By Greg Boyd
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Season 1, Episode 23: “The Twizzle”
Original airdate: Feb. 28, 1962
For the majority of “The Twizzle,” I sat there wondering if it was one of the rare episodes of Dick Van Dyke that I had actually never seen before. I believe there are a handful of them over the course of the show’s five seasons, and this seemed like it might be the first. And maybe it was, as it’s certainly possible that I’d somehow managed to watch just the ending (the one part of the episode I vaguely remembered seeing before) without seeing the rest of the episode. Maybe it was on TV one day when I was a kid, and I switched to the channel just in time to see the last ten minutes or so. More likely, however, is that it just didn’t make much of an impression on me. You’d think that an episode which features a lengthy dance scene in a crowded bowling alley would at least be interesting, but for the most part it’s not.
The problem with the big dance number is that it simply goes on for ages (or at least it seems like it does). It’s initially kind of fun to watch the characters get swept up in this potential new dance craze, but the novelty doesn’t last long. It doesn’t help matters that the title song is somewhat catchy but not especially interesting either musically or lyrically, which forces the scene to rely almost entirely on the energy of the actors. They do their best, but they tend to fare better when they’re actually performing for someone (as Rob was in “Father of the Week”), rather than trying to make it look like they’re just having fun dancing. I don’t believe Dick Van Dyke ever attempted another scene like this again, and I have to say I’m glad, because it doesn’t work.
The actual plot of “The Twizzle”—which centers on the plan to have Randolph Eisenbower (otherwise known as Randy Twizzle) perform the song on The Alan Brady Show—doesn’t really work, either. Initially everything seems fine, but then Randy refuses to sing unless he can do another song as well. See, it turns out that Randy is a very gifted singer, and so we’re treated to another musical sequence in which he sings a ballad. It’s a decent enough song, but by no means good enough to justify another couple of minutes in which the show’s funny characters don’t get a chance to be funny.
What also hurts the episode is the fact that Randy is a fairly bland and uninteresting character. We never learn a whole lot about him, which is puzzling given how much time we spend with him. And it’s not as if the show doesn’t have the ability to create a good one-off character; it’s already proven s0 on multiple occasions, with Jackie Brewster from “Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?” being perhaps the most memorable so far. Randy just isn’t. He’s a nice guy, but aside from that he doesn’t really have a very interesting personality, and making him the main focus of a whole episode proves to be a bad idea. He admittedly spends a lot of his time singing, which solves one problem but leads to those two boring musical scenes, which are arguably the worst parts of the entire episode.
Did I laugh a few times at “The Twizzle”? Of course, but for the most part I laughed at things unrelated to the main plot (such as Sally quoting more of Aunt Agnes’s expressions), and that’s almost never a good sign. The episode chooses to devote around a quarter of its running time to fairly dull musical numbers, and when it’s not doing that it’s often trying to get us interested in Randy’s story, largely at the expense of all the other characters (particularly Laura and Rob, as Sally and Buddy still get some strong material). This is far from the worst episode Dick Van Dyke has done so far, but it isn’t a particularly good one.
Next Week: “One Angry Man”