Monday, October 3, 2011

The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon! Today!

Thanks go to fellow classic movie-TV-devotee Ivan Shreve who is doing hosting duties for The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon over at his blog, THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR.  That's where a bunch of us early television mavens will be dishing Dick Van Dyke all day today. So don't forget to check out what the other Blogathon participants are up to (at the link above).

Ivan (who should know) considers The Dick Van Dyke Show the best television comedy show of all time. His Desert Island pick. So of course, he had to choose the show as the subject for his first ever BLOGATHON, especially since October 3rd is the 50th Anniversary of the show's debut on the air.


The oh-so-amiable and talented clown, Dick Van Dyke, had such a quirky way of moving. Smooth he was not.  If he were a letter of the alphabet, he would be the letter Z. All angles - the perfect klutz. That odd, long and blocky face fits him perfectly too. And he was always so good at looking befuddled. (Which, as Rob Petrie he spent a lot of time doing.) There never was anyone else quite like him on television.

Mary Tyler Moore has such a winning personality. As Rob's wife, Laura Petrie, she was a real casting coup. No matter what happened on the show or how funny she was called on to be, she was always a lady - the likes of which you never see on TV anymore.


Okay, on to the show:

Today I'm talking about two Dick Van Dyke episodes in keeping with our excess of zeal: Both episodes are from the last season of the show - Season 5.

So, all together now, let's start humming the theme song.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO DAY (directed by Jerry Paris) is one of my favorite episodes primarily because it features lots of Ann Morgan Guilbert who plays Millie Helper, Laura's ditzy best friend and neighbor. Guilbert always made me laugh and I have a slight suspicion it's because she kind of reminded me of Imogene Coca - they both had the same kind of insipient looniness lurking in their eyes. (In later years, Guilbert was hilarious as the hotsy-totsy grandma on THE NANNY.)

Ann Morgan Guilbert and Jerry Paris

Millie is the wife of Jerry Helper (played by another favorite: Jerry Paris - who also directed these two episodes).  Jerry is a dentist - which in and of itself is funny, though why that should be, I don't know. It just is. They live next door to Rob and Laura Petrie in New Rochelle, New York - a suburban enclave.

In Long Day's Journey Into Day, Rob, Ritchie (Rob and Laura's young son), Jerry and Millie and their kids, are going on an overnight fishing trip. Laura is staying home because she's got a cold.

She reassures Rob who is hesitant to leave her, and bravely claims she's not at all afraid to stay in the house overnight by herself. She tells Rob that she has tons of sewing to do. (Hey, it was the early 60's) She thinks she'll be fine. But of course, we know different.

By the way, at the beginning of this episode Laura is wearing white patent leather go-go boots. They were a HUGE fad in the 6o's. (We all had them.) Just in case you should see this episode and not being from that time (unlike some of us) you wonder why on earth Laura is wearing drum majorette boots in the house.

Just before leaving, Millie tells Laura to place a bunch of tin cans in front of the door so if anyone breaks in she'll hear the racket. Millie is the sort of friend who reacts with paranoia at the slightest provocation - that's why I love her.

Besides paranoia, Millie has brought over their pet bird, Herschel (some sort of parrot but looks more like a mynah bird) who keeps saying, "Don't be nervous, don't be nervous."  Just what you need to hear when you're pretending you're not nervous.

Millie also gives Laura a parting gift: a thing that looks like a pen but is really an alarm. "If someone breaks in and tries to bash you in the head..." You pull the 'pen' apart and and it makes a big noise.

Millie's just trying to be helpful.

Okay, so after everyone leaves, Laura and Herschel are home alone in a house that suddenly looks and feels remarkably sterile and unfriendly. Laura paces, telling herself there's nothing to worry about. She tries to do some busy work but the house creaks and groans and makes strange night time house noises. (She turns on both the radio and television to keep herself company.)

Mary Tyler Moore is so good at being brave when she's really jumpy, helpless and scared - Millie's paranoia has caught on.

