Reviewed in the United States on October 23, 2003
Image Entertainment's October 21st, 2003, DVD-Video release of "The Dick Van Dyke Show Season One" is a superior example of TV-on-DVD. Just about as close to "perfect" as you could get, in my opinion.
The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran for five seasons on CBS-TV from 1961-1966, seems as fresh, funny, and (above all) REAL today as it did all those years ago, when it barely was able to survive its rocky, low-rated first season.
This glorious 5-Disc set contains each of the 30 first-season programs. We also get the exceptionally-nice bonus of the series' original pilot, "Head Of The Family", created by resident series genius Carl Reiner, which starred Reiner himself as Rob Petrie, along with a completely different group of actors portraying the show's other characters. The CBS pilot was telecast in July 1960, which was its only network airing.
Every facet of this DVD set is a treasure of gold. Everything! Starting with the classy packaging, with the outer slipcase representing a facsimile of an old-fashioned B&W TV (right down to the simulated "vent holes" on the back).
The "TV" image shown on the front of the slipcase has Rob Petrie falling over the living-room ottoman, taken from the opening credits of the show (not the first-year credits however, which don't have the "ottoman" opening sequence).
The front-of-the-box picture (which is actually a removable insert card which can be slid in and out of the mock "TV screen") will yield a "motion picture" effect when tilted from side to side, or up and down. If you move the picture just right, you'll see this nice 3D-like effect, with Rob starting out in a standing position, and then proceeding to fall over the ottoman. Very cool!
The five discs are housed in separate "ThinPak" DVD cases, which each has a different picture on the front. These cover art images are excellent, and can be looked upon to represent a mini "Photo Gallery" in and of themselves. There are also some additional still photos on the back (and on the inside) of each slim plastic case, along with complete episode information for that particular disc, including episode numbers, film dates, original air dates, and a short synopsis for each program. Chapter stops are also included.
A small 4-page printed insert also comes in this package. This mini-booklet provides some informative general information and "Did You Know?" fun facts concerning The Dick Van Dyke Show and its cast.
Apart from the programs themselves, the large amount of effort utilized in creating just this first-rate packaging is readily apparent.
Each single-sided disc has either six or seven full-length, unedited episodes. Each program has a running time of just a tad more than 25 minutes, including the beginning and ending credits. So we know they're the full programs, without any scenes cut out, which is excellent indeed. For marathon lovers, there is a "Play All Episodes" feature, for uninterrupted continuous viewing of that disc's programs.
VIDEO .... The picture quality is excellent on these DVDs. Considering the considerable age of these programs, I think it's safe to say, due to the intense and very lengthy restoration and remastering process that was undertaken here, that these episodes have never looked any better.
The black-and-white photography is very sharp and clear, bringing out some details you probably never knew were even there while watching these episodes originally in the 1960s on the smaller 19-inch monitors of the era.
A few of these Season-One episodes do suffer from some slight "fluttering" (for lack of a better term). That is to say, some portions of a few episodes have a bit of a "blurred" look to them in some scenes (particularly noticeable in the "wider" shots, as opposed to the close-ups, which aren't marked by the curious "flutter").
This slight imperfection in video quality (which affects just a few random episodes) isn't enough of a distraction, however, to reduce the enjoyment of any of these first-year Van Dyke programs (IMHO). And I'm guessing that this "flutter"/"blur" problem that exists on some of the episodes probably won't even be noticed by viewers who watch these DVDs on a smaller TV screen. On a larger screen, you might notice more irregularities and anomalies.
AUDIO .... There's a very adequate Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack employed for each episode. This original mono sound does very nicely. All dialogue is easily heard and understood. No subtitles are included.
EXTRAS .... An amazing wealth of bonus material has been assembled for this boxed set (as well as its Season-Two sister set, which actually contains even more bonus stuff than this volume). Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner provide commentary tracks for two episodes ("Where Did I Come From?" and "The Sleeping Brother").
