BFS Video // 1966 // 156 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // May 17th, 2001
One of the ultimate 1960s sitcoms.
The Dick Van Dyke Show ran from 1961-1966, and has been available in syndication ever since. Even today Nick-at-Nite addicts are still glued to the show. It's great physical comedy and zany wit has endeared it to generations of viewers, and I'm happy to get at least some episodes from the show in a permanent format to protect them from the ravages of time. BFS Entertainment, that stalwart little distributor, continues to find a nice niche to fill with 6 episodes for your collection.
"The Dick Van Dyke Show" portrays Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), who lives with his lovely wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) in New Rochelle and commutes to work in New York, where he works as the head comedy writer for a hit TV show. Along with his co-writers and pals Sally (Rose Marie) and Buddy (Morey Amsterdam), they have both fun with and at the expense of their bosses, including the producer Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon) and the show's titular star Alan Brady (Carl Reiner). When Rob comes home he is likely to find some strange event brought on by his wife, his son Ritchie (Larry Matthews), or his neighbors Jerry (Jerry Paris) and Millie (Ann Morgan Guilbert). Hijinks will ensue.
Ever since I was a kid it seems I never missed an episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" or "The Andy Griffith Show," which were paired together in syndication. It was one of my father's favorite shows, and it became a family time where we could laugh about the show even when we had seen the episode numerous times. I've had a nostalgic feeling about the show ever since, and was happy to receive a review copy of six episodes on DVD. After hitting the "Play All" button on the menu, I was taken into the oh-so-familiar theme music and on to the show.
The first episode "Give Me Your Walls" had the benefit of being one I'd never seen before; something I'd thought impossible. Here Rob and Laura hire a charming Italian painter for their living room walls, one who acts as if he is painting the Sistine Chapel instead of a wall. He's friendly, complimentary, and helpful around the house, but has one problem: the wall never seems to get painted. Rob is too nice and too cowardly to kick the man out, but both he and Laura worry that they're being taken for a ride.
In "A Man's Teeth Are Not His Own," Dick Van Dyke gives a wild physical performance dealing with a broken tooth and his guilt over having a strange dentist do the work. Rob's neighbor and best friend Jerry is his usual dentist, but was out of town when the tooth broke, and now he feels guilty.
"Never Name a Duck" is about baby ducklings brought home after the show had used them in a sketch, and the impossibility of keeping the duck once he's grown up. Unfortunately little Ritchie is madly in love with his pet.
"Hustling the Hustler" brings in Buddy's no-account brother, and adds a convenient basement and pool table to the Petrie home. Blackie is a pool hustler who claims he's gone straight, but why is he setting up Rob for a fall?
"Bank Book 6565696" has Rob discover that Laura has a secret bank account with quite a sum squirreled away. He doesn't want to make a big deal out of it, but the questions of the amount of money and the purpose for it nags at him until he cannot contain himself.
"The Night the Roof Fell In" takes a novel approach to introducing the episode. When Rob and Laura get in an argument, and Rob storms out of the house, the fish in the (convenient) aquarium tell us what happened. Their true account of the fight doesn't quite mesh with the story Rob tells his friends and the one Laura tells Millie; both are heavily changed through the perception of who was wronged. Essentially the same sketch told three ways, it still makes for a lively half-hour.
There is a lot to like in "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and most of those elements are represented among the six episodes listed. Physical comedy from the most graceful klutz in show business, zings and insults, vaudeville skits, and homey problems are parts of the fun on the disc, as they were on the show itself. From Buddy's bald jokes to Mary Tyler Moore's crying jags, its pretty much all here. The well-drawn characters and chemistry are part of why the show has such a long-lasting appeal, and you can see that as well. Carl Reiner oversaw the scripts and his magic comedic touch is all over the show.
From the warm glow of nostalgia at watching the show again came a realization at how dated it had become. This doesn't kill the enjoyment at all, but my jaw dropped in one episode when Rob said "Don't forget, I wear the pants in the family." A joke is made because Laura is also wearing pants, and then Rob says "Well, I wear the important pants; the family leadership, the decision making ones" and Laura replies "Yes, dear." This may well have been the last sitcom where the wife defers so meekly to the male who is in charge simply because he is a man. Let's not forget the censorship of the time; Rob and Laura sleep in separate twin beds, and they never actually mention just how Ritchie was conceived. You have to just accept it all as a sign of the times; at least there was never any blatant racism.
The DVD is fine, though certainly won't be up for any technical awards for image quality. This is about as good as it gets from the source material, considering its age and the fact that the show has been in constant syndication ever since. The DVD looks pretty much like what you'd see watching the show on cable; with a soft image and some grain. At least there are few blemishes or other defects from the source for the transfer. Sound is the original mono, but it also sounds clear enough. Dialogue is understandable at all times, but the theme music sounds just a bit harsh from the limited fidelity of tracks of the time. Unfortunately, there is no extra content at all; I would have appreciated some information about the show and bios of the cast.
If you're already watching reruns of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" on Nick-at-Nite, then it might be harder to justify buying the DVD. But I'm glad to have at least some of the shows in a permanent media format that won't wear out, and look forward to more. Maybe next time they'll do my favorite episode; the one where everyone is without thumbs and has eyes in the backs of their heads.
How can I convict a show that has pleased so many for so long? I can't. BFS Entertainment is thanked for bringing the show to another generation, and for preserving the episodes before they're lost to age and decay.
Review content copyright © 2001 Norman Short; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BFS Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 156 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Dick Van Dyke Show Online