10 tiny details you never noticed in Rob's office on The Dick Van Dyke Show
See what Rob's workplace has to do with Van Gogh, brand-new toys, and series errors.
The Dick Van Dyke Show was one of the earliest sitcoms set in a workspace. The series split time between Rob and Laurie Petrie's mod home and Rob's office. As a writer on the fictional Alan Brady Show, Rob spent much of his day brainstorming with his coworkers Buddy and Sally.
The level of detail in the office made the comedy all the more real. This looked like a real space where creative minds worked. You can thank the set decorators for that.
We also have to give "props" (pun intended) to the Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book Facebook page, a treasury of information on this brilliant series.
1. This is a Van Gogh painting.
The writers of The Alan Brady Show had sophisticated tastes — when they weren't throwing darts or putting. Behind Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) here you can see a painting. It is Häuser in Auvers (1890) by Vincent Van Gogh. We assume it is not an original. The real one hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Another Van Gogh, Fritillaires, couronne impériale dans un vase de cuivre (1887), appears in "Fifty-Two, Forty-Five or Work."
2. 'The Alan Brady Show' is misspelled on the door in an early episode.
In "My Blonde-Haired Brunette," the second episode of the series (not counting the pilot, Head of the Family), pay close attention to the office door. It reads "The Allen Brady Show"! Fortunately, it was corrected (or changed?) and the lettering was upgraded.
3. Carl Reiner was the "voice" of the water cooler.
Speaking of Alan Brady, series creator did more than portray the star of the fictional show-within-the-show. In the later episode "Uhny Uftz," noises disturb an edgy Rob as he works alone in the office. The water cooler glugs. Indeed, Carl Reiner himself provided the "Glug! Glug!" noises.
4. There's a meaning to the name "A. Smedley."
In the hallway outside the office door, a building directory hangs on the wall. You can sometimes spot an "A. Smedley" occupying suite 612. Oddly, that same name later appears in the episode "Fifty-Two, Forty-Five or Work," as the name of a clerk in the unemployment office. Urban Dictionary claims "Smedley" to be Marines slang for a gofer. The names on the directory change throughout the series. They include Barrs & Dike; Bin, Q. Andrew or Binshama, Q. Andrew; Chulay; Cox, R.; Cress & Bixel; Curley, Bill; Cvrley, S.; Dante, D.L.; Fannon, WM, PHD; Glazer, A. F.; Haight, C.; Hedget, A.; Hist, I.; Karr; Kitt, H.H.; MacQuarrie, G.; Medley, A. T., Mooch, W. A.; Moore, R.; Q. H. Vout & Son; Rock, I.; Sanchez; Smith, I; Stevenson; Swartz, K.; Thomas, Raymond; Voss, Glenns; Votson, A.; Widget; and Zurley, Mastel. The most commonly seen name, however, is Glenn Ross — he was the property master on the show!
5. This woman in "The Dairy Maids" was on "The Battle of the Sexes"
One of the most notable objects in the office is the framed music sheet for The Dairymaids, a 1907 Broadway musical. Fun facts: Charles Frohman, the producer behind J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, produced this show. He died on the Lusitania not long after when the ship was hit in an infamous U-boat attack. Julia Sanderson is the actress in the hat often seen hanging behind Rob Petrie. She would go on to co-host a radio program called The Battle of the Sexes, which ran for 13 years beginning in 1930.
6. The dartboard changes.
The dartboard is a familiar fixture in the office. We even learn Rob is left-handed early in the series as he tosses darts. That board is rather rudimentary, however. The writers eventually upgraded the board with more professional models — even if they didn't always hit the target.
7. Magic 8-Balls were relatively new.
Magic 8-Balls were first produced in 1950, originally commissioned by Chicago's Brunswick Billiards, ten years before The Dick Van Dyke Show hit airwaves. The novelty gift was likely inspired by The Three Stooges — a billiard ball is used as a fortune-telling device in "You Nazty Spy!" (1940). Rob's desk decoration recently sold at auction.
8. That's Enrico Caruso in the picture left of the window.
Above the file cabinets you might spot what looks like a matador. Actually, it is legendary tenor Enrico Caruso, posing for a production of The Girl of the Golden West.
9. Rob kept encyclopedia sets behind his desk.
Ever wonder what people did before the internet, kids? Take a look at the leather-bound books behind Rob's desk. Here, you can see a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica from the 1960s.
10. Danny Thomas was more than an alien on the show.
Sitcom star Danny Thomas was one of the most memorable guest stars on The Dick Van Dyke Show, playing the alien Kolak in "It May Look Like a Walnut," the episode that would years later inspire Mork from Ork on Happy Days. Well, Danny Thomas had more of a regular presence on the show. His name appears on the marquee of the Sands Hotel and Casino in this photo behind Rob.