The New York Times had a great piece on an old episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” one I saw once as a child and never again. Over the years, I’d ask others if they remembered it, and I think only one did. Thank God for him, because it almost seemed I’d hallucinated it:
“Remember that episode where Rob was convinced they’d taken the wrong baby home from the hospital?” Blank stare. (Except for Lance Mannion, who watched every episode of every show ever aired, evidently.)
Well, I didn’t. “That’s My Boy??” is a classic of the civil-rights era, and — critic Neil Genzlinger points out — a milestone of racial relations in TV entertainment.
The plot: Rob is recounting the days around little Richie’s birth. He’s getting ready to take Laura and the baby home from the hospital, and the nurse delivers the wrong envelope of jewelry. No, this is Mrs. Peters’ jewelry, Laura says, remarking that it’s been happening all week: She got Mrs. Peters’ flowers, and Mrs. Peters got her rice pudding. Their names are similar, after all — Peters, Petrie. This starts Rob thinking that maybe they swapped something else, too. Something more important.
The rest of the episode is Rob staring into the bassinet, trying to find any family resemblance. Finally, he calls the Peters, who live nearby, and tells them his suspicions. They agree to stop by that night.
The doorbell rings in the middle of a squabble between Rob and Laura, who refuses to believe the baby is anything other than hers. Rob goes to the door, opens it:
“Hi! We’re Mr. and Mrs. Peters!” And they step into the room. It’s Greg Morris and another African-American actress, although then she would have been a Negro actress. The studio audience is howling with laughter. Morris can’t keep a straight face, either. I remember laughing so hard in my own living room that I almost peed. It was one of the funniest moments of TV I’ve ever seen. Here’s a two-minute clip of the big reveal.
Today TV seems to push various envelopes with a vengeance, often clumsily so, trying for shock value in a world that is increasingly hard to shock. You have to admire the bravery and the unwillingness to tolerate any barrier, whether it be the one against gay characters or characters with disabilities or unsettling subjects like rape and child abuse. But you also sometimes are left mourning the lack of subtlety and art.
Carl Reiner knew what he was doing, that’s for sure.
I started writing this with some gusto, and then my connection started flickering again, so let’s get this going:
Make a man 300 sandwiches, earn an engagement ring! Jezebel takes it apart — hilariously.
Yet another reason Kid Rock sucks: His Malibu house — of course he has a Malibu house — has a stripper pole in the living room.
Thursday already? You don’t say.