His signature achievement, however, remains “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” the pioneering comedy series that accounted for many of Reiner’s dozen Emmys, and thanks to reruns, retrospectives and the occasional primetime special, never seems to go away.
Drawing from Reiner’s experiences with Caesar, Van Dyke played Rob Petrie, the head writer on a Brady’s comedy show. The stories oscillated between Rob’s life at work and at home, finding comedy gold in both venues.
“I made my hand like a claw like in the machines at the carnival that get candy out of the things, and I went across the room, I went to her head, and I grabbed the top of her head and said, ‘Come with me,'” Reiner recalled on Conan O’Brien’s show several years ago. He then walked her down the hall to producer Sheldon Leonard, exclaiming, “I found her!”
More than 150 episodes followed, including a number of memorable classics. Highlights included Rob convincing himself that they had brought the wrong baby home from the hospital, Laura imprudently announcing to the world that Brady wore a toupee, and the couple’s son, Richie, discovering the origins of his unusual middle name, Rosebud.
Reiner has said he consciously avoided topical references in writing the show, one reason it has proved so timeless. In a 2003 interview, he recalled balking at producing a sixth season despite being offered a lot of money to continue. “We knew we had started to repeat ourselves, and when you get to that, it’s time to stop,” he said.
By that measure, Reiner spent his life making everyone else’s a bit fuller.