Matriculating from noble failure to major success during its second season on the air, The Dick Van Dyke Show sailed into its third season without a ripple on the water. Though it is surely unnecessary by now, it is hereby noted that the series' main cast still consisted of Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie, head writer for "The Alan Brady Show;" Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, Laura; Larry Mathews as their chipmunk-cheeked son, Ritchie; Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam as Rob's wisecracking coworkers Sally Rogers and Buddy Sorrell; and, on occasion, Richard Deacon as Mel Cooley, "The Alan Brady Show"'s long-suffering producer; and Jerry Paris and Ann Morgan Guilbert as the Petrie's next-door neighbors, Jerry and Millie Helper. Season three is launched with one of the series' most famous episodes, "That's My Boy?," in which Rob recalls the time shortly after Richie's birth that he became convinced that his baby son had been switched with an infant belonging to a Mr. and Mrs. Peters. The episode's unforgettable punchline was not only one of the best-kept secrets of the 1963-1964 season, but also yielded one of the longest and most sustained laughs from the studio audience (and in the bargain, it struck a major blow on behalf of racial equality on American television).
Amazingly, the third season manages to uphold the level of brilliance of its opener. "The Masterpiece" guest stars Howard Morris (who directed several other episodes) as a zany art critic who goes into conniptions when the Petries purchase an "original Artanis." "Laura's Little Lie" and "Very Old Shoes, Very Old Rice" comprise a two-part story in which the Petries discover that their marriage may not be legal; and in another two-parter, "The Pen is Mightier Than the Mouth" and "My Part-Time Wife," Laura fills in at the office while Sally guest-stars on "The Stevie Parsons Show," much to Rob's dismay. "Big Max Calvada" features Sheldon Leonard, executive producer of The Dick Van Dyke Show, as a gentlemanly ex-gangster who -- er -- persuades the "Alan Brady Show" staff to write a comedy routine for his untalented nephew. "The Life and Love of Joe Coogan" sets Rob up for a big surprise when he expresses jealousy towards Laura's former boyfriend. Series creator Carl Reiner shows up as flamboyant artist Serge Carpetna, who paints an extremely revealing portrait of the unwitting Laura, in "October Eve." And in "The Return of Edwin Carp," "The Alan Brady Show" nostalgically plays host to three old-time radio favorites: Richard Haydn, Arlene Harris, and Bert Gordon. Mention must also be made of the series' second full-out musical show, "The Alan Brady Show Presents," in which the entire cast -- including little Richie -- perform in a Yuletide special. The Dick Van Dyke Show enjoyed its best-ever ratings during season three, finishing at third place in the Nielsens. As a bonus, Emmy awards were bestowed upon both Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi