The Dick Van Dyke Show is widely considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time, which makes sense because it had a pretty incredible cast. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore are two of the most celebrated comedic actors of their generation.
Dick Van Dyke was a broadway star in the '50s before he got into television as a comedy emcee. He appeared on The Phil Silvers Show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom and The Polly Bergen Show before signing a contract with CBS. Carl Reiner (writer and creator) was initially supposed to star in the series, originally titled Head of the Family. But after a pilot with a completely different cast was a bust, it was decided that newcomer Dick Van Dyke would be a better fit to lead the show.
Van Dyke played the role of a comedy writer, Rob Petrie, opposite Mary Tyler Moore, who played his wife Laura Petrie. On the show, Rob works on the variety show, The Alan Brady Show, with Sally Rogers and Buddy Sorrell (played by Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam respectively). Larry Mathews played Rob and Laura's son, Ritchie Petrie. Dick Van Dyke's real-life brother, Jerry Van Dyke, even recurred on the show as Rob's brother, Stacey Petrie. The Petrie family lives in New Rochelle, New York, and is frequently seen with their neighbors and close friends, Jerry and Millie Helper (played by Jerry Paris and Ann Morgan Guilbert).
Reiner is also on the show, playing the role of the fictional TV show's star, Alan Brady. Richard Deacon plays the show's producer, Mel Cooley, who is the brunt of many a joke from Buddy. Rob and his co-workers, Buddy and Sally, are constantly cracking jokes in the writing room, which made for hilarious episodes.
When the show premiered in 1961, it was one of the few sitcoms of its time to film in front of a live audience. Carl Reiner based the character of Rob on himself and found inspiration for a lot of the show from his own personal experiences as a head writer on Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour. The show was actually going to be canceled after the first season, but Proctor and Gamble said "no way" and threatened to pull their advertising if the show was canceled. Luckily, the show quickly improved ratings during its second season due to airing directly after The Beverly Hillbillies.
The TV series racked in 15 Emmy Awards across its five seasons. Carl Reiner won three times for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy. Dick Van Dyke won three times for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series, and Mary Tyler Moore won twice for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series.
Part of the reason the show was so successful, is there was no other show that was even similar on the air at the time. Unlike other family sitcoms on the air at the time, Mary Tyler Moore wasn't the typical housewife like you'd see on Leave it to Beaver. She opted to wear capris instead of the standard dress. It was a sign that Moore would go on to become an early feminist in the entertainment industry. Viewers loved that it was different and the show was consistently one of the top 10 primetime shows.
Unlike many shows, The Dick Van Dyke Show ended while it was still on top. It was also the last show to be entirely filmed in black and white. Had it come back for season 6, it would have officially upgraded to color.
The show catapulted Van Dyke and Moore's careers. Moore went on to star in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was not only a groundbreaking female-led show, but has also gone down in history as an iconic comedic show. The series won a collective 29 Emmys across its seven seasons. Van Dyke went on to star in Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He also partnered back up with Reiner to create The New Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran for three seasons in the early '70s. The new show had an entirely different cast and story. It was filmed in Arizona because Van Dyke didn't want to move back to Los Angeles. He later starred opposite his son Barry in Diagnosis: Murder and Murder 101.