Puneet Varma (Editor)

The Dick Van Dyke Show

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Genre  Sitcom
Theme music composer  Earle Hagen
Created by  Carl Reiner
Written by  Carl Reiner Frank Tarloff (as "David Adler") John Whedon Sheldon Keller Howard Merrill Martin Ragaway Bill Persky Sam Denoff Garry Marshall Jerry Belson Carl Kleinschmitt Dale McRaven
Directed by  Sheldon Leonard John Rich Jerry Paris Howard Morris Alan Rafkin
Starring  Dick Van Dyke Mary Tyler Moore Rose Marie Morey Amsterdam Larry Mathews

The Dick Van Dyke Show is an American television sitcom that initially aired on CBS from October 3, 1961 to June 1, 1966, with a total of 158 half-hour episodes spanning over five seasons. The show was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore. It centered on the work and home life of television comedy writer Rob Petrie (Van Dyke). The show was produced by Reiner with Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. The music for the show's theme song was written by Earle Hagen.


The series won 15 Emmy Awards. In 1997, the episodes "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth" and "It May Look Like a Walnut" were ranked at 8 and 15 respectively on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2002, it was ranked at 13 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and in 2013, it was ranked at 20 on their list of the 60 Best Series.


The two main settings show the work and home life of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), the head writer of a comedy/variety show produced in Manhattan. Viewers are given an "inside look" at how a television show (the fictitious The Alan Brady Show) was written and produced. Many scenes deal with Rob and his co-writers, Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally Rogers (Rose Marie). Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), a balding straight man and recipient of numerous insulting one-liners from Buddy, was the show's producer and the brother-in-law of the show's star, Alan Brady (Carl Reiner). As Rob, Buddy, and Sally write for a comedy show, the premise provides a built-in forum for them to constantly make jokes. Other scenes focus on the home life of Rob, his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), and son Richie (Larry Mathews), who live at 148 Bonnie Meadow Road in suburban New Rochelle, New York. Also often seen are their next-door neighbors and best friends, Jerry Helper (Jerry Paris), a dentist, and his wife Millie (Ann Morgan Guilbert).

Head of the Family pilot

The Dick Van Dyke Show was preceded by a 1960 pilot for a series to be called Head of the Family with a different cast, although the characters were essentially the same, except for the absence of Mel Cooley. In the pilot, Carl Reiner, who created the show based on his own experiences as a TV writer, played Robbie Petrie, with a long first "e": PEE-tree. Laura Petrie was played by Barbara Britton, Buddy Sorrell by Morty Gunty, Sally Rogers by Sylvia Miles, Richie by Gary Morgan, and Alan Sturdy, the Alan Brady character, was played by Jack Wakefield, although his face was never fully seen, which was also the case with Carl Reiner's Alan Brady for the first several seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The pilot was unsuccessful, which led Reiner to rework the show with Dick Van Dyke playing the central character.

The pilot was subsequently the basis of the series episode "Father of the Week".


At least four episodes were filmed without a live studio audience: "The Bad Old Days," which featured an extended flashback sequence that relied on optical effects that would have been impractical to shoot with a live audience in the studio; "The Alan Brady Show Presents," which required elaborate set and costume changes; "Happy Birthday and Too Many More," which was filmed on November 26, 1963, only four days after President Kennedy's assassination; and "The Gunslinger", which was filmed on location.

Reiner considered moving the production of the series to full color as early as season three, only to drop the idea when he was informed that it would add about $7,000 to the cost of each episode. On December 11, 2016, two episodes from the series were presented on CBS-TV colorized.

"The Last Chapter" was the last episode that aired; "The Gunslinger" was the last episode filmed.



