Friday, September 30, 2011

Blog Book Review: The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book (Revised and Updated Edition); Sitcom Stars On Talk Shows (Week of October 3, 2011)

The Dick Van Dyke Show is celebrating a big anniversary on October 3. It was exactly fifty years ago that day that the series debuted on CBS, and made a big mark in television history that only a few other series have managed to make. Several years ago, sitcom and pop-culture expert Vince Waldron wrote The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, a book that was "the definitive history of television's most enduring comedy." Now, Waldron has written a revised and updated edition of this book, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the series. Here is our review of the revised and updated edition of The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book.

The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book (Revised and Updated Edition)

Blog Book Review - The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book (Revised and Updated Edition)

The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book (Revised and Updated Edition) (Chicago Review Press, $18.95) is not merely a brief history of one of television's greatest classic series; it is the definitive and one-and-only official history of the series. The book takes the reader on a journey from the very infancy of the series up to the very end of the series, and gives details of every little bit of the series that most people will not know. In fact, even series creator and producer Carl Reiner says of the book "what an unexpected pleasure to read a book on a subject about which I thought I knew everything, only to find out that I didn't." Clearly, this isn't just a silly book that retells the stories we all know.

Like the previous edition of the book, we have a brief introduction to the book (and a look back at the series) from the star of the series, Dick Van Dyke. But the new edition actually has a foreword even before that, coming from what may seem an unlikely person: Dan Castellaneta! That's right, the man who plays Homer Simpson writes the foreword to this book (and he even mentions that "you may be asking yourself why they got the guy who plays Homer Simpson, maybe the dumbest dad in sitcom history, to write the foreword"). But when you read the foreword, it is very clear why he writes it. The series served as a springboard to many other series in the future, even (indirectly) The Simpsons.

Once you get past the foreword, introduction, and prologue, you get into the real meat of the book. There is definitely a ton of material to be found in this series of thirty chapters. Of course, we'd be writing all day if we told you the details of every single chapter, because each chapter is so full of details that you'll just have to read on your own! But we'll give you a brief outline of the direction that the book goes in, with some minor tidbits from the book here and there.

The first eleven chapters give a very detailed account of events leading to the creation of the series, casting decisions, producing the Head of the Family pilot (which most fans know featured Carl Reiner in the role of Rob Petrie), and producing "The Sick Boy and the Sitter," which is the first actual episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. What I found interesting, though, is a view on why the pilot starring him wasn't well received. The book says that the network executives said that it was just "lacking something," but Reiner brings up something that wouldn't be thought of nearly as much these days. Some have accused that anti-Semitism may have played a part in the demise of the first pilot, and that Carl Reiner was in fact "too Jewish" to be starring in a series... that it would be too far out of the mainstream. The book does mention, however, that Reiner finds that notion to be completely unfounded.

What is certain, though, is that Dick Van Dyke was definitely the man to make the series work. With Reiner's failed pilot, he met with Sheldon Leonard, who helped him redevelop the idea for the series, but with one major change: Reiner could not play the starring role. So enter Dick Van Dyke, the man for whom the eventual series was named for. From that point, the book goes into lengthy details on the casting for the series. The casting of Mary Tyler Moore, though, was the most interesting of them all. They could literally not find a person to fill the role of Laura Petrie, until Danny Thomas remembered "some actress" who had auditioned for him some time ago. He was convinced that she should definitely be cast in the role and she pretty much had the role, if only he could remember her name! He knew that she had three names, and of course, what other "girl with three names" could it have been?

Onto creating the first episode of the series, Reiner admits that although the episode chosen as the pilot was not random, it was probably not the best choice. We also get some insight on finding sponsors for the series, and how it turned out to be a bit easier than expected to find those sponsors.

