Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! This week, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dick Van Dyke And The Other Woman, a classic comedy variety special that was first broadcast by CBS on April 13, 1969. Written by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff with Arnold Kane, this one-off hour-long show reunited former TV spouses Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, and ended up being CBS’ most-watched special of the 1968-’69 season — with a 31.2 rating and a 49 share. As a result, within six months of this broadcast, both stars had deals with the network to return to series television; Moore came back with The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the fall of 1970, and Van Dyke followed with The New Dick Van Dyke Show a year later.
Reviews of Dick Van Dyke And The Other Woman at the time were mostly positive (not a unanimous rave, but still fairly good), and even though there were no resulting Emmy nominations, it was considered by all parties to be a great success. In fact, most of the commentary on this special today focuses on just how important it was for the performers — particularly Moore, whom Van Dyke graciously spotlighted as his equal (if not his better half). But it also was vital for the network, which was having increasing difficulty fending off NBC in their annual Nielsen battles. In re-signing stars who not only had huge followings from a recent CBS hit, but who also represented the kind of “sophisticated” (read: not Gilligan’s Island or The Beverly Hillbillies) programming that the network was forever looking for an excuse to pivot towards, CBS was signaling a new era — one that seemed to call upon the past, but was actually — and this is especially true of Moore’s series — going to help usher in the future.
Dick Van Dyke And The Other Woman was vital in launching this future, and watching it today is a delight. The musical numbers are charming, the comedy is well-laid, and the chemistry between the performers is as strong as ever. I wish it was on DVD — there must be prohibitive music rights issues — but I’m confident that some day it will be. As of this writing, it’s not hard to find; getTV showed the special several years ago, and this version can be found on YouTube. Unfortunately, it cuts out a good ten minute chunk — which includes a one-man skit starring Van Dyke and a musical salute, from Moore, to American women… Fortunately, I have a copy of the FULL show, and for subscribers hoping to obtaining this version (for your private, scholarly, and non-commercial purposes), if you kindly comment below to alert me of your interest, I will send it to you (along with the edited, but better quality, getTV cut).
And, in the meantime, here’s an extended clip from the special — a musical-comedy sequence called “Life Is Like A Situation Comedy.” (Though featured on getTV’s edit, this is taken from the lower quality, but COMPLETE, version that isn’t currently on YouTube.) Enjoy!
Come back next week for another Wildcard post! And stay tuned Monday for a new Musical Theatre rarity!