The Dick Van Dyke Show And Me

In an interview, Dick Van Dyke proclaimed that of all of the movies and TV work he is known for, his days making the Dick Van Dyke Show were the most fun.

That the cast was having fun certainly came through. I have wonderful memories of that show. How could you not laugh hysterically with Dick, Laura, Sally, Buddy , Mel, Alan Brady and the rest of the cast. It integrated physical comedy, low brow one liners, a bit of high comedy and the occasional song and dance number delivered by characters you could relate to.

It only lasted 5 season because that comic genius Carl Reiner was concerned that the show could get stale. How different from today’s “squeeze every last moment’ (read dollar) from a TV show.

So, how does this wonderful TV history involve me? I had a good year at work this year. I worked myself to near-death but it paid of in a decent bonus. I wanted to reward myself with a treat. The BIG treat will be a digital SLR if I ever figure out what to buy. In the meantime I went looking for something small. I decided that I wanted, no needed, The DVD Show complete series. I had looked at this from time to time over the years. It lists for about $250. I would not spend that much.

The day after Christmas was the first day I had time to internet shop. Sure enough it was on sale at Amazon for $115. Still a little high but this was by definition a treat. I dropped it in my virtual shopping cart along with some other items. I did not push the buy button because I was still figuring out what camera to add. Anyways, if it was on sale the day after Christmas it would be on sale for the week. Right? Wrong! Two days later it was up to $165 and another day later to $183 where it sits today. Too rich for my blood.

I brooded for days. I kept checking the price, sometimes more than once a day. No change. I did not have the heart to search for another treat. I had chosen this.

Pricing in retail makes little sense to me. The same item can be worth very different amounts in a heart beat. Why is that? Why would the retailer not give you the lower price the next day if you asked. I could not find a way on the Amazon website to even ask.

Then serendipity intervened. After 10 days of checking the prices on the complete series package, I noticed that Amazon cut the price in half of the individual seasons. Add it up. I could now get all five seasons individually for a total of $96 or the complete set for $183. I ordered the five seasons as fast as I could click.

They arrived a couple of days ago. The big decision now is whether to start with the very first episode or the pilot which was named “Head of the Family” and starred Carl Reiner. 25 disks to go. I am thinking about having a DVD marathon party. 24/7. Anyone interested?

Now this is a treat.

ps. As I went went to YouTube to find the opening to add I find that you can find view episodes for free there. What a world.

Missed It By That Much

The voice in my head Wednesday night night was that of Don Adams as Max Smart delivering one of his famous lines.

The Plan. Monday through Wednesday 6 planes, 4 meetings, 4 cities.

Made 5 of 6. Missed it by that much.

Monday. Up early to head to O’Hare. A call and then a flight to NY. Work all day, client dinner. 

Tuesday. Awake at 5:30 est  for6:30 client breakfast. 7 AM start on a  2 hour meeting with a short window to get to Newark for a flight to Orlando. Meeting goes long. Panic. Make the flight. Long plane ride, get to meeting. 2+hour meeting. Go to hotel by airport. Answer emails. Dinner in room. Try unsuccessfully to get boarding passes. Sleep.

Wednesday. Up at 4:30 est. Dress, get boarding passes, security. The plan is 4 planes, 2 meetings and return home at midnight. Second to last plane was delayed due to weather in last city before home. Arrival gate is last gate at E terminal, the last plane is at furthest gate at B terminal. Two most distant points in airport. Run, fast walk. Sweat, a lot. Plane left 8 minutes ago. Missed it by that much.

Hour on phone  with travel agent. Flight next morning confirmed head to fleabag airport hotel (name brand). First room has electrical problem. In second room at 11:30.

Thursday. Up at 5:30 est. Why all this reference to est? Because I live in cst which makes 5:30 am 4:30 am by the time I get home.  I get home.

Sleep for an hour. Get up and work. Would have loved to have made this a 3 day instead of a 4 day trip. But from a work perspective if I had to miss 1 plane this was the one to miss…by that much.

The Psychology of Reruns (or Reruns Again?)

Why do we watch the same thing over and over? I was on a plane and watched an episode of “Chuck” that had seen twice before. We are talking about “Chuck” here. This was not a highly styled production, a nuanced presentation for which every viewing reveals new insight or previously unseen detail that further illuminates the story. This was not even a “classic” that by the force of its greatness, its reputation as a cinematic masterpiece, one’s senses are heightened or the soul inspired as if viewed for the very first time. This was Chuck. The best one could say is that the show is cute. True, I was on a plane and there was nothing else to watch on the screen. However, it is not as if there was nothing else to do. Work, write, read, or sleep were all alternatives. Even rereading a book trumps TV reruns.

And yet I believe that I am not the only human that succumbs to the lure of reruns.  DVD sales of past TV shows now rival that of movies. This demonstrates major commitment to reruns. It is one thing to watch a show or movie on TV but it is another to spend money to have the show permanently in your collection so you can rerun 24/7. 

