Nick at Nite premiered on July 1, 1985, and one of the most popular (and enduring) programs in its block was The Dick Van Dyke Show, starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore as Rob and Laura Petrie. The series was created by the great Carl Reiner, who died today at the age of 98. It’s amazing to me to consider Reiner’s very long life. He had to have been extremely healthy or extremely lucky, particularly in view of the fact that he continued to work uninterrupted even into the later years of his life. The Dick Van Dyke Show was considered the blueprint of the modern American situation comedy extending all the way to The Big Bang Theory. Reiner wrote for the show and played television writer Petrie’s egotistical celebrity boss, Alan Brady. The show co-starred Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie as Dick’s fellow writers.
Reiner served his country during World War II, eventually being promoted to the rank of Corporal. After a three-month bout of pneumonia put him out of commission, Reiner was reassigned to Washington D.C. where he served as a French interpreter. He worked in Special Services, and this was where he wrote and directed his first play based on the work of Molière. On The Steve Allen Show, Reiner and Mel Brooks formed a comedy duo, and one of their most popular bits was the 2000 Year Old Man, in which Brooks was interviewed by straight man Reiner providing ridiculous answers to Reiner’s journalistic questions.
After television, Reiner moved to major motion pictures. His first film was the 1967 comedy, Enter Laughing, starring Elaine May, Don Rickles, and his son, Rob Reiner. In 1970, he directed Where’s Poppa, which made a star out of its 74-year-old leading lady, Ruth Gordon. After directing Larry Gelbart’s script for the enormously successful Oh God!, starring George Burns, Reiner began a highly successful collaboration with comedian Steve Martin. He directed The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains (one of my personal favorites), and All of Me in the space of five years.
He didn’t stop there, directing Summer Rental (with John Candy) in 1986 and Summer School (with Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley) in 1987. Even after retiring from directing in 1997, he continued to appear in movies and television, including the popular Ocean’s Eleven franchise. More recently, he appeared in episodes of House, American Dad, Bob’s Burgers, and Angie Tribeca. Reiner won several Emmy Awards for his work on Caesar’s Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, as well as an Emmy for an appearance on Mad About You in 1995.