Later that same night, as Laura takes a shower (after placing a bunch of tin cans by the front door), Millie returns - she's caught a train back to keep Laura company. She makes a heck of racket knocking over the cans at the front door (she has a key) but Laura doesn't hear it. When Millie figures out that Laura must be in the bathroom she marches right in and they both share a nice screaming bout of hysteria.

For the rest of the evening Laura and Millie react to every noise and creak as though Jack the Ripper and a gang of burglars were about to break in at any moment. It is very funny stuff. Then later, Rob himself, hit with an allergy attack at the fishing cabin, decides he'd better drive home before morning.

Well, you have to see the show but I think you can figure out what happens next.


A DAY IN THE LIFE OF ALAN BRADY (directed by Jerry Paris) is my second episode and it features the whole show's staff - Rob Petrie is the head comedy writer for the Alan Brady Show which stars the egomaniacal Alan Brady (played by the one and only Carl Reiner - the creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show). Rob's writing partners down at the television studio are Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally Rogers (Rose-Marie). Richard Deacon plays the perpetually pompous Mel Cooley, the show's all around manager (for want of a better title).

This particular episode takes place on a day when a documentary film crew is following Alan Brady around filming a typical day in the egocentric star's life.

Alan decides he want to film at Rob and Laura's typical suburban house so he can show America how the 'little people' love him. The fact that Rob and Laura are throwing Millie and Jerry an anniversary party that same night doesn't faze Alan in the slightest

Millie is flabbergasted that Alan Brady wants to be part of their anniversary celebration - (and that the party will be on television). She loves the idea despite the fact that Alan can never remember who she and Jerry are.

So the evening is set for disaster...uh, I mean, Alan Brady's spontaneous arrival.

Among the guests at the party are a husband and wife whom no one seems to like but they're invited anyway because they give good presents. He drinks, she flirts with anything in pants. They are the infamous Hy (Lou Wills) and Blanche (Joyce Jameson).

Joyce Jameson

When Blanche hangs all over Rob (I'm just crazy about comedy writers.), then Buddy then Alan, events go rapidly down hill.

Rob directs everyone to act naturally when Alan Brady shows up with his documentary crew. No muss. No fuss. But Alan doesn't want natural. He wants everyone to rush to the door and embrace him. He wants tons of love flung in his direction. Okay, let's shoot it again and this time gimme all the love you got. Blanche takes that a bit too literally.

Why doesn't anything ever go according to plan?

Because then it wouldn't be The Dick Van Dyke Show.


  1. If he were a letter of the alphabet, he would be the letter Z. All angles - the perfect klutz.

    Brilliant line.

  2. Thanks, M.M. Glad you appreciated it. :)

  3. There were so many great episodes it is hard to pick a favorite. I think I would go with the walnuts one.

  4. I recall watching some episodes of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW many years ago but that's about all. I do, however, remember him very well in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and MARY POPPINS which I've seen more than once. A fine actor and entertainer!

  5. As you know I love, love, love this show! Both hilarious episodes! It's funny, watching them over again, it's interesting to see how Laura's fashions and hair changed over the course of the five years. At first, she was very Jackie Kennedy-esque. Then by last season (the one your reviewed above) she's much more mid 60's - 1966 the go-go boots, different hair. Just before psychedelic 60's caught on. A Day in the Life is so funny, doesn't Alan get punched out by the blonde's boyfriend in it?

  6. I decided a long time ago that if my life were ever turned into a sitcom, I'd want Jerry and Millie Helper to be my next-door neighbors. I'm sure there's a lot of people who'd pick Fred and Ethel Mertz, but the Helpers would get the nod because Millie and I would conduct the affair to end all affairs behind Jer's back. That's how much I loved Millie and especially Ann Morgan Guilbert. She was one of my favorite things about The Dick Van Dyke Show (and to think they almost didn't want her because she wasn't drop-dead attractive), and she was the only reason to watch The Nanny...a show I never was too crazy about but with which TV Land seems to be carrying a torch for.

