Saturday, 8 October 2011

Photographer Robert Whitaker & Screenwrier David Zelag Goodman R.I.P.

Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker, who photographed The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, and many others, passed on 20 September 2011 at the age of 71 after a long illness.

Robert Whitaker was born in Harpenden, Hertfordshire on 13 November 1939. He started in photography in England in the late Fifties. In 1961 he moved to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia where studied at the University of Melbourne and he opened a studio. It was when Mr. Whitaker accompanied a journalist friend to an interview with The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein during their Australian tour in June 1964 that he met the band. Brian Epstein was so impressed with Robert Whitaker's work that he offered him a position with NEMS as a photographer. Mr. Whitaker turned him down, but relented after seeing The Beatles perform at Festival Hall.

Robert Whitaker went to work for NEMS in August 1964. He would photograph most of the NEMS  stable, including album covers for Gerry and The Pacemakers and Cilla Black, as well as Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas. He also photographed Australian folk rock group The Seekers, including one album cover. Of course, he worked a good deal with The Beatles, with whom he became close friends (especially John Lennon). For two years he travelled with The Beatles, photographing them on their second American tour, as well as photographing them in the recording studio and even at home. Some of his photographs were used in Klaus Voorman's collage-illustration for the cover of the album Revolver. He also accompanied The Beatles on their Japanese tour in 1966.

It would be in 1966 that Robert Whitaker would take his most notorious photograph. That year would see the release of the album Yesterday and Today, a compilation of Beatles songs not released in the United States. The cover Robert Whitaker and The Beatles conceived for the album featured The Beatles in butcher's coats and draped with slabs of meat and dismembered dolls. As might be expected, Capitol Records received several protests from American distributors that the cover was in poor tastes. On 14 June 1966, the day before the album's release, Capitol Records issued a recall. The offensive cover was replaced by another Robert Whitaker photograph, one of The Beatles with a steamer trunk. Despite the recall, approximately 25,000 copies of what became known as "the Butcher Sleeve" were sold. 

It was in 1966 that The Beatles retired from touring. As a result Robert Whitaker was no longer needed as their full time photographer. He would go on to create the cover of the Cream album Disraeli Gears, to photograph Mick Jagger, and contribute to the magazine Oz. In the Seventies he photographed wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Middle East. He also photographed Salvador Dali. It was after his wife was almost killed by a rocket attack in 1972 that he retired from professional photography. Afterwards he grew crops and raised cattle on a farm in England.

There can be no doubt of Robert Whitaker's talent as a photographer. His photographs of The Beatles have stood the test of time not simply because they are photographs of The Beatles, but because Mr. Whitaker had an eye for composition when it came to pictures. Indeed, if the Butcher Sleeve caused such a stir in 1966 it was perhaps because it was so well executed. Quite simply, Mr. Whitaker composed the picture so that it would have maximum effect. Given such talent, even if Robert Whitaker had not photographed The Beatles, chances are that he would have become famous as a photographer.

David Zelag Goodman

David Zelag Goodman, who wrote screenplays for movies ranging from The Stranglers of Bombay (1960) to Straw Dogs (1971), passed on 26 September 2011 at the age of 81. 

David Zelag Goodman was born on 15 January 1930 in New York City. He earned a degree in English at Queens College and he studied drama at Yale. 

He was 24 when he wrote the play High Named Today. It was set to debut in January 1954 with Jane Wyatt in the lead part. Unfortunately, its financial backers pulled out, so that in the end it only had a short run Off Broadway.  His debut as a screenwriter was with Hammer Films' The Stranglers of Bombay in 1959. He went on to write episodes of The Untouchables, Combat, and Mr. Broadway. Nineteen seventy saw his return to feature films, with screenplays for Lovers and Other Strangers and Monte Walsh. He would go on to collaborate with Sam Peckinpah and the controversial film Straw Dogs (1971) and work on screenplays for Man on a Swing (1974), Farewell, My Lovely (1975), Logan's Run (1977), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Fighting Back (1982), and Man, Woman, and Child (1983).

David Zelag Goodman was a very talented writer who was also very versatile. He wrote Straw Dogs. Sam Peckinpah's controversial psychological thriller, but he also wrote the comedy Lovers and Other Strangers. The movies on which he worked ranged from hard boiled detective (an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely) to science fiction (Logan's Run) to horror (The Eyes of Laura Mars).  David Zelag Goodman had a versatility few screenwriters could boast.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A. C. Nielsen Jr. & Marv Tarplin R.I.P.

