The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Fifth SeasonOverview -
THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW truly found its niche in its second season, rapidly climbing to ninth place in the Nielson ratings. Millions across the country tuned in weekly for the fun with comedy writer Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) on the job with his wisecracking co-workers (Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie) and at home with his lovely wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore). Now enjoy all 33 of the season's hilarious episodes, each digitally remastered to its original full-length version. Don't miss the fun as Buddy and Sally are suspected of a little hanky-panky in The Secret Life of Buddy and Sally; Rob faces walnut-crazy aliens in the sci-fi parody It May Look Like a Walnut; and Rob and Laura accidentally overhear their friends on Ritchies's toy intercom in All About Eavesdropping, along with many more great episodes!
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
'The Dick Van Dyke Show' has a lot in common with another popular TV program that began its final season around the same time this review was being written. Both programs signed off (or will sign off) after five illustrious, critically acclaimed seasons on the air – though Van Dyke's program would amass 96 more episodes in that amount of time. Both had similar protagonists; namely, intelligent, middle-aged men with sharp wives and sons only slightly less oblivious to the familial goings-on than those not actually on the show. These central characters also struggled to find the appropriate work-life balance, as the irrepressible pull of success was often just as strong as the call of domestic bliss. Which is to say that 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' is clearly the precursor to 'Breaking Bad' and, everything that helped make TV's Golden Age so remarkable!
Of course, that's just my TV-addled mind making up connections and associations that don't remotely exist, but it does go to show you that for all the ways in which television has changed in the 47 years since 'The Dick Van Dyke' show has been off the air (re-runs, reunions, and revisitings notwithstanding) there are many, many aspects of the basic narrative construct that remain the same – even in wildly different concepts like that of hilarious 1960s domestic/workplace sitcoms or ultra-dark science-teacher-cum-meth-kingpin tales of the 2000s.
One of the major aspects of change that's become more noticeable with the advent of home video and the proliferation of complete seasons/series of television programs being made available to audiences who both readily remember tuning in many years ago – either when the program initially aired, or, like me, during lazy summer afternoons, hoping the TV antenna would cooperate long enough to finish an episode without Morey Amsterdam and the rest of the Alan Brady Show's writer's room being twisted and distorted as though viewed through a funhouse mirror – is our appreciation and near-constant discussion of the medium and its merits. As the Golden Age of television winds down, as the last two programs of the era – 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad' – prepare to end their storied runs and pass the torch to a batch of programs that have yet to match the lyrical beauty or narrative precision of the game-changing series that paved the way for their existence, it's important to look back and appreciate the programs that were partially responsible for the medium of television to flourish decades earlier.
And as much as programs like 'The Sopranos' and 'The Wire' will forever stand as the high-water mark of creative endeavors that helped make the small screen seem so much larger, deeper and thematically richer, shows like 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' – and, certainly, 'I Love Lucy,' 'Leave It To Beaver' and, later, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' 'M.A.S.H.' and so on down the line – deserve a chance under the critical microscope that was fashioned as a result of the aforementioned (and largely pay-cable created) series.
It's interesting, looking back at a series such as this – especially in what would be its final season – with the same approach used to review a more contemporary program. Some may say that viewing 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' with a modern critical eye may not be necessary, but then again, neither is releasing the series in its completion on Blu-ray, if you really think about it. At any rate, the series is remarkable for many reasons; the least of which is the fact that, as a sitcom, and, more specifically, a sitcom of the '60s, there was no overarching narrative, no story waiting to be resolved. There was no Ross-and-Rachel-style romance simmering beneath all the jokes and endless wise cracking or tormenting of poor Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon). Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) wasn't thirsting for relevance in an increasingly cynical world. Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) wasn't some disapproving, put-upon wife of a callous, anti-hero husband. No one character had an arc waiting to be resolved; there were no loose ends that needed tying up. And yet, even at episode 158, it still felt like a complete and fulfilling story had been told. The characters could have easily gone on for another 100 or more episodes, but this was the point at which it was all wrapped up and left for the audience to revisit, or future audiences to discover over and over again, and gain new appreciation for something decades older than themselves.
