Tag Archives: Bye Bye Birdie

The Amazing Writing Team of Your Show of Shows


Your Show of Shows was a live 90 minute  variety show starring comedy legends Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca.  It ran from 1950 to 1954.  The writing staff had a staggering talent pool that included; Mel Tolkin (All in the Family), Carl Reiner (Dick Van Dyke Show, The Jerk), Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Space Balls), Michael Stewart (Bye Bye Birdie, Hello Dolly!), Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof), Lucille Kallen (worked on Broadway) , Danny Simon (The Carol Burnette Show, Diff’rent Strokes) and Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, Murder by Death).

Wow.  Now that’s a writing staff.  Each one has done so much to shape comedy through the years.  Their influence is like ripples in a pond.

Your Show of Shows 2

A widely spread misconception is that Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H) wrote for the Show, when he actually wrote for the Caesar’s Hour that followed years later.  Another misconception was that Woody Allen (Annie Hall) also wrote for the Show, when he actually wrote for several Sid Caesar TV Specials later on.

Your Show of Shows inspired many great productions through their talented staff for years to come.  My favorite TV show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, was based off of Carl Reiner’s time as a writer for Sid Caesar.  Mel Brooks cited My Favorite Year as being inspired by his time working as a writer on the Show.  Also, Neil Simon says that his award winning play, Laughter on the 23rd Floor was also inspired by his time there.

So, here’s to Your Show of Shows for helping to mold comedy thanks to a very special team of writers!

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner


The Dick Van Dyke Show – 1961 Comedy


The Dick Van Dyke Show is an American television sitcom that initially aired on CBS from October 3, 1961, until June 1, 1966. The show was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore. It centered on the work and home life of television comedy writer Rob Petrie (Van Dyke). The show was produced by Reiner with Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. The music for the show’s theme song was written by Earle Hagen.

Now in my humble opinion, The Dick Van Dyke Show, is the best sitcom ever. Many might disagree, but it still won 15 Emmy Awards overall. Plus in 1997, the episodes “Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth” and “It May Look Like a Walnut” were ranked at 8 and 15 respectively on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. Also in 2002, it did rank at 13 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and in 2013, it was ranked at 20 on TV Guide’s list of the 60 Best Series.

Premise – The two main settings consist of the work and home life of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), the head writer of a comedy/variety television show (the fictitious The Alan Brady Show). 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).

Dick Van Dyke Show 2Little Known Facts
• Mary Tyler Moore usually wore Capri pants on the show, but the Network didn’t like it. So they required the producers to put her in a skirt or a dress for a specific number of scenes per episode. So they filmed a scene where she goes into the kitchen in Capri pants and came out shortly thereafter wearing a skirt. The Network eventually relented.
• Because of Moore, Capri pants became a huge fashion craze in the early 1960s.
• The office where Rob works is a re-creation of the writers’ bullpen from Your Show of Shows, where Carl Reiner worked as a young writer. The character, Rob Petrie, was based on Reiner and the character, Buddy Sorrell, was based on Mel Brooks. The role of Alan Brady, was based on Sid Caesar.
• Reportedly Mary Tyler Moore told the producers she was older than she really was in order to get the role of Laura. Carl Reiner later incorporated this into the show causing Rob and Laura having to get re-married because Laura had lied about her age.
• Carl Reiner would often ask cast and crew members about funny things that had happened to them, then he would write episodes about these occurrences. As a result, many episodes of the show were based on actual events.
The Dick Van Dyke Show was the last show to be shot entirely in black and white. The show was due to be shot in color after the fifth season, but never happened because of the cast and producers’ decision to end the show after five seasons.
• For the first three seasons, Alan Brady’s face was never shown but his voice was heard rarely, because Carl Reiner wanted to get a big star to play Alan. Reiner eventually decided to take on the role himself.
• Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore played a married couple so convincingly on the show that many viewers actually thought they were married in real life. They have remained close friends ever since.
• Carl Reiner was careful not to use any 1960s slang in the show. In fact, references to any time period or current events are very few and far between.
• According to Dick Van Dyke, viewers used to make bets (during the opening credits of seasons 2, 3, 4 & 5) on whether or not Rob Petrie would stumble over the Ottoman.
• Rose Marie’s husband, Bobby Guy, died during the series. This caused her to want to quit the show. Director John Rich talked her out of it and she stayed until the series’ end.
• Dick Van Dyke’s personal assistant, Frank Adamo, can be seen in numerous episodes as a waiter, delivery man, walk-on, or just a face in the crowd. He was always un-credited.
• Morey Amsterdam and Richard Deacon were actually close friends. According to Deacon, many of the best insults Buddy hurled at Mel were worked out while the two went out for a drink after work, or a screen filming time out.
• Dick Van Dyke took a big chance agreeing to do this show because in order to do it, he had to leave the Broadway hit show Bye Bye Birdie for which he won a Tony Award. If the show was not a hit, he would have been out of work.
• Johnny Carson was a runner-up for the role of Rob Petrie.
• The show’s production company was called Calvada Productions. The name came from the names of all of the key persons involved in production: Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard, Dick Van Dyke and Danny Thomas.
• Dick Van Dyke was concerned that the age difference between he and Mary Tyler Moore would not be convincing as husband and wife, but their on-screen chemistry soon dispelled that fear.
• Laura’s maiden name was changed from Meeker to Meehan following Mary Tyler Moore’s divorce from her first husband, Richard Meeker.
• As soon as Rose Marie signed her contract, she immediately suggested Morey Amsterdam for the role of Buddy Sorrell.
• During Richard Deacon’s first season as Mel Cooley, on The Dick Van Dyke Show, he was also finishing up the last season as Fred Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver.
• Morey Amsterdam wrote lyrics to Earle Hagen’s famous musical theme, but they were never used. The lyrics can be heard as a bonus on The Dick Van Dyke Show season 4 DVD’s and blue-ray discs.
• During the final season, Carl Reiner temporarily gave up his producer duties in order to appear in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.
• The running gag about Alan Brady’s toupee was based on Max Liebman, the producer of Your Show of Shows.
• The task of casting Laura proved to be the most difficult. About 60 actresses auditioned for the role before Mary Tyler Moore was chosen. She almost didn’t go to the audition, but was persuaded by her agent.
• Dick Van Dyke’s favorite episodes from the entire run of The Dick Van Dyke Show are: #5 – The Attempted Marriage, #4 – It May Look Like a Walnut, #3 – I’d Rather Be Bald Than Have No Head at All, #2 – Never Bathe on Saturday, and his top favorite, # 1 – Where Did I Come From?.

Dick Van Dyke Show Emmy awards pic 3