A. C. Nielsen Jr.

A. C. Nielsen Jr., the son of A. C. Nielsen Company founder of the A. C. Nielsen Company and its long time head, passed on 2 October 2011 at the age of 92. 

Arthur Charles Nielsen Jr. was born on 8 April 1919 in Winnetka, Illinois. It was in 1923 that his father, A. C. Nielsen Sr. founded the A. C.Nielsen Company to provide companies with objective information on the effects of sales programmes and marketing. During World War II, A. C. Nielsen Jr. served in the Army Corps of Engineers. Among his missions during the war was to erect a building to house a computer that would generate tables to calculate the measurements necessary to accurately fire artillery. It would be Mr. Nielsen's first exposure to computers, which would play a large role in his future career.

After being demobilised in 1945, Mr. Nielsen joined A. C. Nielsen Company. In 1948 that A. C. Nielsen Company invested in the construction of Univac, the first general purpose computer. It would be A. C. Nielsen Jr. who would expand the company into news areas such as a clearinghouse for coupons, tracking subscriptions for magazines, and even tracking oil and gas wells.

While A. C. Nielsen Jr. led the company into new arenas, it would remain best known for its ratings for radio and later television. A. C. Nielsen Company started measuring the size of radio station audiences in 1936 and went nationwide in 1942. In 1950 A. C. Nielsen Sr. led the company in the creation of the first television ratings. In A. C. Nielsen Jr. became the president of the company and in 1975 its chairman. During his tenure the company went from making $4 million a year to more than $680 million a year. And while the Nielsen ratings are the best known means of measuring audience size, over the years the A. C. Nielsen Company would have to fight off some very viable competitors. With the growth of cable television, the A. C. Nielsen Company would expand to provide ratings for cable channels as well.

A. C. Nielsen also supported the Chicago Food Bank, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, and many other charities.

While the Nielsen ratings have been often been criticised over the years for their accuracy and the possible response bias of Nielsen viewers, the company would seem to have developed the best television ratings system. Indeed, A. C. Neilsen Company's primary rival throughout the years, Arbitron, was never as well respected nor their ratings regarded as accurate (here I must not Arbitron left the arena of television ratings many years ago).  And while there are those who would question the need for television ratings, it must be pointed out that television is a business based on income from advertising, that income being based on the the size of any given show's audience. 

Like his father before him, A. C. Nielsen Jr. always strove to insure that the ratings his company provided for the various television outlets were as accurate as possible. Indeed, it must be pointed out that the A. C. Nielsen was using computers and other technology in determining the ratings of TV shows at a time when only the government, universities, and the largest corporations were using the machines. If the networks have used the Nielsen ratings as an excuse to cancel many fine programmes, then the fault does not necessarily lie with A. C. Nielsen Company, but instead with the networks themselves and the audience for not tuning into the shows. A. C. Nielsen is only the bearer of bad news at times, not its creator. And A. C. Nielsen Jr. always strove to insure the company measured television ratings and other marketing accurately.

Marv Tarplin
Marv Tarplin, guitarist for Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and a songwriter in his own right, died on 30 September 2011 at the age of 70.

Marvin Tarplin was born on 13 June 1941 in Atlanta, Georgia. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where his mother enrolled him in piano classes. Eventually Mr. Tarplin would take up the guitar, which became his instrument of choice. He began his professional career after walking into the Flame Show Bar in Detroit and he was recruited as the guitarist for the girl group The Primetttes (two of who went to school with Mr. Tarplin). He played at their early gigs, and it would be when he played at their audition for Motown that his life would be changed forever.  The audition was seen by Smokey Robinson, who recruited him as one of The Miracles. The Miracles released their first single, "It," in 1959. They released three more singles in 1959 and 1960, none of them doing very well on the charts. It was with "Shop Around," released in 1960, that The Miracles would have their first hit. The single went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard R&B chart. 


The Miracles would go onto become one of the most successful R&B groups of all time. Much of their success would be due to Marv Tarplin's unique playing style, which was a bit reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield. In addition to playing guitar, Mr. Tarplin would also have success as a songwriter. He co-wrote several of The Miracles' hits, including "I Like It Like That," "Tracks of My Tears," "Come On Do the Jerk," and "Going to a Go-Go." He also wrote hits for Marvin Gaye, including "Ain't That Peculiar," "I'll Be Doggone," and "One More Heartache." 


