DickVanDyke4coverGrade:  A
Entire family:  Yes
1964-65, 800 min. (32 episodes), B&W
Not rated (would be G)
Image Entertainment
Aspect ratio:  1.33:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA Mono
Bonus features:  B+

Comedy of character never gets old—one reason why The Dick Van Dyke Show remains as fresh and funny today as it was when Season 4 aired in 1964-65.

It’s all about chemistry and personality, and this black-and-white series had plenty of both. Creator Carl Reiner surrounded Van Dyke with people he could play off of, but who could also react to him. It was comedic give-and-take, with the humor ranging from physical comedy (mostly Van Dyke, as head TV comedy writer Rob Petrie), Lucy-style situations (Mary Tyler Moore, as Laura Petrie, often with neighbor Millie) snappy one-liners (mostly provided by vaudeville vets Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie as Rob’s co-writers), and the kind of simple situational humor that derives from everyday family life and a not-so-everyday work environment.  

This season Laura gets her toe caught in a bath spout in the unforgettable episode “Never Bathe on a Saturday,” a sleep-deprived Rob tries to stay awake during his job interview with Alan Brady (Reiner) in the flashback episode “100 Terrible Hours,” and Don Rickles is a klutzy thief who tries to rob the Petries in a stalled elevator in “4 ½,” then later enlists them to entertain the inmates in “The Alan Brady Show Goes to Jail.” This is also the season that the Petries’ son, Ritchie (Larry Mathews), gets too attached to baby ducklings in “Never Name a Duck,” and Rob teases Laura by scaring her as they watch a sci-fi program together, only to have his joke backfire in “It May Look Like a Walnut.”

DickVanDyke4screenThere’s more backfiring as Rob buys a motorcycle and runs into trouble in “Br-rooom, Br-rooom,” and Rob and Buddy (Amsterdam) become investors in Uncle Lou’s shoe store. This season real British Invasion pop-rockers Chad and Jeremy end up staying at the Petries’ to escape fans in “The Redcoats are Coming,” and Rob tries to get royalties for a song titled “Bupkis” that he wrote as a young man. And in an episode that calls to mind The Andy Griffith Show, young Ritchie has a problem with a girl who shows her affection by hitting him in “Girls Will Be Boys.”

Three of the strongest episodes are the first three of the season, in which Laura defends Rob at a bar but bruises his ego, Rob and the gang spend a night in a haunted cabin, and Ritchie’s babysitter develops a crush on Laura.

Season 4 is one of the series’ best, and all 32 episodes are included in this handsome three-disc set. They look fantastic in high definition—transferred from the original 35mm negatives. If your children will watch black-and-white TV shows, this one will interest them nearly as much as I Love Lucy.

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