The two main settings show the work and home life of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), the head writer of a comedy/variety show produced in Manhattan. Viewers are given an "inside look" at how a television show (the fictitious The Alan Brady Show) was written and produced. Many scenes deal with Rob and his co-writers, Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally Rogers (Rose Marie). Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), a balding straight man and recipient of numerous insulting one-liners from Buddy, was the show's producer and the brother-in-law of the show's star, Alan Brady (Carl Reiner). As Rob, Buddy, and Sally write for a comedy show, the premise provides a built-in forum for them to be making jokes constantly. Other scenes focus on the home life of Rob, his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), and son Richie (Larry Mathews), who live at 148 Bonnie Meadow Road in suburban New Rochelle, New York. Also often seen are their next-door neighbors and best friends, Jerry Helper (Jerry Paris), a dentist, and his wife Millie (Ann Morgan Guilbert).
Head of the Family pilot
The Dick Van Dyke Show was preceded by a 1960 pilot for a series to be called Head of the Family, with different actors playing the parts, although the characters were essentially the same, with the absence of Mel Cooley. In the pilot, Carl Reiner, who created the show based on his own experiences as a TV writer, played Robbie Petrie, although the name was pronounced with a long "e", as opposed to the short "e" used in the later program. Laura Petrie was played by Barbara Britton, Buddy Sorrell by Morty Gunty, Sally Rogers by Sylvia Miles, Ritchie by Gary Morgan, and Alan Sturdy, the Alan Brady character, was played by Jack Wakefield, although his face was never fully seen, which was also the case with Carl Reiner's Alan Brady for the first several seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
The pilot was unsuccessful, which led Reiner to revamp the show with Dick Van Dyke playing the central character.
At least three episodes were filmed without a live studio audience: "The Bad Old Days," which featured an extended flashback sequence that relied on optical effects that would have been impractical to shoot with a live audience in the studio; "The Alan Brady Show Presents," which required elaborate set and costume changes; and "Happy Birthday and Too Many More," which was filmed on November 26, 1963, only four days after President Kennedy's assassination.
Reiner considered moving the production of the series to full color as early as season three, only to drop the idea when he was informed that it would add about $7,000 to the cost of each episode.
Laura Petrie (née Meehan; played by Mary Tyler Moore) – Rob's wife. As a 17-year-old dancer in the United Service Organizations, she met and married Rob. Then, she became a stay-at-home mom. About 60 actresses auditioned for the part before Moore was signed. Moore later wrote that she almost skipped the audition.
Maurice "Buddy" Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) – an energetic and at times sarcastic "human joke machine", one of the comedy writers. Amsterdam was recommended for the role by Rose Marie as soon as she had signed on to the series. Buddy is constantly making fun of Mel Cooley, the show's producer, for being bald and dull. His character is loosely based on Mel Brooks who also wrote for Your Show of Shows. He makes frequent jokes about his marriage to his wife Fiona Conway "Pickles" Sorrell. In several episodes, it is mentioned that Buddy is Jewish. He was identified by his Yiddish name, Moishe Selig, when he had his belated bar mitzvah in "Buddy Sorrell – Man and Boy." Buddy plays the cello and owns a large German Shepherd named Larry. Buddy made a guest appearance on the Danny Thomas Show episode, "The Woman Behind the Jokes" that aired October 21, 1963.
Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) – another of the comedy writers, and the designated typist, who is always on the lookout for a husband. The character was loosely based on Selma Diamond and Lucille Kallen, both writers for Your Show of Shows. She never drinks and quotes frequently from her "Aunt Agnes in Cleveland". She has an on-again/off-again relationship with her boyfriend Herman Glimscher, who seems to be too much of a mama's boy to get married. She frequently scares men off with her sense of humor and strong personality.
Richard Rosebud "Richie" Petrie (Larry Mathews) – Rob and Laura's son (his middle name is an acronym for "Robert Oscar Sam Edward Benjamin Ulysses David," all the names suggested by members of Rob and Laura's families in the episode "What's in a Middle Name?".)
Melvin "Mel" Cooley (Richard Deacon) – the balding producer of The Alan Brady Show and Alan Brady's brother-in-law. Though Mel can often be an obsequiously sycophantic yes-man to the demanding Brady, he is also shown to be a dedicated, competent producer. Mel is constantly at odds with Buddy, who often makes insulting comments about Mel's baldness, to which Mel often responds with a simple "Yechh!"
Jerry Helper (Jerry Paris) – the Petries' neighbor, Millie's husband, Rob's best friend, and a dentist.
Alan Brady (Carl Reiner) – the egocentric, toupee-wearing star of The Alan Brady Show. Originally an off-screen character, then shown only with his back to the camera or only in voice, Brady began to make full-face appearances in season four. Alan appeared on the Mad About You episode, "The Alan Brady Show", named after the fictional show within The Dick Van Dyke Show, that aired February 16, 1995.
Stacey Petrie (Jerry Van Dyke) – Rob's brother, played by Dick Van Dyke's real-life brother. Stacey – a quiet, shy, man – is prone to episodes of sleepwalking, during which he becomes, literally, the banjo-playing life of the party, and calls his brother Rob "Burford".
Fiona Conway "Pickles" Sorrell (Barbara Perry/Joan Shawlee) – Buddy's slightly nutty wife and former showgirl. She becomes an off-screen character after season two.
Herman Glimscher (Bill Idelson) – Sally's occasional and nerdy boyfriend. In the 2004 reunion special, Sally and Herman had been married for years (In an early episode, Sally mentioned having dated a Woodrow Glimscher, presumably a relative, until Woodrow's overbearing mother arranged for her to date Herman instead.)
Delivery boy – originally a nameless character played by Jamie Farr in four season one episodes. Subsequently, he was given the name Willie, and Herbie Faye played the role (Faye also played other characters in later episodes).
CBS had intended to cancel the show after its first season, but Procter & Gamble threatened to pull its advertising from "the network's extremely lucrative daytime lineup" and the show was renewed, keeping its Wednesday night time slot. After going into summer reruns, the show jumped into the top 10 by the third episode of its second season. It may have been helped by coming directly after the new #1 hit, The Beverly Hillbillies.
In 1963, Morey Amsterdam guest starred as Buddy Sorrell during the final season of The Danny Thomas Show on the episode "The Woman Behind the Jokes".
Three decades after playing their respective roles of Sally and Buddy, Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam reprised them on an episode of Herman's Head titled "When Hairy Met Hermy".
In 1969, Van Dyke and Moore reunited for a one-hour variety special called Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman which included a never before seen alternative take from one of the show's episodes in which Van Dyke breaks down and cries after being dismissed from a film role instead of just being disappointed. A 1979 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Hour featured Van Dyke and Moore reprising their roles as the Petries in a short sketch presented as the brainstorming of Van Dyke (guest-starring as himself) and the writers of Mary McKinnon's (Moore) variety series, who noted McKinnon's resemblance to "the gal who played Laura Petrie". In a 1995 episode of the sitcom Mad About You, Carl Reiner reprised the role of Alan Brady, appearing in a documentary by Paul Buchmann (Paul Reiser) about the early days of television. The episode included several other references to The Dick Van Dyke Show, including a scene in which Reiner and Reiser discuss whether it would be funnier to trip over an ottoman or to step over it at the last moment. In 2003, TV Land produced The Alan Brady Show, an animated special presented as an episode of Dick Van Dyke's show-within-a-show. Reiner, Van Dyke, and Rose Marie contributed voice performances to the show. A 2004 reunion movie, The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited, brought together the surviving members of the cast. In this continuation, Rob and Laura have left their New Rochelle home to Richie and moved to Manhattan, where Laura runs a dance studio. Alan Brady re-enters their lives to ask Rob to write his eulogy, with the help of a happily married Sally Rogers Glimschere.
While his wife is away, Buddy becomes the Petries’ houseguest
In a 2010 interview on National Public Radio, Van Dyke revealed that Morey Amsterdam wrote a set of lyrics for the show's theme song:
Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment – Actors and Performers: Dick Van Dyke – Won (Shared with Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt for Hallmark Hall of Fame: "The Magnificent Yankee" and Barbra Streisand for My Name is Barbra)
Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment – Writers: Carl Reiner for "Never Bathe on Saturday" – Nominated
Outstanding Program Achievements in Entertainment: Carl Reiner, producer – Won
Outstanding Comedy Series: Carl Reiner, producer – Won
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series: Dick Van Dyke – Won
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series: Mary Tyler Moore – Won
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy: Jerry Paris – Nominated
Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy: Morey Amsterdam – Nominated
Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy: Rose Marie – Nominated
Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy:
Bill Persky and Sam Denoff for "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" – Won
Bill Persky and Sam Denoff for "The Ugliest Dog in the World" – Nominated
Home video releases
Image Entertainment has released all five seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD in Region 1. Season sets were released between October 2003 – June 2004. Also, on May 24, 2005, Image Entertainment repackaged the discs from the individual season sets into a complete series box set. On Blu-ray, the complete series, remastered in high definition, was released on November 13, 2012.
^[P. 170 of The official Dick Van Dyke show book: the definitive history and ultimate... By Vince Waldron]
^Dick Van Dyke Plays Not My Job (October 23, 2010) NPR.org archive Retrieved September 6, 2011
^Brooks, Tim (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. pp. 1634–1636. ISBN978-0-345-49773-4.|accessdate= requires |url= (help)