In 1972 Smokey Robinson and his wife Claudette left The Miracles. Marv Tarplin remained with The Miracles until 1973, when he joined Smokey Robinson in his solo career. Mr. Tarplin would continue to collaborate with Mr. Robinson, co-writing several of his solo hits. Among the songs which Mr. Tarplin co-wrote were "Cruisin'" and "Being With You." He would continue to play guitar with Smokey Robinson until 2008, when he retired from touring.


Marv Tarplin was often referred to as "The Miracles' secret weapon" and there can be no reason to doubt that his guitar work was much of the reason for the group's success. The combination of Smokey Robinson's powerful vocals and Marv Tarplin's singular guitar work gave The Miracles a sound unlike any other R&B group at the time. Indeed, Marv Tarplin is often counted as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. As a songwriter he was also very talented, winning the BMI award for Songwriting multiple times. Indeed, it was Mr. Tarplin who created the distinctive three chord riff that formed the backbone of the song "The Tracks of My Tears." A great guitarist and a great songwriter, Marv Tarplin was an immensely talented man.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Television: Rare & Well Done Now on Kindle

For those of you who enjoy reading and for those of you who like e-books, there is a new book It's my own Television: Rare and Well Done: Essays on the Medium. You can buy it here.

For those of you who do not have Kindles, you can still buy both of these books. Amazon has free Kindle applications for both PCs and Macs. They also have apps for Androids, Blackberrys, IPads, IPhones, and Windows Phones!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The General (1926)

If film buffs are asked what was Buster Keston's greatest film, chances are good that most of them would say, "The General (1926)." And there is little reason that they should not. Buster Keaton himself said that The General was his favourite film of those he made. Orson Welles considered The General to be the greatest comedy film ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and possibly the greatest film ever made. In an international poll conducted by the magazine Sight & Sound, The General was voted the 15th greatest film of all time. In the 10th anniversary edition of the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies list of the greatest American films, The General ranked #18. It was also ranked among the 50 Greatest Films of All Time by Vanity Fair and among the 100 Greatest Films by Film Four. Critics from Leonard Maltin to Roger Ebert have all counted The General among the greatest movies ever.

As many accolades as The General has received over the years, it would seem likely that it was greeted to widespread critical acclaim and box office success upon its release. Sadly, this was not the case. The General received a good number of negative reviews from such well known periodicals as The New York Times, Variety, and The Los Angeles Times. Worse yet, the film lost money at the box office.  The General only grossed $474,264, $300,000 less than Mr. Keaton's previous film, The Battling Butler (1926). Its negative cost alone was $415,232. In all The General cost $750,000 to make.  In some respects, The General was the Heaven's Gate (1980) of its time. Sadly, because of the failure of The General at the box office, Buster Keaton would never again be trusted with total control over one of his motion pictures.

While it is an undisputed classic today, in some ways it is easy to understand why The General bombed with critics and failed with audiences in 1926 and 1927. Quite simply, in many respects the movie was ahead of its time. The review of the film from The Los Angeles Times claimed that The General was "...neither straight comedy nor is it altogether thrilling drama." What The Los Angeles Times and other magazines and periodicals failed to realise is that The General was part of a whole new subgenre. The General was one of the first action comedies, the forerunner of movies ranging from My Favourite Brunette (1947) to Hot Fuzz (2007). If The General was neither straight comedy or straight drama, it was because it was both. Quite simply, The General was ahead of its time.

Indeed, both the setting and the story of The General were rather unconventional for comedies during the Silent Era. The movie was based on an actual event, the Great Locomotive Chase, also called Andrew's Raid, a military operation during the War Between the States in which Federal troops hijacked a locomotive called The General in Big Shanty, Georgia with the intent of meeting up with Major General Ormsby M. Mitchel in Chattanooga, Tennessee and tearing up the railway along the way. The General was pursued by its conductor, William Allen Fuller, and two other men. Mr. Fuller ultimately prevented the Federal soldiers from driving The General all the way to Chattanooga and the Federal lines.

The General very loosely followed the historical event. It starred Buster Keaton as Western & Atlantic Railroad train engineer Johnnie Gray, who is rejected from enlisting in the Confederate Army because his occupation is too necessary to the war effort (at the time railway engineering was a highly specialised job). Sadly, his fiancee Annabelle (Marion Mack) believes he simply did not want to enlist and refuses to speak to him again until he is in the military.  A year later Annabelle travels on The General to visit her wounded father, even though she still wishes to have nothing whatsoever to do with Johnnie. Unfortunately, when The General stops so the passengers can eat a meal, Union troops hijack the train with Annabelle still aboard. Both his train and the woman he loves now in the possession of the Federals, Johnnie begins his pursuit, first using a handcar, then a bicycle, and finally another train.