Other bonuses include -- Retrospective interviews and featurettes with the cast and crew, Emmy Awards clips (which are great fun to see, transporting us back to the 1960s with the click of a remote button), photo galleries for many of the episodes, network promos, and some original commercial spots. It's a fabulous amount of added-value content for a TV program from the early 1960s.
In addition, there's a small extra feature on selected discs called "Ottoman Tripper", which, when selected, reveals a single trivia question about the Van Dyke Show, with 4 possible answers. Selecting the correct answer will reveal a snippet of the opening credits of the show in which Rob Petrie sidesteps the ottoman upon entering the living room. If an incorrect choice is selected, you get a clip of Rob tripping over the ottoman, with added "crashing" sound effects. A cute little bonus, again emphasizing the devotion and care the creators of these DVDs have taken in producing this product.
Rounding out the extras, there's a "Meet The Cast" feature (which is text only), with some brief bio-style information about the show's cast members.
MENUS .... The menu structure is simple and easy to navigate. Each episode has its own separate Sub-Menu, which features chapter selections and a few "screen captures" for that episode. Highlighting the icon marked "Extras" takes you to all the special features that are specific to that episode. A "Special Features" option can also be accessed from the disc's Main Menu as well.
Coming up next is a complete Episode List for Season One of "The Dick Van Dyke Show", which consists of 30 programs, all of which are showcased in this picture-perfect, five-disc DVD boxed set. (And don't forget about that bonus 31st program in this collection -- that being the original Van Dyke pilot.)
This episode list reflects the order in which the programs are presented within this DVD collection, arranged in sequence by "Production Date" (the date of filming the show), which does not always necessarily match the "Air Date" chronology.
I've also included the original CBS-TV air dates, plus selected episode descriptions for some of my favorite first-season shows, and some funny quotes from some of the programs as well......
"HEAD OF THE FAMILY" (PILOT) --- Starring Carl Reiner in the role of Rob Petrie. Featuring Barbara Britton as Laura, Morty Gunty as Buddy Sorrell, and Sylvia Miles as Sally Rogers.
The "Pilot" episode ultimately evolved, more than a year later, into what would become "The Dick Van Dyke Show". "Head Of The Family" was filmed in early December of 1958, but it didn't receive its one and only network TV airing until more than a year-and-a-half later, when CBS aired it on Tuesday, July 19, 1960.
THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW -- SEASON #1 (1961-1962):
1. The Sick Boy And The Sitter (First Aired: 10/3/1961) .... The premiere episode of the series does a fine job of introducing America to Rob and Laura Petrie (and company). Young son Ritchie is a little under the weather, and Laura senses that something bad is about to happen at home when she reluctantly agrees to attend a party with Rob at Alan Brady's house.
The assorted talents of Dick Van Dyke, Morey Amsterdam, and Rose Marie are put on display during the "party" scene at Alan's house. Mary Tyler Moore's considerable dancing and comedic talents, however, aren't fully realized in this debut show; but those MTM traits shine through nicely in the episodes soon to follow.
Ritchie Petrie (played by 5-year-old Larry Mathews) is given numerous funny lines in this pilot program, and he's never cuter than in this first episode of the series. .... "Do I feel hungry, mommy?" :)
2. The Meerschatz Pipe (11/28/1961) .... Rob is the one who gets sick in episode #2, with his ego and pride taking a beating when he feels he's not needed down at the office. .... "I sound this way because my wife thinks I've got a cold."
3. Jealousy! (11/7/1961) .... A first-rate episode, highlighting Laura's insecurities when Rob has to work late at the office with a beautiful female, "Valerie Blake", who is guest-starring on "The Alan Brady Show". .... "You've been very busy blakely!"
4. Sally And The Lab Technician (10/17/1961) .... "I can't remember when I laughed that much. I found myself laughing out loud -- right out loud!"
