The Dick Van Dyke Show: 50th Anniversary
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The Dick Van Dyke Show premiered on CBS on October 3, 1961. Fifty years and 15 Emmys later, it is still considered by many to be one of the greatest sitcoms ever produced. In fact, TV Guide put the show at number 13 on its list of the “50 Greatest TV Shows of All-Time.” What better way to celebrate the show’s golden anniversary than with some golden nuggets of pop culture goodness? Here are 50 facts for 50 years:
1. The original pilot for the show was called Head of the Family. It starred series creator Carl Reiner as Rob Petrie, Barbara Britton as Laura Petrie and Sylvia Miles as Sally Rogers. However, executives found the show too “intellectual” and “New York,” and ordered it re-cast.
2. Had Dick Van Dyke turned down the role of Rob Petrie, it would have been played by Johnny Carson.
3. Van Dyke left his Tony Award-winning role in the Broadway hit Bye Bye Birdie to do the show, something he considered a huge risk.
4. Approximately 60 actresses auditioned for the role of Laura Petrie.
5. Mary Tyler Moore didn’t want to go to her initial audition and had to be persuaded by her agent.
6. Van Dyke was initially against the casting of Moore, as he thought she was too young to believably play his wife.
7. It was Rose Marie who suggested Morey Amsterdam for the role of Buddy Sorrell.
8. Richard Deacon was pulling double duty during his first year on the show; in addition to playing Mel Cooley on The Dick Van Dyke Show, he was also still portraying Fred Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver.
9. Earle Hagen, composer of the show’s theme song, also wrote the theme songs for The Mod Squad, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and That Girl.
10.The lyrics to the show’s famed theme song were written by co-star Morey Amsterdam. Don’t remember the lyrics? That’s because they were never actually used. But they do exist.
11.The character of Rob Petrie was based on show creator Carl Reiner.
12.The character of Buddy Sorrell was based on actor/writer/director Mel Brooks.
13.The character of Alan Brady was reported to be based on the actor Sid Caesar. Carl Reiner has said the character was based on a combination of Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason and several other unnamed people, but not Sid Caesar. However, it was producer, director and toupee-wearer Max Liebman who was the inspiration for Brady’s ongoing toupee fiascos.
14.The character of Sally Rogers was based on TV writers Lucille Kallen and Selma Diamond.
15.The show was produced by Calvada Productions. This name came into existence by combining the names of all of the show’s key players – Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard, Dick Van Dyke and Danny Thomas. In one episode, Leonard actually played the character Max Calvada, in tribute.
16.Ann Morgan Guilbert, who played Petrie neighbor Millie Helper, was pregnant in real life during the show’s first season. However, as this was not written into the script, great pains were taken to hide her growing belly.
17.It is rumored that Moore lied to producers about her age to get the role. This was addressed in a later episode, in which Rob and Laura have to get remarried because Laura lied about her age when they first met.
18.The episode “My Blonde-Haired Brunette” was shot as the ninth episode, but aired as the second. This is because Reiner was so impressed with Moore that he wanted to showcase her in an episode as soon as he could.
19.Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore both admitted to having crushes on one another during production, although they never acted upon it. They remain close friends to this day.
20.Originally, the female lead was meant to be Sally Rogers with Laura Petrie as a minor role. However, as Mary Tyler Moore’s popularity soared, the roles were reversed and Rose Marie got reduced. Although they got along, this did cause a strain in the actress’ relationship.
21.There were three variations on the opening credit sequence. One in which the character of Rob Petrie would fall over an ottoman, one in which he would side step the ottoman and a third, rarely seen version in which he fell and then stumbled.
22.According to Van Dyke, viewers would often make bets during the opening credits about whether his character would or would not trip over the ottoman.
23.The show was canceled after its first season. It stayed on the air because producer Sheldon Leonard personally asked companies to sponsor them. Proctor & Gamble and Kent Cigarettes both agreed and CBS agreed to keep the show.
24.Ironically, when the show went off the air for a good five years later, CBS begged the cast and crew to stay.
25.During the filming of the episodes sponsored by Kent Cigarettes, free cigarettes were passed out to the cast and crew. Mary Tyler Moore, then a smoker, took the cigarettes given to non-smokers and traded them in at a local store for her preferred brand.
26.The reason Alan Brady’s face wasn’t shown initially was that Reiner wanted to get a big star to portray the role. Ultimately, however, Reiner ended up playing the role himself.
27.The first episode shot without a live studio audience was “The Bad Old Days,” an episode that aired in early April 1962. This was because the episode featured a sped-up dream sequence and shooting with an audience was deemed impractical.
28.Another episode shot without an audience was “Happy Birthday and Too Many More.” The episode was shot on the day of JFK’s assassination, and it was determined that no one would want to laugh during such a somber time.
29.The network was initially against the character of Laura wearing pants, as housewives traditionally wore dresses. To address the situation, a scene was shot in which Laura went into the kitchen in pants and came back out a second later in a dress. Producers won the argument and the pants stayed.
30.Needless to say, the spike in Capri pant sales that year was attributed to the show.
31.Both Van Dyke and his character hail from the same hometown – Danville, Illinois.
32.When Rose Marie’s husband Bobby Guy passed away in 1964, the grief-stricken actress wanted to leave the show. Director John Rich talked her out of it.
33.Laura’s maiden name was originally Meeker, but following Moore’s divorce to her first husband, Richard Meeker, it was changed to Meehan.
34.Carl Reiner would use true-life stories from the cast and crew as inspiration for many episodes.
35.The show was almost filmed in color during its third season, but the idea was nixed due to the cost.
36.In 2004, the character of Rob Petrie was voted by TV Guide as the 22nd greatest TV dad of all time.
37.All songs performed on the show were pre-recorded and actors would lip-sync during taping.
38.Van Dyke’s personal assistant and stand-in, Frank Adamo, appeared in a variety of minor roles over the show’s run.
39.Van Dyke was so nervous during production of the pilot that he developed a cold sore on his upper lip requiring additional makeup. He also claims the stress caused him to have no recollection of JFK’s inauguration, which occurred on the same day as the taping.
40.Van Dyke’s brother, Jerry, played his brother on the show. Jerry Van Dyke’s character’s name? Stacey - the name of Dick’s real-life daughter.
41.In an effort to give the show timeless appeal, the writers were careful not to use any 1960’s slang.
42.Reiner’s son, Rob, suggested a young comedian named Bill Cosby perform for the cast and crew. It was that performance that inspired producer Sheldon Leonard to cast Cosby in I Spy.
43.Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam both appeared in the same number of episodes, 131.
44.Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam also didn’t appear in the same number of episodes, 27.
45.Mary Tyler Moore started experiencing dizziness, weight loss and blurred vision during the run of the show. She attributed them to stress and ignored them, but later found out they were actually symptoms of Type 1 diabetes.
46.Reiner temporarily relieved himself of producer duties during the last season to star in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. It proved to be a good decision, as the film would go on to be nominated for six Oscars and win the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Comedy/Musical).
47.Morey Amsterdam claims that the show’s 1966-1967 season would have been shot in color had Van Dyke not decided to end his run on the show. However, this directly contradicts Reiner who claims he made the decision himself to shut the show down at its fifth season.
48.The show was an inspiration for the 1990’s sitcom Mad About You, so much so, in fact, that Reiner reprised the role of Alan Brady for a 1995 episode.
49.The show ran in syndication from 1991 to 2007.
50.For reasons unknown, seven of the show’s episodes lapsed into the public domain.
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