While The General had a good deal of action and drama, it also had the physical comedy for which Buster Keaton was well known. In fact, many of the stunts which Mr. Keaton performed himself were very dangerous. In one of the most famous scenes Mr. Keaton sat upon the train's cowcatcher while holding a railroad tie. In another scene he sat on the train's coupling rods, the rods which connect the locomotive's driving wheels. In yet another scene Mr. Keaton jumped from the engine to a tender to a boxcar. Perhaps the film's most spectacular stunt was not played for comedy. In one scene a bridge collapses as a train crosses it, plunging the train to its destruction. What made this scene so incredible is the fact that Mr. Keaton collapsed an actual bridge and destroyed an actual train. Since no actors could be on board the train, a dummy was used to portray the train's engineer. Since they were using a real bridge and a real train, it was tantamount that the scene be shot in one take. Fortunately, everything went according to plan. In all the scene cost $42,000. This made it the single most expensive scene of any film during the Silent Era.

While The General featured some of Buster Keaton's most spectacular stunts, it was also very authentic with regards to the details of the period.  Three authentic, antique locomotives were used in the film. Pains were taken to insure that the costumes, from the uniforms of the soldiers to the clothing of civilians, were as authentic as possible. The film's look was in part inspired by the War Between the States photographs of Mathew Brady. Mr. Keaton would later state that he believed The General was more authentic than Gone With the Wind (1939). In many ways it is hard to argue with him.

For all the incredible stunts and the Civil War authenticity of The General, the movie ultimately succeeds because of Buster Keaton himself. As in all of his silent movies, Mr. Keaton is no clown. At no point does he mug for the camera or ham up scenes. Instead he plays Johnnie Gray seriously. It is not Johnnie Gray who is funny, but rather the events unfolding around him and the things which are happening to him. Johnnie Gray is the underdog that all of us have been at some time, the sort that all of us root for. More so than Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp and even Harold Lloyd's  "Glasses Character," we can identify with Johnnie. All of us have had our hearts broken, all of us have had things go wrong on our job (even if it is nothing so big as a train being hijacked). We then do not so much laugh at Johnnie Gray so much as the circumstances he is in.

While today The General is recognised as a masterpiece, it would be years after its release before it would be counted as a classic comedy. Strangely enough, part of this was due to fellow silent comedy star Charlie Chaplin. In 1952 Buster Keaton appeared in Mr. Chaplin's movie Limelight. This created new interest in Buster Keaton's silent films. By 1955 interest in The General alone had grown to such a point that when New York City's Museum of Modern Art held a tribute to United Artists, it was the only film that had to be shown twice in order to fill the demand to see it. Since then it has only grown in reputation, to the point that it is now regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. Buster Keaton died in 1966, safe in the knowledge that his favourite film, the expensive Civil War blockbuster that had bombed at the box office, was now regarded as a classic.



Monday, 3 October 2011

50 Years of The Dick Van Dyke Show

(This post is part of the Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon hosted by Thrilling Days of Yesteryear to honour the show's 50th anniversary. After you finish this post, then, I'd advise you to head over there and check out the other posts in the blogathon!)

I cannot remember a time when The Dick Van Dyke Show did not exist. Given my age this should not be surprising. The show had already been in reruns by the time I could read and would be in reruns for years to come. In fact, I do not even have a clear memory of what was the first episode I ever saw. I believe it was "Oh How We Met the Night That We Danced," which portrays the first meeting of lead characters Rob and Laura Petrie, but I cannot be certain.

Regardless, there was a time when The Dick Van Dyke Show did not exist. The programme debuted 50 years ago tonight, on CBS at 8:00 Eastern/7:00 Central. The show centred on comedy writer Rob Petrie (played by Dick Van Dyke) and his wife Laura Petrie (played by Mary Tyler Moore). Rob and Laura were a young couple living in New Rochelle, New York with their young son Richie. Their neighbours and best friends were dentist Jerry Helper (played by Jerry Paris) and his wife Milie Helper (played by Ann Morgan Guilbert). Rob worked as one of the writers on The Alan Brady Show, a comedy variety show of the sort so popular in the Fifties. His fellow writers on The Alan Brady Show were Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally Rogers (Rose Marie).  The Alan Brady Show was produced by Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), Alan Brady's brother-in-law and often the target of Buddy's jokes. Plots were divided between Rob's home life and his work life, and often involved both. This set The Dick Van Dyke Show apart from many sitcoms of the Fifties, which either took place exclusively in the home (Father Knows Best) or the work place (Private Secretary), but rarely both.

