Carl Reiner would often ask cast and crew members about funny things that had happened to them, then he would write whole episodes about these occurrences. As a result, a majority of the episodes over the course of the show's five season run were based on actual events, that really occurred.
The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961) was the last show to have its entire run filmed in black and white. The show was due to be shot in color after the fifth season, but never happened because of the cast and producers' decision to end the show after five seasons.
According to Dick Van Dyke, viewers used to make bets (during the opening credits of seasons 2, 3, 4 & 5) on whether or not Rob Petrie would stumble over the Ottoman, when walking into the door of his house.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: My Blonde-Haired Brunette (1961) (when Laura dyed her hair blonde, temporarily) was the ninth episode filmed during the first season, but it was the second episode to be aired, because Carl Reiner was so impressed with Mary Tyler Moore's rapid development that he wanted to highlight her in an episode as soon as possible. He had thoughts of it being the series' debut.
Laura usually wore Capri pants on the show. The network was against this at first, and said that she had to be in a skirt for a certain number of scenes per episode. To fight this, they filmed a scene where Laura walked into the kitchen in Capri pants and came out a second later in a skirt. The network finally relented.
For the first three seasons of the show, Alan Brady's face was never seen but his voice was occasionally heard, because Carl Reiner wanted to get a big star to play Alan. Reiner eventually decided to take on the role himself as the newest on-screen star.
The writers' office where Rob works is a recreation of the writers' bullpen from Your Show of Shows (1950), where Carl Reiner worked as a writer. The character role of Rob Petrie, was based on Reiner, and the character role of Buddy Sorrell was based on the longtime television comedy writer Mel Brooks. The character role of Alan Brady, was based on Sid Caesar.
When CBS canceled the show after one season, Sheldon Leonard traveled to Procter & Gamble's main headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, to make a personal plea for sponsorship, hoping it would sway CBS toward renewal. Procter & Gamble agreed to sponsor half a season. Eventually, Lorillard Tobacco Company, makers of Kent Cigarettes, agreed to pick up the other half, and the show was picked up by CBS for a second season. Ironically, when the show went off the air on its own five years later, CBS was doing the pleading for the show to continue.
Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore played a married couple so convincingly on the show that many viewers actually thought they were married in real life. They did in fact become very close - "like siblings", as Dick Van Dyke said - and both admit they had crushes on each other while the show was in production. They have remained close friends ever since.
Morey Amsterdam and Richard Deacon were actually close friends. According to Deacon, many of the best insults Buddy hurled at Mel were worked out while the two went out for a drink after work, or a screen filming time out.
Dick Van Dyke was granted a one-week leave from "Bye Bye Birdie" to film the series' debut. During his absence, understudy Charles Nelson Reilly filled in. When Van Dyke left "Bye Bye Birdie" permanently in April of 1961, he was succeeded by future host of The Match Game (1962), Gene Rayburn. Van Dyke was so nervous about filming the debut that he developed a cold sore on his upper lip, requiring additional makeup to cover it up, and he admits he cannot recall President John F. Kennedy being inaugurated on the same day the series' filming began.
Dick Van Dyke took a big chance agreeing to do this show because in order to do it, he had to leave the Broadway hit show "Bye Bye Birdie" for which he won a Tony Award. If the show was not a hit, he would have been out of work.
Carl Reiner asked network censors for permission to show Laura and Rob sleeping in one large bed together, reasoning (quite sensibly) that he and his wife did so in real life. The permission was denied, and the Petries are always depicted sleeping in nearby twin beds (as was the custom of TV series of the era).
The series originally was to focus on Rob at the office with Sally Rogers as the lead female character and Laura as a minor one. The character of Laura became so popular that Mary Tyler Moore became the lead female character and more of the focus of the show shifted to the relationship between Rob and Laura. Many times situations at the office were still focused on Rob and Laura. This put a strain on the relationship between Rose Marie and Mary Tyler Moore, and while the two ladies got along well, they never became close friends.
A small controversy occurred because of Mary Tyler Moore wearing Capri pants on the show. Up until the show's premiere most housewives were seen in dresses, but Moore's explanation was that most of the housewives she knew wore pants. Because of Moore, Capri pants became a huge fashion craze in the early 1960s.
Morey Amsterdam wrote lyrics to Earle Hagen's famous musical theme, but they were never used. The lyrics are heard on a segment bonus of The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961)'s season 4 DVDs and blue-ray discs.
