Monday, October 3, 2011

The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon: My Blonde-Haired Brunette"

The Cafe is pleased to participate in The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon hosted by Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. Click here to read other great posts paying tribute to this television classic.

I always felt The Dick Van Dyke Show was two TV series rolled into one: (1) a family sitcom and (2) an inside look at show business that thinly veiled a stand-up act involving three sharp comedians. Yes, the one-liners exchanged between Rob (Van Dyke), Sally (Rose Marie), and Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) were frequently funny. However, I always preferred the more natural humor derived from situations in Rob and Laura's home life. It's a personal preference, to be sure, but it's also fueled by my admiration for Mary Tyler Moore. While she never established an enduring career as a serious performer (still earning an Oscar nomination for Ordinary People), she was a fine actress with a comic flair. Her most endearing quality was being able to poke fun at her own insecurities.

"My Blonde-Haired Brunette" appeared as the ninth episode of the first season. It opens with Laura trying to convince a sleepy Rob to get out of bed. When she kisses him playfully on the cheek, Rob mumbles "don't do that" and rolls over. Laura immediately suspects that "the bloom is off the rose" in their marriage. She suddenly notices lines on her face while looking in the mirror. Rob calls her his "old lady." And, worst of all, he plucks a gray hair from his wife's head and laughs about it.

Laura discusses her concerns with her neighbor Mille, who confides that she bleaches her hair blonde when married life is getting dull. Laura follows Millie's advice and transforms herself into a platinum blonde (via a terrible blonde wig!).

Meanwhile, Rob chats with Sally and Buddy about his domestic problems (as if those two could offer any sound advice). He calls Laura to apologize, even serenading her with a song about her "dark, brown hair." As he heads home, Laura and Millie desperately try to dye Laura's hair back to its original color--with the expected disasterous results.

The funniest scenes are the opening ones between Laura and Rob. In one classic bit, a frustrated Laura stomps out of the room when Rob won't get out of bed. She pauses at the door, then tip-toes back to the alarm clock, moves the hands two hours forward, and sets the alarm. She then slips quietly out of the room. When the alarm goes off a few seconds later, a refreshed Rob jumps out of bed and starts exercising. After Laura reveals what she did, Rob is suddenly exhausted again and climbs back into bed. The scene plays to the strength of both Van Dyke and Moore, who use comic timing, facial expressions, and (in Moore's case) an amusing voiceover to generate the laughs.

Although Laura Petrie was rarely the focus of The Dick Van Dyke Show (which was an ensemble show anyway), Mary Tyler Moore's contributions didn't go unnoticed. She was nominated for three Emmys for playing Laura, finally winning the award in 1966 (in the show's last season). Of course, she eventually became one of the most honored actresses in the history of television, receiving eight more Emmy nominations and four wins for The Mary Tyler Moore Shows and several made-for-television movies.


  1. Great post, Rick! And while it's true that Laura was not always the focus, she was one half of suburbia's most glamorous and sophisticated couple and showed us how to wear capris and flip our hair and move between the American dream of the burbs and the big city with ease and style!

  2. The workplace atmosphere on The Dick Van Dyke Show was always a treat (it's one of the many places on TV where it looked like punching a time clock everyday might be fun) but I'm a little like you, Rick...I always enjoyed the Petrie's domestic life a little more. It might be because Rob and Laura were such cool parents--they certainly threw some kickin' parties--and I often imagined scenarios where Richie would step off a curb (not pushed, he stepped off) only to be hit by a speeding bus...which result in the couple adopting a new son named Ivan. (You people stop looking at me like that...I can't be the only one whoever imagined this.)

    Thanks muchly for the contribution, Rick--it's always gratifying to mingle with people who are as wild about the show as I am. (That reminds me--I'm probably the only person who thought Laura was hotter as a blonde, too.)

  3. Rob and Laura are like Nick and Nora - you just know they'd be the best friends ever!

  4. I liked this one so much, Rick, and a lot of reason was that MTM was highlighted, and her special talents for comedic crying and stammering and being upset were just wonderful! Nobody could do that like Laura ("Ohhh Robbb!") Any woman who has ever decided to dye her hair has probably experienced something similar -- I know I did! When I was 13, after my Mother put her foot down and said NO to my desire to dye my hair a luscious auburn, I went to a girlfriend's house and ended up with pumpkin orange hair! I did not get punished - Mom said having to go to school with that hair was punishment enough!

    Great pick, Rick!

  5. When you said " (2) an inside look at show business that thinly veiled a stand-up act involving three sharp comedians.

    The Dick Van Dyke Show, came rushing back to my memory. This is what I remember most about the, The Dick Van Dyke Show. What a great team they were.

  6. Great episode choice, Rick. Funny how they all come back as I read blogathon entries. Was thinking earlier today how Mary Tyler Moore had the great distinction of co-starring or starring in two of TVs most revered sitcoms. Kelsey Grammer managed a similar achievement with "Cheers" and "Frasier" - but the list is tiny.

  7. "...I often imagined scenarios where Richie would step off a curb (not pushed, he stepped off) only to be hit by a speeding bus..." - Ivan

    Haha! I've gotten my belly laugh for the day. I always imagined being one of the adults in the room because when it's Richie's bedtime, then the fun stuff happens.

  8. I always thought Dick and Mary were a sweet pairing. They played very well off one another. Ivan's comment made me laugh because I used to imagine "The Kid from Uncle" TV show, even before they put out "The Girl from Uncle." Fun blog, all!