(art by Aireen Arellano / to view larger version, click here)
SHOW: The Dick Van Dyke Show
EPISODE: “Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth”
FIRST AIRED: Sept. 15, 1965
Most enduring sitcoms stick in our collective consciousness because their central concepts play on some sort of universal yearning. The king and queen of social issue comedy, All in the Family and Roseanne, reigned due to their ability to cut through the pundit-speak bullcrap that permeated all spheres of class, race, and political party. On the extreme end of the kitsch factor, even the saccharin Technicolor nightmares that were The Brady Bunch and Full House were about families rebuilding themselves in the face of unexpected grief.
And then there’s The Dick Van Dyke Show, which despite its adult-oriented wit, exists in a kind of sitcom nether-universe. It’s half a workplace show and half a family show, but there’s very little struggle here. Rob and Laura Petrie love and respect each other and have a well-behaved son in a lovely little apartment. At Rob’s day job as a television writer for a popular show, his main task is to lob joke ideas back and forth with snappy co-workers Buddy and Sally. Even more than Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best, which “tackled” several at-the-time taboo issues like alcoholism, sex, and theft, The Dick Van Dyke Show was probably the most frictionless that sitcoms ever skewed.
It’s all too fitting, then, that “Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth,” one of the hallmark episodes of the show, revolves around the wild insecurities of Rob’s irascible boss Alan Brady. By pitting his vain-angry-schmuck act against the studied and earned perfection of the Petries, it spins the middle-class “nothing is wrong” fluff of The Dick Van Dyke Show into brilliant comedy.