    I've seen "A Day in the Life of Alan Brady" but the way you wrote about it so well it must be seen when I get a breather this afternoon my copy is headed straight for the DVD player. Yvette, thanks so much for agreeing to participate in the blogathon and especially for spreading the Millie love ("I'll die! I'll just die!"). I enjoyed reading this tremendously; it was a splendidly written post.

  7. Yvette, you chose two hold your sides, try not to laugh too hard because you'll miss something episodes, and reminded us of how great they are.

    One of the headlines on that top TV Guide cover ("This season's most jinxed show") is going to keep me up all night.

  8. Patti: I am definitely watching that one again as well. Talkling about the show has made me aware that I've forgotten a lot of good times. :)

  9. Prashant: Yes, Dick Van Dyke was pretty special. IS pretty special.
    He was primarily a TV star, but also made some good movies. :)

  10. Julie: YES! A kidney punch, I think. Poor Alan. HA!

    I did enjoy watching these episodes again and now I've got a list of shows to re-watch since I seem to have forgotten most of them. Oh well, it will be like seeing them for the first time.


    Glad you stopped by, Julie. :)

  11. Oh, Ivan, it was such a pleasure to write this post. I'm grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to join in your special day of tribute to a great series.

    I'm thrilled we're both BIG fans of Annie Guilbert. She was so special. The perfect foil for Laura, I think.

    I'd want them as my neighbors too. Fred was just too grumpy.

  12. Caftan Woman: Yeah, I noticed that 'jinxed' thing too. Hmmm......!

    If Ivan hadn't had this Blogathon I might have gone to my grave not rewatching these episodes. Think what I would have missed. :)

  13. You are amazing! Indefatigable. Prolific. Whew! A great, great post as always. "Don't be nervous, Don't be nervous" has long been a quote we use often. Tom loved this show before I did, and brought his admiration to me when we met. We have a book (surprise, surprise) called The Dick Van Dyke Show, Anatomy of a Classic by Ginny Weissman and Coyne Steven Sanders. Seen it? Have it?

  14. Oh my gosh, the Go Go boots. I had those! And a burgundy and white checked mini-skirt with burgundy sweater, and burgundy hose. Oh my gosh, I was the height of fashion!

    These are wonderful episodes. My favorite of the 2 is Millie and Laura being scared to death. I do that a lot, being a coward, and that episode really reminded me of me! I have not seen the one with Alan Brady at the Petrie house for a long time, and now I'm going over to Hulu and watch it tonight.

    Very enjoyable post, Yvette!

  15. Nan: Thanks again, you always know just what to say. :) Balm for my ego.

    I don't have that book, in fact, I've never heard of it. (Hard to believe, I'm sure. Ha!) I'm adding it to my list. Maybe the library has a copy...

    So glad you enjoyed the post, Nan.

  16. Thanks, Becky. It was lots of fun to write. I hadn't seen the show at all in years and years and hardly remembered my faves.

    Now I have a list of everyone's favorites. Guess what I'll be doing over at Netflix. :)

  17. Awesome post--as always. I had forgotten the Millie & Laura scared to death episode. Puts me in mind of Ghost of A. Chance. I love that one!

    Thanks for stopping by. If you get a chance you might check out Brad's Petrie Page too (link on post).

  18. Thanks, Bev. I'm adding Ghost of A Chance to my list. I feel a Rob and Laura Petrie binge coming on.

    I tried the link to your hubby's site. It didn't work.

    Don't know why.

  19. If you really love Dick Van Dyke, go here:

    for the beginning of an interesting 6-part interview.

  20. Yvette, just reading the synopses of the DICK VAN DYKE episodes you chose (and the photos) had me laughing out loud! I swear, those folks could do no wrong, comedy-wise.

    Becky, now I'm just itching to see a picture of you in your white go-go boots and burgundy sweater and pantyhose! I bet you were adorable (and still are)!

    Back to you, Yvette: if you haven't read my husband Vinnie's charming and hilarious DICK VAN DYKE post, here's the link, if you're interested:

  21. I really liked this show and the cast members, especially the scenes at work with Rose-Marie and Morey Amsterdam.

    However, I don't know the episodes like the real aficionados, so I have work to do here to catch up.

