At a moment when primetime comedy is making a comeback, it’s fitting that TV Land is mounting a 50th anniversary salute this week to one of the most enduring sitcoms of all time: “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
From tonight through Friday, the cabler will run prime segs of “Dick Van Dyke” from 6-9 p.m. to commemorate the show’s Oct. 3, 1961, bow on CBS (in the Tuesday 8:30 p.m. slot sandwiched by “Gunsmoke” reruns and “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis”). There’ll be a noon-9 p.m. marathon on Saturday and Sunday before the show settles into its regular 7 p.m. weeknight slot.
The story of how Carl Reiner mined his experience working for Sid Caesar to create “Dick Van Dyke’s” central character, TV writer Rob Petrie, is well known. But not widely known is the fact that all these years later, the show is still owned by its four original partners: Reiner, Dick Van Dyke and the estates of Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard. They’ve had no shortage of offers to sell over the years – — “Dick Van Dyke’s” 158 episodes would be a gem in any major studio library — but they’ve never been tempted.
“I was always afraid terrible things would happen to it,” Reiner told Variety. “We always wanted to be the show’s parents.”
As such, the show that has never been out of the syndication for any length of time has proven to be a nice annuity for the partners, as well as for WME.
William Morris Agency famously made a fortune in the 1960s on the prosperous partnership of Thomas and Leonard, and those packaging fees are still paying dividends. It was WMA’s late biz affairs maven Ruth Englehardt who came up with the “Dick Van Dyke” holding company moniker of Calvada Prods., derived from a mash-up of Carl, Leonard, Van Dyke and Danny.
As the number of program-hungry platforms has grown in recent years, the partners retained vintage TV specialist Paul Brownstein to handle distribution rights. “Dick Van Dyke” was a staple of Nick at Nite and TV Land in the 1980s and ’90s but had been off the Viacom cablers for many years. The new pact was completed in a matter of days last week to allow TV Land to mark the show’s golden anni.
As part of the deal, “Dick Van Dyke” segs will be getting a buff and polish and transfer to a high-def format.
“I’m extremely proud that these incredible talents entrusted their family jewels to me,” Brownstein said.