Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dick Van Dyke meets Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space

It was Dick Van Dyke's 91st birthday on Dec. 13th( also my wonderful nephew Will's birthday too--so it must be a special day!) In honor of his 91st birthday, I present my little tribute to Mr. Van Dyke, aka Rob Petrie; Dick Van Dyke meets Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space; outtakes from my comic strip, Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space ( now Jetpack Jr., of course) at gocomics.
My wife and I have watched "The Dick Van Dyke Show" many times over on Netflix, and thousands of times in the 60's and 70's. No matter how many times I've seen it, it never grows old. There's something timeless in the story of Rob & Laura, Sally and Buddy. Growing up, I saw something of my parents in Rob & Laura. In truth, my folks were nothing like them-- except in that Dick & Mary were so natural together, their arguments so real and so revealing of their love for one another. Rob & Laura were a dream couple; it was natural to want to see my parents in the young, attractive, upwardly mobile suburban couple. Rob & Laura Petrie set an impossible standard, and my parents were never a song-and-dance team. I loved them anyway.
Yet still, Rob and Laura touch a chord in me; their loves and losses and little misunderstandings; lost innocence-theirs and ours. 
A variety of elements came together to make "The Dick Van Dyke Show" a classic of the first generation of television comedies; the writing, the direction, Carl Reiner--but most importantly; the cast--and the show's effervescent leads. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were perfectly cast, and among the greatest comic actors of their time(only Lucille Ball compares). Watching them at work in TDVDS is to see two stellar comics at the peak of their game, performing great comic writing brilliantly. As the lead of the show, the weight rests on Dick, and episode after episode, he comes through with a dancer's grace in slapstick routines, and a clown's command of pantomime and facial expression. He's truly a wonder of great comic acting.  
So I'm a big fan; even at his hokiest; performing some barbershop quartet routine from long, long ago;  he is one of those entertainers who has that rare gift of making you glad to be alive.  Once years ago, my mother and I walked behind him in a department store in Manhattan. We were so surprised to see him that day. Giving the lie to that cliche of TV stars who are smaller than they appear on television, Dick Van Dyke was so much bigger than I imagined he'd be. We wanted to say "hi"  and thank him for all the laughs he'd given us over the years. But we were too shy. And then he was gone. 
So here's my tribute to you, Mr. Van Dyke. Thank you for all of the joy you've brought to us these many, many years. Happy Birthday! 



























2 comments:

  1. OK,..so here's what I took away from reading this tribute. Either you watch waaaaay too much of the DVDS...or I do (because I understood EVERY bit of that tribute) or we BOTH know what QUALITY writing and TV really is. I choose to go with the latter. Great work!!!! Laughed outloud!

    I am now on season 3 of DVDS via Netflix and I watch 2 episodes every night before hitting the sack. I know every show, but I'm still constantly amazed at how well written and acted that show was. I mean,..it seems as real as it can get without being real. The acting was so well done and so believable! Even slight miscues fit in beautifully and only add to the realism of the show.

    Let's not forget that even more amazing is the fact that the writing did not rely on gutter humor or tired sexual references that plague today's shows.

    I have been so tempted to try and write a new series with the same foundation and principles used in the DVDShow, but sadly,...it would most likely never be sold and never make it past a season.

    I'm 52 years old, and not some crotchety ol dude pounding his fist on how "they don't make em like they used to". I'm a product of the late 60's and 70's and NOT the 50's and can stand here and tell you that NOTHING compares to the quality of writing used in many of the shows of the 50's; period!!

    Lucile Ball, a comedic genius in her own right back in the day actually would sneak off during her breaks to watch the DVDShow rehearsals and taping because she KNEW quality when she saw it.

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    1. Thanks, Togo, for your comments! Yes- my wife and I have watched DVD on Netflix many times over( and I grew up in the '60's so saw them in syndication over and over, just as we all did) and yes--just as you note--as many times as I've seen them, they never seem old, and I am constantly amazed at the high quality of the writing and acting. Every member of the cast was at a peak ( not to say they didn't go on to do great work after, of course)and the scripts were top-notch. What fun they must have had! There are still good shows on TV,and I agree with many who say this is something of a golden age with Netflix and Amazon producing quality series,etc.--but classics of this kind, transcending time and distance--well, they just don't happen every day--or decade. I didn't see the colorized version on TV last month, I heard it was good--although to me colorization is a sacrilege. But many commented on the high quality of the episodes, and if it brought this wonderful show to a new audience, then who am I to complain. Long may it live on!

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