Dick Van Who?
Nobody seems to remember that when The Dick Van Dyke Show premiered in 1961. No one actually knew who the heck Dick Van Dyke was.
Van Dyke wasn’t some kind of big-shot superstar before the show changed its name from Head of the Family. The name changed because the original title that Carl Reiner had selected didn’t say much about the sitcom’s nature. A workplace comedy – one of the major reasons why the show was such a landmark achievement for its time.
The network execs started bouncing around different names for the series. At one point, ‘Double Trouble’ was even in the running as potential titles. Then Van Dyke made the astute observation that the The Danny Thomas Show was once called Make Room for Daddy. The only reason why the name was swapped out was because that’s how audiences referred to it.
So, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that Van Dykes show might wind up facing the same fate. Van Dyke also has stated that nobody else could come up with a better name for the show. Part of the reason why the show carried his eponymous name was because of his sheer lack of creativity.
Nobody even questioned whether anyone had ever heard of Dick Van Dyke before. That part didn’t matter much.
A Stellar Cast Of Top Notch Comedians
Making up for the fact that the series lacked a big star for its major television debut. The fact that the cast were all highly experienced theater actors, comedians, and improv extraordinaires. Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam brought their brand of perfect comedic timing to the table.
But you can’t even begin to talk about The Dick Van Dyke Show. Obviously, without bringing up the series real breakout star Mary Tyler Moore. Of course, she went on to spread her influence far and wide. First with her very own workplace situational comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Then as one of the founding creators of MTM Enterprises.
Right out of the gate, Moore clicked well with the cast and crew of The Dick Van Dyke Show. As soon as she showed up for rehearsal on day one, she knew exactly where she was, what she was doing, and how to play her cards successfully to her advantage. She seemed destined for a vibrant career in television.
The cast had some pretty incredible chemistry. If they hadn’t, their show probably wouldn’t be nearly as memorable as it is today.
Dick Initially Didn’t Want Moore
He thought she was much too young to play his wife. The two had an 11-year age difference but he couldn’t deny the fact that they had some serious on-screen compatibility. When the cameras weren’t rolling, the two quickly became close as well. It’s almost impossible to imagine what the Dick Van Dyke show would have looked like without her.
Dick Paid Walt Disney To Be In Mary Poppins
Can you picture anyone else playing the cheery-eyed chimney sweep Bert in Mary Poppins? Its shocking to think that Walt Disney initially turned him down when he inquired about the role. Van Dyke had to beg for the part. At first he offered to do the film for free. At the end of the day he pay the Mickey Mouse media tycoon 4 grand to be in the film. It was an investment he never regretted. He has been quoted as saying that he would do it again if he had to.
Van Dyke And Moore’s Relationship
The public couldn’t help but speculate whether Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke had some kind of romantic fling going on behind the scenes. When you watched the show, you could almost see the sparks flying between the two legendary actors. It’s no wonder that the gossip mill kept pumping our rumors of the two’s romantic connection.
But despite the fact that they both had feelings for each other, neither of them ever pursued their crushes and kept their relationship platonic for professional reasons.
Covering Up Anxiety
Van Dyke had a touch of stage fright when The Dick Van Dyke Show first debuted. When his nerves began to flare, he would develop a big unsightly cold sore that would require the make-up department to spend extra time in an attempt to cover it up from the cameras unforgiving gaze.
He was so dedicated to his work, that nothing else seemed to matter to him. In fact, he was so preoccupied with the show that he would later recall that he didn’t even remember when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated into office. You can’t knock the guy for taking his work life seriously, but hopefully he took some mental health days too, right?
Mary Tyler Moore’s Fashion Sense Was Revolutionary
Although she wasn’t exactly the first woman to ever wear pants on television – Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance both did that from time to time on I Love Lucy – Moore still wore pants often enough to catch the attention of both the American public and The Dick Van Dyke Show’s sponsors.
