RLJ Entertainment // 1965 // 800 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // August 28th, 2013
There are more than just a few things to recommend The Dick Van Dyke Show to even a casual viewer; it was a groundbreaking show in several ways:
It was the first sitcom to show the characters both at home and work, allowing for much greater variety in stories. The other side of that coin is that it was more trouble: you had a larger cast, and you had to develop things quickly and efficiently. A side effect is that they manage to pack a lot of storytelling into that 24-minute episode. The home/work dynamic also resulted in a greater sense of realism -- in Rob Petrie you had neither a borderline caricature like Ralph Kramden, or an idealized father figure like Ward Cleaver. Rob's a regular guy, with regular problems and regular failings. He's just much, much funnier than the rest of us schmucks.
More importantly, it brought sexuality to sitcoms. Not in a "Holy cleavage, Batman!" sort of way, mind you (though initially networks were worried that Mary Tyler Moore's capri pants were too risqué -- but in Rob and Laura we had a couple who weren't just married, but were clearly physically attracted to one another (separate beds notwithstanding), and that sensuality permeated the show, from little bits of stage business all the way up to complete episodes.
In "Never Bathe on Sunday," Rob and Laura go on a lavish second honeymoon, but things go a wee bit awry when Laura gets her toe stuck in the faucet of the hotel tub; making matters worse, the door to the bathroom is locked. The setup for the episode bothered Moore -- she spent almost the entire episode off screen -- creator/writer/co-star Carl Reiner realized that keeping Laura off screen allowed people to imagine what she looked like, making the episode even more effective -- and it is a howlingly effective episode from start to finish; the commentary with Reiner and Van Dyke and the featurette on the episode just make you appreciate it even more.
Some episodes are a little stale, but not as many as you would expect. Some, such as the one mentioned above, are still great. The legendary Don Rickles (Kelly's Heroes) has a fun two-episode run as a petty thief who tries to rob the Petries.
Talking about the talent involved is pretty much beating a dead horse, but I would like to at least suggest that Dick Van Dyke was quite possibly the most gifted all-around performer of his generation. Acting, singing, dancing -- the man could do it all, and he managed to leverage his dancing skill into a phenomenal gift for physical comedy (I will not make an ottoman joke here).
Technically, The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray) is magnificent. Yes, there's a lot of grain, but the image is still sharp, and the video is crystal clear. When you see some clips in the extras, you'll appreciate the restoration even more. The mono HD is crystal clear. In terms of extras, you get the extras from the earlier DVD release -- pretty good in their own right -- plus a couple of new features -- one is a brief appearance by Moore on The Danny Thomas Show a few years before.
Moore had auditioned for the part of Thomas' oldest daughter. There is also a TV Academy tribute to Carl Reiner featuring Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Larry Matthews (who played the Petrie's son, and others. It's good, but it's also broken up across the three discs.
While it may not appear as cutting edge as it was in the day, The Dick Van Dyke Show is still a delight from start to finish. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 800 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Not Rated