So why rerun. It certainly is not about intellectual stimulation or growth. Comfort? Laziness? Familiarity leading to comfort? Is this like comfort food? Are reruns meat loaf and mashed potatoes for our psyches?

Reruns do take us back to different points in our past. What was your life like when Seinfeld introduced Yadda, Yadda, Yadda? When Cosby was raising those precocious kids along with his younger, too beautiful wife. Or for me when Dick Van Dyke was tripping over the ottoman? We were younger certainly. Are reruns a mental fountain of youth? Or a time machine?

We have become passive in our viewing habits. There must be some reason why we allow TV networks and cable stations to get away with so little new programming. I would love to see a static of what percentage of total viewing time are programs seen for the very first time. 

Next time I will resist the urge to watch a rerun. In fact I will cut down on TV time altogether. My focus will be on improving my mind, body and spirit.

Of course I could watch this 1,000 times.

Fame Is Fast And Fleeting: My 13 Seconds

Andy Warhol spoke of 15 minutes of fame. I settled for 13 seconds on the 10 pm news last Sunday.

My wife and I were in downtown Chicago walking to dinner with friends. As we are about to cross the street we are approached by a guy with a microphone and his buddy with a large video camera. The microphone had the logo of NBC5, the local Chicago affiliate. Always willing to mug for a camera we stopped. The topic?  The about to be published New Yorker magazine with a “satirical” drawing of Barack and Michelle Obama.

The New Yorker called it satire. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Obama “said Tuesday that the New Yorker magazine’s satirical cover depicting him and his wife as flag-burning, fist-bumping radicals doesn’t bother him but that it was an insult to Muslim Americans.”

Want to know what I thought?  Watch the video. I am the one who get the most talk time. And one of the best looking!

Fame. I know of at least 7 people who saw me on TV either Sunday night or Monday morning. It’s Wednesday now and I am all but forgotten…until my next big break. Time to expand my media empire.


Lifetime Acheivement Beats 15 Minutes of Fame


Actor Charles Lane recently died at the age of 102. He was a character actor. In fact one site I researched had as an executive summary “grumpy character actor”.  He never played in a starring role but he portrayed memorable characters in dozens of well known movies. Many of us will recognize his face. The great director Frank Capra used him in several films including the classic “Its A Wonderful Life”. He met Lucille Ball when she was still an RKO chorus girl, and the two became friends. Years later he was a frequent guest on “I Love Lucy” and appeared in one of that series’ most-watched episodes, the birth of Little Ricky, in 1953.

He acted well into his 90s. In all he appeared in 250 films and countless TV episodes. All-in-all a rich and full career.

When I read about people like Charles Lane my thoughts also turn to the anti-Lanes. This would include all of the poor mannered, rich, spoiled actors, singers, performers and celebrities that populate today’s culture and dominate the media. People who have turned one or two modestly good movies/songs/sex videos into far more than 15 minutes of fame and too much fortune.

What have they achieved? What will they do with their lives beyond their mid-20s? Will anyone care about them when they hit their 90s? Their 40s?

I do not know about the man that Charles Lane was but I appreciate and value the longevity of his contributions and his devotion to craft. There are certainly many people in other less public careers who demonstrate quiet competence or even excellence that will not get written up in the NY Times but deserve our respect. These are the folks that should be on the cover of People. These are the people that should inspire our children.

BTW. Does anyone know how Lindsey is doing after rehab?

Guilty Pleasures

I experienced a few of these recently so I thought I would share.

Don’t tell my wife but I enjoyed watching the Fox show, So You Think You Can Dance. I watched the first round tryouts. The judges were lame but the dancers were entertaining. I don’t watch Idol or Dancing with the Stars or any of those other talent based reality shows. I did like this one.

Galaxy Quest. This is a modestly funny movie but for some reason I watch it every time I come across it. Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver (hot as always), Alan Rickman and Tony Shalhoub, the thin plot is about actors in a Star Trek-like show who get in a “real” space adventure. I especially like the Rock Creature. Look for a young Justin Long from the outstanding Mac vs. PC commercials as a Galaxy Quest geek who helps save the day.

Sports section and comics page. My first reads of the day. After that I am ready for whatever life brings.

I dare you to name three of your guilty pleasures.

The Fruit Cake Lady has Died

fcl.jpgI never adjusted to The Tonight Show once Johnny left. I had experienced Jay Leno as a stand up comedy at the Park West in Chicago. He was hilarious! He just never did much for me as a talk show host.

So I did not know that the Fruit Cake Lady existed until she existed no more. Jay discovered Marie Rudisill, 89 years young the first time she appeared on his show. She died last year at the age of 95. Based on the clips from the show she was savvy and wise in the way only someone that old can be– and can get away with. Here is a link to some videos of the Fruit Cake Lady on The Tonight Show.  Enjoy.

We should all be as much of a character as she was. I am not waiting until my 90s, I’m starting now.