The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, October 3, 1961 - September 7, 1966), created and produced by Carl Reiner, centers around the life of a New York comedy writer who lives in suburban New Rochelle with his attractive wife, Laura, their cute son and a pair of brash next-door neighbors. Coinciding with the Kennedy era (a.k.a. Camelot) which heralded a new age of youthfulness, The Dick Van Dyke Show reflected a break from the old-fashioned sensibility of previous television families.The Dick Van Dyke Show was the first sitcom to focus as much, if not more, on the main character's work life as his home life, influencing later Work Coms such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and NewsRadio. Sally Rogers was an unusual female character in that she was both a working professional (not a teacher or nurse) and single (although she was portrayed as manhungry and desperate to end her spinsterhood).Also, this show was one of the mainstream shows to first use, even in a bit role, middle-class African-Americans in a non-criminal or servile role. In the episode, "That's My Boy??" Rob tells of wondering if his infant son belonged to his family due to paperwork confusion with another family at the hospital. Finally, the other family, the Peters, come to straighten things out, and to one of the longest laughs from a studio audience ever, they are revealed to be an African-American couple played by Greg Morris and Mimi Dillard. A small role, yes, but groundbreaking at the time.Though the show stayed away from Jive Turkey territory as much as possible, Kennedy era reflections abound, including Laura as a Jackie O. surrogate; the Mafia, via the imposing Big Max Calvada (executive producer Sheldon Leonard); The British Invasion ("The Redcoats are Coming"); a self-indulgent Hugh Hefner surrogate; Carl Reiner as a Jackson Pollack-like abstract painter; or Rob and Laura's praise for baby guru Dr. Spock.
This program provides examples of:
Accidental Bid: Rob doesn't understand the nuances of bidding gestures. He explains his idea of a sketch where someone makes an Accidental Bidduring the auction, so he's the one who ends up as an unwanted winner.
An Aesop: Occasionally, such as the pet duck episode where Rob teaches Richie that, basically, if you love something, let it go.
American Gothic Couple: In the episode "The Masterpiece", Rob and Laura bought a painting from an auction. The painting revealed a different version of "American Gothic", in which the couple were shown smiling, and which turned out to be a forgery.
Anti-Love Song: one of Stacey Petrie's sleepwalking rock 'n roll songs:
My heart told me that I should get a wife My heart told me I was in a rut My heart told me I should get a wife I wish my heart would keep it's big mouth shut!
Author Avatar: Rob Petrie is based on Carl Reiner, who actually played the part himself in the unaired pilot. Much of Rob's background — his army experience, his courtship of his wife, and his life in the suburbs — is taken directly from Reiner's life.
Although in the reunion, Rob Petrie has become a computer animation enthusiast, just like Dick Van Dyke.
Bags of Letters: when Sally said on national TV that she was looking for a man, bags and bags of letters arrived overnight.
Birthday Episode: During that episode Laura knows that Rob knows that Laura is planning a surprise party for his birthday, but she manages to surprise him anyway by making it look like everyone is cancelling their attendance - then suddenly SURPRISE! It's his party - and everyone are in their pajamas (because the party is at 6am).
Another episode took place during Richie's birthday. This episode is notable as being the only episode to use a Laugh Track: being filmed the week of the JFK assassination, no one was in the mood to laugh.
Butt Monkey: Mel Cooley can't go an episode without getting an insult from Buddy (usually about his baldness). He gets it pretty bad from Alan Brady, too, whose every other sentence to him is some variant on "Shut up."
Everybody. Starting with the pilot, the show gave the cast members many opportunities to show off their singing, dancing and stand-up skills. Rob and Laura dance, Buddy plays the cello, and Sally sings.
Used in-show as well, as Alan routinely uses his writing staff as cheap entertainment at parties.
Conspicuous Gloves: In one episode, Rob & Laura are about to go to a formal dinner on behalf of his boss Alan Brady to accept an award from a black group, but they both accidentally dye their hands black. They decide to wear gloves to the event, but Rob 'fesses up during his speech. The audience at the dinner find it funny rather than offensive.
Cool Mask: The caveman mask Rob uses in his imitation of Alan's weekly reaction to the next episode's script.
Costumer: The Wild West episode in period costume.
Couch Gag: You never knew whether Rob would tumble over the ottoman or not. The studio audiences eventually started to make bets about it.
