Yeah, been a while since I did one of these. I haven’t come up with any new specials to talk about. Then I remembered this little treat from about ten years ago. I wanted to talk about it because it’s a fantastic example of how an idea can sound fantastic and can’t miss….only to end up failing HARD.
The Dick Van Dyke Show ran from 1961 til 1966. It was a major hit and is still adored in re-runs to this day. Many years later, creator Carl Reiner came up with an idea for a reunion. He got the surviving cast to do it, and it premiered on CBS in 2004. So was it a good idea, or a bad one?
Hosted by Ray Romano, the story is about Alan Brady reaching out to his old writers Rob Petrie and Sally Rogers because he wants them to write his eulogy before he dies. Rob discusses this with Sally, his wife Laura as well as his brother and former neighbor. No one is thrilled with the idea but don’t know how to turn Alan down since he contracts and has promised the Petrie’s a lot of money for the job. But they do ultimately turn him down.
What I Liked-
The old clips-Yeah The Dick Van Dyke show is one of the very few old shows I really like. It’s got a timeless quality and will never age. Except for maybe Bewitched (and Star Trek, and possibly The Brady Bunch if you count that since it was more 70’s), I am not a fan of anything that came out of the 50’s and 60’s. This is the exception. So seeing these clips again is a real treat even if they didn’t choose my favorite episodes. However it’s not perfect there was a problem with these clips, but we’ll get to that.
The Set-Yeah they got the classic set from the original show. Ain’t no way I can find fault with that. And it’s a pretty decent recreation to, of course it was a pretty basic set.
The Reunion/First Half-Despite the gripes with the plot I can’t find any fault with the fact that the surviving cast has reunited. It is nice to see them all together again, in character more or less, and the chemistry between them is still there for the most part. The first half or so is really pretty decent. I also liked that they didn’t forget that Jerry Van Dyke was in the old show.
The Tributes-A lot of times in reunions the show ignores the deceased cast members for whatever reason. Not here, not only do the late great Morey Amsterdam and Jerry Paris get a nice mention in the script they were even included in the opening credits. Classy. And if you’re not sure who Jerry Paris was he was a big time producer on shows like Happy Days and Odd Couple. Oh and yes Mel got a mention to, man was he one of the best foil’s ever in sitcom history. The final scene with Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore out of character wandering around the old set should have been the highlight. It was real nice except for one thing. What was that? Join me in the next category.
What I Hated-
Ok let’s get into my one major rant with this special. You may have noticed I said it was hosted by Ray Romano. WHY??????? What in the name of all that is holy is he doing here? Now don’t get me wrong, I like Romano just fine. And maybe if this was a straight tribute with just clips and interviews it would have been Ok. But…why? Did CBS really need to push the fact that this was on CBS? It couldn’t be to boost ratings for Everybody Loves Raymond! Maybe they were afraid no one would watch if they didn’t have someone current on it. Which is stupid let’s be honest if you were not a fan of the classic show you weren’t watching, whether Romano was in it or not. His introduction is unnecessary. And the worst part isn’t the pointless introduction, but he comes back in at the end! He interrupts the reunion of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore for no reason! DID WE NEED THE PLUG FOR EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND!! Why not just have, gee I don’t know, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore introduce the show! AndÂ to top it off, the final gag involves Romano and is off screen!!!!Â Yeah I’ll say it, Ray Romano being in this hurt this special. HARD.
The Opening Credits-For one simple reason. Ray Romano talks over them!!!
The story doesn’t work!-I said the first half is solid. True. The second half it just falls flat! Sorry Carl Reiner but it just doesn’t. The plot is sound, and even makes sense given the character of Alan Brady , but there are so many nits within. Why would Rob and Sally consider this for a second? Why doesn’t Rob just say no to Alan? Yeah I know Rob is a nice guy but, as Mary actually points out, it’s not as if Rob works for the guy anymore! I have a hard time thinking that Rob and Sally would be so worried about hurting Alan’s feelings. They bring up money which I also don’t buy since they clearly don’t need the money they are all doing well. The excuse that Laura could open her own dance studio is a contrivance at best. So much so that it is dismissed very simply as if it was pointless. There was also some inappropriate jokes that would have never been found in the classic show which breaks the spirit (Rob swears, Alan belches, and they put one double bed in the Petrie’s bedroom!).
Millie and Stacey (Jerry Van Dyke) are romantically together in this one. Why?? I have no idea. Wouldn’t it have been enough to have them just be old friends? I don’t know why it just bothers me, maybe because it’s so out of nowhere and, well, goes nowhere! In fact none of the characters stories are resolved, the story just kind of ends and really all we know about them in the end is that they are still alive. I mean would it have killed Carl Reiner to extend the plot a little to fill the show out more? Not only is it more clips than new stuff but the problem is resolved way to fast with no real chance to spend any time with the characters. There is a reason most reunions are two hours!! Oh, and one last thing…..
The Pacing-This was written as a half hour episode, but CBS stretched it to an hour with clips. Ok, I can get behind that. What I did not like was the structure that was used. The first half hour is the episode, and the problem is basically resolved. But before the final scene the plot comes to a halt to fit the clips in which is really distracting. The characters sit reminiscing and to be honest it kind of gets boring. It’s like a clip show for fifteen minutes, yawn! If it were me I would have had more clips in the start to wet our appetite a bit and then segue into the new material, and done it in one piece with no break for clips. Then maybe close with a few more clips to bookend it. That would have felt much more balanced. And FYI the final clip package they showed was the best one.
And finally, they went to all the trouble to get the actor who played Little Richie back and how much is he in it? Two minutes in the beginning and then never seen again! What the hell? A scene with his parents would have been nice! That was kind of insulting. I know Little Richie was hardly the focus of the show but would have hurt to have him in there somewhere?
Final Toughs-No this wasn’t all bad but that being said, Carl Reiner should have left well enough alone. While I agree that even I thought the idea had merit, it doesn’t work and CBS’s attempt to suck as much of the show as dry as it could with it’s endless padding hurt it. A lot. And, one last time I have to ask, WHY THE HELL WAS RAY ROMANO IN THIS?????
This is on YouTube and DVD if you haven’t seen it. It’s worth a watch if you were a fan of the old show, I just think it could have been 100% better. What did you guys think?