Dick Van Dyke Is Responsible for Rob Petrie’s Unique Sounding Name and It Was All a Mistake

by Michael Freeman

The Dick Van Dyke Show is one of the most influential sitcoms in American history. Something you may not know, however, is Dick Van Dyke himself is responsible for his family’s surname sounding the way it does, and it was a mistake.

MeTV reports Van Dyke initially arrived on the show’s set confident about his own abilities. With the premise of the show in place, he felt it had promise. Nonetheless, one thing that concerned him was Mary Tyler Moore’s comedic talent. While shooting the pilot episode, he had his doubts.

“I was concerned that Mary wasn’t much of a comedian,” Van Dyke wrote in his memoir My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business. “It is hard to imagine, but she was stiff and proper, polite. She didn’t seem to have much of a funny bone. I saw a little Katharine Hepburn in her, but not much Lucille Ball.”

While worrying about Mary Tyler Moore, he apparently wasn’t focusing as much on the script and made a glaring error through the episode. “As we shot the pilot, I mispronounced Rob and Laura’s last name, saying Pet-re rather than Pee-tree, as Carl had done in the original when he based the name on some actual neighbors of his in New Rochelle,” Van Dyke wrote. “Nobody corrected me, and so it stuck.”

Additionally, Dick Van Dyke admitted he was wrong about Mary Tyler Moore, saying she nailed the role. “She absorbed everything — the chemistry, the rhythm — and emerged a comedian herself. I had never seen a transformation like hers, and I still haven’t.”

Dick Van Dyke Explains Why One Episode From His Hit Show Was Too Risqué To Air

Playing things relatively safe with episode subject matter, The Dick Van Dyke Show still occasionally visited touchy subjects. In fact, one episode was deemed too risqué to air, even though it had already been filmed.

The episode “Go Tell the Birds and the Bees” saw Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke awkwardly trudging through the subject of human reproduction with their kid, but another was a bit more intense. Van Dyke told The Sacramento Bee about the plot. “We ran into a problem once on the old show with a story about our child having walked in and seeing us make love in the morning. We didn’t show it or anything. It was a story about behavior. The kid is acting very strange, and we finally figured out that’s what must have happened.”

The episode we saw was overt and had the parents actively explaining things to their child. The proposed episode dealt with behavior and would have been more oriented with physical comedy. Being a physical comedy master, Van Dyke naturally bemoaned it never coming to light. “It was a lovely little show, and we couldn’t put it on the air.” I guess you could say it wasn’t meant to “bee.”