The Dick Van Dyke Show was cancelled after one season, but was saved by the sponsor
The Dick Van Dyke Show is arguably one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. It is the grandfather of the modern television comedy, establishing a lot of what viewers identify as a sitcom to this day. The show won 15 Emmy Awards, and is frequently included in lists of the greatest shows of all time. But all those awards, all those accolades almost never happened, because in 1962, CBS cancelled The Dick Van Dyke Show.
It's hard to imagine a television landscape that doesn't share The Dick Van Dyke Show as an ancestor. Every show about show business owes a debt of gratitude to the misadventures of Rob Petrie, family man and comedy writer. 30 Rock, The Larry Sanders Show, even Curb Your Enthusiasm all grow from the seed planted by The Dick Van Dyke Show. But it seems viewers may not have been ready for the ahead-of-its-time peek behind the show biz curtain. Audiences weren't able to appreciate it for the "literate comedy" it was, as described by the Valley News' Ernie Kreiling in 1966.
The Dick Van Dyke Show was a ratings dud for CBS, which cancelled the show in the spring of '62. Luckily for fans and TV scholars alike, an objection was raised in the form of corporate sponsor Procter & Gamble. Specifically, producer Sheldon Leonard persuaded the consumer goods behemoth to back the show for just one more season. So moved were the folks at P&G, in fact, that they threatened to pull all advertising sponsorship from CBS' Saturday afternoon lineup unless The Dick Van Dyke Show was reinstated.
The show was renewed for not just one, but four additional seasons before wrapping production in 1966. The immediate chemistry of the show's leads, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, paired with the show's incredible writing team, propelled The Dick Van Dyke Show into the annals of TV history. Just remember to thank your soap.
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