Old TV.

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.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Television |

34 responses to “Old TV.”

  1. prospero said on September 26, 2013 at 2:07 am

    I remember the “switched baby episode. Scripts that involved Jerry and Millie were always hilarious, and the racial twist on this one was pretty daring for the time. My favorite Dick van Dyke episode by far. This was hilarious. Makes me sad to contemplate the vulgar drivel that passes for TV and movie comedies these days. I have not watched more than five minutes of any sitcom since Frazier left the airwaves (not counting animated shows, that is, I can watch Family Guy, American Dad, and most of all Futurama and above all King of the Hill, which has the greatest theme music of any TeeVee comedy show not starring Kids in the Hall):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebHfMRw–sE and


    In fact that Refreshments tune seems to me to be a variation on the Bonanza theme, and it sounds like Shane McGowan doing the “vocal”.

    Anyway, thank God MASH is on some channel almost all the time, managing hilarious risque but never crude.

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  2. Deborah said on September 26, 2013 at 5:24 am

    I remember that episode of Dick Van Dyke, loved that show, watched it all the time, over and over after the reruns started.

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  3. David C. said on September 26, 2013 at 6:54 am

    After sandwiches 301-600, he’ll let her wear shoes again.

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 26, 2013 at 6:56 am

    What I’d forgotten was that it aired just two months after the March on Washington. And Reiner’s point about the kicker was interesting (poor Ritchie!).

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  5. coozledad said on September 26, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Well that just shows what flouride and lefty social engineering have done to this household. The rate of exchange is roughly a dozen biscuits per boink. And I make the biscuits.

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  6. Jolene said on September 26, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Cooz, if your wife has any kind of sense of humor, that entry should be worth at least one biscuit-free boink.

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  7. alex said on September 26, 2013 at 8:44 am

    One of the things I find most striking about the old sitcoms like Dick Van Dyke versus new ones like Big Bang Theory is the writing. In the newer shows, dialogue seems to be overwrought and unnatural, an unrelenting exchange of clever but overly scripted sarcastic rejoinders. To me it rings hollow. I like seeing actors channeling and emoting “funny” rather than reciting it. Of course, I grew up watching Red Skelton, who was a man of few words and great comedic gifts. My folks tell me old Red would have me howling with laughter, even though I was too young to understand much of what was being served up as humor.

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  8. coozledad said on September 26, 2013 at 9:51 am

    jolene: If there’s one thing that demands a sense of humor on her part….

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  9. Randy said on September 26, 2013 at 9:54 am

    My wife makes great sandwiches, and that might be due to the fact I have no expectation of her to make sandwiches for me.

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  10. brian stouder said on September 26, 2013 at 9:55 am

    My mom and dad loved loved loved the Dick Van Dyke show; it definitely captures a post-Second World War/Pre Vietnam-war 1960’s American moment.

    Richie could be my generation – too young for Southeast Asia; while Beaver and Wally from the ’50’s (up the street) get drafted

    Aside from that – a squirrely story:


    an excerpt, which highlights the nut of the problem:

    “I raised him from an infant,” a crying Householder said. “I fed him through a syringe every two hours.” The family can’t keep the squirrel. Phil Bloom, the director of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Communications, told NewsChannel 15 that it’s illegal to possess one without a permit


    Householder and her family have a cage for the squirrel. They feed him fruits and vegetables, and the occasional snack. She said his favorite treat is Reese’s pieces. Rocky also gets to run around the home, and despite the presence of other pets, the dogs and cat have not bothered their new companion.

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  11. Julie Robinson said on September 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Red Skelton was on after my bedtime but I used to sneak out of my room and down the hall to peer around the corner into the living room. Of course my folks knew I was there but they saved face by pretending they didn’t. I wonder if it would hold up to my memories, or if it was the forbidden fruit aspect that held the appeal.

    The doggie training is going well. So far I’ve learned that I DO have to say go peepee/go poopy, and that she is happiest on my lap. Preferably with me looking into her eyes and petting her.

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  12. Jolene said on September 26, 2013 at 10:55 am

    For a while in grad school, one of my roommates and I used to have after-dinner coffee while watching reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show before leaving for the library. Such an enjoyable ritual.

