July 1, 2020

"Carl Reiner was Rob Petrie; the workplace experience and situations drew on his experience as a TV actor and then writer in the 1950s."

"But he couldn’t be Rob Petrie.... Van Dyke’s charisma and jack-in-the-box physical comedy as the recast lead gave Reiner a more telegenic avatar. Instead, Reiner became the star-within-a-show, the shouty, egotistic boss who kept Rob dancing on eggshells. The role would not make Reiner a household face. Just the opposite. In the early seasons of the show, Brady held court and berated his writers as shot from behind (or heard from offscreen), so viewers knew him mostly from the back of his bald (or toupéed) head. ('Seinfeld' would echo the device decades later with its depiction of George Steinbrenner, voiced by Larry David and embodied by Lee Bear, his back to the camera.) The device was a masterstroke. It made Reiner’s lack of distinction distinctive. He was no longer a second banana but an angry light bulb, radiating his peevish glare on all his underlings."

From "Carl Reiner Knew TV Like the Back of His Head/With his creation 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' the comedy legend created a self-referential masterpiece and wrote himself a memorable supporting role" (NYT).

Lots of back-of-the-head Reiner in this episode:

38 comments:

Kay said...

Interesting. My memory of the show is different: I remember seeing his face a lot, but not the back of his head. Eventually they started showing his face, no?

Anyway, loved watching these as reruns when I was a child. And I really like the way they decorated the Petry house.

Rory said...

"'Seinfeld' would echo the device decades later with its depiction of George Steinbrenner, voiced by Larry David"

Reiner also foreshadowed David in doing a lot of the offstage voices on the show - usually TV or radio announcers saying ridiculous things.

The big producers on the show - Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas - also did guest shots. Reiner also had a couple of non-Brady guest roles, the best being the eccentric, nasty artist in the "October Eve" episode. The last fully original episode of the series, "The Gunslinger," is interesting to me because it's the one Reiner episode where van Dyke doesn't drift toward being a straight man, and both of them take turns being funny.

Rory said...

And Reiner seems to have planned out the show for five seasons, and pulled the plug after five even though the show was still doing well.

tcrosse said...

There's an episode in which Reiner plays a Russian-accented artist who has painted Laura as a nude, much to the consternation of all. She swears she posed with her clothes on.

Shane said...

Absolutely brilliant!

Shane said...

Absolutely brilliant!

Original Mike said...

"Comb my other hair."

GingerBeer said...

Reiner's book, play, and film, "Enter Laughing" was also autobiographical.

Rory said...

"Eventually they started showing his face, no?"

Yes. See, "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth."

gspencer said...

As far as I can tell Carl Reiner only did not thing wrong, though it was a biggie,

He caused to be born Rob Reiner.

Howard said...

All us boys imagined Laura in the nude. The MILF type locality

rcocean said...

I didn't read the article but Reiner was very upset at not being cast as the Lead "Rob Petrie" and blamed "antisemitism" LOL! Yeah, that's right he thought he would've been better then Dick Van Dyke!

Later, to prove what a great comic actor he was, he cast himself in several of his movies, and somehow got top billed in "The Russians are Coming". He was never more than mediocre. Eventually, he accepted reality, and kept behind the camera for the rest of his career (mostly).

As for Alan Brady, yes he's a funny character. But Reiner always gave him the best lines and only used the character in spots. As, you can tell, I liked Reiner as a writer/producer but had no use for him as a performer. He is however good as Mel Brooks straight man.

rcocean said...

The Dick Van Dyke Show got by on the quality of the two leads -Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke. Amsterdam and Rose Marie were also good (along with "Mel") at keeping the humor going at work. The only real negatives were "Jerry and Millie" as the "wacky neighbors". and of course Larry Matthews as the most obnoxious kid TV star ever.



Fernandinande said...

He was no longer a second banana but an angry light bulb, radiating his peevish glare on all his underlings.

He was a minor character*, below second banana in that show:

"Hey, BunnyHun, remember the old 'Dick Van Dyke Show'?"

"Yes", long sigh, as if I'm going to mention some stupid and pointless internet thing.

"Remember Rob Petrie's boss?"

"Sure, Mel Cooley."

* [QED]
"He was the psychiatrist at the end of the original 'Body Snatchers'."

I probably watched the D.V.D. show a typical amount, but barely remember Allen Brady; what I do remember are:

1. The bad(?) guy from "Eiger Sanction" and also in "Cool Hand Luke" was casing the Petrie house, and says to his female partner in crime, "These pearls are Baroque."

And Little Richie says "I didn't ba-reak them!"

2. Rob suing somebody over pillows and yelling "Cheap chopped chicken feathers!" in court.

3. Someone giving Rob bogus directions over the phone for how-to-do something, and Rob finally figures out it's a joke when the guy - Carl Reiner? - tells him to ~"swing it over your head and scream like a chicken!" IIRC, at the time Rob is at a party so there were witnesses to the hi-jinks.

I remember seeing his face a lot, but not the back of his head.
#metoo, but mebbe once or twice.

bagoh20 said...

So did you see the swastika pizza?
Some teenagers working at a Little Cesar's made a pizza with the pepperoni in the shape of a swastika. Then it got sold to a couple of white people. All hell ensues, and the kids get fired. IDK, I think it's funny, becuase I don't think the kids meant anything by it. They even made the swastika backwards, so the kids had no idea what they were doing. It was just a joke precisely because the culture can't handle a swastika now, and that what teenager do with such taboos. It wasn't a Jewish couple, in fact the guy looks a little like a skinhead. I would have laughed if I got it. I'd be too paranoid to eat it, becuase of the fascism of the anti-fascists out there would make me wonder if it was them messing with me, but I'd just ask for another pizza made by someone else. Truth is, if someone wants to spit on your pizza, you would never know it.

