Both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Joey Bishop Show launched in the fall of 1961, sharing a production company and a goal: to snazz up the family sitcom by adding the perspective of low-level show-business insiders. Van Dyke thrived playing a comedy writer with a relatively shtick-free home life, while Bishop, known for his sophisticated, self-deprecating style of Borscht Belt wisecracking, floundered in his first season playing a hard-luck publicist living at home with his parents. The people who paid to see Bishop pal around with Frank Sinatra in Vegas couldn't buy him as a suburban schlub bickering with his mother. Luckily for the fastidious Bishop, retooling was common on TV in those days. (How many sons were on My Three Sons, anyway?) By its second season, The Joey Bishop Show shifted from black-and-white to color, and its star had been recast as a successful variety-show host dealing with life as a newlywed.
Still, The Dick Van Dyke Show went on to become an acknowledged television classic, while The Joey Bishop Show is remembered fondly by Rat Pack obsessives, if at all. That's pretty much as it should be. Yet the second-phase Joey Bishop Show still provides plenty of reasons to watch: Abby Dalton brings a surprising level of sexual passion and fashion sense to her role as Bishop's doting wife, while former Stooge Joe Besser, playing Bishop's intrusive building superintendent, remains delightfully weird, more Kramer than Fred Mertz. And even though Danny Thomas (The Joey Bishop Show's executive producer and guardian angel) was mixing stand-up comedy and domestic trouble as far back as 1953's Make Room For Daddy, The Joey Bishop Show perfected the blend, presaging the likes of The Larry Sanders Show in its star's preoccupation with comic rivals, public image, and the stresses of mounting a nightly coast-to-coast broadcast.
The six-disc box set The Joey Bishop Show: The Complete Second Season contains scant extrasa featurette about Bishop's friendship with Sinatra and Dean Martin, and the episode of Thomas' show that presented the concept for the initial Joey Bishop Showand the color is atrocious throughout. But the small home-video company Questar deserves a nod of appreciation for getting the show out on DVD at all, as well as for its simultaneous release of Make Room For Daddy: The Complete Fifth Season, a boxed collection of another semi-classic sitcom. Bishop has always been an undervalued minor celebrity, and this sitcom served as his best vehicle. He glides through routine TV situations like having a baby and dealing with his wife's overspending, waiting for the moment he can pop on his know-it-all smirk and exaggerate the ridiculousness of modern life by trying to live it to perfection.