Monday, September 30, 2013

The Dick Van Dyke Show – The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
dyke coverDon’t miss the fun in this final season of the multiple Emmy Award-winning Dick Van Dyke Show.  Generation after generation of TV viewers has fallen in love with this timeless classic!  For laugh after laugh, join one of TV’s best-loved couples, Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie and Mary Tyler Moore as his wife Laura, along with Rob’s temperamental boss, Carl Reiner as Alan Brady, and his kooky co-workers, Morey Amsterdam as Buddy Sorrell and Rose Marie as Sally Rogers.  Now see all 31-season Episodes (airing 1965-1966) in their entirety and in spectacular high-definition – direct from the 35mm negatives! Catch such classics as Laura blurting out Alan Brady’s big secret on national TV in “Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth”; mild-mannered Mel Cooley finally standing up to the boss in “The Bottom of Mel Cooley’s Heart”; and Alan Brady attempting to turn the Petries’ anniversary party into a self-serving documentary in “A Day in the Life of Alan Brady.”

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Show (5 out of 5 stars) 

The “Dick Van Dyke Show” is one of the finest television comedies of all time.  The show’s amazing casts’ crack timing combined with some razor sharp writing made for a one of a kind series.  I was very happy to get the chance to review this final season set as “The Dick Van Dyke Show” is one of my favorite shows of all time.  During its run, it earned fifteen Emmy Awards, and it’s currently ranked as number fifteen out of the fifty greatest shows of all time by TV Guide.  The show was created by Carl Reiner based on his experiences when he was a writer for Sid Caesar’s “Show of Shows” and “Caesar’s Hour.” Writing about what he knew, Reiner dreamed up a series about a television comedy writer named Rob Petrie and his family and fellow writers.
An interesting fact about the show was the  fact that it was originally a pilot called “Head of the Family” and it starred Reiner himself as Rob Petrie.  The pilot  go well but producer Sheldon Leonard told Reiner that he was the only thing holding it back and that if he would just recast the Rob Petrie part and focused on writing and producing the show, then it would sell.  Reiner swallowed his pride and hired Dick Van Dyke to play Rob which he later said was the right decision as anything that the writers asked him to do, he couldn not only do it, but do it even better than they had envisioned.  Van Dyke wasn’t the only actor perfectly chosen for the show as every other role was so well cast that the show seemed destined to be a hit.
Mary Tyler Moore was recommended by Danny Thomas who had almost cast her as his daughter on his own show and although she wasn’t known as a comedienne at the time, she quickly became one of the funniest in the business. The chemistry between Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore is still palpable and I couldn’t imagine a better pairing than the two of them.  They each had a crush on each other and although they never acted on it, that undercurrent of attraction and love really powered the show.  Well, that and the constant laughs that were generated by the incredible scripts which were delivered with laser precision by the cast.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this show had one of the finest casts in history and that includes each of the supporting roles too.  Morey Amsterdam as Buddy Sorrell the self described “human joke machine,” was always fun to watch as was Rose Marie as Sally Rogers.  The laughs kept coming no matter what they were doing in the office as it was always funny. Watching them trying to write a show or how Buddy amused himself by insulting Alan’s assistant Mel (Richard Deacon), there’s always some laughs to be found.  It’s that balance of fun between Rob Petrie’s work environment and his home life (which are equally appealing) that really made watching the show fun. Because of that, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” offered us an idealized world that we all would love to be in which may be part of the reason why it’s still so effective.
Who wouldn’t want to laugh all day at work and come home to a young and beautiful Mary Tyler Moore and a precocious son?  Rob Petrie had it all, a great job, a gorgeous and funny wife, fun friends and neighbors, and what made it all work was the fact that Dick Van Dyke is so damn likable that you don’t even resent him for it.  Rob was a klutz and so endearing that you couldn’t begrudge the man his good fortune.  Not only that, but you rooted for him because he was such a nice and decent man.  I can’t emphasize that fact enough, because no one else could have played Rob Petrie better than Van Dyke.  The role is so tailor-made for him that it still remains the one he is the most identified for (even more than his role as Bert in Mary Poppins), and the one he was born to play because as he later said, “Rob Petrie is who I really am – in personality and general ineffectiveness.”
I’ve never understood why the show ended after five seasons when it was still going strong, but years afterwards Van Dyke told Esquire Magazine that “At the very beginning of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, Carl Reiner said, Five years – if we go that long.  He thought it would get repetitive after that.  So after five years, everybody knew it was over.  The writing was brilliant.  It was a perfect ensemble.  We were the top-rated show.  Nobody wanted to leave.  But we all knew it was over because of what Carl said at the beginning.”  It’s a shame because after watching this final season I can vouch that the show was just as good as when it started.  
With classic episodes like “Coast to Coast Big Mouth,” “Go Tell the Birds and Bees,” “Dear Alimony,” “Dear Sally Rogers,” “Obnoxious, Offensive, Egomaniac, Etc.,” and “The Gunslinger,” the show was still a powerhouse and could have easily continued.  Carl Reiner even admits as much in the extras as he says that by the end of this final season he realized that there was plenty of storylines left to tell, but that it was too late to stop the show from being canceled at that point.  Even though the “The Last Chapter” is the final episode of the series, it’s basically a collection of highlights from the show’s entire run.  The real last episode, “The Gunslinger” is one of the show’s best and it’s a fitting end to this brilliant show.  
Here are the episodes that are included in this season set:

Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth

Episode: 127 | Aired: September 15, 1965
Laura blurts out a top secret on a national television quiz show–that comedian Alan Brady wears a toupee. Carl Reiner guest-stars.

A Farewell to Writing

Episode: 128 | Aired: September 22, 1965 | Available until:
Rob sets out to write a book during his vacation, but has trouble getting started.

Uhny Uftz

Episode: 129 | Aired: September 29, 1965 | Available until:
Rob sees a flying saucer and tracks it to its lair–the office above his own.

The Ugliest Dog in the World

Episode: 130 | Aired: October 06, 1965 | Available until:
Rob and Laura try to find a permanent home for an ugly little mutt from the dog pound. 

No Rice at My Wedding

Episode: 131 | Aired: October 13, 1965
Rob and Laura recall their courtship days, when Rob almost lost Laura to another man. 

Draw Me a Pear

Episode: 132 | Aired: October 20, 1965
Rob and Laura enroll in an art class–and the beautiful instructress has designs on Rob. 

The Great Petrie Fortune

Episode: 133 | Aired: October 27, 1965
Rob’s dreams of inheriting a fortune are dashed until he realizes the intangible worth of an old photograph. 

Odd But True

Episode: 134 | Aired: November 03, 1965
Rob is offered $500 because the freckles on his back are in the shape of the Liberty Bell. 

Viva Petrie

Episode: 135 | Aired: November 10, 1965
Rob and Laura have an unusual houseguest, a bullfighter named Manuel who installs himself as a handyman. 

Go Tell the Birds and Bees

Episode: 136 | Aired: November 17, 1965
When Richie spins a few fantastic stories for his friends, his parents wind up in the school psychologist’s office. 

Body and Sol

Episode: 137 | Aired: November 24, 1965
Rob recalls the time he defended his title as middleweight champion of the Army camp. 

See Rob Write — Write, Rob, Write

Episode: 138 | Aired: December 08, 1965
Rob and Laura become rivals when each writes a story for children. 

You’re Under Arrest

Episode: 139 | Aired: December 15, 1965
Rob goes out to cool off after a quarrel with Laura and winds up in trouble with the law. 

Fifty-Two, Forty-Five or Work

Episode: 140 | Aired: December 29, 1965
Rob recalls the time he was out of work with a new home, no furniture, and a pregnant wife. James Frawley guest-stars. 

Who Stole My Watch?

Episode: 141 | Aired: January 05, 1966
Rob loses his friends as well as his watch when the friends learn they’re all under suspicion. 

I Do Not Choose to Run

Episode: 142 | Aired: January 19, 1966
Rob can’t make up his mind when asked to be a candidate for the city council. Arte Johnson guest-stars. 

The Making of a Councilman

Episode: 143 | Aired: January 26, 1966
Rob agrees to run for office but realizes he’d prefer to vote for his brainy opponent. 

The Curse of the Petrie People

Episode: 144 | Aired: February 02, 1966
Rob’s parents give a family heirloom piece of jewelry to Laura, who accidentally drops it in the garbage disposal. 

The Bottom of Mel Cooley’s Heart

Episode: 145 | Aired: February 09, 1966
When Mel Cooley takes Rob’s advice and stands up to Alan Brady, he is promptly fired. Carl Reiner guest-stars. 

