Series: Advent Calendar 2016: Holiday TV Episodes
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Season 3 Episode 13
"The Alan Brady Show Presents"
Originally broadcast December 18, 1963
Let's just get this out of the way: this episode aired fifty three years (minus one day) ago. Yes, it still holds up (pretty much), and yes it kind of blows every other show on this list out of the water. I think this would be a strong case for the argument that TV peaked a long, long time ago.
What is the show?
Remember when 30 Rock seemed really cutting edge and exciting? Well, ten years before Tina Fey was even born, Carl Reiner created The Dick Van Dyke Show, a half-hour comedy about the head writer of a popular TV variety show. Dick Van Dyke stars as Rob Petrie, the aforesaid writer, who has a hectic time balancing his personal and professional lives. Of course, with Mary Tyler Moore at home, I don't know how you could even question where your priorities should lie.
I have to admit something. I've never really watched much of this show (before now). I know, I supposedly appreciate TV and comedy, so it's kind of absurd that this one slipped my notice for so long. However, I think that gives me a bit of a unique perspective on it. You could say that my opinion of the show isn't colored by nostalgia or fond childhood memories (or the fact that my mom watched it). I don't really care about the huge historical context or the decades of praised heaped on it. I'm just watching it for what it is, stacked right up against the modern classics that I've already heaped tons of praise onto.
Anyway, it's great. Of course Van Dyke is wonderful, Mary Tyler Moore is wonderful, and the rest of the cast is wonderful. Of course it's dripping with 60's style and themes. Of course it's old fashioned and the plots are pretty simple. Of course it's one of the most important shows ever made, and it deserves every bit of that historical context. However, none of that does it the justice it deserves.
You shouldn't watch The Dick Van Dyke show because it's important, or because it has some famous people in it, or even because you want to see what things were like in the 60's. You should watch it because it's really funny. It's a joy from start to finish, in whatever context you want to put it in.
What is the episode?
This is (I believe) a rare episode of the show in that we basically just see an episode of the show-within-a-show "The Alan Brady Show." There's a bit of contrivance at the beginning trying to explain why this isn't a normal episode, explaining that the producers wanted the writing staff to star in the show for a change (which is good, because we get one of the classic writers' room scenes that are one of the highlights of the show). It's all an excuse to have Van Dyke, Tyler Moore, and etcetera perform a handful of songs / sketches in a classic vaudeville sort of style.
Let me tell you, there might not be a faster, funner, or best-er 25 minutes on this list. First we get Van Dyke being really goofy and awkward on stage, which is just great. We get a few pretty silly musical numbers. There's a too-long interpretation of Little Drummer Boy (I think they just needed to get Van Dyke's show-son into it somehow) which is kind of funny but not intentionally. You can skip that one. The highlight is probably a number with Van Dyke and Tyler Moore as a pair of charity Santas. I'm not usually a "song and dance" guy, but this one really tickled me.
It's another important reminder about the Holiday Season - it isn't all heartfelt moments and spending all your money and making sacrifices for your loved ones. You should have some fun, too.
Where can you watch it?
I kind of wish I had watched this one a bit earlier in the month. I'm getting super into this show, and now I want to get all of the DVD's. It would have been a good thing to find under the Festivus pole.
Anyway, this is sort of a Christmas special, I guess, but it's a show about a Christmas Special, so it still qualifies for this list. There is another pseudo-special that I'm including, though . . .