Monday, October 3, 2011

"THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW" @ 50: FROM THE CHOIR INVISIBLE


ROB PETRIE:
"Where can we find somebody nastier to Mel than Buddy?"
SALLY ROGERS:
"How about Mel's wife?"
["Buddy, Can You Spare A Job?"]
I don't know when it actually began as a television trope, but a lot of sitcoms have characters that are never seen:

Carlton the Doorman ('Rhoda') - And gorilla masks don't count!

Dr. Lars Lindstrom ('The Mary Tyler Moore Show')

Vera Peterson ('Cheers')

Maris Crane ('Frasier')

Sam ('Richard Diamond')

Wilson of 'Home Improvement' straddled both worlds by only being partially seen in the show.

Maybe Mrs. Bloom of 'The Goldbergs' and Mr. Donaghy from Jackie Gleason's "Joe The Bartender" sketches were the first. And how come we never saw Mr. McMann of the McMann & Tate advertising agency in 'Bewitched'? (My guess? He was already dead, wearing the chains he had forged in life.)

'The Dick Van Dyke Show' also had its own invisible characters. For a while, Alan Brady topped the list but only for a season or so. (Anybody who's seen "Coast To Coast Big Mouth" knows that.) But he did start out as an unseen presence at the office, then he was heard on the TV and intercoms, and finally made his first appearance - J. Beresford Tipton style - in the episode "The Sleeping Brother".

Another invisible character on the show, and part of an honored tradition at that, is Marge. She was the receptionist for the floor on which the writers' room was located. Marge, like Sarah down in Mayberry, North Carolina, and Richard Diamond's secretary Sam, was never seen, always on the other side of the phone line. (But we do know that she was blonde.)

But the invisible character on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' I'm going to discuss is Mrs. Mel Cooley.....


JACKIE BREWSTER:
"So how did he get such an important job?"
SALLY ROGERS:
"Easy. He married the boss' sister."
JACKIE BREWSTER:
"Ohhhh, he's a brudder-in-law....."
["Buddy, Can You Spare A Job?"]

According to Buddy, that's how Mel Cooley got the job as the producer of 'The Alan Brady Show' - by marrying Alan's sister.

Mrs. Cooley was mentioned frequently on the show, mostly due to that accusation of nepotism. But she was never seen in a single episode.

But - as some of you may have suspected by now - this televisiologist begs to differ.

I say we saw her in the episode "The Twizzle".

(You many want to avert your eyes, Ivan.....)

Sally Rogers dragged Rob and Laura as well as Buddy and Mel up to a Stamford, Ct. bowling alley to see her discovery of a young singing sensation and the latest dance craze he inspired. She gave them all little time to prepare, which is why Mel and Buddy arrived there stag. (Apparently Ritchie was already staying overnight next door at the Helpers' home.)

But at the end of the episode, they were all back at the bowling alley, dancing the Twizzle. This time, they must have planned the date in advance, so Buddy and Mel had time to bring their wives along as well.

Although it looked like Buddy was once again flying solo because his wife Pickles was nowhere to be seen, I prefer to think that the former showgirl was in the ladies' room, "powdering her nose".

And Mrs. Cooley?
She can be seen to the right of the screen, just behind Rob, in the striped shirt as she dances the Twizzle with her husband Mel.

Like I said, Mel must have had plenty of notice to take his wife out for the night. And he wasn't there to scout talent - Randy "Twizzle" Eisenbower already made his appearance on 'The Alan Brady Show'.

And she looked older than the kids in Randy's age group.

However, I'm sticking by my theory that she's Mrs. Mel Cooley nee Brady.

Every character in Toobworld who is mentioned but never seen must have a physical presence in that world. Isn't nice one of them finally defied the script?

BCnU!

2 comments:

Brent McKee said...

Actually McMann appeared on two episodes of "Bewitched" according to both Wikipedia and IMDB. He was played by Roland Winters in "Man Of The Year" (he was Elvis's father in "Blue Hawaii" and had replaced Sidney Toller as Charlie Chan). He was also played by Leon Ames in "What Makes Darrin Run" and was given the name Howard McMann. Ames is probably most famous for playing Judy Garland's father in "Meet Me In St. Louis".

Toby O'B said...

Thanks, Brent! I know him best from 'Mr. Ed' and "The Velvet Touch" - the movie that to me serves as a prequel to 'Columbo'. (Right down to an appearance by Columbo lucky mascot Mike Lally as a waiter, and the use of the phrase "Just one more thing" - although by the murderer.....)