Reflections on the End of The Dick Van Dyke Show! Part I!
LAST NIGHT I finally finished my entire one-episode-each-night viewing of The Dick Van Dyke Show. It took me many more nights than there were episodes, however, because the show disappeared from Netflix for about two months when I was about forty episodes in! What the hell?! I’m the one person who, like an idiot, still thinks Netflix is a good deal and this is how they repay me?!
But they brought it back, so I resumed watching exactly one episode per night, precisely at 8:00 to 8:30 (episodes 1 through 18), 9:30 to 10:00 (episodes 19 – 87), 9:00 to 9:30 (episodes 88 to 114), and then, 9:30 to 10:00 again (episodes 115 through 158). I figured to truly understand the show, I needed to watch each episode in its original time slot.
And now that it’s all over, you know who I’m going to miss the most? No, you don’t and don’t bother guessing. I’ll tell you.
The one I’m going to miss the most is Millie.
Yes! Ann Morgan Guilbert as Laura’s best friend and next-door neighbor Millie Helper! No I’m not drinking!
She was funny. Hell, she was better than funny, she was very funny.
I became such a Millie-booster that it got to the point around here that Denise would check synopses of upcoming episodes in advance and as I’d sit down in my easy chair with my large vanilla Frosty and my bag of Green V green peas snack
(The Filipino market is just across the street from Wendy’s), she’d be like, “Oh, I think you’re going to liiiiike tonight’s episode. It’s a Milllllllie!” and I’d be all like, “Um, spoiler alert!”
But how can you be mad when you just found out you’re getting a Millie?
Anyway, if I knew I was getting a Millie that night, she’d know to leave the room and keep the goddamn kids quiet for the next 25 minutes.
I was always thrilled when I was getting a Millie. If someone told you you were about to see an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show and it’s a Millie, you knew you were in for a good time – I don’t care if Millie only has one lousy line in one lousy scene. That woman made the most of it.
Forget the silly, overrated “It May Look Like A Walnut” episode. The one where Laura meets Rob’s parents for the first time and Millie runs in with the vegetables is the one to watch.
Yes, all because of Millie. Sure, Mary Tyler Moore got plenty of laughs for her loopy performance of a nervous new wife on uppers, but it was Ann Morgan Guilbert who got the applause after exiting her frantic scene.
Or take the pen-penultimate episode, where Laura is alone in the house while Rob and Richie join the Helpers on a camping trip. Millie shows up back at the Petrie household and explains, “Going up there it suddenly dawned on me: Where was I going? I mean, I hate camping and I hate fishing and I can just about tolerate the kids and I’m not that wild about Jerry.”
Her shrugging honesty is in stark contrast to the sophisticated Petries with their perfect marriage and ideal home – a contrast that is further underscored when Millie matter-of-factly tells her best friend how she got in their locked home, Laura goes rigid with shocked indignation, demanding “You have a key to this house?!”
Of course she does, Laura – you and Rob are her best friends. Lighten up already! Sheesh!
It makes sense the writers would give the Petries average, middle-class neighbors – the show would have become a little predictable and stale if everyone on the show is witty and urbane. Still in an exchange like that about the house key, suddenly Laura comes off as a cold snotty bitch, like the character Moore played in
real liOrdinary People.
Many fans of classic TV and just as many writers have said how he’d love to have been – or at least been friends with – Rob Petrie – great job, beautiful wife, Eichler-inspired home, for Christ sake.
Not me, brother! Me, I’d be next door with the Helpers. Sure, Jerry’s an obnoxious ass, the kids are brats, the house is probably a mess, there’s always a lot of yelling, and let’s face it, Millie isn’t exactly a swimsuit model…but somehow it’s just more comfortable over there.
…Oh who am I kidding – after ten minutes amid that chaos, I’ll be back over at the Petries’ place with the rest of you wannabes.
Anyway, now that I’ve now that I’ve seen the entire run of The Dick Van Dyke Show in order, I can cross that off my bucket list and move on to more important things.
Like watching every episode, in order, of its spinoff, Rhoda.
Oh man – that Nancy Walker and her zingers, right?! That’s my girl!