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The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series(TV) (1961-1966)
Welcome one of TV's funniest couples ever into your living room. You'll be laughing hysterically as you join Rob Petrie struggling with the ups and downs of work and home, aided and agitated by his lovely wife Laura. Adding to the fun are Rob's wisecracking co-workers Sally and Buddy, long-suffering Mel Cooly and hot-tempered boss Alan Brady.
For more about The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series and the The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray release, see the The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on November 21, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Richard Deacon, Carl Reiner
Directors: Jerry Paris, John Rich
» See full cast & crew
The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review
The Ottoman Empire
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, November 21, 2012
Whether or not you have ever watched The Dick Van Dyke Show (or "DVDS" for short), you live in a sitcom world that DVDS helped to invent. The show's impact goes beyond mere influence. Its DNA is embedded in today's comedy in much the same way that our ancestors' genes determine our cellular composition. But don't take my word for it. A roster of influential comics, many of them featured in the TV Academy tribute included on this Blu-ray set, can attest to DVDS's influence. Among them are Paul Reiser, who based Mad About You on DVDS, and Ray Romano, who drew on DVDS for inspiration to create Everybody Loves Raymond. No less an authority than Chuck Lorre, co-creator of The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and Roseanne, has testified to the centrality of DVDS in American comedy. In one of the "vanity cards" appearing at the end of each of his shows, Lorre offered "The Sitcom Writers' Prayer" (no. 285; May 3, 2010):
Lord, if it be thy will, give unto us a story that has lots of comic potential while simultaneously exploring and defining our characters and their relationships (preferably something that hasn't been done on Dick Van Dyke or Friends).The prayer isn't Lorre's only nod to DVDS. He also pays tribute at every opportunity to the prolific TV producer, Sheldon Leonard, who saw the potential in DVDS when everyone, even its creator, Carl Reiner, was ready to abandon it. It was Leonard who pushed the show onto CBS, directed the initial episodes and remained a creative force behind the camera throughout the next five years. If the name "Sheldon Leonard" sounds familiar, it's because Chuck Lorre gave his late boss two namesakes in The Big Bang Theory's physicist roommates, Drs. Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter. Like much of the great comedy of the latter 20th Century, DVDS was spawned from the writers' room of Sid Cesar's Your Show of Shows. The same school of laughter that produced Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart also left a young writer named Carl Reiner looking for a job when Cesar's show ended. He quickly penned thirteen scripts for a half-hour sitcom about a family man like himself who worked as a writer on a variety show ruled by a temperamental host. With himself in the leading role, Reiner raised enough money to film a pilot episode under the title Head of the Family—and it bombed. No one wanted it. (Reiner's pilot is included in the extras.) Actor-turned-producer Leonard spotted the problem, which was that Reiner was no good at playing himself. (Leonard's disciple, Chuck Lorre, would later codify this as the "landfill" principle, which holds that, without the right casting, even the best material might as well be landfill.) Leonard told Reiner, you should produce the show, but get someone else to play you. Then Leonard suggested Dick Van Dyke. It may or may not be true, but many people interviewed for the DVD and Blu-ray extras claim that their first reaction upon hearing that name was: What's a "Dick Van Dyke"?
In 1961, when the show that would ultimately bear his name was being developed, Dick Van Dyke was a newly minted star on Broadway in the original production of Bye Bye Birdie. Having auditioned for a small part, Van Dyke was astonished to find himself cast in the lead by veteran director and choreographer Gower Champion, who liked the way Van Dyke moved. Van Dyke protested that he couldn't dance. "We'll teach you", replied Champion, who knew that steps could be learned, but innate physical grace was a gift. Van Dyke went on to win a Tony award for Bye Bye Birdie and star in the 1963 movie. If he had been born in an earlier era, Van Dyke could have joined the ranks of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin or his idol, Stan Laurel. Instead, he grew up watching these great physical clowns of the silent screen and spent hours practicing their moves. Blessed with a string bean body, rubbery features and, as Carl Reiner would later say, apparently no bones to break, Van Dyke had an infinite capacity for taking pratfalls, rearranging his features and performing expressive pantomime. But Van Dyke's gifts weren't limited to gestures; his physical feats were amplified by a dramatic talent that made him an ideal performer for TV. He could tumble over the furniture onto the ground, then lift his head off the floor and exchange dialogue with other actors in the scene—and remain engaged and credible throughout. In Van Dyke, Reiner found the ideal partner with whom to create the character of Rob Petrie, a suburban husband and father who, like other husbands and fathers, got up, got dressed, had breakfast, kissed his wife and son goodbye and went into the city to an office with a desk—except that Rob's desk job wasn't like any other, because Rob wrote comedy. Just under the surface, he was also a performer himself, and throughout the show's first season, the brilliance of Reiner's initial conception became evident as the scripts shifted fluidly between Rob's two identities. The comic looney would often burst out at home, while the