Carl Reiner was almost the star of The Dick Van Dyke Show
What is The Dick Van Dyke Show without Dick Van Dyke?
If you're a big fan of The Dick Van Dyke Show, you might already know that the original name for the series was Head of the Family. Creator Carl Reiner's original concept had multiple differences from the show we all now know and love. In Reiner's pilot, the cast was entirely different, with no Mary Tyler Moore or Larry Matthews to speak of, and the character of Mel Cooley wasn't included. Most notably, the main character of Rob Petrie was played by a familiar face: Carl Reiner himself.
You might recall that Carl Reiner is still in The Dick Van Dyke Show as the demanding Alan Brady, Robert Petrie's boss. Dick Van Dyke spoke to the Lansing State Journal and revealed that originally, Reiner's face wasn't even supposed to be seen on camera. "It was going to be just his voice and the back of his head. The public would never see him."
It was actually through fan demand that Reiner's face was finally revealed in the show. Van Dyke said, "People insisted on it."
Yet in the pilot, Reiner intended for audiences to see a whole lot more of him as the star of the show. There was just one problem: The network hated it. Van Dyke recalled Reiner's meeting after the network had seen his pilot. "They called him in and said, 'We like the show, but not with you.'" Ouch.
After Reiner was out, well-known celebrities like Johnny Carson were considered for the role, but CBS reportedly already had their eye on Dick Van Dyke. At the time, Van Dyke was the star of the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie. "Carl came to see me in the show. Pretty soon, I was taking a week off to do the pilot."
But even after the pilot was greenlit, success was not guaranteed. Van Dyke recalled, "We were on against Perry Como, on Wednesday nights, and no one noticed. We always thought we were going to be canceled."
Still, the show eventually found its footing, and soon after, found incredible success.