Carl Reiner was almost the star of The Dick Van Dyke Show

What is The Dick Van Dyke Show without Dick Van Dyke?

If you're a big fan of The Dick Van Dyke Show, you might already know that the original name for the series was Head of the Family. Creator Carl Reiner's original concept had multiple differences from the show we all now know and love. In Reiner's pilot, the cast was entirely different, with no Mary Tyler Moore or Larry Matthews to speak of, and the character of Mel Cooley wasn't included. Most notably, the main character of Rob Petrie was played by a familiar face: Carl Reiner himself.

You might recall that Carl Reiner is still in The Dick Van Dyke Show as the demanding Alan Brady, Robert Petrie's boss. Dick Van Dyke spoke to the Lansing State Journal and revealed that originally, Reiner's face wasn't even supposed to be seen on camera. "It was going to be just his voice and the back of his head. The public would never see him."

It was actually through fan demand that Reiner's face was finally revealed in the show. Van Dyke said, "People insisted on it."

Yet in the pilot, Reiner intended for audiences to see a whole lot more of him as the star of the show. There was just one problem: The network hated it. Van Dyke recalled Reiner's meeting after the network had seen his pilot. "They called him in and said, 'We like the show, but not with you.'" Ouch.

After Reiner was out, well-known celebrities like Johnny Carson were considered for the role, but CBS reportedly already had their eye on Dick Van Dyke. At the time, Van Dyke was the star of the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie. "Carl came to see me in the show. Pretty soon, I was taking a week off to do the pilot."

But even after the pilot was greenlit, success was not guaranteed. Van Dyke recalled, "We were on against Perry Como, on Wednesday nights, and no one noticed. We always thought we were going to be canceled."

Still, the show eventually found its footing, and soon after, found incredible success.  

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42 Comments

trogg888 5 months ago
One of my favorite shows growing up and i still love it.oh rob!
daDoctah 5 months ago
The article misspeaks when it says that Carl was originally unseen on the show, as he played a number of one-off guest characters before the big reveal of Alan Brady. To wit:

"I'm No Henry Walden" - Carl plays pretentious writer Yale Sampson (this episode also has one of Frank Adamo's funniest speaking roles, as prissy poet H Fieldstone Thorley, author of "Lavender Lollipops")

"October Eve" - Carl as painter Sergei Carpetna, whose nude portrait of Laura (from memory) surfaces several years after she posed for him

"Stacey Petrie, part II" - Drunken bum Willie Cooke

He was also the voice of a number of offscreen voices, such as announcers when Rob and Laura are watching television. (BTW, this may have been the first TV show that regularly had its characters watching TV themselves.)
MarkJohnAstolfi daDoctah 5 months ago
MeTV has great programming, but their research leaves much to be desired. Take it all with a grain of salt.
Wiseguy70005 daDoctah 5 months ago
They obviously meant Carl Reiner AS ALAN BRADY.
MadMadMadWorld daDoctah 5 months ago
Carl also did the voice of the Radio Announcer who announces he is on 'W-I-F-E' "the station most people are married to!" Except for women, who are married to H-U-S-B-A-N-D, but there was no radio station with those call letters! This was from one of my favorite episodes: "Bupkis" (aired on Mar. 10, 1965), with Greg Morris (as Frank 'Sticks' Mandalay), and the hilarious Robert Ball as the money-hungry, author-stealing "Buzzy Potter" who refuses to put either Rob or Frank as the lyricist or music writer on the songs they actually wrote. Love the line Greg (as 'Sticks') replying to Rob's question on ID'ing each other as the lyricist-music authors, "What did he write?" Sticks: "He wrote his name on the music sheet!" Rob: "Buzzy, you're not just a weaseler, you're a crook!"
JeffPaul76 5 months ago
Hey MeTV, when your new season starts, I hope you've cut way back on M*A*S*H episodes, if not eliminated all together. And Please think about adding Underdog to the Saturday morning line-up. And even on Toon in With Me.
trogg888 JeffPaul76 5 months ago
And put some rocky and bulwinkle cartoons on that awful cartoon show and bring back mr.ed and more. James west
Runeshaper 5 months ago
Never knew that Reiner was planning on being the main character. Thanks for sharing, MeTV!
trogg888 Runeshaper 5 months ago
Carl was a genius but doesnt need to be a headliner
bbMeTv 5 months ago
To me, Mary Tyler Moore is the star of the Dick Van Dyke show. ...
bbMeTv bbMeTv 5 months ago
Nothing against DVD, but LP is my favorite character.
MadMadMadWorld bbMeTv 5 months ago
Mary never got any better, prettier, or funnier, with a good depth of character development than she was as Laura Petrie (nee Meehan) on The DVD Show. She said after it was canceled in June 1966, "I just want to be Laura Petrie." She loved that portrayal, and we all heartily agreed with her!
MadMadMadWorld bbMeTv 5 months ago
Mary and Dick, 1964; Mary 27, Dick 38.
MadMadMadWorld bbMeTv 5 months ago
Mary and Dick in the Jan. 10, 1962 episode, "The Curious Thing About Women."
Those ages in the 1964 pic were what they were at the end of 1963, as both have December birthdays: Mary was on Dec. 29, 1936; Dick on Dec. 13, 1925.
Dick will be 98 (60 years later from that '64 pic) this upcoming Dec. 13. Morey Amsterdam's birthday was a day later in the year; Dec. 14 (1908-Oct. 28, 1996), at 87, also the birthday of Patty Duke (Dec. 14, 1946-Mar. 29, 2016), at only 69. Mary, 80 (Dec. 29, 1936 - Jan. 25, 2017). Rose Marie (nee, Mazzetta), 94 (Aug. 15, 1923 - Dec. 28, 2017), so Mary and Rose left us at opposite ends of 2017.
JHP bbMeTv 5 months ago
she was self-centered "do nothing wrong ; overly jealous hypocrite
Bapa1 5 months ago
But if Reiner had done it, who would trip over the furniture?
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Wiseguy70005 LoveMETV22 5 months ago
It was director John Rich's idea to do an alternate opening not Carl Reiner's.
Wiseguy70005 daDoctah 5 months ago
It probably would have been the actor who played the part (then named Alan Sturdy) in the pilot - Jack Wakefield. His face was also not clearly seen in the pilot.
Wiseguy70005 JeffPaul76 5 months ago
The trip opening was created to show Dick Van Dyke's ability to do the stunt. If Carl Reiner had played the part it wouldn't have even been considered.
LoveMETV22 Wiseguy70005 5 months ago
"It was director John Rich's idea to do an alternate opening not Carl Reiner's."
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The ottoman trip idea was Carl Reiner's. John Rich agreed with Carl's idea.
John has also given credit to Carl in interviews They worked in collaboration with each other.
JHP 5 months ago
I could full a list of my fav eps

