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Retro : Dick Van Dyke Is ‘New’ Again

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“The Dick Van Dyke Show” has had an enduring success in syndication since it left the airwaves in 1966. In fact, a whole new generation is enjoying the antics of Rob, Laura, Sally, Buddy, Millie and Mel--thanks to Nick at Nite.

But the same can’t be said about “The New Dick Van Dyke Show,” which hasn’t been very visible since its cancellation 21 years ago after three seasons on CBS. This month, TNT has opened its vaults, dusted off the sitcom and added it to its early morning lineup.

“The New Dick Van Dyke Show” is the only TV sitcom ever filmed in Carefree, Ariz., where Van Dyke and his family were living at the time. Like the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” the backdrop of the comedy was Van Dyke’s working world. The second time around, Van Dyke plays Dick Preston, the host of a Phoenix talk show. Hope Lange, not that long after her run on “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” played wife Jenny and Angela Powell was their 9-year-old daughter, Annie.

Marty Brill played Bernie Davis, Dick’s manager and good friend. Nancy Dussault (“Too Close for Comfort’) was his wife, Carol. Comedian Fannie Flagg, who wrote the novel that became the basis of the hit film “Fried Green Tomatoes,” was Dick’s sister and secretary, Mike.

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“The New Dick Van Dyke Show,” which aired Saturdays at 9 p.m., cracked the Top 20 in ratings during its first season (1971-72). CBS shifted the time period twice in its second year and the numbers began to fall.

In the third and final season, CBS moved the series for the fourth time and revamped its entire format. The new “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” was set in Hollywood (the production was also moved from Carefree to Hollywood) because Preston was now starring as Dr. Brad Fairmont on a daytime soap opera called “Those Who Care.”

Barry Gordon came on board to play the soap’s head writer, Dennis Whitehead, and Dick Van Patten played its producer, Max Mathias. Henry Darrow (“High Chaparral”) played the stage manager, Alex Montenez, and Barbara Rush was the soap’s reigning diva, Margot Brighton.

The Prestons’ new neighbors, Connie and Richard Richardson, were played by Chita Rivera and Richard Dawson.

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The ratings, though, didn’t improve and “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” was old news by Sept. 2, 1974.

“The New Dick Van Dyke Show” airs Wednesdays-Fridays at 2 and 2:30 a.m. on TNT. It will air at various times on TNT throughout the month. “Diagnosis Murder” airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on CBS.


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