Cowboy Episode: Rob gets knocked out for a dental procedure while worried about a sketch Alan Brady wants for the show. He dreams he's a wild west sheriff and Alan is "Big Bad Brady," a local outlaw who calls him out for a Showdown at High Noon. After he wakes up he realizes it's perfect for the sketch, and asks his dentist to put him out for just five more minutes so he can remember what he dreamt.
Crazy Cat Lady: In "Never Name a Duck," Rob takes a duck to the vet (long story). He first meets a crazy dog lady who talks to her dog as if he's a person. Then he meets a crazy cat lady, who only has one cat but thinks the cat believes she is pregnant. Then he meets a seemingly regular guy, who tells him not to worry, he knows the difference between an animal and a person. He was there to pick up his kangaroo.
Three decades after DVDS' heyday Carl Reiner appeared as his character Alan Brady on Mad About You.
Buddy appeared in one episode of The Danny Thomas Show moonlighting as a joke writer for the main character. These two minor crossovers throw DVDS into one hell of a bizarre shared continuity, see Shared Universe and Wild Mass Guess sub-page.
Mel dons one after Buddy makes one too many bald jokes at his expense. Buddy is confounded.
Dream Sequence: "It May Look Like a Walnut", "The Gunslinger", "Washington vs. the Bunny", "The Bad Old Days", "I'd Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head At All"
Dumb Blonde: The woman on trial where Rob was a juror in "One Angry Man".
Elevator Failure: One of the many flashback episodes has Rob and a pregnant Laura trapped in an elevator with an inept hold-up man played by Don Rickles.
Embarrassing Middle Name: Richie "Rosebud" Petrie, which actually stands for Robert Oscar Sam Edward Benjamin Ulysses David, thanks to a compromise between Rob, Laura and their respective parents, when they could not agree on a good name for their son. This is all mentioned in the episode, "What's In a Middle Name?".
Exiled to the Couch: Played with in "Give Me Your Walls". Rob and Laura are annoyed by a painter who has been working on their living room for a long time. Rob swears that he will tell him to get out of their house soon, and if he doesn't, he vows to sleep on the couch. Laura hopes that won't happen (though, oddly, Rob and Laura are always in separate beds.)
A surprisingly large amount for an early sixties sitcom. Hardly an episode would go by without featuring Mary Tyler Moore in either a nightgown or evening wear, and there were plenty of gorgeous guest stars over the run of the show.
There are two episodes in which Laura's implied nudity plays a big role. In one, she is stuck in a bathtub (offstage), and in the other, there's a nude painting of her (but it's seen only from the back). Carl Reiner has observed that he got much of America to fantasize about a naked MTM.
Capri pants. Nick at Nite made note of it during it's airing of the show.
Rob's nightmare about Laura in a rabbit costume.
Fidelity Test: Rob talks to Laura her over the phone in a different voice as a gag, but the deed transforms to this trope when he believes she believed she was flirting with a complete stranger. But she knows she wasn't.
Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: "So you think that you've got troubles? / Well, trouble's a bubble / So tell old Mr. Trouble to 'Get lost!'"
The Friends Who Never Hang: Laura and Richie have very little contact with each other despite being mother and son. It's so bad that there's a joke that the two never talk, although they do... on occasion.
Many episodes revolve around the idea that Rob's job is in jeopardy if he angers Alan or denies him any request.
Mel's job is secure as long as he stays married to Alan's sister.
The Glasses Gotta Go: : In "Somebody Has to Play Cleopatra," Rob is in charge of a community theater production. Millie was going to be in a sketch about Antony and Cleopatra, but Jerry didn't like her kissing their neighbor Harry (Bob Crane). Laura filled in for her, but Rob didn't like the kissing scene either. They ask the mousy schoolteacher, Miss Harding. Harry wasn't wild about that until she took off her horn-rimmed glasses, revealing she was beautiful.
"Home Alone" Antics: In one episode, while Rob is away Laura watches a scary movie on TV and is afraid that someone will break into the house. Milly comes over and they set booby-traps at the front door etc. so that whoever might break in will make a loud noise so they can bean him with a baseball bat. Naturally, Rob comes home earlier than expected and trips the homemade alarm.
Hypno Fool: In the episode "My Husband Is Not a Drunk".
I Need to Go Iron My Dog: One episode in rehearsal for a play, a character is berated offscreen by his wife for having too much fun kissing his co-star. His excuse for leaving a moment later is "One of the kids is sick."