We get a lot more history and tidbits throughout the rest of the book, much of which is difficult to summarize in one lump. We find out about the casting of the roles of other characters on the series, Laura Petrie wearing capri pants (so unusual in those days), an episode about a "revealing" portrait of Laura, filming an episode right after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and even thoughts on the Kent cigarette sponsorship of the series. In fact, the cast and crew of the series would often get free cartons of Kent cigarettes, which nobody really liked, and they'd trade their cigarettes in at the corner market for a pack of their preferred brand. What was really odd was Dick Van Dyke putting his foot down about how inappropriate it was for a family series to be advertising cigarettes--even though he and Mary Tyler Moore were both heavy smokers themselves at the time.

In "The Last Chapter" (which is not only the name of chapter 30 in the book, but also the name of the final episode), we get to see what it was like bringing the series to an end. It talks about how the end of the series was emotional, but not necessarily sad, because most of the people involved with the series actually went on to bigger and better things, and the series was merely a springboard for the remainder of their careers.

One of my favorite features of the book, though, comes in after the epilogue. The book ends with an 88 page "Complete Viewers Guide to The Dick Van Dyke Show," which is a very thorough episode guide detailing every single episode of the series. In these 88 pages, you'll find episode descriptions, original airdates, episode credits, and many behind-the-scenes and historical moments for episodes. One of my favorite trivia tidbits to read was about the inspiration for the character Sally Rogers. According to Carl Reiner, there is one person (a woman who was not an actress at a time, but a writer, much like the character of Sally) in particular who served as an inspiration for the character--Selma Diamond! Yes, the same lady that would play the first of the female bailiffs on Night Court in the 80s served as an inspiration for the character. And in thinking about Diamond's portrayal of her character in Night Court, you can almost see a little bit of Sally Rogers in her there.

If you are a fan of the series, there really is no excuse to not own this book. I've seen many books on the history of a single well-known TV series, and I usually come away from them a bit less than impressed. They often tend to regurgitate everything that we know about the series with the unique writing style of the author. Here, we actually get content that is new to most of us, and the book is a very pleasurable read. Not having seen the older edition of this book, I really can't comment on how it compares to that edition, but I can say with full confidence that this book is worth placing on your coffee table--just don't trip over the ottoman trying to get to it!

A few additional notes on the revised and updated edition:

  • Revised, rewritten and completely updated from the first to the last page
  • Includes tons of new photographs, many of them never before published
  • New passages where needed to incorporate interesting sidelights of the show that the author has since discovered, including the existence of a Dick Van Dyke Show opera
  • New illustration of the cast by Drew Friedman


(5/5 stars)

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Amazon.com




It's Friday, so it is time for "Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows" for the coming week. This is where we list what sitcom stars are appearing on talk shows for the coming week, the stars are both current and past sitcom stars, so this is for all sitcom fans of all eras!
For the week of October 3-7, 2011, we have many current sitcom stars and past sitcom stars on TV talk shows! All times listed are Eastern. So get your DVR's (or whatever you use) ready! Ready? Here is all what you need to know for the coming week!