    P.S. I didn't have white boots like that in the 1960s. I was a hippy then and wore brown leather Fred Braun shoes with laces and tights. (The shoes had to be made by Fred Braun, sold on 8th St. in the Village in NYC. or they weren't authentic.)

  22. Ummm...I had go-go boots, too ("these boots are made for walkin'..."). I don't remember Laura in go-go boots, though, so I have some remedial DVD Show watching to do.

    Great post, Yvette, your DVD love comes through loud and clear and entertaining...

  23. Dorian: They sure did know what waas funny. That isn't always the case with comedies as we all well know.

    Participating in this Blogathon brought back a lot of good memeories. :)

    I'd like to see Miss Becky in her 60's gear as well. Meant to add that to my comments but forgot. You know what an old lady I am. Ha!
    My memory is shot dead.

    I will definitely take a look at Vinnie's post, m'dear.

  24. Kathy: I think I might have had some Braun clod-hoppers as well. HA!

    But I did have go-go boots to. I was a combo of different styles back then.

    Though my favorite shoes was always the saddle shoes I wore in junior high.

  25. The Lady Eve: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed my tribute. It was lots of fun to put together.

    Yeah, go-go boots. What were we thinking? Ha!

  26. I'm b-a-a-ack! Yvette, I just wanted to assure you and Dorian that I did indeed look VERY cute in my go go boots, burgundy hose and burgundy/white checked mini shirt with burgundy sweater -- I remember that outfit so well, although I can't remember what I did yesterday. Can you imagine the laughs a 14-year old girl would get if she walked down the street wearing that today? But it was the height of cool then, and boy was I COOL! LOL!

  27. Nah, you'd fit right in. Today, anything goes. Everyone would think you were being very retro-chic. Ha!

    All I remember from back then is wearing lots of black. Though I do have a vague memory of poodle skirt.

  28. I missed out on the poodle skirt, but friends wore them.

    I was wearing brown, olive green, navy blue, burgundy turtlenecks and tights with corresponding skirts, my Fred Braun shoes and purse. You get the drift.

    Great that you had Brauns, too. My circle of friends had them as well.

    And I remember those black and white saddle shoes. We had to use white shoe polish all of the time! Who would do that now? No one.

    And anything does go now. I think that individuality is good. I have a 15-year-old friend and always look at her very ultra clothes, shoes and -- a wig! I love it. She's adorable.

  29. Kathy: I remember all those drab colors. They were the rage.

    But nothing can replace my cool saddle shoes. Ha!

  30. The saddle shoes were fun but I hated the polishing of the white part.

    I think my Fred Brauns were cool. We had limited funds so my one pair was it.

    I liked the drab colors then, but as I got older I liked bright colors. I discovered that I look good in red and that I have lots of red clothes, and some bright blues and greens. But Red, yes!

  31. Kathy: Yeah, I remember that shoe polish. Ha.

    I'm funny about red. I love it in my decorating - my favorite colors are red and green - but I rarely wear it. I don't know why.

  32. As my hair gets grayer, the red is a big color boost, and one nearly always looks cheerful in red.

    Someone -- a woman friend -- referred to another woman as "an older woman" the other day. I asked what age determines an "older woman?"

    She said an age, which happens to be the age I turned as of my last birthday, and I teased her about it.

    I said "we are not older," just wiser. Our passions are the same.

    That I read in a book by Pat Barker, "Union Street," I think, where an "older" woman is looking in the mirror and says, "I'm the same person as when I was 16. I have the same passion." Yup.

  33. Kathy: I would love to have the complexion for bright red hair. :)

    Oh, the older I get, the older 'older women' get.

  34. One of my neighbors has long curly bright red hair.

    And her little son has curly red hair: so cute.

    She's also a clothing designer so she and her little girl are the most well-dressed people in this neighborhood. .

    The little girl goes off to school every day dressed beautifully, with lots of colors.

    I can see why it's an art form.

    I'd settle for light brown with no gray, but it's really not too bad.


Your comment will appear after I take a look.