8 great little details you never noticed in The Dick Van Dyke Show Christmas episode

It was so good, it made the creator show his face.

In terms of sheer joy, few Christmas episodes top the one made by The Dick Van Dyke Show. Because of the sitcom's premise — Rob Petrie works on a television show — the audience is treated to a special look at the fictional Alan Brady Show. And this holiday treat is nothing but wall-to-wall singing and dancing. 

Watching Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke twirl and bump bellies in their Santa suits — well, it will warm you in the coldest weather.

A perennial favorite, "The Alan Brady Show Presents" is more than wall-to-wall Yuletide happiness. It's always a fascinating part of The Dick Van Dyke Show legacy. Let's unwrap it for a closer look.

1. It was the first time Carl Reiner faced the camera on the show.


Series creator Carl Reiner based the sitcom on his own experiences as a family man working as a television writer. He even starred in the pilot, originally titled Head of the Family. Of course, Dick Van Dyke took over the lead role when it went to air. Reiner instead became Alan Brady, the boss of Rob Petrie (Van Dyke) and the star of the show-within-the-show. In early episodes, Reiner is mostly heard and not seen, in a manner similar to Larry David playing George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld. Reiner finally gets a lot of screen time in the season-two finale, "When a Bowling Pin Talks, Listen" — but his back is to the camera. You can catch glimpses of Reiner's face in profile when he tosses a cream pie. So, it must have been shocking to viewers when in season three, the Christmas episode opened with Alan Brady facing the camera. Reiner, at least, was seen face-to-face! Well, in a Santa beard.

2. It was the only episode to show an episode of The Alan Brady Show.


While much of The Dick Van Dyke Show centered around Rob Petrie and his fellow writers working on the fictional Alan Brady Show, we never truly see an episode of The Alan Brady Show. Well, except for this one. Aside from a flashback sequence, the bulk of "The Alan Brady Show Presents" is an uncut episode of the show-within-the-show. Episode writers Sam Denoff and Bill Persky also worked The Andy Williams Show, which gave them the idea of doing a story that was nothing but holiday musical numbers. Denoff and Persky also wrote some musical numbers, like Rose Marie's wonderful "Santa, Send a Fella."

3. The toy soldier number dates back to an earlier episode… and Germany.


In the closing number, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), Rob, Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally (Rose Marie) dress as toy soldiers and perform "I Am a Fine Musician." The core quartet had the number down pat — they sang the same tune in "The Same Pomerantz Scandals" in season two! Van Dyke was fond of the number, which dates back decades to a German folk song titled "Ich Bin Ein Musikante." Van Dyke first discovered it on a record when he was working on a children's show in Atlanta in the early 1950s. Digging for material, he likely stumbled upon a version sung by Dinah Shore, Phil Harris, Tony Martin and Betty Hutton in 1951.

4. The giant scissors were recycled, too.


A smart show makes the most of its resources. Take the giant pair of scissors wielded by Sally after she sings "Santa, Send a Fella." That prop dates way back to season one, episode four, "Washington vs. The Bunny." Rob dreams he is a puppet on Laura's strings… until Mel (Richard Deacon) comes to snip the marionette lines with the massive clippers.

5. That's not the only link to season one, episode four.


Speaking of "Washington vs. The Bunny," there is another little tidbit to tie these two episodes together. Young Ritchie Petrie (Larry Matthews) belts out "Little Drummer Boy" in "The Alan Brady Show Presents." It was not his first time singing on the sitcom. In "Washington vs. The Bunny," he comically croons Cole Porter's "You're the Top" to his mother, messing up with lines like "Tower of Pizza" and "the Mommy Lisa."

6. There was a subtle nod to Bye Bye, Birdie.


"The Alan Brady Show Presents" kicks off with Alan Brady himself riding onto the stage in an open sleigh drawn by showgirls, not reindeer. A jaunty musical number plays. Listen closely. It is an instrumental version of "A Lot of Livin' to Do," a tune from the musical Bye Bye Birdie. It's a cute wink to Dick Van Dyke's career. Not only was he in the 1963 film mere months before this episode aired, he performed in the Original Broadway Cast of Bye Bye Birdie.

