1 9 6 1 – 1 9 6 6 (USA)
158 x 25 minute episodes
The Dick Van Dyke Show was conceived by Carl Reiner (who also played the part of Alan Brady). Dick Van Dyke starred as Rob Petrie, the head writer for The Alan Brady Show.
His perky wife Laura – a former dancer who he met while stationed at the Camp Crowder Army Base in Joplin, Missouri, when she was a USO girl, and he was a sergeant – was played by Mary Tyler Moore. They lived with their son Ritchie at Bonnie Meadow Road, New Rochelle, New York (at number 148, 448 or 485, depending on which episode you trust).
The show was not very popular in its first season but eventually became a solid hit.
The show’s slow start was partly caused by the obstruction of CBS chief Jim Aubrey (“the smiling cobra”), who took a perverse dislike to The Dick Van Dyke Show and had to be pressured by sponsors Proctor and Gamble into airing it.
In the second season’s opening credits, Van Dyke cemented his reputation as TV’s most agile physical comedian by tripping spectacularly over the Petrie’s living room ottoman.
Two alternative versions of the opening were filmed with Van Dyke missing the obstacle, and the three were aired on a random rotation. People actually used to place bets on whether or not Dick would fall . . .
Working with Rob were two other co-writers, the husband-hunting Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) – who had two cats named Mr Henderson and Mr Diefenthaler – and the perpetually wisecracking Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam), whose real first name was Maurice.
Their nemesis at the office and the butt of much humour was balding Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), the pompous producer of The Alan Brady Show and the brother-in-law of its star.
Also frequently seen were their next-door neighbours, Dentist Jerry Helper (Jerry Paris), his wife Millie (Ann Morgan Guilbert), and their young son Freddie.
Early episodes often included flashbacks to Rob and Laura’s courtship when Rob was still in the army, the early days of their marriage in Ohio, and the development of Rob’s career as a disc jockey at WOFF.
Classic episodes abound. When Laura got her toe stuck in a hotel bathtub. When Rob dreamed about ever-present walnuts and an alien with no thumbs that looked like Danny Thomas . . .
Sixty actresses were interviewed before the unknown Mary Tyler Moore (whose main claim to fame at the time was being the “Happy Hotpoint Elf” in TV commercials that aired during The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) was cast as Laura Petrie.
The show won four outstanding comedy Emmys before coming to an end in 1966 when Van Dyke left to pursue movie work full-time. He got his new career off to a promising start in Mary Poppins (1964) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).
He returned to TV in 1971 with The New Dick Van Dyke Show playing Dick Preston, the host of a TV chat show, and from 1993 onwards starred as amateur sleuth Dr Mark Sloan on Diagnosis: Murder. Meanwhile, Mary Tyler Moore went on to star in the phenomenally successful Mary Tyler Moore Show – also set in the TV industry.
Episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show are still repeated to this day – its timeless appeal helped by the fact that the show was filmed without any slang expressions.
Rob Simpson Petrie
Dick Van Dyke
Laura Petrie (Meehan)
Mary Tyler Moore
Maurice “Buddy” Sorrell
Ann Morgan Guilbert
Jerry Van Dyke