- The Washington Times - Monday, May 10, 2004

Rob and Laura redux

“The Dick Van Dyke Show” creator Carl Reiner never envisioned Rob Petrie as a pratfall-prone lead, at least not until he got to know the actor who played him.

“There was no physical comedy at all until Carl found out how much I love to do it,” Mr. Van Dyke said in a recent phone press conference.

The rest is sitcom history.

That Mr. Reiner began writing his characters to fit his lead actors only strengthened an already sturdy sitcom. By the end of its five-year run in 1966, the show had become the standard against which most comedies have been measured.

Tonight, CBS lets viewers stroll down memory lane — an oh-so ratings-friendly place to walk — with what the network describes as a “new” episode of the classic sitcom.

The 159th episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” airs at 9 p.m. on CBS.

The fresh installment finds Rob and Sally (actress Rose Marie) hired by the egomaniacal Alan Brady (Carl Reiner) one more time. Now he wants them to write his eulogy even though he’s not dying. The two initially balk at the prospect, but Alan promises enough pay to finance a dance studio for Laura (Mary Tyler Moore).

Expect appearances by Larry Mathews as Ritchie, Ann Morgan Guilbert as Millie Helper and Jerry Van Dyke as Stacey Petrie, as well as some vintage clips shoehorned into the story.

Mr. Van Dyke says the reunion proved bittersweet, given how much time has passed since the show left the air.

“It was such fun getting together, but it was so sad missing so many people,” he says, recalling the work and camaraderie of Morey Amsterdam, Richard Deacon and Jerry Paris. All three actors are deceased.

“Twenty years ago would have been more appropriate. We waited so long only a skeleton crew was left.”

Mr. Reiner came up with the idea to shoot a new episode rather than yet another clips-only affair.

The decision still let the actors reminisce about the old days and gives CBS a chance to rake in some important May sweeps ratings.

Mr. Van Dyke credits Mr. Reiner’s writing for the show’s enduring appeal. That also made it easy to slip back into the reunion project.

“It was like no time had passed at all,” he says. “Our relationships off-camera were pretty much as they were on. We fell right back into it.”

Mr. Van Dyke, 78, says he doesn’t watch too many modern sitcoms, beyond an occasional “Everybody Loves Raymond” installment.

“I have a tendency to rewrite [when I watch sitcoms],” he says. “I come up with a line I think would be better.”

It’s doubtful he’ll return to regular television, but he appears willing to jump into the occasional project.

“I’m trying to retire, but I’m having a bad time of it,” Mr. Van Dyke says.

Andre gets animated

The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block is about to get a whole lot funkier.

Andre 3000, one-half of the chart-topping hip-hop group OutKast, is developing a potential project with Cartoon Network, Reuters reports.

The musician is hashing out ideas for a half-hour special pegged for the channel’s Adult Swim evening block, which also features “Futurama” and “The Family Guy.”

If Andre 3000 and Cartoon — both based in Atlanta — like the results, the special will become a series.

Mike Lazzo, senior vice president of the network’s Adult Swim block, quickly got over his reservations about collaborating with celebrities after meeting with Andre 3000, who has worked as an illustrator.

“I’m extremely wary of it, but in Andre’s case, I think he is a creative genius,” Mr. Lazzo told Reuters. “He has definite opinions of what he likes visually.”

The project is expected to be inspired by the rapper’s life or possibly his alter ego, Johnny Vulture, the guitar-playing wild man seen in OutKast’s video for the Grammy-winning hit “Hey Ya!”

The special likely will have a musical component similar in style to such off-kilter animated films as “Cool World” and “Yellow Submarine.” The rapper is expected to contribute music to the project.

Andre 3000’s future plans also include some film work. He can be seen in the upcoming “Be Cool,” the sequel to “Get Shorty,” and will star as Jimi Hendrix in a planned biopic.

Providence’ on cable

It seems like the perfect marriage, Lifetime television and NBC’s “Providence.”

The cable network for women has acquired the cable rerun rights to the family drama, which ran on NBC from 1999-2002, Reuters News Agency reports.

“Providence,” which starred Melina Kanakaredes as a plastic surgeon who leaves a successful Hollywood practice to return to her Rhode Island hometown, will debut tonight at 8 on Lifetime and air five times weekly in that time slot.

Lifetime acquired the rights for the show from ABC Family.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.


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