One week a month, Watch This offers television recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: In honor of The A.V. Club’s Comics Week, television episodes about our favorite origin stories.
The Dick Van Dyke Show, “Oh, How We Met The Night We Danced” (season one, episode five; originally aired 10/31/1961)
The Dick Van Dyke Show was making a good first impression. The viewers just weren’t showing up yet. The sitcom staple was far from an overnight success for CBS, despite a pilot that efficiently lays out the work and home lives of TV writer Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), and a second episode that was bumped up the broadcast order to showcase the comedic talent of the show’s big find, 24-year-old former dancer Mary Tyler Moore. Yet even in its overlooked salad days, The Dick Van Dyke Show was doing things it would continue to do when it became a ratings dynamo. Things like “Oh, How We Met The Night We Danced,” the first of many flashback episodes for the series, which depicts the wartime meet-not-so-cute between Van Dyke’s Rob and Moore’s Laura.
Laying out the origin of one of TV’s great marriages, creator Carl Reiner maps The Dick Van Dyke Show’s showbiz setting onto the framework of a backstage farce, in which staff sergeant Rob attempts to woo USO hoofer Laura Meeker, but can’t stop sticking his combat boot in his mouth. He can’t keep the boot off Laura’s foot, either: The flashback kicks off with a mention of nimble-yet-cloddish Rob breaking his future wife’s toes. It’s a red herring amid all the rom-com miscommunication that turns less fishy once Van Dyke and Moore start making like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland in Summer Stock.
Their climactic dance displays an undeniable chemistry that formed in but a few episodes. Looking back at “Oh, How We Met The Night We Danced” in the context of the complete Dick Van Dyke show, it’s a delight to see Moore and Van Dyke putting that spark toward different ends. The Petries’ many public displays of affection are swapped out for slammed dressing-room doors and scorching zingers—after being told that she’ll come to find Rob irresistible, Laura retorts “I have never met a more resistible person in my life!” Bad first impressions become a running gag throughout the episode, with Rob’s army sidekick Sol Pomeroy (Marty Ingels, getting all the lines that would’ve gone to regular sidekicks Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam) insisting that his buddy deserves a second chance. Rob would get one soon enough, as would The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Availability: “Oh, How We Met The Night We Danced,” along with the full run of The Dick Van Dyke Show, is available for streaming on Hulu, for digital purchase, and on DVD.