Image Entertainment // 1963 // 800 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Bromley // July 1st, 2013
"A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. And so do I."
I love the sitcom. I love the form. I love the traditions. I love how new stories play out on the same familiar sets every week, and how characters grow familiar while still changing over time. The sitcom gets a bad rap because it has become so homogenized and bland in the years that it ruled the airwaves, but seeing a really good sitcom working at its peak -- I Love Lucy or Cheers or Taxi or Roseanne -- is to see the possibilities of TV being fulfilled. To tell a whole story inside of 25 minutes, using characters often created by someone else, demonstrate thematic continuity and character development and to MAKE IT ALL FUNNY and do it anywhere from 13 to 30+ times a year is no small feat.
The Dick Van Dyke Show is one of the best sitcoms the medium has ever produced. It is a show that is over 50 years old that could have debuted last week, demonstrating once again that funny is funny is funny no matter when something is made. By Season Three, the cast have all effortlessly inhabited their characters and have fantastic, rapid-fire chemistry as they deliver great comedy dialogue written by the likes of Carl Reiner (the show's creator) and a young, still talented Garry Marshall.
Van Dyke plays Rob Petrie, the head writer for the fictional talk show The Alan Brady Show. He works in the writers' room with his closest friends Sally Rogers (Rose Marie, Witchboard) and Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam, Beach Party), where they constantly crack jokes and write for guys they don't really respect. Rob is married to Laura (Mary Tyler Moore, Flirting with Disaster), with whom he has a son, Richie (Larry Mathews). Those are major players on the show, which finds different combinations of characters getting into new misunderstandings on a weekly basis, whether it's Rob being convinced they brought the wrong kid home from the hospital, Laura getting hit on by her creative writing teacher (though Rob thinks the teacher is interested in meeting him), the Petries trying to plan an elaborate birthday party for their son, Laura trying to hide the fact that she damaged their car and much, much more.
Here are the 32(!!) episodes contained on The Dick Van Dyke Show: Season Three, spread across three discs:
* "That's My Boy??"
* "The Masterpiece"
* "Laura's Little Lie"
* "Very Old Shoes, Very Old Rice"
* "All About Eavesdropping"
* "Too Many Stars"
* "Who and Where Was Antonio Stradivarius?"
* "Uncle George"
* "Big Max Calvada"
* "The Ballad of the Betty Lou"
* "Turtles, Ties and Toreadors"
* "The Sound of the Trumpets of Conscience Falls Deafly on a Brain That Holds Its Ears?"
* "The Alan Brady Show Presents"
* "The Third One From the Left"
* "My Husband is the Best One"
* "The Lady and the Tiger and the Lawyer"
* "The Life and Love of Joe Coogan"
* "A Nice Friendly Game of Cards"
* "Happy Birthday and Too Many More"
* "The Brave and the Backache"
* "The Pen is Mightier Than the Mouth"
* "My Part-Time Wife"
* "Honeymoons Are for the Lucky"
* "How to Spank a Star"
* "The Plots Thicken"
* "Scratch My Car and Die"
* "The Return of Edwin Carp"
* "October Eve"
* "Dear Mrs. Petrie, Your Husband's in Jail"
* "My Neighbor's Husband's Other Life"
* "I'd Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All"
* "Teacher's Petrie"
Not only is The Dick Van Dyke Show a part of TV and comedy history, but is also, in many ways, about TV and comedy history. The characters are all writers on a TV show, meaning it was one of the first TV shows about making TV. Because the characters are all comedy writers, the show isn't just funny (and it is) but about the process of being funny -- of how to craft a better joke, of how to make your friends laugh. Except for the kind of show Rob is writing for, everything about The Dick Van Dyke Show feels contemporary; replace The Alan Brady Show with Saturday Night Live and most of the show still stands. But then it turns into Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and nobody wants that.
I have yet to see every episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show (something I plan to rectify now that these Blu-rays are out), but based on my experience Season Three is not much different from the other seasons. In this case, that's a good thing -- there is no significant drop off in quality from earlier years, no "darker" angle that the show is interested in exploring, no new major characters getting introduced because someone else was on the way out. It's the kind of show where everyone is allowed to be funny; sure, Rob is the butt of a lot of jokes, but even Laura (an impossibly foxy Mary Tyler Moore) is allowed to get in on the fun -- she's no Alice Kramden or Ricky Ricardo (who, to be fair, certainly got to be funny as well, but were clearly playing straight man to the comic lead). Maybe it's because all of these characters value being funny above much else. Everyone is expected to keep up.
Like The Twilight Zone before it, The Dick Van Dyke Show has made the transition to Blu-ray beautifully. Presented in its original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio, the 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer makes the most of black and white images. It helps, no doubt, that the show was shot on 35mm film, which looks almost brand new thanks to a cleanup job that shows hardly any flaws or signs of age. The contrast is excellent throughout and fine detail isn't lost even in black and white -- like a lot of older entertainment, the fact that it's in black and white is a big part of why it doesn't feel dated. It's timeless. The audio track is faithful to the original mono source and generally well balanced, but not much more.
Most of the bonus features on the Season Three set have been carried over from the previous DVD releases, though Image has seen fit to include a couple of new bonus features that are exclusive to the Blu-ray release. There's a brief archival clip of Mary Tyler Moore appearing in a sketch on The Danny Thomas Show and a tribute to Carl Reiner from the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences that features Steve Martin (in a pre-taped bit), George Clooney and Reiner. The other supplemental material -- and there is a lot of it -- has been carried over from the early 2000s DVD release: commentaries from Reiner and Van Dyke, interviews with a number of cast members and creative personnel, original radio and TV promos and a bunch of archival clips, including footage from the 1964 Emmy Awards, a clip from a later Dick Van Dyke series called Van Dyke and Company, behind-the-scenes footage from The Magic of Broadcasting in 1966 and an entire episode of The Danny Thomas Show from 1963 in which Morey Amsterdam reprises his Buddy Sorrell character. There's a lot to get through -- especially if you, like me, never owned the show on DVD.
Summer is the perfect time to dive into every episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. With current TV shows in either a cycle of reruns or, even worse, in the dregs of summer replacement programming, it's great to pop in a disc and hang out with a show that crushes it almost every single time. Don't like a joke? Wait 10 seconds. This is a great Blu-ray release. This is great television.
One of the best sitcoms of all time.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Bromley; 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: 800 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episodes
* Rehearsal Footage
* Promo Spots
* Photo Gallery