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  13. prospero said on September 26, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Enjoy every sandwich.

    TS Eliot once said

    Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm but the harm does not interest them.

    Somehow, he knew about Ted Cruz and the Teabangers decades ahead of their time. And how smart is anybody supposed to believe Ted Cruz is when he missed the point of Green Eggs and Ham, by 180 degrees. It’s not about being forced to do something you don’t want to do. It’s about being talked into trying something you thought you didn’t like and finding that, Yeah, it’s really good. Maybe he read it upside down.

    Not in defense of Kid Rock, but it’s entirely possible (likely) that the stripper pole was his ex-wife’s idea. Malibu house probably was too. Hell that fool thought it was a good idea to marry Tommy Lee and make videos.

    I can’t help but read the forlorn quote from Squirrel Lady as “I raised him from an infink. Toot. Toot.” And why doesn’t the officious Mr. Bloom do himself a political favor and push that permit through? That could make a career in elected office.

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  14. brian stouder said on September 26, 2013 at 11:06 am

    pros – the funniest thing to me, regarding the cruz con-job, aside from the flatly fraudulent ‘filibuster’, was that at the end of the whole thing, the bill that prompted him to “talk until he could not stand” then passed the Senate 100-0.

    Really and truly, other than Oxy-Rush, who believes anything Cruz says?

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  15. Ann said on September 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    The comments on the Jezebel article are worth a read all by themselves. I find myself siding with those who call b.s. Sounds like some kind of performance piece, or just a way to sell eyeballs for her blog.

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  16. Scout said on September 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Brian, short answer to your question: She-Who.

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  17. Peter said on September 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Although even my b.s. meter is picking up something from the 300 Sammich Lovers, I got to ask: how does a guy have the balls to say that? I know if I had mentioned this to my lovely spouse, she would have gone to Macy’s, got the biggest panini press she could find, plug the sucker in and then smash my head in it until my mucus was bubbling.

    And she would, too!

    I have to give credit to pseudo-senator Cruz: it takes a special kind of smug stupidity to make the rest of his colleagues look like wizened elder statesmen, but by golly he did it.

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  18. Deborah said on September 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I agree about the Jezebel commenters on the sandwich lady story. One person called Yvanehtnioj said, “Does Stephanie even exist as a fully realized human being, or is she just a collection of sad stereotypes held together with extra strength hairspray?”

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  19. Basset said on September 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Reminds me of the Chris Rock routine about “make him a sandwich and suck his…”

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  20. Deggjr said on September 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    (delayed reaction from Tuesday) Perhaps Christian Hendricks meant this Sargent painting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sargent,_John_Singer_(RA)_-_Gassed_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

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  21. brian stouder said on September 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    y’know, there probably is a book about American demographics in this Dick Van Dyke generation (and indeed, maybe it is already written)

    . My mom and dad’s generation – more or less ‘Generation Rob and Laura’ – born around 1930 (to parents who may well have been drafted into the Great War) – ended up too young for World War II, and a little too old for Korea, and then middle-aged for Vietnam. And their kids born in the early 1960s (like me) end up too young for Vietnam, and then too old for our middle eastern wars.

    But at the same time, another generation, born around 1920 (to Great war veterans, like my grandfather), gets drafted into the Second World War, and when they come home and have kids, they in turn get drafted into Vietnam.

    On second thought, maybe Wouk already did this…

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  22. Deborah said on September 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    This has nothing to do with anything but will somebody please explain hashtags on twitter? I just watched a Jimmy Fallon video that satirized it, and I do read some twitter feeds (is that what you call them?) and I see them but I don’t get what they mean.

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  23. alex said on September 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Hashtags are sort of like Nance’s “popculch” or “television” above, a categorization. #ignorantassGOPcousinfucks would be an example.

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  24. alex said on September 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Hashtags are sort of like Nance’s “popculch” or “television” above, a categorization. #ignorantassGOPcousinfucks would be an example.

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  25. alex said on September 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Dang, I only hit submit once.