Frank Adamo, who appeared in numerous episodes as a waiter, delivery man, walk-on, or just a face in the crowd, was often uncredited and Dick Van Dyke's personal assistant and stand-in. In the show's fifth and final season, Frank Adamo is credited as Head Waiter in the episode, "You Ought to Be in Pictures."
Three episodes were filmed without a live audience. First, was The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Bad Old Days (1962) originally televised on Wednesday, April 4th, 1962. It used extra sped-up filmed inserts during Rob's dream of a 1920s lifestyle, which made shooting in front of an audience impractical. Second was The Dick Van Dyke Show: Happy Birthday and Too Many More (1964), because the cast were grieving after the assassination of President, John F. Kennedy, in Dallas Texas, on Friday, November 22nd, 1963. The third one was The Gunslinger (1966), which was filmed on location without a live audience.
In the 1959 television pilot "Head of the Family" which eventually became the basis for the show, Carl Reiner played Rob Petrie, Barbara Britton played Laura Petrie, and Sylvia Miles played Sally Rogers.
During Richard Deacon's first season as Mel Cooley, on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961), he was also finishing up the last season as Fred Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver (1957), as it was in the process of concluding its seven season run. While in season four, Richard Deacon appeared in the movie That Darn Cat! (1965), for approximately fifteen minutes.
According to Morey Amsterdam, the show was scheduled to return for the 1966-1967 season and was going to be seen in color for the first time. However, the plan was scrapped when Dick Van Dyke decided he had enough. This contradicts Carl Reiner, who is on record as saying the decision to end the series was his alone. In any event, Reiner made it clear that he would not be returning as producer after the fifth season, and the consensus opinion was that it would have been impossible to do the show without him. Apparently, what Morey Amsterdam was speaking of was The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971).
In the series, Dick Van Dyke's brother Jerry Van Dyke played his brother, Stacey Petrie, in two two-part specials, first in season one & other in season four. Stacey was in fact the name of Dick's daughter, so this was undoubtedly done at his request. Apparently leading to his upcoming series, with the leading role in, My Mother the Car (1965).
The show's pilot was created by Carl Reiner and was highly autobiographical. CBS executives decided that the main character was too Jewish, too intellectual and too New York and cast Dick Van Dyke instead of Reiner.
The task of casting Laura proved to be the most difficult. About 60 actresses auditioned for the role before Mary Tyler Moore was chosen. She almost didn't go to the audition, but was persuaded by her agent.
During filming for the weeks that the makers of Kent cigarettes sponsored the show, free cartons of Kent cigarettes were handed out by the company to the cast and crew. Mary Tyler Moore, then a heavy smoker, had quit during the fourth season.
CBS canceled the show after season one temporarily, then renewed it. When the show finally did go off the air, it was because the cast and producers wanted to quit while they were still proud of it. Addition fact, Carl Reiner personally said at the very beginning that the show would not run for more than five seasons.
Both Dick Van Dyke and his on-screen wife Mary Tyler Moore co-starred with Julie Andrews in the 60s; Van Dyke co-starred with her in Mary Poppins, for which she won the Academy Award, and Mary Tyler Moore co-starred with her in Thoroughly Modern Millie; which would be Julie Andrews' last big box office hit (until Victor Victoria more than ten years later). Both Mary Poppins and Thoroughly Modern Millie would be have major Broadway Revivals years later; coincidentally.
Mary Tyler Moore bragged to her Dick Van Dyke co-stars that she would soon own her own tv studio called MTM, which would have an MTM pussy cat which meowed like the MGM lion, where she would produce hit TV shows. She was right! MTM did indeed become a tv studio and produced such hit shows as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", "Lou Grant", "St. Elsewhere", "Hill Street Blues", "Rhoda", "The Bob Newhart Show", "Newhart" and "Phyllis".
Mr. Henderson, the name given to Sally Rogers' cat, is a possible reference to Fletcher Henderson, a band-leader with whom Rose Marie performed as a child and who accompanied her on her phonograph debut, during her Vaudeville days.
The sheet music shown on the wall in the writers room is to Charles Frohman's The Dairymaids, with words by M.E. Rourke and music by Jerome Kern. The musical ran on Broadway from August 26-November 16, 1907.
Maurice "Buddy" Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) was the first Jewish character on television. He was the first male character that was a regular part of a cast that was Jewish. Rhoda Morganstern (The Mary Tyler Moore show, played by Valerie Harper) was the female Jewish character.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
In The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Last Chapter (1966), the series' last episode, Rob writes his autobiography and shows it to everyone. At the end of the episode, Alan decides to buy the rights to the manuscript and turn it into a TV series with him as the star, after he finishes the variety series.