Irrevocable Message: A script is accidentally turned in which has all their sarcastic comments about Alan Brady not blacked out, and they attempt to retrieve the script before he reads it.
Identity Amnesia: When Rob temporarily became "Strativarius" after breaking a violin on his head.
Jive Turkey: Averted - Carl Reiner always removed anything he considered to be too-current trends, fads or slang from scripts in order to prevent future reruns from becoming dated. Ironically, one of the only things that does seem slightly dated in modern viewings is the concept of a weekly prime time network Variety Show itself.
The Lad-ette: Sally. Laura worries that her masculine habits are sabotaging her efforts to find a husband.
Long Title: "The Sound of the Trumpets of Conscience Falls Deafly on a Brain That Holds Its Ears...or Something Like That!"
May-December Romance, for some definitions of "December" at least. In the back story, the Petries got married when Rob was in his late twenties and Laura was seventeen. Dick Van Dyke really was about 11 years older than Mary Tyler Moore.
Never Trust a Hair Tonic: In a dream sequence, Rob's hair turns into lettuce, because he was given a baldness preventative that was mostly oil and vinegar - aka salad dressing.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Buddy Sorrell was initially based on Carl Reiner's fellow Your Show of Shows writer Mel Brooks while Sally Rogers was largely based on Selma Diamond. Rob was also named after Carl's son Rob Reiner (who he obviously wasn't a celebrity yet).
No Sympathy: Laura displays this in spades in "The Attempted Marriage", when Rob gets waylaid on the way to their wedding and goes through hell to get there, finally arriving late. Rare for this trope, she gets called out for it and eventually apologizes.
Not Important to This Episode Camp: After the first season, Richie rarely appears unless he's essential to the plot of the episode. A Nick at Nite promo once described him as "Richie Petrie: Low-Maintenance boy."
Pseudo Crisis: The Teaser (usually placed right after the Title Sequence, not before) often ends with a character hinting that something big is going to happen this week. When the scene starts again after the first commercial, the crisis usually turns out to be much more trivial than the teaser made it seem. In one episode, the teaser ends with Alan Brady saying "Rob, I need you to save my life!" After the commercial, it turns out Alan just needs Rob to rewrite a play he's starring in.
Shotgun Wedding: Buddy and Pickles... although based on Buddy's delivery, he could've been joking.
Shout-Out: Perhaps unintentional, but in the episode My Blonde-Haired Brunette, Laura bleaches her hair blonde, then tries to dye it back to its original brown. When her husband interrupts her, she comes out half blonde and half brunette. Since the show was filmed in black-and-white, she resembles Cruela De Vil, who debuted earlier in the same year the episode aired.
There are several shout-outs to The Defenders, which coincidentally ran on the same network (CBS) at the same time as The Dick Van Dyke Show.
The aliens in "It Looks Like a Walnut" came from the planet Twilo.
Stealth Pun (and a Brick Joke): In "Bupkis," Rob is talking to a former member of his old army band, and trying to remember the name of the drummer. All he can come up with is "'Sticks' Rangoon" but says that's not it and gives up. Later, he runs into the drummer and realizes his name is 'Sticks' Mandalay. Rangoon and Mandalay are the two largest cities and both former capital cities of Burma (Myanmar).
Surprise Party: In "A Surprise is a Surprise is a Surprise," Laura outwits Rob by pretending that she was planning a surprise birthday party for him (which she does every year and he always finds out in advance) but her plans fall through - but then it turns out that that was a fib, and the surprise party happens at like 6 in the morning.
The Talk: Rob gives this to Richie (offscreen) after Richie starts telling false stories about where babies come from. Richie accepts the truth of Rob's talk but decides to continue making up stories about "baby supermarkets."
The Triple: The classic: "Can I get you anything? Cup of coffee? Doughnut? Toupee?"
Un Paused: In "My Husband is Not a Drunk", Buddy is in the middle of explaining that he can't be hypnotized, then gets hypnotized. When he gets snapped out he continues his sentence about being unhypnotizable. Subverted though, in that Buddy was only pretending to be hypnotized.
Weak-Willed: A Hypno Fool example, Rob was hypnotized into acting drunk when he heard a bell; but the subject of the hypnosis was Buddy, not Rob, and he wasn't even in the room when the hypnosis happened.
Whole Episode Flashback: Several, including "That's My Boy??", adding up to a full history of how the main characters met, courted, got married, moved to their current home, and had their son.
But not too much about how they had their son, since they were Sleeping Single.