  • Robert Simpson "Rob" Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) – head writer for The Alan Brady Show, a fictional network television comedy/variety show broadcast from New York City. The role of Rob Petrie was almost given to Johnny Carson, but Sheldon Leonard, the show's executive producer, suggested Van Dyke.
  • Laura Petrie (née Meehan; played by Mary Tyler Moore) – Rob's wife. As a 17-year-old dancer in the United Service Organizations, she met and married Rob. Then, she became a stay-at-home mom. About 60 actresses auditioned for the part before Moore was signed. Moore later wrote that she almost skipped the audition.
  • Maurice "Buddy" Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) – an energetic and at times sarcastic "human joke machine", one of the comedy writers. Amsterdam was recommended for the role by Rose Marie as soon as she had signed on to the series. Buddy is constantly making fun of Mel Cooley, the show's producer, for being bald and dull. His character is loosely based on Mel Brooks who also wrote for Your Show of Shows. He makes frequent jokes about his marriage to his wife Fiona Conway "Pickles" Sorrell. In several episodes, it is mentioned that Buddy is Jewish. He was identified by his birth name, Moishe Selig, when he had his belated bar mitzvah in "Buddy Sorrell – Man and Boy." Buddy plays the cello and owns a large German Shepherd named Larry. Buddy made a guest appearance on the Danny Thomas Show episode, "The Woman Behind the Jokes" that aired October 21, 1963.
  • Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) – another of the comedy writers, and the designated typist, who is always on the lookout for a husband. The character was loosely based on Selma Diamond and Lucille Kallen, both writers for Your Show of Shows. She never drinks and quotes frequently from her "Aunt Agnes in Cleveland". She has an on-again/off-again relationship with her boyfriend Herman Glimscher, who seems to be too much of a mama's boy to get married. She frequently scares men off with her sense of humor and strong personality.
  • Richard Rosebud "Richie" Petrie (Larry Mathews) – Rob and Laura's son (his middle name is an acronym for "Robert Oscar Sam Edward Benjamin Ulysses David," all the names suggested by members of Rob and Laura's families in the episode "What's in a Middle Name?".)
  • Supporting:

  • Melvin "Mel" Cooley (Richard Deacon) – the balding producer of The Alan Brady Show and Alan Brady's brother-in-law. Though Mel can often be an obsequiously sycophantic yes-man to the demanding Brady, he is also shown to be a dedicated, competent producer who takes his responsibilities very seriously. Mel is constantly at odds with Buddy, who often makes insulting comments about Mel's baldness, to which Mel often responds with a simple "Yechh!"
  • Millie Helper (Ann Morgan Guilbert) – the Petries' neighbor and Laura's best friend.
  • Jerry Helper (Jerry Paris) – the Petries' neighbor, Millie's husband, Rob's best friend, and a dentist.
  • Alan Brady (Carl Reiner) – the egocentric, toupee-wearing star of The Alan Brady Show. Originally an unseen character, then shown only with his back to the camera or only in voice, Brady began to make full-face appearances in season four. Alan appeared on the Mad About You episode, "The Alan Brady Show", named after the fictional show within The Dick Van Dyke Show, that aired February 16, 1995.
  • Recurring:

  • Stacey Petrie (Jerry Van Dyke) – Rob's brother, played by Dick Van Dyke's real-life brother. Stacey – a quiet, shy, man – is prone to episodes of sleepwalking, during which he becomes, literally, the banjo-playing life of the party, and calls his brother Rob "Burford".
  • Fiona Conway "Pickles" Sorrell (Barbara Perry/Joan Shawlee) – Buddy's slightly nutty wife and former showgirl. She becomes an off-screen character after season two.
  • Herman Glimscher (Bill Idelson) – Sally's occasional and nerdy boyfriend. In the 2004 reunion special, Sally and Herman had been married for years (In an early episode, Sally mentioned having dated a Woodrow Glimscher, presumably a relative, until Woodrow's overbearing mother arranged for her to date Herman instead.)
  • Sam (or Edward) Petrie - (Will Wright/J. Pat O'Malley/Tom Tully) - Rob and Stacey's father, Laura's father-in-law, and Clara's husband.
  • Clara Petrie - (Carol Veazie/Isabel Randolph) - Rob and Stacey's mother, Laura's mother-in-law, and Sam's wife.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Alan Meehan – (Carl Benton Reid and Geraldine Wall) are Laura's parents.
  • Freddie Helper (Peter Oliphant) – Millie and Jerry Helper's son and Richie's closest friend.
  • Sol/Sam Pomeroy/Pomerantz – Rob's army buddy in flashback episodes, was originally played by Marty Ingels. The character's names changed over the course of the series. Ingels left the role in 1962 to star in I'm Dickens, He's Fenster. In 1963, the character was played by two actors, Allan Melvin and Henry Calvin.
  • Delivery boy – originally a nameless character played by Jamie Farr in four season one episodes. Subsequently, he was given the name Willie, and Herbie Faye played the role (Faye also played other characters in later episodes).
  • Mrs. Billings (Eleanor Audley) - the head of the local Parent-Teacher Association, who shoehorns Rob into writing and directing their annual fundraising shows.
  • A group of character actors played several different roles during the five seasons. Actors who appeared more than once, sometimes in different roles, included Elvia Allman (as Herman Glimscher's mother), Tiny Brauer, Bella Bruck, Jane Dulo, Bernard Fox, Dabbs Greer, Jerry Hausner, Peter Hobbs, Jackie Joseph, Sandy Kenyon (who also appeared in the 2004 reunion special), Alvy Moore, Burt Remsen, Johnny Silver, Doris Singleton, Amzie Strickland, George Tyne, Herb Vigran and Len Weinrib. Frank Adamo, who served as Van Dyke's personal assistant and stand-in, also played small roles throughout the show's five seasons.


