Every The Dick Van Dyke Show Episode, Ranked
What’s a Dick Van Dyke?” was the punchline to an anecdote Rose Marie liked to tell about how she was offered a role on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Short answer: He’s a national treasure. As his Golden Globes appearance last night charmingly reminded us, the real magic in Mary Poppins Returns is the sight of Van Dyke — 92! — doing the same energetic dance step he performed almost 60 years ago in “Jealousy,” a first season episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Which brings us to the game-changing sitcom created by Carl Reiner that ran from 1961-1966. It was based on Reiner’s experiences as a suburban family man who wrote for Sid Caesar’s variety shows, Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. Van Dyke starred in the eponymous series as Rob Petrie, head writer for The Alan Brady Show, juggling the demands of his glamorous show business career with his often-harried home life.
Funny story: Reiner was originally slated to star as his own alter ego. The pilot, entitled “Head of the Family” was rejected by the network, but producer Sheldon Leonard saw gold in the season’s worth of scripts Reiner had written and went to bat for the show, telling Reiner, “We’ll get a better actor to play you.” Enter Van Dyke, a Tony Award-winning Broadway star who looked like a romantic leading man but had the soul (and physical dexterity) of a silent movie-era clown.
Van Dyke was supported by one of TV’s great ensembles. At work: vaudevillians Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam as comedy writers Sally Rogers and Buddy Sorrell, Richard Deacon as put-upon brother-in-law producer Mel Cooley and Carl Reiner as the tyrannical Alan Brady. At home: Larry Matthews as Rob’s son Ritchie, and Mary Tyler Moore, first turning on the world with her scandalous capris pants, as wife Laura. Jerry Paris and Ann Morgan Guilbert costarred as best friends and neighbors Jerry and Millie Helper.
The Dick Van Dyke Show was made for its times, JFK’s New Frontier. It was a youthful, smart, sophisticated and silly workplace comedy and a family sitcom where the parents were way more interesting than the child. Decades before Seinfeld it explored from where creators of comedy mined their material. Winner of 15 Emmy Awards, including three for Van Dyke, The Dick Van Dyke Show is endlessly watchable and quotable. In the words of Big Max Calvada: “It’s neither too esoteric nor too mundane. Pragmatically speakin’; hits me right in the gut.”
But which of the 156 episodes — all of which are streaming on Hulu (and, perhaps less legally, YouTube) — are must-sees? (We’ve counted the two-parters into single episodes). Over the course of its five seasons, The Dick Van Dyke Show never jumped the shark. Even lesser episodes have at least one joke, double-take, guest star, character actor, or expertly-played pratfall to make it worth your while. With a few exceptions, you can’t really go wrong.