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  26. Jolene said on September 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Deborah, the formal property of hashtags is that they serve as search terms that collect tweets on related topics. If you click on a term preceded by a hashtag, you’ll get a list of tweets dealing with that issue. People like to use them, for instance, to comment on events on TV such as sports, political debates, and ordinary shows. For instance, on Sunday, I’m sure there’ll be a huge number of tweets referring to Breaking Bad.

    People also use hashtags to comment ironically or sarcastically on what they’ve said in the tweet. Couldn’t immediately find a good example of this, but you’ll definitely see them.

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  27. prospero said on September 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    My mom and dad had a lot in common with Rob and Laura, but they never slept in a twin bed bedroom and the idea of my mom sobbing “Oh, Norm” is totally alien. But no joke, the episode with the walnuts was hilarious.

    It’s out all over the tubes. The mockery of Tough Teddy Cruz, Canadian Senator, is a result of that omnipresent and virulent left-wing “hate”, to which I repeat, for anybody too stupid to know that hate is a verb ane hatred is the nominal form, “Son I’d like to he’p you but you’re too dumb to vote.” And I love Buddy Holly as much as anybody, but Eddie Cochran ruled:


    GOPers know it was Romneycare first. Before that it was HeritageFoundationCare. They can say anything they want, but it is the first five letters of Obamacare that bug the piss out of them, and the color of his uppity skin. Best thing for GOPers at this point would be to admit to momentary loss of control due to Big House delirium. This is racist through and through.

    I believe Ian Dury, of Blockheads fame saw hashtags coming from way back, in Reasons to be Cheerful:


    Mike Stipe sort of saw it coming in The End of the World.

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  28. prospero said on September 26, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    When I hear that “hate” shit from a bunch of internet Nazis, it always leads me to take refuge in this perfection:


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  29. prospero said on September 26, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Sorry, but hate as a noun puts me in mind of Harry Truman saying normalcy when he meant normality. Atrocious. There is actually no such word as normalcy. I’d like to see a Rob and Laura Redux when she’d say Oh, Roooobbbb,

    and give him a sharp knee in the goolies.

    That bidness about who invented Obamacare, are these mooks joking? It’s Heritage Foundation. And it’s quite obvious Obama is smart enough to get the single-payer head in the tent.

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  30. brian stouder said on September 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Excellent stuff, Prospero.

    I’m off to Galesburg, Illinois sometime tomorrow afternoon, there to spend the night, and then amble on over to beautiful Knox College, for the Lincoln Colloquium.


    I cannot imagine anyplace I’d rather be, until the day comes that we have an NN.c colloquium. (wouldn’t that be great?! First Nancy makes opening remarks, and then introduces Prospero – who gives a 15 minute lecture, then Cooz does a Power Point, followed by a round-table discussion with Kirk and Dorothy and Julie and Connie – moderated by Jolene; and then Jeff TMMO makes a few closing remarks, and then it’s question time, and people in the cheap seats (likeme!) get the microphone and ask a question or two or three, until the moderator cuts us off!

    It would be…sublime

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  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 26, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Somehow, I’m not seeing Cooz doing a Power Point. Rip Taylor, maybe, but not Power Point.

    Happy to work the crowd with the cordless mic a la Donohue, since I’ve got long arms.

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  32. Deborah said on September 26, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Brian, my daughter was interested in possibly attending Knox College. While she was a senior in high school the two of us took a trip out there. They let her sit in on a freshman lit class which she found fascinating. We took a roadtrip out there and at one point on the trip we were so intent on singing along with the CD (or maybe it was even a tape) that we missed a turn off and had to backtrack miles and miles. It remains one of our family stories. The campus is kind of quaint but it sits on the Midwestern plains where the wind comes ripping through unmercifully.

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  33. basset said on September 26, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    It’s not really a corporate PowerPoint unless the slides are all printed out and the speaker just stands there and reads them to you… I tell our folks to follow the 10-20-30 rule for PPTs: no more than ten minutes to a presentation, no more than twenty slides, text no smaller than thirty point.

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  34. MichaelG said on September 26, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    God, basset, how many of those things have I sat through with idiots reading slides at me.

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