strait-laced suburbanite would just as often have to take the stage in the writers' room at work to corral the chaos. (Note that it's primarily in the first season that co-worker Buddy Sorrell ribs Rob about his college education. In later seasons, they behave more as equals.) The theme of dual personalities became explicit in the two-part episode that Reiner wrote for Van Dyke's brother, Jerry, who appeared as Rob's brother, Stacy. In the show, Stacy really did suffer from a split identity manifested through sleepwalking (episodes 26 and 27). When awake, Stacy was shy and retiring; when asleep, he was the life of the party. Rob's own "secret identity" became a delicate subject in episode 22, where Rob had to visit his son's school and explain what he did for a living. His son, Ritchie, was embarrassed, because his dad's job was boring. Sure enough, Rob stumbled before the class, as he tried to explain how to write a comedy sketch. Then he stumbled for real, the kids laughed, and Rob instantly began clowning like a pro (which, in fact, he was). The season's conclusion (episode 30) featured Rob's co-authoring a wild slapstick sketch with the retired writer who gave him his first job. To persuade his co-workers that it was a good idea, he had to perform the whole thing, and by the end you wondered why it was called "The Alan Brady Show" and not "The Rob Petrie Show". (Of course, it really was Rob's show. For the first few seasons, Alan Brady was seen only from behind, though he eventually emerged in full figure in the person of Carl Reiner himself, joyfully out-Cesar-ing Cesar in the department of megalomania. Revenge is a dish best served cold and on national TV.) Though Reiner's concept of a comedy writer's home life provided DVDS's initial inspiration, its longevity resulted from the rich material provided by its ensemble cast, whom Reiner was not shy about tapping for script ideas. The show's single biggest discovery was Mary Tyler Moore, who was a 23-year-old unknown when she was cast as Laura Petrie (pronounced "Laurie" for the show's first season). Previously seen primarily as the legs of the answering service on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Moore was suggested by Danny Thomas, a co-producer of DVDS, who had almost hired her several years earlier to play his daughter on Make Room for Daddy. (Thomas decided against her, he later said, because no one would believe that a woman with Moore's petite nose could have a father with Thomas' legendary schnoz.) Reiner claims that, as soon as Moore walked into his office and spoke one word, he grabbed her and walked her down to Sheldon Leonard's office, exclaiming, "I found her!" Moore and Van Dyke had instant chemistry. The production code of the era mandated that the Petries sleep in twin beds, but Moore and Van Dyke played a married couple so credibly that much of the public believed they were married. (They were, but not to each other.) Moore was more than a romantic partner, though. She quickly established herself as the most gifted comedienne on TV since Lucille Ball. Van Dyke has said repeatedly that he has never seen anyone pick up comic timing so quickly. In Moore's hands, Laura Petrie became an unexpectedly multi-dimensional character who was every bit her husband's equal in all aspects of their marriage, both good and bad. She could be just as devious, just as needy, just as foolish and, when necessary, just as resourceful and intelligent.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Video Quality
When The Dick Van Dyke Show was first announced for Blu-ray, some questioned whether a black-and-white television show from the 1960s would reveal anything new in high definition. The screenshots accompanying this review should answer the question, but there's additional explanation. DVDS was shot on 35mm film, and the cinematographer for all five seasons was Robert De Grasse, A.S.C., who had been shooting films in Hollywood since the days of silents. De Grasse's feature film credits included Stage Door with Katherine Hepburn, The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer with Cary Grant and Shirley Temple, and The Miracle of the Bells with Fred MacMurray and Frank Sinatra. By the 1950s, De Grasse had made the switch to TV, where he worked on such programs as Amos 'n' Andy, Our Miss Brooks, I Love Lucy and The Bill Dana Show. The last was a Sheldon Leonard production, which is presumably how De Grasse ended up on DVDS. It turned out to be an ideal match. As the show's producer, Carl Reiner was notorious for his refusal to compromise on quality; the stories are legion throughout the extras on this Blu-ray set. As a cameraman, De Grasse couldn't help but light TV as if it were a feature film, even though the results would be viewed on 19" screens at a fraction of their resolution. (De Grasse would no doubt sympathize with today's cinematographers who see their work being consumed on tiny handhelds.) When he died in 1971, De Grasse couldn't have imagined that he'd miraculously "future-proofed" his work for the day when, fifty years after the fact, an enterprising Blu-ray producer and publisher could finally present it as De Grasse shot it. Based on new scans from the camera negatives, the five seasons of DVDS are presented on fifteen 1080p, VC-1-encoded Blu-rays that are nothing short of spectacular. The source elements have been exceptionally well-preserved, with only minor and occasional damage to betray their age. When the rare flaw does occur, it's a shock, precisely because it is so rare. An example can be found just after time mark 14:00 of episode 14 (Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?), where scratches at the left of the frame make it momentarily appear that a waterfall has suddenly materialized in front of Mary Tyler Moore. (It quickly disappears.) As in the very best theatrical b&w photography, shades of black, gray and white are finely differentiated to create a sense of depth and delineate minute details. Never before, even on Image's otherwise excellent DVD set of DVDS, could