On This Day: ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ Aired Its First Episode in 1961

by Megan Molseed

On this day sixty years ago, audiences were first introduced to Rob and Laura Petrie, the couple’s son Ritchie, and their funnyman friends when the debut episode of CBS’s The Dick Van Dyke Show first premiered on October 3, 1961.

The classic CBS sitcom stars unparalleled funny man, Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie, and the gorgeous – and very talented – Mary Tyler Moore as Rob’s wife Laura.

Dick Van Dyke’s Show Within A Show

While not at home with his small family, Rob Petrie was at his office.

Petrie worked as a comedy writer for the Dick Van Dyke Show’s fictional television show The Alan Brady Show.

At the office, Dick Van Dyke’s Rob Petrie worked alongside fellow writers Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally (Rose Marie).

At home, Rob was the devoted – and oftentimes clumsy – family man, focusing his attention on his wife Laura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore) and the couple’s son, Ritchie who was played by Larry Matthews.

The Dick Van Dyke Show Loved To Bring On the Laughs

While at his office at the Alan Brady Show studios, Dick Van Dyke’s Rob Petrie would find himself in some precarious scenarios with his coworkers Buddy and Sally. Often as they butted heads with their boss, Mel Cooley who was played by Richard Deacon.

The trio also found themselves in some comedic situations, most times as they worked hard to make the star of their fictional show, Alan Brady (Rob Reiner), shine.

At night, Rob Petrie would make his way home to his wife and son. Some evenings, the hardworking family-man would enter the Petrie home ready for a spill. Tripping over the family’s living room ottoman.

Other nights, Rob would see the piece of furniture just in time to side-step it. Moving into the room and greeting guests Buddy and Sally.

Falling Into An Iconic Television Scene

This famous pratfall that is featured in the show’s opening credits has become one of the most iconic in all of Hollywood history.

The two scenes, the one where Dick Van Dyke nails the hilarious pratfall, and the other where he avoids the spill were aired alternately during the show’s five-year run.

Later in the series, The Dick Van Dyke Show producers added another version to the opening sequence. This one features Rob Petrie sidestepping the ottoman…only to end up tripping over the carpet.

Recently, The Hollywood Reporter looked back at its original review of the hit television series shortly after its 1961 premiere.

In the 1961 review of The Dick Van Dyke Show’s premiere episode, The Hollywood Reporter notes that the soon-to-be iconic sitcom was a hit.

The review notes that the show is “probably the most encouraging start of any new comedy series in the past 12 months.”

The review notes that the sitcom’s premiere features “all the necessary ingredients.”

And that this all adds “up to a winner.”

The Hollywood Reporter also discusses “new” comedian Dick Van Dyke who was starring in his namesake series. Saying that the actor and funnyman was sure “to catch on as a new personality.”

Clearly, even back then, everyone knew they had a winning sitcom on their hands!

Of course, who would think differently with such an all-star cast and crew behind the series?