Remember the Alimony

Episode: 146 | Aired: February 16, 1966
Rob and Laura recall the time they filled in an application for a $10 divorce. Bernie Kopell guest-stars. 

Dear Sally Rogers

Episode: 147 | Aired: February 23, 1966
Sally advertises for a husband on a national television show as a gag and is flooded with fan mail. 

Buddy Sorrell, Man and Boy

Episode: 148 | Aired: March 02, 1966
Symptoms and evidence indicate that Buddy is either seeing a psychiatrist or having an affair. 

Bad Reception in Albany

Episode: 149 | Aired: March 09, 1966
While out of town for a cousin’s wedding, Rob has to locate a television set to watch a special show. He wears a tuxedo with fur lapels for the occasion. 

Talk to the Snail

Episode: 150 | Aired: March 23, 1966
Believing that comedian Alan Brady plans to cut down his writing staff, Rob applies for a job with a ventriloquist. 

A Day in the Life of Alan Brady

Episode: 151 | Aired: April 06, 1966
The Petries’ anniversary party for the Helpers turns into a television documentary for Alan Brady. Carl Reiner guest-stars. 

Obnoxious, Offensive, Egomaniac, Etc.

Episode: 152 | Aired: April 13, 1966
Rob and his writers are in big trouble for adding insults to an Alan Brady script. Carl Reiner guest-stars. 

The Man from My Uncle

Episode: 153 | Aired: April 20, 1966
The Petrie home becomes a command post when government agents put a neighbor’s home under surveillance. 

You Ought to Be in Pictures

Episode: 154 | Aired: April 27, 1966
Rob is cast opposite a gorgeous Italian actress in a low-budget film and turns out to be the screen’s worst lover. 

Love Thy Other Neighbor

Episode: 155 | Aired: May 04, 1966
Rob and Laura are dismayed by Millie Helper’s jealousy of their new neighbors. 

Long Night’s Journey into Day

Episode: 156 | Aired: May 11, 1966
Laura spends a harrowing night alone in the house when the rest of the family goes off on a fishing trip. 

The Gunslinger

Episode: 157 | Aired: May 25, 1966
The Petries and their friends are transported to the Wild West when Rob dreams he is a frontier sheriff. Carl Reiner guest-stars. 

The Last Chapter

Episode: 158 | Aired: June 01, 1966
Rob’s autobiography conjures up scenes from the past and leads Alan Brady to buy the book for a television series.
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Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Much like the previous season set, I think the biggest surprise for fans of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” will be just how amazing the picture quality for the show is on Blu-ray.  This 1080p (1.33:1) transfer was restored from the original 35mm negatives and boy does it look good!  Having watched this show during reruns, I was shocked at how much better the show looked.  This is a pristine looking transfer with barely any signs of how the show actually is.  There’s an occasional scratch and a few speckles during these thirty-two episodes but this looks like a brand new show.  It’s obvious that some DNR was used but they did it very well as there’s still plenty of detail to be found onscreen.  Image Entertainment has done an incredible job with this release and the video quality for this set is reason enough to buy this on Blu-ray.
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Audio (3 out of 5 stars) 

Image Entertainment’s original monaural soundtrack for this season of the “Dick Van Dyke Show” isn’t as good as this set’s stellar video quality, but it for a show this old it still does the job.  This DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track doesn’t offer much range but it does provide some very clear dialogue and music.  Every once in awhile you can hear some crackle and other age related defects, but they are few and far between.  In all honesty, this is probably the best the show is going to sound and I’m happy enough with the results.
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Extras (5 out of 5 stars) 

