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-For the time The Dick Van Dyke Show was incredibly diverse. You got to remember this was the early 1960s, back in the day you were lucky to see African Americans in any capacity and when they were in shows or movies they were strictly in the service industry. That started to change in the late 50s to early 60s and TDVDS was kinda the start of that in Television. People of color were depicted in different capacities than usual. In the episode “That’s My Boy??” the actors Greg Morris and Mimi Dillard played a normal upper middle class family. In this episode Rob thinks that Laura and himself were sent home with the wrong baby from the hospital and he believes that their baby was taken by a family with the last name Peters. The Peters ended up being African American and they were depicted as well dressed and well spoken people who seemed to live in a similar area and walk of life as the Petries and in that episode the African American couple is funny and completely sane whereas the white man (Rob) is depicted as the butt of the joke. Also at the end of the episode Rob subtly mentions how their son Richie is getting horrible grades and the Peters’ son is at the top of the class. It’s small things like that, that had never been seen on Television. In a episode named “The Man from My Uncle“ an actor by the name of Godfrey Campbell played an FBI agent. And that’s not counting the numerous POC in smaller roles or as extras in scenes. This was a time where you were lucky to see POC even as extras.
-The feminism in TDVDS took amazing strides as well. There were times where Rob is shown to be very insecure, and I think that’s some of the most of it’s time aspects of the show. It’s not great, but it’s realistic. One of my favorite character choices for Laura Petrie is that we find out that she is proficient in self defense…. she learned self defense techniques when she was an entertainer for the troops. In the episode “My Mother Can Beat Up My Father,” a drunk at a bar harasses Laura and Rob tries to defend her and he gets laid out by the drunk. Laura then does a judo throw on the guy and lays him out. It becomes a big thing for Rob in that episode and he’s very insecure about the fact that Laura can take a guy that Rob can’t. But Laura does not apologize for that fact, and in one scene Rob is trying to prove that he’s all tough and so he challenges Laura to do the same throw with him. Laura doesn’t pretend she can’t do it to spare his fragile masculinity, she lays him out and if I remember correctly he broke a few bones. Also the character of Sally Rogers has been touted as one of the first women’s lib characters. She’s a Television writer alongside Rob and Buddy and she is treated with respect and is presumably paid the same as Buddy who is a writer on her same level. She is a proud career woman who is damn good at her job, and is an equal to the men in her workplace. Another big way that TDVDS broke ground was the fact that Laura wears capri pants. Believe it or not that caused a firestorm of controversy…. up to that point housewives had been shown as wearing dresses and skirts on TV and once the dust settled the fact that Mary Tyler Moore wore capri pants on TDVDS caused those pants to become a huge fashion craze in the 60s.
-TDVDS became a huge hit starting with the second season against all odds. First off Carl Reiner had created the show a couple years prior and had actually shot a pilot with an entirely different cast and with himself in the lead, at that time it was called “Head Of The Family.” It aired and did not get picked up. Carl just gave up on it and it lay on a shelf collecting dust. A couple years later someone with the William Morris Agency tried to get Carl to retry it and he refused. That agent then went to the most successful producer at that time, Sheldon Leonard. Sheldon was known for having a perfect record for his pilots, absolutely all of them had been picked up to series, some of which were huge hit shows. Sheldon saw the show and immediately saw the potential. He approached Carl about the idea of retrying with an entirely different cast and name…. once a famous producer says they have faith in your show, how can you say no. So they set to the task of finding a cast. Dick Van Dyke was one of the first people to be cast in the show, and at that point Dick was in the middle of a successful run on Broadway in the show “Bye Bye Birdie” which he’d won a Tony Award for, but being successful on Broadway doesn’t usually translate to fame with the general public (up until Lin Manuel Miranda that was true). So not only did they cast an unknown in the lead role but they then turned around and named the show on the said unknown actor. That was an extremely ballsy and risky move. At the time there were a lot of shows named after actors but they were all famous stars like Doris Day etc. To name a show after an unknown actor was unheard of!! They then cast Mary Tyler Moore (who was an unknown), they cast Rose Marie (who was never hugely famous, but had a really good career on radio and in night clubs. But even if you consider her to have been famous, she was kind of a has been), Morey Amsterdam was cast (an unknown), Jerry Paris and Ann Morgan Guilbert were cast (also unknowns). It was really a cast full of unknowns in the leads. There were no big names. Which was really a disadvantage going in. The first season bombed, it was near the end of the Nielsen ratings and morale was severely low at the end of the season. Sheldon Leonard actually got word from a friend who was on the committee that decided which shows were cancelled and which her renewed, that the show had indeed been cancelled and it just hadn’t been announced yet. So Sheldon went into problem solving mode. He knew that going to the network wouldn’t get him anywhere. At that time sponsors were king and TDVDS had one of the biggest sponsors in the game, Proctor And Gamble. So Sheldon flew to Proctor And Gamble’s headquarters and in his own words he “sang mammy” in other words he begged and he charmed their pants off (figuratively) :) At the end of his pitch, they agreed to go to bat for the show… on one condition…. that he found a sponsor to sponsor the second half of the season. So he raced from sponsor to sponsor pitching his show and begging them to co sponsor them. He was in the middle of a pitch when he was alerted that Kent Cigarettes had decided to sponsor their second half. Proctor And Gamble and Kent Cigarettes went up against CBS and demanded that they renew TDVDS or else they would withdraw support from all their other popular shows. And CBS caved and renewed the show. With S2, TDVDS became a massive success and by the end of S5 the network was begging Carl Reiner to make another season but Carl wanted to end the show while they were still on top. TDVDS also became the darling of the awards shows. They continually swept the Emmys every year starting with S2. They won for writing, directing, and acting, it also won Best Comedy in 1966 with it’s final season.

