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What Fans Don’t Know About the Dick Van Dyke Show

Big Band music swings as the announcer drops the high-spirited line: “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Just then, the titular star barges into the house and proceeds to stumble over the furniture with his trademark happy-go-lucky grin.

Every fan of the show will fondly remember that iconic title sequence for this sitcom.

Premiering in 1961, The Dick Van Dyke show was cutting edge for comedic television. It focused on the life and times of a TV writer named Rob Petrie. It was sharp, witty, compelling, and sported an all-star cast. The critics recognized its importance, too.

In its five-year, 158 episode run, the show earned 25 Emmy nominations and won 15.

Today, The Dick Van Dyke show is still heralded as one of the best. It holds down the 13th spot on TV Guide’s “50 greatest tv shows of all time” list.

However, there are some interesting stories and curious bits of trivia that haven’t been heard.

Keep watching to discover what even the most diehard fans don’t know about the Dick Van Dyke show.

The Series was Carl Reiner’s Brainchild

Though Dick Van Dyke is the face and the name behind the show, the idea was actually conceived by Carl Reiner.

Carl Reiner was a writer for the NBC variety series Your Show of Shows. Younger viewers may recognize Reiner as Saul Bloom from the Oceans 11 series.

But it was during his work in the 1950s at NBC when Reiner developed the idea for a show about a TV writer.

Reiner wanted to call the series Head of the Family and he also planned on starring.

When he pitched the idea to famed television producer Sheldon Leonard, the mind behind The Andy Griffith Show, he was over the moon.

However, Leonard was hesitant over the idea of Reiner being the lead actor. Instead, the executive chose Dick Van Dyke for the part.

Yet, Reiner was still credited as the creator and head writer for the series. And while he didn’t play the lead, Reiner still got a role. He played the recurring part of the boss, Alan Brady

Johnny Carson Nearly Starred in the Show

Carl Reiner wasn’t the only name originally attached in the lead role of Rob Petrie.

The executive knew if they landed a really big star, this new sitcom could really be special. A few names were kicked around until they landed on Johnny Carson.

Though this was before he was a mainstay on TV, they still thought he had the comedic chops for the part. 

So confident were they that Carson was a finalist for the part alongside Van Dyke.

Finally, the award was awarded to Dick Van Dyke. They thought he brought more of a brand to the show. Not to mention, Van Dyke had just finished his run on the smash-hit Broadway musical Bye, Bye Birdie.

However, Carson ended up have a nice career as the face of the Tonight Show for 30 years.

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The Theme Song Had Lyrics

Remember, that opening title sequence everyone loves? Well, it may have been much different.

It turns out that the vibrant Big Band orchestra had accompanying lyrics.

Morey Amsterdam, the actor who plays Buddy Sorell in the supporting cast, wrote lyrics for The Dick Van Dyke theme.

Because the studio chose instead to use the instrumental-only version, not many people knew or remembered the words.

However, in 2010 Dick Van Dyke gave a treat to his fans. In an interview with NPR, he revealed the lyrics to the theme song.

A few years later, Van Dyke went a step further and sang the song lyrics alongside the music in a video for the series.

Though they didn’t end up using Morey Amsterdam’s lyrics, his character still appeared in every single episode of the show.

Danny Thomas Recommended a Key Actress

Danny Thomas was a mainstay on television throughout the 50s and 60s. He was the comedic and musical mind behind the series Make Room for Daddy. The show was so much his that CBS later renamed it to The Danny Thomas Show.

However, he also played a role in making The Dick Van Dyke show what it was.

 When he was casting The Danny Thomas show, a young actress named Mary Tyler Moore auditioned to play his daughter.

She crushed the audition, but Thomas thought she was too cute to believably play the part. Yet, he never forgot how talented she was.

Years later, Thomas was tapped to be a producer on the Dick Van Dyke Show. This time during casting Thomas personally recommended Mary Tyler Moore for the part of Laura Petrie.

The producers took his advice and the recommendation helped launch Mary Tyler Moore to superstardom.

The Show Originally Focused on Rose Marie as the Female Lead

Looking back, Mary Tyler Moore was clearly the female lead on the Dick Van Dyke show. Truthfully, it was her breakout role.

However, this was not always going to be the direction for the show. Before Mary Tyler Moore came aboard, the plot was going to focus more on Rose Marie’s character.

Rose Marie played the colleague of Rob Petrie, Sally Rodgers. Marie had an extensive background in song and comedy and the part was tailored to showcase her skills.

Yet, during testing, the produces realized the audience loved Mary Tyler Moore. The response was so positive that the series was altered to give her an expanded role.

Rose Marie was not thrilled about being put in the back seat. In fact, this was a point of contention between her and Carl Reiner.

In hindsight, Marie claimed she still enjoyed the series and was proud of her role.

Who knows what the show would have been like if she remained the main star?

The Show Blazed a Trail for Female Characters

Rose Marie wasn’t just proud of her acting in The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Her character Sally Rodgers was pretty progressive in the way it portrayed women.

Marie was pleased to not be put in the role of a housekeeper like so many other series had done with female characters.

Rodgers wasn’t merely a secretary or an errand runner, either. She was a professional writer for the TV station she worked at.  She had an integral role collaborating with Rob Petrie on content.

Marie’s character had a strong fan base. She recalls many occasions where girls would thank her and claim it was because of her portrayal on the show that they became writers in the industry.

Though Mary Tyler Moore was cast as the wife, she had her own idea of how the housekeeper should act. As she was a mother in real life, she knew TV housewives were not an accurate portrayal. She had a lot of input into how her character would act and her appearance.

It was a breath of fresh air for audiences. Her character had a powerful impact on women.

Dick Van Dyke Had Alcohol Issues

Though Dick Van Dyke was a lightning rod of outgoing comedy on screen, this was not his true personality.

In reality, Van Dyke admitted he was shy and introverted. To help with his anxiety, he used alcohol. This habit started a slippery slope for the actor.

It became so bad that Van Dyke had to check himself into rehab. Since getting help, he has actually been quite open about his alcohol struggles.

However, talking about his dark secret has had a silver lining.

Dick Van Dyke pointed out since he publicly admitted his issues, he has received letters from other addicts who were no longer afraid to admit they had a problem.

This has led to many people getting help– something Van Dyke is very proud of.

The Series was Nearly Cancelled

Although The Dick Van Dyke show lasted five years, it barely made it through the first season.

As previously mentioned, the writing was cutting edge in the comedy department. Out of the gates, the show did not resonate with many viewers.

CBS was prepared to cancel the show after its initial run. They were going to chalk it up as another failed experiment.

When word got out that the show was about to get the ax, one of the advertisers defended it. Proctor & Gamble, the daytime television advertisers, were huge fans.

They told the executive that if they canceled the Dick Van Dyke Show, they were prepared to pull all of their ad space revenue.

Not willing to take this chance, CBS reconsidered. They decided to place the show into a new time slot. Apparently, they found the sweet spot. The ratings showed a huge spike in viewership.

Ultimately, it lasted 158 episodes. It would have run longer but the cast and creators decided to quit while they were on top.

For fans, after hearing what Proctor & Gamble did, commercial breaks probably don’t seem so annoying anymore.

These are a few of the things fans of the Dick Van Dyke show might not have known. Though, it’s not surprising a show as iconic as this has a few good stories and bits of trivia behind the scenes.

So, what do you think? Did you learn something new about the series? Does the Dick Van Dyke show hold up as one of the best sitcoms ever? Sound off in the comments below.

And remember, if you enjoyed this video, give us a like and consider subscribing to the Facts Verse Page.


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