show was scheduled to return for the 1966-1967 season and was going to be seen in color for the first time. However, the plan was scrapped when Van Dyke and the producers decided they wanted to quit while they were still proud of it. In addition, Carl Reiner said at the very beginning that the show would not run for more than five years.

Behind the scenes, all was not always well. Dick Van Dyke was a self-confessed "people pleaser" and was loathe to reveal any unhappiness or frustration, either on the set or when meeting fans. He found solace in drinking and years later admitted he was an alcoholic and had been seeking treatment (one of the first celebrities to do so). In 1974 he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Lead Actor for his work in "The Morning After", a TV-Movie about a successful public relations writer who has a serious drinking problem that threatens his marriage and life. Today, the film is still shown in some treatment centers.

During the series' fourth season, Rose Marie's beloved husband of 20 years passed away. She was so overcome with grief that she wanted to quit the show, but director John Rich coaxed her into staying.


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Cast of Characters

Robert Simpson "Rob" Petrie (Dick Van Dyke)

Head writer for The Alan Brady Show, a fictional network television comedy/variety show broadcast from New York City. The role of Rob Petrie was almost given to Johnny Carson, but Sheldon Leonard, the show's executive producer, suggested Van Dyke.

Laura Petrie (née Meehan; played by Mary Tyler Moore)

Rob's wife. As a 17-year-old dancer in the United Service Organizations, she met and married Rob. Then, she became a stay-at-home mom. About 60 actresses auditioned for the part before Moore was signed. Moore later wrote that she almost skipped the audition. A small controversy occurred because of Mary Tyler Moore wearing Capri pants on the show. Up until the show's premiere, most housewives were seen in dresses, but Moore's explanation was that most of the housewives she knew wore pants. Because of Moore, Capri pants became a huge fashion craze in the early 1960s. Mary Tyler Moore is pictured below in a rare color photo from The Dick Van Dyke Show set.

I adored Mary from the moment we were introduced. I think both of us had each other at hello, and everything just worked. We came off as a married couple. It was thrilling. I could tell it was working, and so could Mary. From the start, we had a special timing and chemistry that you can’t manufacture. It’s either there, or it isn’t. With us, it was there, and it only got better over time.

- Dick Van Dyke

Richard Rosebud "Richie" Petrie (Larry Mathews)

Rob and Laura's son (his middle name is an acronym for "Robert Oscar Sam Edward Benjamin Ulysses David," all the names suggested by members of Rob and Laura's families in the episode "What's in a Middle Name?".

Maurice "Buddy" Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam)

An energetic and at times sarcastic "human joke machine", Buddy was one of the comedy writers on The Alan Brady Show. Amsterdam was recommended for the role by Rose Marie as soon as she had signed on to the series. Buddy is constantly making fun of Mel Cooley, the show's producer, for being bald and dull. His character is loosely based on Mel Brooks who also wrote for Your Show of Shows. He makes frequent jokes about his marriage to his wife Fiona Conway "Pickles" Sorrell. In several episodes, it is mentioned that Buddy is Jewish. He was identified by his Yiddish name, Moishe Selig, when he had his belated bar mitzvah in "Buddy Sorrell – Man and Boy." Buddy plays the cello and owns a large German Shepherd named Larry. Buddy made a guest appearance on the Danny Thomas Show episode, "The Woman Behind the Jokes" that aired October 21st, 1963.

Sally Rogers (Rose Marie)

Another of the comedy writers, and the designated typist, who is always on the lookout for a husband. The character was loosely based on Selma Diamond and Lucille Kallen, both writers for Your Show of Shows. She never drinks and quotes frequently from her "Aunt Agnes in Cleveland". She has an on-again/off-again relationship with her boyfriend Herman Glimscher, who seems to be too much of a mama's boy to get married. She frequently scares men off with her sense of humor and strong personality.

Melvin "Mel" Cooley (Richard Deacon)

The balding producer of The Alan Brady Show and Alan Brady's brother-in-law. Though Mel can often be an obsequiously sycophantic yes-man to the demanding Brady, he is also shown to be a dedicated, competent producer. Mel is constantly at odds with Buddy, who often makes insulting comments about Mel's baldness, to which Mel often responds with a simple "Yechh!"

Millie Helper (Ann Morgan Guilbert)

The Petries' neighbor and Laura's best friend.

Jerry Helper (Jerry Paris)

The Petries' neighbor, Millie's husband, Rob's best friend, and a dentist.

Freddie Helper (Peter Oliphant)

Millie and Jerry Helper's son and Richie's closest friend.

Alan Brady (Carl Reiner)

The egocentric, toupee-wearing star of The Alan Brady Show. Originally an off-screen character, then shown only with his back to the camera or only in voice, Brady began to make full-face appearances in season four. Reiner played Alan Brady on the Mad About You episode (above right), "The Alan Brady Show", named after the fictional show within The Dick Van Dyke Show, that aired February 16th, 1995.

Supporting & Recurring Guest Stars

Stacey Petrie (Jerry Van Dyke)

Rob's brother, played by Dick Van Dyke's real-life brother. Stacey – a quiet, shy, man – is prone to episodes of sleepwalking, during which he becomes, literally, the banjo-playing life of the party, and calls his brother Rob "Burford".

Fiona Conway "Pickles" Sorrell (Barbara Perry/Joan Shawlee)

Buddy's slightly nutty wife and former showgirl. She becomes an off-screen character after season two.

