This box of the complete first season of The Dick Van Dyke Show (30 episodes in all) has been assembled with total commitment and real affection.
The Dick Van Dyke Show was one of the best of the early American sitcom television comedies; full of wit, walking a carefully crafted line between natural sweetness and saccharine.
It was created by screenwriter/director/actor Carl Reiner (co-creator with Steve Martin of such gems as Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains and All of Me, and was modelled on Reiner's own scriptwriting experiences, working alongside such comedy greats as Mel Brooks.
In fact, Reiner, in one of his interviews in this set, says he modelled the show on his own life in the television studios of that time, as well as on his own home life. The show presents these two worlds with a great feeling of reality.
Here's Dick - or Rob Petrie as he's known in the show - at home with his very cute wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) and at the office, with fellow script-writers Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally (Rose Marie). The two worlds cross over occasionally, but for most of the time they're really quite separate, just as a person's working life usually is from his or her home life. This gave Carl Reiner the chance to create two sitcoms for the price of one.
The series ran for 158 episodes... and while the characterisations grew as the series developed, the comedy and underlying feeling for the characters were there from the start.
In one of his commentaries, Dick Van Dyke comments on the growth shown by Mary Tyler Moore during this first series. She came onto the show, a 23-year-old girl, as a straight actress, he remembers. And he was worried whether she would cope amidst a cast of comedians. But, he remembers, she picked it up on the run, developing into one of the best female comedians he can remember. Because of her beauty, he thinks of her in the same league as Carole Lombard... well, I wouldn't go that far, but I appreciate what he means.
In another commmentary, where both Dick and Mary reminisce about a particular episode, Dick confesses he worked really well with Mary in the domestic scenes because, unknown to her, he had a big crush on her. Well, she confesses, she had a big crush on him as well... Awhhhhhhh. Too cute.
This was all just two years before The Beatles appeared on the scene and changed the world. Go back to those pre-Beatles days of 1961 and see the world as it used to be. There were better comedies (Phil Silvers' great creation Sergeant Bilko for one) but it's sure great to be able to step back into this well-crafted universe.
Quality for a television series shot in America more than 40 years ago is sensational.
Well, it's not brilliant by today's standards of course, but this black and white television series is looking better than it ever did when originally screened, or in its innumerable repeats. The image is slick, with good tonal values and no visible artefacts present.
If you're a fan of the show, or interested in television of this era, you'll want this set. It's been presented with great care and attention to detail.
Check though that you're able to watch programs presented in the American NTSC format - this is one of the increasing number of DVDs Warner Vision is issuing in that format, and the FBI warnings show that these discs are a straight lift from the American DVD issues, format and all.