Monday, October 3, 2011
  • Paul Scheer (The League) - Watch Paul on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 12:37am on NBC.
  • Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) - Catch Jack on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Ellie Kemper (The Office) - Ellie drops by The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Cheryl Hines (Suburgatory/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Cheryl is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check listings.
  • Cedric the Entertainer (The Steve Harvey Show) - Cedric chats on The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
  • Kaitlin Olson (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) - Catch Kaitlin on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:36am on NBC.
  • John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun/Twenty Good Years) - John is a guest on The Colbert Report at 11:30pm on Comedy Central.
  • Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory/8 Simple Rules) - The lovely Kaley visits LIVE! with Regis & Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Joel McHale (Community) - Joel drops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check listings.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
  • Growing Pains Cast - The cast of Growing Pains gathers for an I Love the 80s reunion on Good Morning America on ABC between 7-9am. Part Two will air on Thursday, October 6.
  • Tim Allen (Last Man Standing/Home Improvement) - Watch Tim on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno at 11:35pm on NBC. Last Man Standing premieres on October 11 at 8:00pm on ABC.
  • Will Arnett (Up All Night/Arrested Development) - Tune in to see Will on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 12am on ABC. Up All Night airs on Wednesdays at 8:00pm on NBC.
  • Jane Levy (Suburgatory) - Jane drops by Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 12am on ABC. The funny Suburgatory airs on ABC on Wednesdays at 8:30pm.
  • Joel McHale (Community) - Joel continues his appearances this week on Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings) - Eliza visits The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Ana Gasteyer (Suburgatory) - Ana stops by The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
  • Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) - Catch Aubrey on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings/Scrubs) - Eliza continues her appearances this week on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun/Twenty Good Years) - John continues to make the rounds on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Brandy (Moesha) - Brandy is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Brooke Shields (Suddenly Susan) - Brooke visits The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Tina Fey and Betty White - Gayle's funniest guests are part of a Best of: Lolz episode of The Gayle King Show at 10am on OWN.
Friday, October 7, 2011
  • Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) - Watch Bryan on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Alison Brie (Community) - Alison visits Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 12:37am on NBC.
  • Cheryl Hines (Suburgatory/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Catch Cheryl on a repeat of Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
  • Jennifer Aniston (Friends) - Jennifer chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch) - Florence is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) - Catch Steve on a repeat of The Mo'nique Show at 3am on BET.
Leave us comments on our message board or Tweet/Facebook us to let us know what you think of this Friday feature! We do listen!
Sitcoms Airing Tonight (Saturday, April 19)

Mike & Molly - "Molly Unleashed" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Molly finds herself at a crossroads with her career, she makes a huge decision. Brian Baumgartner guest stars as Molly’s union rep, James.

The Millers - "Pilot" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Nathan and his sister, Debbie, are upset when their parents announce they’re divorcing after 43 years of marriage. However, that’s nothing compared to the panic they feel when Carol, their intrusive mother, announces that she’s moving in with Nathan, while Tom, their easily distracted father, is moving in with Debbie.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 21) (All times Eastern unless noted)

Monday, April 21

  • Courteney Cox (Cougar Town/Friends) - Watch Courteney The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Jimmie "J.J." Walker (Good Times) - Jimmie appears on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Billy Bob Thornton (Hears Afire) - Billy Bob is a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • George Lopez (Saint George/George Lopez) - George stops by The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Ari Graynor (Bad Teacher) - Ari visits The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Marlon Wayans (The Wayans Bros.) - Marlon is a guest on @midnight at midnight on Comedy Central.
  • Bob Saget (How I Met Your Mother/Full House) - Bob is part of the guest panel on Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) - Joseph appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Gillian Jacobs (Community) - Tune in to see Gillian on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Paul Scheer (The League) - Paul is a guest on a repeat of The Pete Holmes Show at midnight on TBS.
  • Christopher Meloni (Surviving Jack/The Fanelli Boys) - Christopher drops by The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Brooklyn Decker, Majandra Delfino and Zoe Lister-Jones (Friends with Better Lives) - The women of Friends with Better Lives are guests on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT. Zoe will also be on Pop Sugar Now on TV Guide Network at 6pm and on the next day on their website at noon.
  • Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show/The Good Life) - Drew visits The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Andre will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Kirstie Alley (Kirstie/Veronica's Closet/Cheers) - Kirstie throws down a figure-friendly chicken dinner on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Ted Lange (The Love Boat) - Ted is a guest on a repeat of The Better Show, so check your local listings.
  • Brittany Daniel (The Game/That '80s Show) - Brittany shares her story of triumph over non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Beau Bridges (The Millers) - Beau appears on The Queen Latifah Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Toni Colette (United States of Tara) - Toni will be on HuffPost Live.
  • Thomas Haden Church (Wings) - Thomas is a guest on HuffPost Live.
  • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family/Hot Properties/The Knights of Prosperity) - Sofia visits ABC's Good Morning America between 7-9am.
  • James Van Der Beek (Friends with Better Lives/Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - James will be on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love) - Holly hosts the Plugged In panel on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.