-The scripts were largely based off of real life. Nowadays it’s more common for shows to take ideas from real life, but at the time Carl Reiner’s wish for authenticity was largely unheard of. Writers on the show described the writing sessions as therapy sessions because it would start with Carl probing into their life and them talking about embarrassing things that happened to them. Carl and the writers would take those ideas and make them bigger and crazier but there was always that nugget of truth in there.

-The marriage between Rob and Laura was also iconic. You gotta figure that I Love Lucy was a huge show of the past decade and it really shaped most future shows. In some ways TDVDS was the antithesis of that. Carl wanted to create a show where the main married couple was united… it was them against the world. He shied away from battle of the sexes storylines whenever possible. He wanted Rob and Laura to be clearly in love. And it’s a unique relationship where you can tell that those two have an active sex life… and that was really unique for the time.

-Carl Reiner made a decision at the beginning of the show that he would never use popular slang terms of the 60s. In fact if you watch beginning to end, only one slang term slipped in, in S5. Otherwise, he remarkably kept to that. Because of that crucial decision, TDVDS is not as dated as it could be and it has a very timeless feel to it.

-The cast was known to get along famously, there were only a few moments of tension, otherwise the set was known to be very light and there was little tension. They were all pranksters and the set was alive with hilarity, laughter, and pranks. They used to haze guest stars… most of the guest stars were fine with being hazed but there was one who did not take it so well. During the filming of one episode Robert Vaughn was the guest star and he was on the outskirts of the set waiting for his cue to come in. The actors led the entire cast and crew off the set and turned off the lights and left Robert waiting for his cue for about an hour, until he walked in to see what the holdup was only to find the entire cast and crew gone. It’s hilarious, but he wasn’t too happy. The cast was like a huge family, but most guest stars described them as being very welcoming as well.

Edit. Another iconic thing I almost forgot is the fact that certain episodes are used in film classes as examples of how to write comedy. It’s so funny and iconic that it is the textbook case of how to write comedy shows!!!! When will your favorite show ever… ;)

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Longtime sports broadcaster Lesley Visser is getting a special honor for her long outstanding work credits her with CBS and getting recognized from Emmys.

It was announced Wednesday that Visser is getting Sports Emmys’ Lifetime achievement award.

Via ESPN:

Visser has spent the past 30 years at CBS as part of a 45-year sports journalism career in which she has been enshrined in six hall of fames, including being the first woman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. She is also the only sportscaster to work on network broadcasts for the Final Four, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the Olympics, the World Series, the Triple Crown, the World Figure Skating Championship and tennis’ US Open.

“For 45 years Lesley Visser has been a leader and trailblazer in both print and television journalism,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “Very few people have had the word first attached to them throughout their career as much as Lesley, and even fewer have created a place in an industry that never existed. From first working in press boxes with a credential that read, ‘No women or children,’ to becoming the first woman assigned to work 'Monday Night Football,’ and to being the first woman enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there is no one more deserving to be honored as the first woman to receive the Sports Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement.”

Visser began her career at the Boston Globe in 1974, working under sports editor Vince Doria. She was elected to the Sportswriters Hall of Fame for her work at the newspaper, in magazines and for CBS.com and the Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame for her work at CBS, ABC, ESPN and HBO.

“When you look at Lesley Visser’s resume which is a long list of accomplishments, where almost everyone begins with 'the first woman,’ the phrase that comes to mind for me is 'one of the best damn journalists I have ever worked with,’” said Doria, who worked at ESPN from 1992 to 2015, in a statement. “While Lesley is a pioneer in every respect, gender has nothing to do with the fact that she’s just a damn good reporter.”

Among her accolades, Visser was voted the best female sportscaster of all time by the National Sportscasters of America.

The Sports Emmy Awards ceremony will be held April 28 at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Congrats!!!

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