5. Washington vs. The Bunny (10/24/1961)
6. Oh How We Met The Night That We Danced (10/31/1961) .... A great flashback episode, the first of many such "Go Back In Time" eps., detailing how Rob and Laura first met while Rob was in the Army. .... "Oh, she's noticed you alright; she just hasn't liked what she's noticed."
7. The Unwelcome House Guest (11/21/1961)
8. Harrison B. Harding Of Camp Crowder, Mo. (11/6/1961) .... One of my all-time favorite episodes. When Harrison B. Harding drops by for a visit, Rob can't seem to remember who this guy is. To his later embarrassment, Rob calls the police on Mr. Harding after deciding Harrison might be some kind of shady character. .... "Give me a napkin, quick! -- Tomato juice in my ear."
Just after the hilarious "tomato juice in my ear" portion of this episode, watch carefully as Rob ever-so-gently places the glass back onto the exact same part of the wall where he had it previously. (It must have left a 'ring', and Rob didn't want to create a second such ring. LOL!)
9. My Blonde-Haired Brunette (10/10/1961) .... This extremely-funny Van Dyke entry has Laura deciding to dye her hair blonde in order to spice up her marriage. But she soon regrets that decision. .... "I told you, I never dyed before!" .... "And the GRAY HAIR!!" :)
10. Forty-Four Tickets (12/5/1961) .... Rob's faulty memory causes him some problems in this episode (44 problems to be precise). Watch for Rob's/Dick's outstanding (and seemingly-effortless) head-over-heels pratfall at the very beginning of this show.
11. To Tell Or Not To Tell (11/14/1961)
12. Sally Is A Girl (12/19/1961)
13. Empress Carlotta's Necklace (12/12/1961) .... This episode is a favorite of mine. It features just about everything that makes this TV series so fabulous and timeless and charming -- e.g., great "natural" humor brought out by life's ordinary occurrences, plus the genuinely-heartfelt tenderness and love that exists between the two main characters (Rob and Laura Petrie). We can really feel Laura's sincerity in the scene where she apologizes to Rob for having suggested giving the necklace to Rob's mom.
This episode gets five full stars (and then some). Future "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Gavin MacLeod puts in a very funny performance here as Mel Cooley's jewelry-selling cousin, "Maxwell", who (like Mel) is bald as a cue ball.
"You see, Maxwell doesn't have any overhead." --> "Kind of runs in the family, don't it?" .... "It looks like a chandelier!" .... "You'd better take that mirror away before she floods the living room." .... "Shoehorn!" :)
14. Buddy, Can You Spare A Job? (12/26/1961)
15. Who Owes Who What? (1/24/1962) .... "Here's three dollars -- I owe you seventeen."
16. Sol And The Sponsor (4/11/1962) .... "You're both named Henry? That's crazy!"
17. The Curious Thing About Women (1/10/1962) .... A classic. A first-class script, a curious female named Laura, and lots of very funny moments. .... "Honey, did a package come for me?" :-)
18. Punch Thy Neighbor (1/17/1962) .... Another fave, with Jerry Paris (as neighbor Jerry Helper) playing a major role here. Frank Adamo, frequently seen in small bit parts throughout the series, pops up again in this episode. He plays the "Singing-Telegram Messenger", and he gets to read (sing) a very funny rhyming message sent to Rob by the wisecracking Jerry. ....
"Robert Petrie wrote a show,
Supposed to be funny, ho-ho-ho;
Look how far this man has gotten,
Writing shows that are really rotten!"
19. Where Did I Come From? (1/3/1962) .... Another top-notch flashback entry in the series. Rob's physical humor is the standout here. The "Perfectly-Placed Hat On The Bedboard" scene is always worthy of a big laugh, no matter how many times you've seen it. .... "Oh, I really need my pants today, Rob; I'm having lunch with the sponsor."