And while the end is always bittersweet, having been successful enough in the first place to have an official final season is likely what every successful television creator longs for (along with royalties and a future first-look option from HBO). Here in the season 5 premiere, 'Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth,' you can sense the end is coming in Alan Brady's retirement of his toupees and, by extension, his vanity and youth. It's a common theme, but it's a great one, which, I guess is why it persists in our entertainment – the progression of time and the ease in which truths about ourselves are accepted, as we grow older. Sure, that may seem a little too abstract for a simple sitcom, let alone 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' but the signs are there, and Carl Reiner's talent as a writer, producer, and performer (along with credited writers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff) is considerable enough that sliding in such a weighty thematic element, while conversing with a gaggle of toupee covered Styrofoam heads, was likely no big deal at all; it was just funny.
But the series ends on a fantastic (and fantastical) note with 'The Gunslinger,' an episode that once again utilizes the power of dreams to demonstrate the relationships of all the characters and the world in which they live. And even though 'The Gunslinger' is followed up by the heartwarming clip show episode 'The Last Chapter' – which technically stands as the series' final episode – the western-themed fantasy is really the swansong this tremendous series deserves.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Dick Van Dyke Show' season 5 comes from Image Entertainment and consists of three 50GB Blu-ray discs in an oversized keepcase that is in keeping with the rest in the series. Similarly, the insert also doubles as episode and chapter list for each disc with an explanation of all the supplemental features included therein.
For anyone who's viewed any of the other seasons in 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' collection, season 5 will be another pleasant surprise, but by now the quality of the image on all 31 episodes presented here will have been expected. As with the other seasons the high-definition image was created from the original 35mm negatives and the result is nothing short of outstanding.
Since this was shot in black and white, it's most important to notice the fantastic contrast levels that present deep, rich black tones and smooth, pristine whites, with a superb level of gradation in between. The contrast levels help to make the image very defined and to exhibit a greater amount of depth than was likely ever before seen. Detail is good and often times approaches great – though there can be occasions where the focus is a little soft, or the transfer or perhaps restoration of the image has resulted in a lower amount of detail, but these instances are generally few and far between.
Overall, the series has likely never looked this good, and the sheer joy of seeing it presented in this condition is reason enough to revisit the entire series, or to give it a shot for the first time if you've never had the pleasure of watching before.
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track actually sounds better than some 5.1 tracks I've listened to lately. Granted, this is a rather simple audio mix that has only to focus on the actors' dialogue and the studio (or canned) laughter for the most part, but there are plenty of occasions where sound effects and music are introduced for added effect. As you would expect with the care that's gone into making these discs, all those elements sound terrific.
Sometimes, there is a noticeable dip in the overall clarity and power of the mix – especially during the opening title sequence – but it's only noticeable after watching several episodes in a row and particularly after picking up on the tremendous sound quality and precision with which the individual episodes are presented. Certainly, this isn’t going to fill your living room with sound like a contemporary Hollywood blockbuster, but despite it being a mono track that's over four decades old, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' is a superb sounding mix that does the show justice on practically every level imaginable.
- Emmy Awards 1965-1966 Outstanding Comedy Series (SD, 2 min.) – Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett and Peter Falk present the award to Carl Reiner who comments that this will be the last time 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' will be able to win an award and then humorously tells everyone involved in the show who is in attendance that this counts as their party.
- TV Academy Tribute to Carl: Gary Shandling (SD, 3 min.) – Continuing the Tribute to Carl Reiner, comedy legend Gary Shandling is onstage and mentions how incredibly influential Reiner's work, and, specifically, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' was to everyone who wanted to make a sitcom, and especially to those who wanted to make a sitcom about the entertainment industry.
- ME-TV promo My Blonde-Haired Brunette Season One (SD, 1 min.) – A series of quick promos for ME-TV's syndicated programming of 'The Dick Van Dyke' show that feature Carl Reiner discussing how Mary Tyler Moore developed her signature way of crying on the series.
- ME-TV promo package one (SD, 3 min.) – An additional series of promos for 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' on ME-TV that is more general and consists primarily of clips from the series.
- Remembering '4 1/2' and 'The Alan Brady Show Goes to Jail' (SD, 7 min.) – Carl Reiner narrates a series of flashbacks about Don Rickles' two-part stint on the series, which is interspersed with some interviews with the cast and Rickles himself.
- Remembering 'Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth' (SD, 2 min.) – Another series of interviews with the cast about the final season premiere episode that really shined a light on Alan Brady as a character and Carl Reiner as a performer.