just a few..

"It may look like a walnut"
"empress Carlotta's necklace"
"impractical joke"
"Br-rooom, Br-rooom"
"Uhny Uftz"
MadMadMadWorld JHP 5 months ago
My favs include: "Scratch My Car and Die", "A Nice Friendly Game of Cards" (with Ed Platt--"Chief" on "Get Smart", as the former D.A. who catches Rob "cheating."), "The Alan Brady Show Presents" (Christmas episode on Dec. 18, '63), "The Impractical Joke", "Too Many Stars", "What's In A Middle Name?", "The Plots Thicken", "The Curious Thing About Women", "Bupkis", "October Eve" (Carl as a Russian painter who paints Laura "nude"--our imagination, not actually said on the episode), "The Redcoats Are Coming" (w/Chad & Jeremy, English duo), "Pink Pills and Purple Parents" and another 15 or so episodes!
Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and the equally funny, but usually frustrated producer "Mel Cooley" (Richard Deacon).
But they only played adversaries on the show as Buddy did not like Mel getting his job because he was "the boss' brother-in-law"; in real life they were very good friends. :)
JHP MadMadMadWorld 5 months ago
Agreed:) - they are squirreled away on my DVR as who knows when DVD will go poof on Me-Tv
Andybandit 6 months ago
That really would have been a different concept to the show.
MrsPhilHarris 6 months ago
Alan Brady is one of my top favourite DVD characters. Love Mel Cooley too.
JeffPaul76 MrsPhilHarris 5 months ago
Yeah, Richard Deacon is from the City I live in now Binghamton, NY, my Mother knew him. Also Rod Serling, Twilight zone creator, is from here, when to Binghamton Senior High School. Now just Binghamton High School.
MrsPhilHarris JeffPaul76 5 months ago
Wow! Did your mother go to school with him?
Pacificsun 6 months ago
It would've been a very different kind of sitcom without all the variety that DVD brought to the role. His personality (temperament) accommodated so many entertainment facets: slapstick, the vaudeville feel of RM & MA bantering back & forth. The "evil" boss villainy of CR. And a loving/romantic husband. Also the role-model interested dad. And finally the good-neighbor side-kick (who also happened be real director, Jerry Paris).

Carson never could've covered all those bases. He didn't have enough natural warmth, or domesticity. And Reiner would've been too single dimensional, perhaps heavy-handed comedy.

Funny how things work out to the best.
daDoctah 6 months ago
The way I heard it, the network people also weren't happy with the name of the unseen boss; they eventually changed the name from Alan Sturdy to Alan Brady. Some apparently thought it sounded like they were saying "Alan's dirty".

Besides Johnny Carson, another celebrity considered for the main role was Paul Winchell. Carson never appeared on TDVDS, but Winchell may have received a consolation prize of sorts when he appeared as a guest (a ventriloquist, of course) in one episode.
cperrynaples daDoctah 6 months ago
Winchell was an odd choice! Would Jerry Mahoney have replaced Larry Mathews...LOL! Winchell made several memorable appearances on Laugh-In where his dummies did things they couldn't do on Saturday morning!
daDoctah cperrynaples 5 months ago
Winchell actually did have a sort of "one man's family" sitcom in the early '50s.
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