The company did the usual mandatory dance about zero tolerance for racism and discrimination, but I don't think either one happened here. It was just kids screwing around.

Mel Brooks would have no possible career in comedy today, and wouldn't that be a shame? For that matter, does anyone have a career path in comedy today, especially after 2024 when Trump is gone.

tim in vermont said...

"He was no longer a second banana but an angry light bulb, radiating his peevish glare on all his underlings.”

Like Mickey Kaus says: “Always delete the kicker."

Fernandinande said...

Lots of back-of-the-head Reiner in this episode:

If you FF thru it, the actual "second bananas", Mel, Buddy, and Sally, appear earlier and for far longer than Alan Brady; that's probably why Wiki refers to him as a supporting character.
.

Equipment Maintenance said...

Episode 122, though it wasn't blackface, would get them cancelled today: "Rob and Laura accidentally dye their hands just before they're about to attend a race-relations banquet."

mikee said...

Show me a closet full of walnuts and I'll have nightmares to this very day.

William said...

I listened to the interview with Macron. Reiner seems to have led an especially blessed life. His parents were loving and supportive, his marriage was enduring as were his friendships, his children were successful, his career was marked with money, fame, and honors. He died an easeful death in his 98th year. And despite all those advantages, he managed to be a successful comedian and comedy writer.....Just imagine what high notes he would have reached if he had been sexually abused by his uncle or had been a substance abuser in in his middle years or if his wife had betrayed him with Mel Brooks. Well, not everyone can be Lenny Bruce or Richard Pryor. You make do with what you've got.

Banjo said...

Meatloaf could never measure up to his father, which is why he grows ever more loathsome as he ages. Only death will make them equal. May it come sooner rather than later.

Rory said...

It seems that on Friday night, CBS is going to show "October Eve," and "Coast-to-Coast Bigmouth," both mentioned above.

Narr said...

Prof never mentioned Ian Holm's passing . . . there was a great actor.

Bilbo, Corporal Himmelstoss, Bonaparte (comic and dramatic) . . .

Dick and Mary were perfectly cast--neither had that wide a range, but in their zone they were peerless in physical comedy.

And Howard isn't the only one to notice how lovely lithe Laura's little breatsesses were silhouetted against that lamp.

Narr
Good blocking and camera work

Narr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madAsHell said...

Interesting, the cover photo for the video shows a doting wife, and loving son.......surrounding......a white male.

Wholly cis-hetero, Batman!

traditionalguy said...

Mary Tyler Moore was the star of the show. Van Dyke was a clown.

Birkel said...

Sure, he made some TV shows.
But was he woke enough to demand the dynamiting of Mt Rushmore?

WK said...

I actually did a search to see who Meatloaf’s dad was. I think you meant Meathead.

Bay Area Guy said...

Loved Carl Reiner, but could not get into the DVD Show. Too boring! But it launched Mary Tyler Moore into her next big gig, so that was cool.

Joe Smith said...

I always thought he was a much better writer than performer. He was like a lot of comic actors of his era, very little subtlety. But a great writer, and he served in WWII so good for him.

Unknown said...

“Coast to Coast Big Mouth” is the gold standard for all sitcoms. Ever. Writing, timing, performance, dialog. Chef’s kiss. https://youtu.be/FHStKXuBzlM

stephen cooper said...

Comedy usually does not age well.

I am sure Mr Reiner made many people laugh, but hundreds of millions of people do that every day. I am sure he worked hard for his money, but that does not mean he was all that funny.

Well he monetized it well, but he has to have known that he inflicted on us the Dick van Dyke show, and he inflicted on us hundreds of hours of supposedly "funny shtick" that was not funny at all, but which , thanks to laugh tracks, were laughed at, and the poor folks who did not know better, and who should have been outside in June, watching the fireflies or the play of the moonlight in their locality, sat transfixed by the "humor" of Carl Reiner on their cheap television sets.

Trust me, I like everybody. Whatever good Mr Reiner did in this world, for his family and friends, is a tribute to him.

But .... comedy does not age well. Smug rich people who milked a good salary out of their monetized semi-humor might try and try to disagree, but unless you are supremely funny, with an angelic gift, your comedy is, after a few decades, worthless trash. Like I said, I hope he did a lot of good for his family and friends.

And since I am in a good mood tonight, I am not gonna say I would have liked, at least once, an apology from him for being so unfunny and making so much money off of his misanthropic "humor". Would I have liked it?

Not for myself, but for him.

My name goes here. said...

His creativity was his greatest skill. Being the straight man to Mel Brooks was great. There was one episode of the Dick Van Dyke show where Dick has to work late, like pull an all nighter. Every odd sound startles him. The creeks, the knocks, the gurgle from the water cooler. All of those sounds were made by Reiner. He was playing (audibly) against the physicality of Dick Van Dyke.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

I'm willing to put up with "Meathead"'s inanity since otherwise no The Princess Bride.

Chris said...

Yes, The Princess Bride, is rob reiner's ONLY redeeming quality. And even that may not be enough.

Roy Jacobsen said...

With the talk of partially- or never-seen characters, I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Wilson from Home Improvement or Carlin the doorman from Rhoda.

Matt said...

Young Mary Tyler Moore was the most beautiful lady to ever grace the small screen.

Loved watching this and F Troop and Dobie Gillis and other classics on Nick at Nite when it first came on.

GRW3 said...

He was a lead character portraying high powered New Yorkers that became a model for same we have seen for six decades. It taught us that was normal, for New York. So along comes DJT with his Apprentice TV show and we don't think it's unusual, we think "Oh, here's the real thing". As the real thing, his running for President didn't phase us because we have been taught his personality is normal, for New York. Americans are very good at allowing for regional differences.