- Commentary by Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke on Coast to Coast Big Mouth – Reiner and Van Dyke do a great job recalling the specifics of the episode and what they were trying to accomplish with the character of Alan Brady and his relationship to Rob Petrie.
- ME-TV Promo (SD, 1 min.) – Another ME-TV promo that featured Reiner and a Styrofoam head with a toupee that was directly related to the 'Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth' episode.
- Emmy Awards 1965-1966 Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor/Actress in a leading role in a comedy series (SD, 3 min.) -- Van Dyke accepts the award after the show had already ended, then Mary Tyler Moore wins for her role on the series. Both actors give brief, heartfelt speeches that make you wish more actors would watch and learn from them.
- ME-TV promo package 2 (SD, 2 min.) - An Alan Brady-centric series of promos for The Dick Van Dyke Show followed by a few bits of Dick Van Dyke remembering his role and finally Larry Matthews (Richie Petrie) promoting the syndication of the series on ME-TV.
- Comic relief 1992 (SD, 6 min.) – Billy Crystal, Whoopie Goldberg and Robin Williams all do a series of bad impressions to introduce the cast of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' on stage. Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie all talk about the show, but from a teleprompter, which makes it all feel a little too canned to be wholly enjoyed.
- TV Land Awards 2003 (SD, 15 min.) – At the TV Land Awards (which is a thing, apparently,) Ted Danson and Matthew Perry spend a few minutes onstage talking about how the show and the actors influenced them and made them want to be performers. There is a small montage of clips and then the cast of the series comes onstage to talk and reminisce a bit.
- Nick at Night Promos (SD, 2 min.) – A series of promos where Dick Van Dyke is seen as the Chairman of Nick at Night, who takes the responsibility of keeping America's television heritage alive very seriously.
- Remembering Sally (SD, 3 min.) – A short featurette with the cast and crew of the show discussing how Sally Rogers was one of the first "liberated women" on television.
- Commentary by Rose Marie, Larry Matthews and Bill Idelson on 'Dear Sally Rogers'
- Remembering Richard Deacon (SD, 4 min.) – Similar to the Sally featurette, this one discusses how everyone simply loved Richard Deacon, and what a find it was to get an actor who appeared to be so straight-laced and rigid, but actually had a phenomenal sense of comedic timing.
- 'Keep Your Fingers Crossed" – The Theme from 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' (SD, < 1 min.) – A simple shot of a piece of sheet music that shows the theme from the series.
- Dick Van Dyke and the Other Women: If Men Could Cry (SD, 5 min.) – During a television special some years after the show had been off the air Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore revisit the set of their famous sitcom and show a never-before-seen clip of Rob Petrie crying after having been fired from the set of a movie. Apparently, the scene was tossed because in those days, it was unheard of for a man to cry on television. This is worth watching to see the green sweater Van Dyke is wearing on national television alone.
- TV Land Promo for The Dick Van Dyke Show (SD, 1 min.) – Another series of promos featuring Dick Van Dyke for TV Land.
- Theatrical trailer: The Art of Love (SD, 1 min.) – Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner were in a 1965 film starring James Garner called 'The Art of Love.'
- The New Dick Van Dyke Show Preview (SD, 1 min.) – A short promo for Van Dyke's return to television in 'The New Dick Van Dyke Show,' which also had to do with the world of show business.
- Remembering Buddy's Bar Mitzvah (SD, 1 min.) – Morey Amsterdam recalls telling Carl Reiner he'd never had a Bar Mitzvah because he was "too poor to be Jewish." At any rate, Amsterdam finally got his Bar Mitzvah by way of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show.'
- Remembering The Gunslinger (SD, 1 min.) – This was the defacto final episode of the series – as the last episode was primarily just a clip show – and Van Dyke recalls what great success the series had had with dreams in the past, so it was fitting to go out with a dream sequence episode.
- Commentary by Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke on 'The Gunslinger' – Reiner and Van Dyke reminisce again on this, the final (or penultimate) episode on the series.
As far as final seasons go, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' season 5 came off being a tad unceremonious, while still managing to highlight the show's strongest selling points with it's often wild imagination and ability to be uplifting and emotional without being overly sentimental or saccharine. This was a time when the end of a series wasn't necessarily seen as a ratings goldmine, but more like inevitability in the television circle of life. As with all of the other seasons in the collection, this comes with truly great picture and sound and a whole host of special features that'll keep you busy for hours. Highly recommended.
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