One constant for every season of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” is the fantastic extras that can be found on each set and this season is no different.  I love how Image Entertainment includes a wide variety of interesting bits about the show, whether it’s a vintage Emmy Awards ceremony, or a  more recent retrospective look back at the show, commentaries, or even shows that you wouldn’t expect like a clip from Comic Relief.  This set has a ton of great extras although some of them aren’t where you might expect them.  While there is a traditional special features section on each of these discs, there’s also commentaries and cast and creator remembrances spread out across the three discs in the episode selection screen.  Once you select an episode you will get more options to choose from including: “Remembering 4 “1/2”, “The Alan Brady Show Goes to Jail”, “Coast to Coast Big Mouth”, “Sally”, “Richard Deacon,” “Buddy’s Bar Mitzvah,” “The Gunslinger,” as well as commentaries for “Coast to Coast Big Mouth” and “The Gunslinger” with Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke, a “Dear Sally” commentary with Rose Marie, Larry Matthews and Bill Idelson.  There’s also some pictures included for select episodes.This is an incredible collection of extras!
Here’s what you can find on each disc:
Disc 1
  • Emmy Awards 1965-1966 Outstanding Comedy Series - Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett and Peter Falk end up presenting the Outstanding Comedy Series Award to Carl Reiner who mentions that this will be the last time they can win and jokes that the event will serve as the final cast party.
  • TV Academy Tribute to Carl – Gary Shandling - This is another clip from the Tribute to Carl Reiner which seems to have been broken up across all of the sets.  This time it features Gary Shandling who talks about how influential the show was to him and others and he does his own shtick to make Reiner and the audience laugh.
  • ME-TV promo My Blonde-Haired Brunette Season One - Instead of the usual TV-Land promos, this time we see a series of show intros for ME-TV that features Carl Reiner talking about how he helped Mary Tyler Moore come up with her legendary crying for the show.
  • ME-TV Promo Package One - Here’s some more promos for ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ that aired on ME-TV.
  • ME-TV Promo -Another ME-TV promo that stars Carl Reiner, a Styrofoam head, and a toupee that references the ‘Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth’ episode.
Disc 2
  • Emmy Awards (1965-1966 Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series) - This award ceremony must have been bittersweet for Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore as they both won an Emmy after the show was over and both give heartfelt speeches within this clip.
  • ME-TV Promo Package 2  – More promos that feature Alan Brady and some with Dick Van Dyke and Larry Matthews introducing the show to ME-TV viewers.
  • Comic Relief 1992 - Billy Crystal, Whoopie Goldberg and Robin Williams try to upstage each other by doing impressions before introducing the cast of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ to the stage. Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie come out to much applause and do their own comedy routine that’s obviously scripted to promote Comic Relief’s efforts.  As awesome as it is to see them all back together, I really wish they had just been allowed to talk on their own without a script and with more time than was given.
  • TV Land Awards 2003 - A clip from the TV Land Awards where Ted Danson and Matthew Perry praise the show and the cast before the surviving cast members come on stage.  Each of them gets a turn to talk and Reiner spends part of his time suggesting that he would plan a reunion show for the future.
  • Nick at Night Promos - More promos that show that Dick Van Dyke has been appointed as the Chairman of Nick at Night which makes perfect sense to me.  Van Dyke even does some funny slapstick here too which is always welcome.
  • ‘Keep Your Fingers Crossed” – The Theme from ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ - The sheet music for the show’s theme song.
Disc 3
  • “Dick Van Dyke and the Other Women” – If Men Could Cry - During one of Dick Van Dyke’s variety specials that aired after the show ended, he was joined by Mary Tyler Moore to talk about the show and one episode in particular.  In the episode “You Ought to be in Pictures,” Rob Petrie is fired from a starring role in a movie because he had a hard time doing love scenes with an actress.  They introduce the original ending where Rob cries (in a very funny way) about losing the job.  That version was cut and refilmed because in those times men didn’t ever cry on television.  Having seen both versions, I’m not sure which I like better as I like both of them.
  • TV Land Promo for The Dick Van Dyke Show - Even more promos with Dick Van Dyke but this time it’s for TV Land.
  • Theatrical Trailer for The Art of Love -  This was unexpected as I didn’t think there would be a movie trailer on this set and it’s for a movie that I haven’t even heard of despite it starring some of my favorite actors like Dick Van and James Garner as well as Carl Reiner.  I’m going to have to track this film down!
  • The New Dick Van Dyke Show Preview - This is kind of an odd promo for Dick Van Dyke’s return to television in ‘The New Dick Van Dyke Show,’ that shows him doing a lot of dancing.
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Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

While I’m sad that this is the final season which now completes the individual sets, I take comfort in knowing that I can watch the show anytime now on Blu-ray and  it will look and sound better than it ever did on television.  This Blu-ray set offers some excellent video quality and the extras included are incredible.  If you haven’t seen this show yet, you really should because you will find that’s it’s hard to beat with its fantastic cast, great scripts, and overall quality.  This show is a very easy one to recommend!
Order your copy today!
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