Herman Glimscher (Bill Idelson)

Sally's occasional and nerdy boyfriend. In the 2004 reunion special, Sally and Herman had been married for years (In an early episode, Sally mentioned having dated a Woodrow Glimscher, presumably a relative, until Woodrow's overbearing mother arranged for her to date Herman instead.)

Sam (or Edward) Petrie - (Will Wright/J. Pat O'Malley/Tom Tully)

Rob and Stacey's father, Laura's father-in-law, and Clara's husband.

Clara Petrie - (Carol Veazie/Isabel Randolph)

Rob and Stacey's mother, Laura's mother-in-law, and Sam's wife.

Mr. and Mrs. Alan Meehan – (Carl Benton Reid and Geraldine Wall)

Are Laura's parents.

Sol/Sam Pomeroy/Pomerantz

Rob's army buddy in flashback episodes, was originally played by Marty Ingels. The character's names changed over the course of the series. Ingels left the role in 1962 to star in I'm Dickens, He's Fenster. In 1963, the character was played by two actors, Allan Melvin and Henry Calvin.

Delivery boy

Originally a nameless character played by Jamie Farr (who would later find fame as Klinger on M*A*S*H) in four season one episodes. Subsequently, he was given the name Willie, and Herbie Faye played the role (Faye also played other characters in later episodes).

Mrs. Billings (Eleanor Audley)

The head of the local Parent-Teacher Association, who shoehorns Rob into writing and directing their annual fundraising shows.

A group of character actors played several different roles during the five seasons. Actors who appeared more than once, sometimes in different roles, included Elvia Allman (as Herman Glimscher's mother), Tiny Brauer, Bella Bruck, Jane Dulo, Bernard Fox, Dabbs Greer, Jerry Hausner, Peter Hobbs, Jackie Joseph, Sandy Kenyon (who also appeared in the 2004 reunion special), Alvy Moore, Burt Remsen, Johnny Silver, Doris Singleton, Amzie Strickland, George Tyne, Herb Vigran and Len Weinrib. Frank Adamo, who served as Van Dyke's personal assistant and stand-in, also played small roles throughout the show's five seasons.

Many of the show's plots were inspired by Reiner's experiences as a writer for Your Show of Shows, which starred Sid Caesar, but though he based the character of Rob Petrie on himself, Rob's egocentric boss Alan Brady is less Caesar than a combination of the more abrasive Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason, according to Reiner himself.

Your Show of Shows was a live 90-minute variety show that was broadcast weekly in the United States on NBC from February 25th, 1950, through June 5th, 1954, starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca and featured performers Carl Reiner and Howard Morris. Writers for the series included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Selma Diamond, Larry Gelbart, Bill Persky, Sam Denoff, Joseph Stein, Michael Stewart, and Carl Reiner.

The series is historically significant for the evolution of the variety genre by incorporating situation comedies (sitcoms) such as the running sketch "The Hickenloopers"; this added a narrative element to the traditional multi-act variety show structure.

Carl Reiner's fictional staff on The Alan Brady Show had real-life counterparts in the writers' room of Your Show of Shows, Sally was a combination of Lucille Kallen and Selma Diamond, and Buddy was Mel Brooks.

CBS had intended to cancel the Dick Van Dyke show after its first season. Producer Danny Thomas personally went to the network execs to convince them to leave the show on the air and Procter & Gamble threatened to pull its advertising from "the network's extremely lucrative daytime lineup" if the show wasn't renewed. The show picked up steam during summer reruns that year and jumped into the top 10 by the third episode of its second season. It may have been helped by coming directly after the new #1 hit, The Beverly Hillbillies.

In 1963, Morey Amsterdam guest-starred as Buddy Sorrell during the final season of The Danny Thomas Show on the episode "The Woman Behind the Jokes".

Three decades after playing their respective roles of Sally and Buddy, Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam reprised them on an episode of Herman's Head titled "When Hairy Met Hermy".

In 1969, Van Dyke and Moore reunited for a one-hour variety special called Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman which included a never before seen alternative take from one of the show's episodes in which Van Dyke breaks down and cries after being dismissed from a film role instead of just being disappointed.

A 1979 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Hour featured Van Dyke and Moore reprising their roles as the Petries in a short sketch presented as the brainstorming of Van Dyke (guest-starring as himself) and the writers of Mary McKinnon's (Moore) variety series, who noted McKinnon's resemblance to "the gal who played Laura Petrie".

In a 1995 episode of the sitcom Mad About You, Carl Reiner reprised the role of Alan Brady, appearing in a documentary by Paul Buchmann (Paul Reiser) about the early days of television. The episode included several other references to The Dick Van Dyke Show, including a scene in which Reiner and Reiser discuss whether it would be funnier to trip over an ottoman or to step over it at the last moment. The guest appearance won Reiner the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.

In 2003, TV Land produced The Alan Brady Show, an animated special presented as an episode of Dick Van Dyke's show within a show.

Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, and Rose Marie contributed voice over performances to the show.

A 2004 reunion movie, The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited, brought together the surviving members of the cast.

In this continuation, Rob and Laura have left their New Rochelle home to Richie and moved to Manhattan, where Laura runs a dance studio. Alan Brady re-enters their lives to ask Rob to write his eulogy, with the help of a happily married Sally Rogers Glimschere.


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