LIFE

‘The Dick Van Dyke Show:’ 11 Secrets The Stars Hid Behind The Scenes

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

In 1961, CBS debuted a new series that would go on to be one of its most beloved and well-remembered programs for decades to come: The Dick Van Dyke Show.

I’ve been a huge fan of the timeless show since discovering it on TV Land as a youngster. You just can’t help but get sucked in by the chemistry between leads Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore portraying the world’s most perfect suburban couple. Then you have the wacky antics of Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam, and you know you’re in for a treat — no matter what episode you chose.

I pride myself on knowing a lot of obscure trivia from the show, including the fictional couple’s favorite meals — spaghetti and meatballs for Rob, moo goo gai pan for Laura — but I have to admit, I have stumbled upon quite a few of the fascinating tidbits below.

Scroll through for a look at 11 surprising secrets from this beloved sitcom.

Did we miss your favorite thing about the nostalgic series? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your friends!

Thumbnail source: The History Buff -Medical History

1. It's Based On Carl Reiner's Real Life

1. It's Based On Carl Reiner's Real Life

The comedy-writing veteran based the series on his experiences, working for Sid Caesar’s Your Show Of Shows and even including characters based on his co-writers — Mel Brooks and Selma Diamond — as his fictional sidekicks.

Reiner played Rob Petrie in the original pilot, but his acting ability proved to be a bit more limited than his writing talent.

2. Johnny Carson Almost Played The Lead

2. Johnny Carson Almost Played The Lead

While looking for a replacement for Reiner, the future late night talk show host was tied with Dick Van Dyke during auditions, but the latter’s Tony Award-winning success on Broadway with Bye Bye Birdie ultimately put him over the edge.

3. Mary Tyler Moore Broke The June Cleaver Mold

3. Mary Tyler Moore Broke The June Cleaver Mold

The script originally called for Moore’s Laura Petrie to don a dress and heels while vacuuming their living room for a scene. But as a young mother herself, the actress put her foot down for more comfortable attire in flats and capri pants that reflected what housewives were actually wearing in their suburban homes.

4. It Wasn't All Smiles Backstage

4. It Wasn't All Smiles Backstage

After seeking help years later, Dick Van Dyke admitted to suffering from alcoholism for much of the series — something he attributes to his compulsive need to never ruffle feathers. Instead of expressing any frustration with the production or their fans, he would turn to a bottle.

5. Mary Suffered Mysterious Ailments

5. Mary Suffered Mysterious Ailments

Now attributed to a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, Moore was often plagued by bouts of blurred vision, dizziness, and unexpected weight loss. At the time, she thought she was simply being overworked.

6. Rose Marie Almost Walked Away

6. Rose Marie Almost Walked Away

In the fourth season, the brassy actress suffered the heartbreaking loss of her husband of 20 years, the pain of which very nearly caused her to quit the show entirely. However, one of the directors, John Rich, was eventually able to convince her to stay for the fifth and final season.

7. The Theme Song Has Lyrics

7. The Theme Song Has Lyrics

Morey Amsterdam, who played Rob’s kooky co-writer, Buddy, penned the lyrics for the show’s iconic theme song, but they ultimately went with the instrumental-only version. Dick Van Dyke revealed the charming words in a 2010 interview:

So you think that you’ve got troubles?
Well, trouble’s a bubble,
So tell old Mr. Trouble to get lost!

Why not hold your head up high and,
Stop cryin’, start tryin’,
And don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed.

When you find the joy of livin’,
Is lovin’ and givin’,
You’ll be there when the winning dice are tossed.

A smile is just a frown that’s turned upside down,
So smile, and that frown will defrost.
And don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed.

8. Viewers Liked To Take A Gamble

8. Viewers Liked To Take A Gamble

According to Van Dyke, the audience at home liked to place bets on whether or not each week’s episode would include the goofy prat-fall over the ottoman during the opening credits.

9. Buddy And Mel Never Bickered Off Screen

9. Buddy And Mel Never Bickered Off Screen

Though they frequently appeared at odds on screen, Morey Amsterdam and Richard Deacon were actually close friends behind the scenes. In fact, Deacon said that most of the insults and mean nicknames Amsterdam would throw at him as Buddy in a scene were things the pair had brainstormed together over a drink or during a break in filming.

10. Sally Was Supposed To Be The Leading Lady

10. Sally Was Supposed To Be The Leading Lady

The original plot was focused more on Rob’s life at the office, with Sally taking the female helm, but Mary Tyler Moore’s popularity — not to mention the undeniable chemistry between the two actors — ultimately inspired the writers to shift the perspective.

11. It Was Canceled After One Season

11. It Was Canceled After One Season

Only temporarily, of course, but CBS originally wasn’t convinced the series was worth continuing. That is, until producer Sheldon Leonard personally pleaded for sponsorship from Proctor & Gamble who threatened to pull their ads from the network entirely.

Ironically, when the cast and crew decided to call it quits after the fifth season, it was the network who was doing the pleading for the show to go on.

Did we miss your favorite fact about this television classic? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to SHARE with your friends!