Head Of The Family–Carl Reiner’s 1961 Sitcom Pilot

What was missing was love and humanity. I am astonished to say this was a mean spirited sitcom–something it did not set out to be.

head-of-the-family.jpgI just watched the pilot that ended up becoming the Dick Van Dyke show. It’s part of what Comcast offers on their Fancast page. Dick Van Dyke was nowhere to be seen, nor were Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie or Morey Amsterdam. This was Carl Reiner’s show, written, created and starring Carl Reiner and featuring a cast with New Yawk accents so thick I thought I was back at PS 163.

I’m a huge Carl Reiner fan, but this was awful. Truly. It wasn’t bad because the jokes didn’t work–they were like all the other jokes on all the other sitcoms. What was missing was warmth and humanity. I am astonished to say this was a mean spirited sitcom–something it did not set out to be.

I can’t understand how Reiner didn’t see it. And, if he didn’t see it, I worry about who he was in 1961. The protagonist in this autobiographical show had big issues.

Luckily “Head of the Family” became the “Dick Van Dyke Show.” Lucky Barbara Britton was replaced by Mary Tyler Moore and Morty Gunty (Morty Gunty–my father will enjoy seeing that name) was replaced by Morey Amsterdam.

There are no TV pilots any more. If it’s made, it’s aired (and it certainly doesn’t run 26:20). There is no sandox to experiment in. I can thank and blame the Internet I got to see this 45+ years after the fact. I will never look at Carl Reiner in the same way.

A Loser On Mother’s Day

Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve just gotten back from the supermarket where I bought Mother’s Day cards for Helaine. That’s right. 2:30 PM on Mother’s Day and I was at Stop and Shop with the other losers.

Helaine has been out-of-town most of the week. There was no rush to get them. Still, this really is leaving it to the last minute… and for the others I saw (judging from the look on their faces) beyond the last minute.

Only guys wait this long. I saw no women buying cards.

As I walked into the store, there was a small display right at the entrance! For those of us who enter the market twice a year – easily found! I decided to venture to the ‘normal’ card section, where there might be a larger selection.

I started looking, flanked by husbands on either side. To my left was a guy with the expression Mary Tyler Moore made famous as she tossed meat into a supermarket cart. To my right, another sad guy was looking through the cards dedicated to mothers who aren’t your mother or your wife, but maybe you have some kids together… sorta.

I assume there are cards for every possible peripheral connection to motherhood. Mr. Hallmark is no fool. Even I know, e-cards may be fine for many occasions, but not Mother’s Day.

When I was a kid, greeting cards were 15&#162. Mr. Hallmark is making up for all his lost Internet revenue directly through me. I was shocked when I saw the prices, but today’s not the day to chince out&#185.

I found my cards and headed to the checkout. Under these circumstances, I didn’t want to be publicly outed, so I headed to the self check. Helaine says these are no faster – but I was after anonymity, not speed.

The cards are now home. Helaine just called from the airport. Soon she will be home.

You might be wondering, ‘why are you writing this?’ After all, without this written proof, it might look like the cards were bought on Thursday… maybe earlier.

Don’t you think my wife knows me well enough to know I never do anything before deadline? Plus, I suspect she knows how much I love her. The cards are a reminder of my love, not the revelation of a new concept.

&#185 – There is no word chince – or so says the dictionary. Since I was a kid, I have used the expression, “chince out,” meaning: the act of being cheap. Maybe I just heard it wrong as a kid, or am spelling it wrong as an adult. Any assistance will be appreciated.

Raider Of The Lost Archives

My friend Paul, who I’ve known over 35 years, has been a producer in Los Angeles for a long time. As his career evolved he got involved in repackaging older shows to rerun on cable. When the Smothers Brothers went back to E! or Sonny and Cher’s old shows reran, it was Paul who put together the package.

He is called, “Raider of the Lost Archives!” The title fits.

To make these old shows new and attractive, special extra features get added. This is where Paul is a genius.

For each release there is also the pain of getting clearance and making payments to artists and performers who’d worked on these shows decades earlier. Some are tough to find. Some are impossible to find.

Over the past few years Paul has branched out. Now he repackages old shows into DVDs. The medium is different though his work product is similar.

Every few weeks we’ll be on the phone talking and Paul will tell me about some TV star of twenty or thirty years ago who he will be meeting to get guest commentary for a new DVD collection. Usually, these are people who were big stars, but have now retired… or sadly aged out of the roles they used to play.

All this work pays off, because sometimes it’s the special features, the little extras, that make his DVDs so desirable.

I’m not the only one who’s realized that. Just yesterday he scored the top two of the five “Best DVDs” in an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Paul lives in Los Angeles where success is often looked upon with envy. Not here. This is my friend and I couldn’t be more proud.

Here are the five best TV series on DVD, based on the legacy of the show and the inclusion of bountiful and substantive extras. They’re sure to take you to another dimension, a journey not only of sight and sound but of mind.

1. “The Dick Van Dyke Show”

Rob and Laura Petrie never had it so good. Each of the five season sets for the classic sitcom includes a giddy wealth of special features, thanks to DVD producer Paul Brownstein’s uncanny ability to dig them up and — more important — secure the rights to use them. Favorites are the cast’s appearance on the game show “Stump the Stars” and Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore’s in-character commercials for products such as dish soap and — gasp! — cigarettes (the latter a hidden feature). (Image, $69.99 per season; $249.99 for the entire five-season run.)

2. “The Twilight Zone”

Brownstein strikes again with the “Definitive Edition” re-releases of Rod Serling’s sci-fi anthology series, which has two seasons to go after the new third-season set. Goodies include commentary, isolated scores, archival audio interviews and fun bits such as the Sci Fi Channel’s promo spots for its annual “TZ” marathon. And the first-season set comes with the best program notes ever included with a DVD, the 466-page “The Twilight Zone Companion.” (Image, $119.99 for first season, $99.99 for others.)

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