Image Entertainment // 1961 // 750 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 20th, 2013
Get ready for slapstick, pratfalls, and lots of laughter!
Right up there with I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, The Dick Van Dyke Show is one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time. Created by the prolific Carl Reiner (Ocean's Eleven) and starring the legendary Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete First Season arrives on Blu-ray care of Image Home Entertainment.
Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins) is the head writer for "The Alan Brady Show," a comedy/variety program; working alongside fellow writers Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam, Machine Gun Kelly), Sally Rogers (Rose Marie, Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round), and producer Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon, Carousel). Rob's other balancing act is being a husband to Laura (Mary Tyler Moore, Ordinary People) and father to little Richie (Larry Mathews), which can be quite a challenge. But with a little love and a lot of laughter, the Petrie household shows America how to keep it all in the family!
I am sort of ashamed to say I've heretofore never seen an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Now, before you start pelting me with rocks, I'm not completely in the dark when it comes to this iconic series. I obviously knew who Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were. I also knew the show was split between Rob's different lives at home and work. And...that's about it. I am sure I'd seen clips numerous times over the years, but sitting down to watch en entire episode? Not until 2013.
One of the things I've tried to do as a film lover is rummage through old movies and catch up on the films that help me feel well-rounded when it comes to discussing cinema. I've spent countless hours watching everything from influential classics like Citizen Kane and lesser know gems such as Night of the Hunter, to bottom of the barrel cheapies like Raiders from Beneath the Sea. I have an above average knowledge of the golden age of cinema and can discuss the celluloid format with the best of them. However, when it comes to television, that's a whole different beast.
While there are certain series I'm partial to, there's just too much programming for me to be well-versed in the boob tube zeitgeist. I've seen my fair share of classics, but there are far too many that have fallen through the cracks. That said, I'm glad I had the chance to sit down and work my way through The Dick Van Dyke Show's first season. Though I didn't become a convert who feels the need to consume the remaining four seasons, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Van Dyke and his brand of silliness. The series is loaded with humorous moments that make you smile ear-to-ear, and while it may have lost a bit of its freshness over the years, the show's breakneck comedy bits and outstanding performances have earned it a place in the hallowed halls of television history.
The Dick Van Dyke Show's success falls squarely on the shoulders of star Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, two actors who not only have great chemistry but can bounce jokes off one another like pros. Van Dyke possesses an easygoing charm, his tall lanky frame easily lending itself to off-the-wall physical comedy. Many episodes showcase Van Dyke's unique talent executing amazingly funny pratfalls and slapstick, his drunk husband routine being especially great (awkward since he later struggled with severe alcoholism). The series works because both leads are likable talents who have no interest in putting on airs. What you see is -- seemingly -- what you get.
Obviously the leads are only as good as the support they receive both on and off camera, and in that department The Dick Van Dyke Show excels. Supporting Rob at the office are Morey Amsterdam's Buddy and Rose Marie's Sally, who are also Rob's two best friends. Setting the show inside a fake comedy/variety show was a stroke of genius (Reiner having lived the role on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows). This allows the characters to cut loose and have some fun, which both Marie and Amsterdam do in spades. Although their shtick can sometimes be a little creaky (due to the era some of the jokes feel slightly neutered), eight out of ten times they stick, making for some memorable funny one liners. Originally, The Dick Van Dyke Show used the Alan Brady character as the never seen man behind the curtain. Eventually, he was revealed to be series creator/producer/writer Carl Reiner, and by the fourth season Alan was a semi-regular character.
Though the The Dick Van Dyke Show is locked in a moment in history that has long since passed (Rob and Laura sleeping in separate beds), many of the show's themes are wholly universal. In one episode, Rob struggles with feeling unneeded at the office when he calls out sick and the show (literally) goes on without him. In another episode, Laura struggles with feeling jealous about Rob working late nights with a very attractive Hollywood star. Sure, the characters and their dilemmas exist in light comedic fluff, but audiences can still relate with these issues today (family, work, friendships). This is due in large part to Reiner's deft comedic touch which is seen all over the series, injecting it with equal parts silliness, wry wit, and genuine heart.
Each episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame, and WOW do these transfers look gorgeous! Although I have not witnessed the DVD presentation for comparison, the black and white image here looks crisp, clean, and very solid, nearly popping off the screen. Fans will be delighted! The sound, presented in DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio in English, while good is never great. Of course, there are source limitations and age to take into consideration, so it's never going to sound like The Big Bang Theory, but the dialogue, music, and effects are all easily distinguishable. There are no subtitles or alternate language tracks available.
Bonus features include two Blu-ray exclusives: a tribute to Carl Reiner ("TV Academy Tribute to Carl Reiner Featuring Paul Reiser"), and a 50th anniversary Q&A with Garry Marshall, Van Dyke, and Reiner. Ported over from the original DVD release are two commentary tracks (on episodes "Where Did I Come From?" and "The Sleeping Brother"), some network promos for the show, the original series pilot ("Head of the Family"), a second pilot ("Carl Remembers"), interviews with the cast and crew, original commercials for the show, and some photo galleries.
The Dick Van Dyke Show is true television history that has withstood the ravages of time. While the show's premium luster may not be as evident after a half century, it still possesses a lot of laughs, excellent performances, and a timely message that family is the most important thing in our lives. This is an easy recommendation, as Image has done a fantastic job with this set. For those interested in the remaining four seasons, they're available in a complete series collection.
Earning its place as one of television's greats.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 750 Minutes
Release Year: 1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery