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Something Old and Something New - The Dick Van Dyke Show

CBS Television [Public domain], 1963

Being a first year student at university means I have a lot of spare time on my hands which I usually spend glued to my laptop or iPad screen. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV: it's terrible how much television I've watched through streaming services in the past few months. From fantasy, to drama, to comedy, and more, I've seen it all though my tiny screens of technology. And I suddenly reached the point of no return.

There was nothing left to watch.

I'd binge-watched in successful fashion. I'd caught up on everything that was being updated. I was in the Winter hiatus waiting game. I needed something different. I tirelessly sat scrolling through the tiles and tiles of content that Netflix offered but nothing tickled my fancy. I knew I wanted comedy.

I'd watched enough iron thrones and vampire slaying to last a lifetime so I needed something to pull me out of the fantasy world I had been consumed with. But comedy nowadays is so repetitive. The same, formulaic, mainstream construction can be found no matter what channel you're watching. There's only so many times you can watch re-runs of The Big Bang Theory and Friends before it gets a little bit boring.

So I set about to find something new. Netflix was a bust so I moved to my second home: Amazon Prime. And just like previously, I scrolled through recommendations and popular genres until I finally saw an animated thumbnail in the corner of my screen.

The Dick Van Dyke Show.

I'd always adored Dick Van Dyke from a young age: Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were two of my favourite films. So I reluctantly clicked "play" and hoped for something exciting. And 6 episodes later, I sat cozy in bed in a fit of giggles.

It's no wonder that this sitcom series is hailed as one of the greats. It uses truly simple, clean humour that appeals to any age - something that isn't always seen in current comedy. Featuring a fantastic ensemble cast, Van Dyke and Tyler Moore are the most dynamic duo. Dick's charm emanates through Robert Petrie, a comedy writer who incorporates the events of his family life into his sketches. His wife, Laura, is the epitome of the 60s stay-at-home Mom: completely hysterically but absolutely compelling to watch. The show launched Mary Tyler Moore's career in a performance which really shows her talent for comedy.

Plus you can't forget Buddy and Sally, Rob's co-workers at The Alan Brady Show. Buddy (played by Morey Amsterdam) is a true jokester, always making the wittiest comments and clap-backs. And comedy veteran Rose Marie stars as Sally Rogers, a loud and boisterous character with a great sense of humour and strong personality. I can't help but relate to Sally at times!

Rogers & Cowan (publicity agency), Beverly Hills. [Public domain], 1962

The thing that's so refreshing about the Dick Van Dyke Show is that it doesn't use lot of theatrics or rely on overused writing as a source of comedy. It's genuinely funny. It's proper "old-school" laughs in front of a live studio audience (no laugh tracks!). And the fact that all of the episodes are in black and white make it extra special.

I think current sitcoms have, of course, learnt so much from this show. But the trend of relying on sexual humour to draw out jokes is becoming tedious and a little bit derogatory. Of course, the state of society and what was acceptable to broadcast is very different now to what it was over 50 years ago. The use of concentrated, family-orientated comedy in the Dick Van Dyke Show is very simple but it's not boring. However that's not saying that sexual and taboo humour isn't entertaining. The most popular sitcoms (Brooklyn 99, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, and the latter) usually incorporate tried-and-tested comedy traits and you don't hear of their viewership lacking in numbers.

In the might of all my rambling, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really love this show. It really is one of the classics. If you've never watched it before or watched it way back when, give the pilot a go. I hope you fall in love with these iconic characters in the same way that I have and appreciate the talent that paved the way for sitcom actors of the present day. To Mr Dick Van Dyke and Miss Mary Tyler Moore, I thank you for being two of the greatest comedy performers in history - you are true legends in every way possible.

You can watch The Dick Van Dyke Show on Amazon Prime here

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