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Celebrating Carl Reiner Throughout July
July 4, 2020  | By Mike Hughes
 


For fans of classic comedies – the kind with sharp dialog and great characters – Carl Reiner's death leaves a hunger for his work.

Fortunately, there's a lot available right now. Several networks have juggled their schedules to rerun some of his best moments. Let's single out a few:

Toupees: Reiner had built The Dick Van Dyke Show around its central character (Rob Petrie, played by Van Dyke), with lots of time at the workplace, where Rob wrote for a comedy show. At first, his wife, Laura, seemed like an afterthought.

But she was played by Mary Tyler Moore, with a great gift for the humor of an ordinary soul in a tight spot. Her role kept expanding, including this episode ("Coast to Coast Big Mouth"), in which Laura accidentally tells the world that Rob's boss (Reiner) wears toupees. TV Guide put this at No. 8 among TV's funniest episodes.

You can see the original version of the toupee episode twice on digital channels – 11 p.m. ET Sunday (July 5) on MeTV, and 10 p.m. ET July 10 on Decades TV.

Charades: Some of TV's funniest moments, oddly, have come from games of charades.

That includes this Van Dyke episode ("All About Eavesdropping"). Over a baby monitor, Rob and Laura hear part of a conversation by their friends. Now they're seething, but it's time for a charades game. The result is hilarious and will be airing on MeTV, 11:30 p.m. ET on July 26.

Dreams and Flashbacks: More than most shows, Van Dyke would sometimes shed its setting entirely. If Rob went to the dentist, for instance, his mind would drift into a cowboy episode.

At 11 p.m. ET July 12 on MeTV, a dream scene has Rob visited by an alien from another planet ("It May Look Like a Walnut"), and at 11:30 p.m. ET, July 19 also on MeTV, there's a flashback to the birth of their son (Where Did I Come From?").

And yes, TV likes to copy itself: Long before this, the best I Love Lucy was a birth flashback ("Lucy Goes to the Hospital"), and long afterward, an alien showed up on Happy Days in a dream sequence ("My Favorite Orkan") – or is it? – that led to Mork & Mindy.

Martin Movies: Reiner directed four Steve Martin movies, recreating the link he had with Sid Caesar and Mel Brooks – an offbeat comic genius, balanced by Reiner's practical savvy.

The first, The Jerk (1979), was popular, but sometimes too silly; the next two – Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) and The Man With Two Brains (1983) – were eccentric delights.

Then came All of Me (1984), with Martin as an idealistic young lawyer who was sometimes inhabited by the crotchety soul of a rich woman (Lily Tomlin). With Reiner directing, he gave one of his best performances.

All of Me is at 10 p.m. ET, July 28, on Turner Classic Movies. It's part of a marathon of Reiner-directed films, concluding at 3:30 a.m. with the terrific Oh, God? (1977).

In that last one, incidentally, people were surprised that someone would dare to have an 81-year-old star (George Burns), but that was nothing. Much later, Reiner had on-camera roles at 95 and 96.

He is missed already, but his genius lives on.

 
 
 
 
 
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