Indeed, fifty years after The Dick Van Dyke Show debuted, it is often easy to forget how revolutionary the show really was at the time.  Much of the reason The Dick Van Dyke Show was so different from other sitcoms that came before it can be found in the origins of the show. The Dick Van Dyke Show was created by Carl Reiner, the now legendary comedy writer who had appeared as a performer and written for Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour. In 1958 Carl Reiner wrote a pilot called for a sticom to be called Head of the Family with himself in the lead role of Rob Petrie. The pilot did not sell, although it would air on The Comedy Spot, a short lived, summer replacement series on CBS which aired failed pilots. Fortunately, Head of the Family would receive a reprieve. Sheldon Leonard, producer at Danny Thomas Productions, saw potential in the pilot. That having been said, he also thought it should be recast. Up and coming song and dance man Dick Van Dyke was cast in the lead role of Rob Petrie. Young actress Mary Tyler Moore was cast as Laura Petrie. The roles of Buddy Sorrell and Sally Rogers went to two actors who already had plenty of show business experience. Cast as Buddy, Morey Amsterdam was a veteran of vaudeville and had already headlined his own television shows. Cast as Sally, Rose Marie was already a radio star at age three and would go onto a highly successful career on both radio and even in movies.

Like its pilot, Head of the Family, The Dick Van Dyke Show was largely drawn upon his own life. Carl Reiner had been both a performer on Your Show of Shows (starring Sid Caesar) and part of a stable of writers that included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Lucille Kallen. He would later be a performer and a writer on Caesar's Hour along with fellow performer and writer (and Your Show of Shows veteran) Howard Morris. He once more worked with writer Mel Brooks, as well as writers Selma Diamond, Larry Gelbart, and Aaron Ruben.  The experiences on these sketch comedy shows provided much of the inspiration for The Dick Van Dyke Show. In fact, the characters of Buddy and Sally were loosely based on writers Mel Brooks and Selma Diamond. Even the star of the fictional Alan Brady Show had some basis in reality. Alan Brady (initially unseen on the show, but later played by Mr. Reiner himself) was based to some degree on Sid Caesar, but combined with touches of Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason as well. The home life of Carl Reiner also provided inspiration for the series. Carl Reiner lived in New Rochelle himself, with his wife Estelle (who would later become famous for her cameos in her son's movies) and his young son, future actor and movie director Rob Reiner.

In drawing upon his own life Carl Reiner then created a sitcom that was different from any other before. In fact, The Dick Van Dyke Show straddled the worlds of early to mid 20th century vaudeville and the United States of the Kennedy era. Films and radio would effectively kill vaudeville in the Thirties, whereupon many vaudeville performers would find work in either motion pictures or radio. With the arrival of regularly scheduled network broadcasts in the Forties, many vaudeville performers and writers then found work in the new medium. Many of the early sketch comedy shows, from Texaco Star Theatre (starring Milton Berle) to Your Show of Shows took their inspiration from vaudeville. As a television show about once such show (The Alan Brady Show), The Dick Van Dyke Show then owed a good deal to vaudeville. Not only were Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam veterans of vaudeville, but many episodes featured blackouts (as part of the show within the show, The Alan Brady Show) of the sort both seen on the sketch variety shows of the Fifties and on vaudeville stage performances earlier in the century. Scenes set in the writers' office of The Alan Brady Show were a realistic portrayal of what must have happened in writers' offices of many of the variety shows of the Fifties and before that in the offices of writers for vaudeville shows. The writers would throw ideas back and forth, spouting one liners the whole time.

