Impressions: The Dick Van Dyke Show- The Night the Roof Fell In

Depending on if you follow my Patreon, you may or may not be aware that last year I dipped my toes into The Dick Van Dyke Show. I did a bit more of an introduction to the show and my experience with it over there, which you can check out here. But for a quick overview- The Dick Van Dyke Show ran from 1961-1966. It is an interesting sitcom because it was both a home life and workplace sitcom. While many shows dabbled in both, The Dick Van Dyke Show was unique in that there was more of a balance between the two instead of leaning more into one or the other. Instead, specific episodes lean one way or the other, while the larger show really did bring both. I had seen a few episodes in the past, and I credit it with my interest in Mary Tyler Moore. However, unlike other classics, I had never really dove all in with it. Still, I loved the episode I reviewed for October last year and wanted to give the show more of a try. It’s been a long time coming, but finally, my second Impressions piece for the show is here.

“The Night the Roof Fell In” is the 9th episode of the 2nd season and is one of the “home life” episodes. The episode starts with Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) and Rob (Dick Van Dyke) finishing up an argument with Rob storming out. The perspective changes to the fish of all things, and one fish asks another what happened. The audience is then treated to a neutral perspective of the events. Laura had an awful day with things breaking down and their son, Ritchie, home sick. She is overwhelmed, and Ritchie’s misbehaving isn’t helping. She realizes she needs Rob’s help and wonders where he is.

Rob returns home after an awful day. He is stressed that Laura sends his son right to bed and seems rather snappish at him. He is trying to vent about his day, while Laura is feeling underappreciated and wants to complain about hers. The two keep talking over each other and fighting because neither has really considered the other’s perspective. Rob storms out, and then the show shifts. Laura and Rob confide in people, and we, the audience, get their humorous but wildly inaccurate take on what happened.

Interestingly enough, both Rob and Laura essentially tell the same story, just with their own wild interpretations. Both of them feel like, despite their bad day, they put their best foot forward and made an effort for their partner. Only for that effort to be rebuked and not met with any attempt to try on the other person’s part. They both also feel completely unappreciated in their relationship. Finally, both of their confessors tell them they are clearly exaggerating, and it’s time to make up.

The episode then shifts, and we get a gift of the magi type scenario. Rob stops to get food on the way home so that Laura doesn’t have to cook, and he can make it up to her while Laura cooks Rob’s favorite meal. Although instead of fighting about it, they decide to enjoy their dinner together. We get one more little bit with Ritchie confessing he heard the fight and Rob trying to make sure he isn’t worried or scared. We get an extra little joke, and the family is happy.

I really like this episode because I am a firm believer that in most situations, there is this exact dynamic, although maybe less extreme. What person A thinks happened, what person B does, and what actually did. This episode found a fun and relatable way to play it out. Feeling overwhelmed and inadvertently not being the best partner because of it is relatable. As is feeling taken for granted even if we haven’t properly expressed ourselves. The fight is believable. I also really like that, for the most part, both parties are presented as equally sympathetic.

I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable for me to have been surprised that a show in the 1960s is actually as understanding of how hard it is to be a housewife. The show doesn’t really say at any point that Rob’s being overwhelmed is more understandable or real than Laura’s.

But before we give the episode too much credit, Rob’s versions of events do come with some old-school sexism. Laura is shown as sloppy when Rob comes home. This is made even worse by “sloppy” Laura being pretty close to the “real” Laura. It also kind of implies that, in Rob’s perspective, she doesn’t actually do all that much. Although, again, at least with the second part, the overall episode does not jibe with Rob on this.

But it is a small note to make in an overall solid episode. The show is from the 60s you expect certain things to come up that feel a bit different in the 2020s. And again, the episode is actually pretty forward in the way it handles Laura. The episode is very sympathetic to how actually hard her life is, something that we still struggle to get people to understand today. So it ends up being a sweet and funny look at relationships. Both Laura and Rob’s perspective are hilarious and so over the top, and the comedy lands solidly. The Ritchie close-out is not as needed to me, but he is part of the dynamic, and I think they handled it well too. They admit it is bad for parents to fight where their kids can hear and give him a little extra attention, but his bad behavior is not going to be totally brushed aside. Solid messaging and handling all the dynamics at play.

So what’s the bottom line? I really like this episode. The Dick Van Dyke Show is not my favorite of the classics I regularly watch for the blog, but I mean… I visited it a second time, didn’t I? The show overall is decent, with a lot of talent. This episode was a sweet and funny look at relationships and the rocky times we can have. If you are looking for a few episodes to watch, I wouldn’t recommend starting here; knowing the characters better would probably help sell the experience. However, once you’ve seen an episode or two, moving this up on the list is a top-notch choice. I really enjoy it!

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