    Many of the show's plots were inspired by Reiner's experiences as a writer for Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, which starred Sid Caesar, but though he based the character of Rob Petrie on himself, Rob's egocentric boss Alan Brady is less Caesar than a combination of the more abrasive Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason, according to Reiner himself.

    CBS had intended to cancel the show after its first season, but Procter & Gamble threatened to pull its advertising from "the network's extremely lucrative daytime lineup" and the show was renewed, keeping its Wednesday night time slot. After going into summer reruns, the show jumped into the top 10 by the third episode of its second season, helped by coming directly after the new #1 hit, The Beverly Hillbillies.


  • On October 21, 1963, Morey Amsterdam guest-starred as Buddy Sorrell during the final season of The Danny Thomas Show on the episode "The Woman Behind the Jokes".
  • Three decades after playing their respective roles of Sally and Buddy, Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam reprised them on October 7, 1993, in the "When Hairy Met Hermy" episode of Herman's Head.
  • Carl Reiner reprised the role of Alan Brady on the February 16, 1995, episode of Mad About You, named after The Alan Brady Show, a guest appearance that won him the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.
  • Cast reunions

    In a special that was first broadcast on April 13, 1969, Van Dyke and Moore reunited for a one-hour variety special called Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman. The program included a never-before-seen alternate take from one of the show's episodes in which Rob Petrie breaks down and cries after being dismissed from a film role. A 1979 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Hour featured Van Dyke and Moore reprising their roles as the Petries in a short sketch presented as the brainstorming of Van Dyke (guest-starring as himself) and the writers of Mary McKinnon's (Moore) variety series, who noted McKinnon's resemblance to "the gal who played Laura Petrie". In a 1995 episode of the sitcom Mad About You, Carl Reiner reprised the role of Alan Brady, appearing in a documentary by Paul Buchmann (Paul Reiser) about the early days of television. The episode included several other references to The Dick Van Dyke Show, including a scene in which Reiner and Reiser discuss whether it would be funnier to trip over an ottoman or to step over it at the last moment. In 2003, TV Land produced The Alan Brady Show, an animated special presented as an episode of Dick Van Dyke's show-within-a-show. Reiner, Van Dyke, and Rose Marie contributed voice performances to the show. A 2004 reunion movie, The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited, brought together the surviving members of the cast. In this continuation, Rob and Laura have long since moved to Manhattan, where Laura runs a dance studio. (Richie has recently bought their old New Rochelle home.) Alan Brady re-enters their lives to ask Rob to write his eulogy, with the help of a happily-married Sally Rogers Glimscher.


    The show's theme was by Earle Hagen, who also wrote many other TV series themes, including those for The Danny Thomas Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, USMC, I Spy, and The Mod Squad.

    In a 2010 interview on National Public Radio, Van Dyke revealed Morey Amsterdam's lyrics for the show's theme song:

    So you think that you've got troubles? Well, trouble's a bubble So tell old Mr. Trouble to get lost! Why not hold your head up high and Stop cryin', start tryin' And don't forget to keep your fingers crossed. When you find the joy of livin' Is lovin' and givin' You'll be there when the winning dice are tossed. A smile is just a frown that's turned upside down So smile, and that frown will defrost. And don't forget to keep your fingers crossed.

    Primetime Emmy Awards

    The Dick Van Dyke Show was nominated for 25 Primetime Emmy Awards and won 15.

    0*Shared with Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt for Hallmark Hall of Fame: "The Magnificent Yankee" and Barbra Streisand for My Name Is Barbra

    Home video releases

    Image Entertainment has released all five seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD in Region 1. Season sets were released between October 2003 – June 2004. Also, on May 24, 2005, Image Entertainment repackaged the discs from the individual season sets into a complete series box set. On Blu-ray, the complete series, remastered in high definition, was released on November 13, 2012.

    In Region 2, Revelation Films has released the first two seasons on DVD in the UK.

    In Region 4, Umbrella Entertainment has released the first three seasons on DVD in Australia.

    Six episodes of the series are believed to have lapsed into the public domain and have been released by numerous discount distributors.

    In 2003, TV Land produced a pilot for an animated TV series, The Alan Brady Show, based on the fictional show-within-a-show on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Written and executive-produced by Carl Reiner, it was scheduled to air on August 17, 2003, and featured the voices of Rose Marie as "The Secretary" and Dick Van Dyke as "Webb", with Reiner reprising his role as Alan Brady.


    The Dick Van Dyke Show Wikipedia