While The Dick Van Dyke Show drew heavily upon vaudeville, however, it may well have been the most up to date sitcom of the time. If Buddy and Sally represented the bygone days of vaudeville, Rob and Laura Petrie represented America in the early Sixties. Unlike Ricky and Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy, who lived in an apartment in New York City, Rob and Laura Petrie lived in their own house in the suburb of New Rochelle. This reflected the situation of many young couples in the post-war years, who lived in the suburbs but would commute to work in the city. The very modernity of The Dick Van Dyke Show was even further reflected in the person of Laura Petrie herself. Laura Petrie was unlike any housewife who had appeared on television before. Not only was she very young (she was only 25 in the show's first season), but Laura also dressed in the latest fashions. Indeed, she may have been the first television housewife to regularly wear Capri pants, and there is a very valid argument that The Dick Van Dyke Show may have helped popularise the fashion. Beyond Laura's relative youth and her fashion sense, however, there was one other thing that made her different and much modern than other television housewives before her. While such characters as Margaret Anderson (played by Jane Wyatt on Father Knows Best) and June Cleaver (played by Barbara Billingsley on Leave It to Beaver) were attractive, they were not what one would call, "sexy." On The Dick Van Dyke Show was there was no doubt of Laura Petrie's sex appeal, to the point that Mary Tyler Moore was probably many a young boy's first crush.

The Dick Van Dyke Show differed from previous shows in more than its modernity. Along with The Andy Griffith Show (which had debuted the prior season),  it was one of the first true ensemble shows. While the series was titled The Dick Van Dyke Show and there was little doubt that Dick Van Dyke was the lead, the show was very much a team effort. Episodes centred on the writers as a whole, on Sally, on Buddy, and even on producer Mel Cooley, almost as often as they did Rob and Laura. This set The Dick Van Dyke Show apart from many earlier comedies, in which there was an undisputed star of the show. While there can be little doubt that Ricky, Fred, and Ethel contributed to the success of I Love Lucy, there was little doubt that she was the show's star and nearly every episode of the show centred on her. Along with The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show is the direct predecessor of such ensemble comedies as WKRP in Cincinnati, Cheers, Frasier and 30 Rock.

Not only was The Dick Van Dyke Show one of the earliest ensemble shows, but it was also one of the earliest work place comedies. Prior to The Dick Van Dyke Show there only a few comedies that were even partially set in the work place. Mr. Peepers, Private Secretary, and Our Miss Brooks were some of the few sitcoms set in a work place. With much of the action on The Dick Van Dyke Show taking place in the writer's office of The Alan Brady Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show can then be considered one of the forerunners of other work place comedies, from Cheers to The Office.

Of course, even given that The Dick Van Dyke Show was in many respects revolutionary for its time, the show would not have been a success had it not been for the excellence of both its cast and its scripts. In its five seasons on the air The Dick Van Dyke Show won fifteen Emmy Awards in various categories, and it was nominated for even more. Critics at the time recognised The Dick Van Dyke Show for the intelligence of its writing and the quality of the cast's performances. The show regularly tops lists of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Indeed, often it is considered the greatest sitcom of all time. The Dick Van Dyke Show would not have proven to have such lasting influence nor would it still be considered a classic if it had not been a show of the very highest quality.

In fact, The Dick Van Dyke Show may well be one of the few series whose run is very nearly perfect. While episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show varied in quality, I myself cannot remember any that were actually bad. Of course, much of this may be due to the fact that, unlike many shows, The Dick Van Dyke Show did not overstay its welcome. In its fifth season The Dick Van Dyke Show was still highly rated. There was no doubt that CBS would have renewed it for another season. Rather than continue the series, however, Carl Reiner decided to end it while the show was still on the top. While it is lamentable that there are not more seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show, its fans can at least be happy that the show never diminished in quality after being on too long.


Regardless, The Dick Van Dyke Show would have an immediate influence on television in the Sixties. One can see echoes of The Dick Van Dyke Show in Sixties sitcoms ranging from Bewitched to He & She. Beyond the Sixties its impact can still be felt, even to this day. The Odd Couple, Barney Miller, Cheers, Mad About You, Seinfeld, and even more modern comedies such as 30 Rock and Modern Family owe a good deal to The Dick Van Dyke Show. With repeats of the series nearly ubiquitous in the past fifty years, it can be safe to say that most of the sitcom writers during that time watched the show and in turn were influenced by it, if not inspired by it.

The Dick Van Dyke Show was perhaps the first sitcom that was identifiably a product of the Sixties, one that would have a lasting influence on television. It should then be surprising that when viewed today the show still seems as fresh and original as ever. Despite obviously having been made in the early to mid Sixties, The Dick Van Dyke Show is not at dated and still holds up today. And while the show's themes have been repeated over and over in other series for the past Fifties years, The Dick Van Dyke Show never seems cliche or shopworn. Such was the quality of its writing and its performances that The Dick Van Dyke Show is essentially timeless. I rather suspect that not only will it be remembered as long as there is television, but that at no time will there not be someone watching the series.