Rob Edelman: Hail YouTube

Apr 17, 2017

The recent passing of Mary Tyler Moore led me to watch-- and savor-- episodes on YouTube of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, her classic early-1960s TV sitcom. At this time, Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most beloved and respected women in America. She exuded a “Camelot”-style class and, in this regard, was second only in popularity to Jacqueline Kennedy.

One of the pleasures of YouTube is that so many vintage TV series episodes may be easily viewed and heard there, not to mention otherwise obscure films and songs. So much can be unearthed and, while perusing YouTube in search of DICK VAN DYKE SHOW series episodes, I came upon the sitcom’s unsold 1959 pilot. It was not titled THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, and this is because Dick Van Dyke is nowhere to be found. In the show that premiered in 1961 and ran through 1966, Van Dyke, Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, and Larry Mathews play Rob and Laura Petrie, Sally Rogers, Buddy Sorrell, and Ritchie Petrie. Carl Reiner, the show’s creator, occasionally appears as Alan Brady, the egomaniacal TV star who employs Rob, Sally, and Buddy as comedy writers.

However, the pilot episode is titled HEAD OF THE FAMILY, and it features a completely different cast. Reiner himself is Rob, and his surname is pronounced “Peetrie.” Barbara Britton, the “Revlon Girl” of the 1950s and 60s who appeared on stage, screen, and television, predates Mary Tyler Moore as Laura. Morty Gunty, best-recalled as a nightclub comic, plays Buddy. The otherwise obscure Gary Morgan is Ritchie and, most intriguingly, Sylvia Miles appears as Sally. This was a full decade before she earned “instant stardom” and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for MIDNIGHT COWBOY.

Additionally, the Alan Brady character is named “Alan Sturdy” and the storyline, which serves as a mirror of its era, is New York baseball-centric. There are casual references to Casey Stengel and Hank Bauer, who then respectively managed and played for the Bronx Bombers. The plot centers on six-year-old Ritchie’s complaining to Laura that “...daddy never plays baseball with me...” He follows up with a question: “Why couldn’t you marry Mickey Mantle?... Well, I love Mickey. Don’t you love Mickey?” (By the way, Toronto baseball fans might chuckle over the name of the street on which the Petrie’s suburban abode is located. It neither is Lou Gehrig Lane nor Bronx Bomber Byway but Blue Jay Blvd.!)

Stumbling upon and savoring HEAD OF THE FAMILY is one of the endless surprises that may be discovered on YouTube and, to see or hear them, you do not have to trek to a museum or purchase a DVD or Blu-ray. You can discover them any day of the week, at eight in the morning or eight in the evening. All you need is Internet access and, if you have it, you can spend hours searching for and discovering hidden gems like HEAD OF THE FAMILY... 

Rob Edelman has authored or edited several dozen books on film, television, and baseball. He has taught film history courses at several universities and his writing has appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and journals. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

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