Today, we look at how The Dick Van Dyke Show‘s classic “Never Bathe on Saturday” brought a much-appreciated restraint to its farce.
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
As I have written before, while I wouldn’t say that I dislike farcical TV episodes, it is just too easy to do bad farce, and there’s SO MUCH bad farce on television. I did a Pop Culture Theme Time a while back about the most well-constructed farce episodes, and I thought I’d spotlight another well-constructed farce episode, 1965’s “Never Bathe on Saturday” from Season 4 of The Dick Van Dyke Show, which was written by the show’s creator, Carl Reiner.
Now, Dick Van Dyke is obviously one of the most famous physical comedic actors in TV history. Heck, The Dick Van Dyke Show specifically opened with a physical gag in the credit for years, as Van Dkye’s Rob Petrie takes a pratfall in his living room. Thus, the challenge for the writers of The Dick Van Dyke Show was to use that physical comedy in situations where it fit, and not try to just shoehorn pratfalls where they did not belong.
Mary Tyler Moore’s Laura Petrie, meanwhile, was so darn adorable that she could get a way with a good deal comedically that perhaps you’d have to question a bit if you weren’t so charmed by Moore’s performance.
Both of those aspects of the shoe were on display with “Never Bathe on Saturday,” which opens with Rob and Laura explaining to their neighbor, Millie (Ann Morgan Guilbert), why they cut their romantic getaway short. Rob was joking around with Laura on their second honeymoon as he drew on a mustache with her eyeliner to make himself look like David Niven. Well, they were in a nice hotel, and they were getting ready to see a show, but Laura gets her foot stuck in the faucet of the tub, and can’t get out, and the door is locked, and she can’t get to the lock, either, because she’s stuck in the tub.
After trying a bunch of normal things, Rob tries to break down the door, allowing Van Dyke to do some great physical comedy as Rob can’t do anything with the door (there’s also some great bits where he gets a running start when Laura shouts at him to stop so he has to stop himself short).
Things naturally get crazier and crazier until Rob ends up stealing a gun from the hotel detective who believes that something crazy is going on in the room, and Rob then shoots the lock off of the door (because he doesn’t want anyone to come into the room before him, as, well, you know, Laura is naked).
Moore and Van Dyke constantly hang lanterns on the increasingly bizarre farce, making it feel very grounded, and just like a real couple who just happened to be caught up in an outrageous situation. It works really well.
The whole episode is available officially on YouTube, if you’d like to check it out…
(A good gag is Rob accidentally used a laundry marker, not eyeliner, so his mustache is now permanent).
Okay, if I’m going to have 364 more of these, I could use suggestions, so feel free to email me at email@example.com!