7. The kids with Santa were related to the show.


This episode truly was a family affair on a meta level. The plot revolved around Alan Brady forcing his staff and their families to perform on his show. In reality, the kids sitting around Santa were part of The Dick Van Dyke Show family. The girl by Santa was Cornell Chulay, daughter of assistant director John C. Chulay.

8. They all sing the Dick Van Dyke Show theme song at the end.


While we discuss the meta-ness of The Dick Van Dyke Show, take a step back to realize that this fictional Christmas episode of The Alan Brady Show, the show-within-a-show, ends with the cast singing the melody to The Dick Van Dyke Show theme song! It was an instrumental in the sitcom, but it secretly had lyrics.

SEE MORE: 9 little details you never noticed in the Andy Griffith Show episode ''Christmas Story''


Tinkerbell was behind bars?! READ MORE

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Runeshaper 18 months ago
Sounds like a lot of fun! I love Bye Bye, Birdie!
MadMadMadWorld 18 months ago
WordsmithWorks 18 months ago
Jim Ignatowski also created lyrics to the Dick Van Dyke theme song.
Not really! Morey Amsterdam wrote them.
ELEANOR 18 months ago
It's so fun to see them singing and dancing, they looked like they were enjoying themselves. The Toy Soldier number is especially wonderful. It took great skill to get it right.
daDoctah 18 months ago
We did also see Carl Reiner at other times, playing characters other than Alan Brady: the painter who had done a nude portrait of Laura from his imagination, the pretentious author at the fund-raising party to which the Petries were mysteriously invited, the skid-row bum that Rob's brother goes to for advice before opening his restaurant.
Pacificsun 18 months ago
Very nice deep dive, because there are a lot of complicated connections requiring an accurate reveal! But layered so well, it's a wonderful focus on those episodes!

Thank you MeTV Staff!!
Steve2021 18 months ago
My Favorite around the holidays....
MadMadMadWorld Steve2021 18 months ago
Same for me, and that goes for any time on another network it airs, and I saw it again recently. The original air date of Dec. 18, 1963 was with the possible exception of 2020, the saddest Christmas for many people. Less than a month after the shocking murder of President Kennedy on Nov. 22, cast a shadow over the nation for many months.
LoveMETV22 18 months ago
I like the " Alan Brady" chorus from the - "Dick Van Dyke Christmas show."
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 18 months ago
Made me laugh!! 🎄
Deleted 18 months ago
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LoveMETV22 18 months ago
Thank you MeTV for the additional Stories/Quizzes ( even if their previous or redo's, as not everyone has seen them).
Stories/ Quizzes are not usually posted on Holiday breaks or weekends. So thanks for the extras.
Barry2 41 months ago
A quibble, The Alan Brady Show was seen in a few less ambitious set ups, such as in the Edwin Carp episode.
daDoctah 53 months ago
I wonder if those giant scissors were also re-used still later in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
RedSamRackham 53 months ago
* That Xmas episode was repeated every year that Dick Van Dyke Show aired on CBS and 1 of the rare episodes with seldom seen Richie. ☺
Pacificsun RedSamRackham 18 months ago
Comparatively speaking it's hard to say. But Richie came out often enough. Usually just a line or two, and as a matter of interrupting his parents about something. But I do agree that his extended talent (singing?) was seldom used. Remember, he was discovered as an unknown talent compared to other youthful professionals with more exposure. In the earliest episodes, you'll notice Richie always grinning, which wasn't necessary. But might've been DVD's way of loosening him up, and putting him at ease, probably by joking with him.
bbMeTv 53 months ago
Laura is my favorite character; She is such a Goddess!
MrsPhilHarris 54 months ago
I'm sure I am in the minority but I usually never really liked it when they would sing and dance, especially Laura.
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LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 18 months ago
You have many friends here, so no worries there. I'm glad that video brightened your day.🎁😃
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 18 months ago
Lol I’ll have to look up that version. 🎄
MrsPhilHarris Pacificsun 18 months ago
What a coincidence that just the other day I was thinking that MTM looked like she tried to hard when she danced. She had all the steps, but it looked slightly forced. JMO 🤷‍♀️
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