20. The Boarder Incident (2/14/1962)
21. A Word A Day (2/7/1962)
22. The Talented Neighborhood (1/31/1962) .... Will Rob survive the agony of the annual "Most Talented Child" contest? .... Watch for character actor Ken Lynch in a highly-unusual role for him -- incredibly, he's NOT playing a policeman.
23. Father Of The Week (2/21/1962)
24. The Twizzle (2/28/1962)
25. One Angry Man (3/7/1962) .... Funny "lone juror holdout" episode. Rob, naturally, is the only juror voting "not guilty". The scenes in the courtroom highlight this show. .... "What's the matter with the way I ogled her?"
26. Where You Been, Fassbinder? (3/14/1962)
27. The Bad Old Days (4/4/1962)
28. I Am My Brother's Keeper (3/21/1962) **
29. The Sleeping Brother (3/28/1962) **
30. The Return Of Happy Spangler (4/18/1962) .... Season One concludes with more first-rate physical humor from Dick Van Dyke. Rob's lecture about the art of comedy is the highlight here. In lesser-talented hands, this "lecture" would not have been nearly as funny. But Dick has that magic "something" that can turn a scene that might otherwise be "ordinary" into pure comic gold.
** = Two-Part Episode
How about some intriguing "Dick Van Dyke Show Season 1" Trivia & Miscellany? OK, here's some for you:
>> Many people have labeled Rob & Laura Petrie as "America's First Couple of TV", likening the attractive and photogenic TV husband-and-wife duo to that of the real-life "First Couple" of the day, John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. In addition to this purely sentimental and cosmetic "connection" made between the two couples, there are also two other very interesting pieces of information that closely tie the Kennedys to the fictional Petrie clan. .....
Many fans of the show might not realize that both of these "First Couples" made their debuts on the exact same date. On Friday, January 20, 1961, JFK was inaugurated as the nation's 35th President; while later that very same day, the premiere episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" ("The Sick Boy And The Sitter") was filmed in Hollywood. (The show wouldn't be aired, however, until more than eight months later.)
>> Another Kennedy/Van Dyke Show tie-in occurred in 1958, when actor Peter Lawford, JFK's brother-in-law, forked over the cash to finance the filming of Carl Reiner's pilot, "Head Of The Family". With another interesting Kennedy twist being the fact that in order for the project to go forward, it appears that the Kennedy patriarch himself, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., had to personally green-light Carl Reiner's script with a positive review of the material.
The elder Kennedy evidently did indeed give a thumbs-up to the pilot script, because just days after reading it, Lawford issued the funds to support its production. So, I suppose one could argue that if it weren't for the backing of the Kennedy clan, we might not have ever seen "The Dick Van Dyke Show" make it into production. (Although, even without the aid of the powerful Kennedy family's financial assistance, it's doubtful whether the writing talents of Mr. Reiner would have remained hidden from public view for very long.)
>> Each first-season episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" cost about $40,000 to produce. That figure is practically pocket change by today's TV production-cost standards, with many of today's television shows costing millions of dollars per episode to produce.
>> The original January 1961 Desilu Studios Production Schedule listed the premiere episode of the Van Dyke series as "Carl Reiner Show: All In A Day's Work--Pilot", a title that was never used. The official title of the show had not yet been finalized at the time of the first show's filming.
>> This Season-One DVD treasure chest contains one of the very best Mary Tyler Moore/Laura Petrie "crying jags" of the whole series -- in the episode "My Blonde-Haired Brunette", which features a nifty-looking half-blonde/half-brunette Laura Petrie. That was the episode which solidified the comedic acting talents of Mary Tyler Moore in the eyes of Carl Reiner (and everybody else who worked on the show). It didn't take Mary very long to go from "That Girl With Three Names" (just before she was cast in the part, when nobody could remember what her name was) to an acting force to be reckoned with. The rest, as they say, is history. :)
Long live "The Dick Van Dyke Show"! .... And now it now WILL live on and prosper, thanks to Image Entertainment's beautifully-done season-by-season DVD compilations.