one make out the details of the pictures and posters stuck on the writers' room walls at the Alan Brady Show. The wardrobe and hairstyle details can also be seen with precision, and it's fascinating to compare them with those on Mad Men, where the same time period is being recreated, but through a prism of nostalgia. And, of course, the intensely personal, even intimate, comedy of relationships that is an essential element of DVDS plays even more effectively when the tiniest flicker of expression registers with perfect clarity. On occasion, the enhanced resolution isn't the show's friend. Some of the make-up gags were limited by time and money, and they worked then, because the audience at home couldn't see how cheap they were. But we can see it now, and we have to make allowances. A good example is episode 93 (I'd Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All), which is still hilarious. Salad, anyone? Video noise is rare and minor, but it does occur, and it's always in the same place: wardrobe. Rob Petrie's clothing in particular favors fine checks and stripes that, in close-up, seem to pose a challenge even for Blu-ray's resolution. At DVD resolution, the noise disappears, along with the details of the patterns. Without examining the source material, it's hard to know for certain, but this appears to be one of those situations where the limitations of 2K resolution are exposed and the (still) superior abilities of 35mm film become apparent. Somewhere, Robert De Grasse is holding his light meter and smiling. As noted, this is a new scan. The difference is obvious in direct comparison to Image's DVD edition, which shows less at the left and right of the frame. To allow readers to compare both the difference in aspect ratios and the improvement in detail, the last two images included under the "Screenshots" tab present the same frame from the Blu-ray and the DVD; the latter has been upconverted to 1080p by the same hardware used to capture the Blu-ray image.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There's not much to say about The Dick Van Dyke Show's DTS-HD MA 1.0 soundtrack, except that it's generally in excellent shape. The mono mix followed (and arguably solidified) a pattern familiar from almost every major sitcom since that time, with voices clearly rendered, simple sound effects, music reserved for fade-in, fade-outs and major transitions and, of course, the laugh track. The dynamic range is somewhat limited, as one would expect from this era of broadcast television, but not so much that the track ever sounds harsh or fatiguing. Most episodes were taped with a studio audience, and post-production ADR is obvious and noticeable when it occurs. That's one of the very few downsides of Blu-ray's increased sonic and visual resolution; during the original broadcasts, small screens, tiny speakers and NTSC resolution successfully hid the seams. Also, on occasion the volume will suddenly drop, then bounce back to its previous level after a second or two; these appear to be flaws in the source material, but they're sufficiently infrequent to be only a minor distraction.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
For ease of reference, the extras are listed below in two groups: (1) new extras exclusive to Blu-ray, as listed by the set's producers; and (2) "legacy" extras ported over from the DVD sets previously released by Image in 2003 and 2004. The latter were differently organized on DVD, and I have not attempted to compare them item by item. However, if anyone wants to know whether a particular DVD feature has been included, please check the list below.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
DVDS is frequently and justly remembered for its signature routines and the stars it created, especially Mary Tyler Moore. A less oft-noted influence is its introduction of the workplace into the American sitcom. Sitcoms were born in the home, starting in the apartments occupied by the likes of Molly Goldberg, Lucy Ricardo and Ralph Kramden, and ultimately relocating to the suburban environs of the Andersons, Nelsons and Cleavers. Dad's workplace sometimes figured into the picture, but that was the exception; the rule was that everything revolved around the household and its issues. On DVDS, though, the workplace became an integral element of the show, and sometimes it was even the focus of the "A" storyline. Thus began a trend that would eventually lead to such stalwarts as Taxi, Barney Miller, Cheers and, yes, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Even today, though, DVDS's peculiar blend of home and workplace can be easily spotted in the very place where producer Chuck Lorre posted his "Sitcom Writers' Prayer". Whenever The Big Bang Theory's gang of physicists sits around a Cal Tech cafeteria table trading quips about their lives, the echo of Carl Reiner's original formula is unmistakable. The writers' prayer has been answered. As for this new Blu-ray presentation of DVDS, the price is steep, but the presentation is excellent, and the show remains one of the best comedies ever broadcast. Even if you decide to wait for a sale, highly recommended.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Other Seasons
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The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray Detailed - October 3, 2012
Image Entertainment has detailed the release of The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray Box Set.The deluxe 15-disc set, containing all five seasons, is packed with new exclusive bonus features and even a variety of extras from the award winning DVD ...
• The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray in October - July 6, 2012
On Image Entertainment's web site there appears a listing for The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series Blu-ray set to be released in October 30 of this year. The 5-season set of the popular 1960's TV series staring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore ...
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