In the first few scripts of the show, Moore was required to tidy up the house in a dress and high heals, but she couldn’t help but vocalize how insane of an idea she thought that was and insisted upon slipping into something a little more comfortable for many of those scenes.
Moore subsequently went down in history for being a leading public icon for the progressive women’s movement. She helped redefine the way that women were portrayed on television and what was socially acceptable in America.
Mary Tyler Moore’s Mysterious Sickness
While filming The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore began to experience inexplicable and worrisome medical issues. It started off with persistent dizziness but it progressed to weight loss and her vision even began to blur. She assumed that she was just exhausted and experiencing the side effects from the stresses of work but as time went on, these symptoms only became more troublesome for her. Eventually, it was discovered that had Type 1 diabetes, and if she hadn’t been diagnosed when she did she may very well have suffered catastrophic consequences.
By the way, if you’re enjoying this video, make sure you give it a like and subscribe to our channel. And stay tuned to find out who almost played Rob instead of Dick Van Dyke. You won’t believe what superstar was in consideration for the role.
When The Dick Van Dyke show first premiered in the early 60s, the Civil Rights movement was just beginning to gain traction in America. But Hollywood still had to play catch up. At the time, African Americans were still mostly depicted as servants, maids or workers for railroad companies.
One episode in particular really helped push the envelope and inspire Tinseltown to give Black actors more roles on screen. In the episode ‘That’s My Boy??’ Gregg Morris and Mimi Dillard played an African American couple in a prominent role without resorting to racial stereotypes. It was a momentous step forward at the time. Sheldon Leonard later cited this as his favorite episode. He would use the audiences overwhelmingly positive reaction for that episode to leverage the casting of Bill Cosby into another mainstream prominent role in I Spy just a few years later.
It Was Almost Canceled After One Season
CBS wasn’t thrilled with what they were seeing with The Dick Van Dyke Show after season one and in fact the series was briefly canceled. Sheldon Leonard had to beg P&G to sponsor the show and fortunately they granted his wish. CBS didn’t want to lose their newly forged corporate sponsorship, which was going to be making them a lot of money, so they brought the show back. Ironically a few yars later, when most of the cast and crew were ready to call it quits and pursue other opportunities, it was CBS that was doing the begging to keep the show on the air.
Van Dyke Took A Risk
Dick had already made a name for himself when he played Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway. He walked away from that musical with a Tony Award. So to make the jump to television, to be on a brand new sitcom that very well could have failed, was a very risky move for the actor. His bet paid off however as he went on to score 3 Emmy Awards for his work on the iconic show.
Color Was Too Expensive
Even though a ton of shows were produced back in the 60s in color, CBS didn’t want to shell out the money to produce the show in anything but black and white. The budget was already around $50,000 per episode and they didn’t want to exceed that. Season 6 planned on making the move to color but he show was canceled before they could film an episode. CBS did remaster 2 episodes in 2016 in color that you can watch on CBS All-Access.
Just like Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were never depicted as sharing a bed together. Back in the 60s, the world of television was still pretty conservative, but you really have to wonder if audiences found their double twin beds to be wildly unrealistic.
Johnny Carson Almost Played Rob
In an alternate universe, The Johnny Carson Show might very well be a sitcom.
Carl Reiner originally wanted to play the shows lead role but Producer Sheldon Leonard wasn’t a fan of his acting. He wanted a character that audience could relate to. His choices narrowed down to Dick Van Dyke and Johnny Carson.
Even though Carson was turned down for the part, there’s no denying the fact that his career ended up panning out pretty nicely.
If you haven’t given the Dick Van Dyke show a watch in a while, you really owe it to yourself to put it on. When Mary Tyler Moore got her foot stuck in that bath tub at the hotel, that very well might have been one of the funniest episodes in television history.
Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore’s on-screen chemistry can’t be overstated. There was something magical happening on that set and these photos are as close as we are ever going to to get to see what was happening between takes. It makes one wish that they could be something like a time-traveling fly on the wall just to get a closer look.
Who was your favorite character on the Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob or Laura? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
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