Review: The Dick Van Dyke Show, “The Twizzle”
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”
8 Responses to “Review: The Dick Van Dyke Show, “The Twizzle””
As I recall, The Twizzle episode was a blatant attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and subsequent songs such as “Peppermint Twist”. All in all, a pretty forgettable episode in what I still regard as the best comedy series of all time.
I agree that this is not one of the better episodes. The oddest part is at the end when the wrestler Freddie Blassie comes in for no apparent reason except maybe that he was available for a cameo. Admittedly, the Twizzle song did stick in my head for days after I watched it. I wonder if any promotions were done with “The Twizzle” and the show through other avenues such as selling or giving away music recordings.
[…] what seemed like an attempt to identify itself with the “dance crazes” that were sweeping the nation at the time, the show created its own. The episode follows the […]
You are over analyzing
I really think someone involved with the show was impressed by this man’s natural talent. It was really a showcase for him. If you look him up you’ll see he went on to Broadway singing songs like the show ending, rather than The Twizzle. http://www.broadwayworld.com/people/Jerry-Lanning/
The “decent enough” but “by no means good enough” song that Randy sings is “This Nearly Was Mine” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”. Boy, you’re a hard sell. I think it served its purpose well, to convince us that Randy (Jerry Lanning) could really sing. (Incidentally, he played the older version of Patrick Dennis in the musical “Mame” a few years later, opposite Angela Lansbury.)
I like this episode just because it’s an odd one, and one of the few times the show acknowledged what was going on in popular culture during the period it was made.
Does anyone know the ballad Randy sang towards the end of the show? It’s actually pretty.
Wanted to see a great comedy from the more distant past. Stumble upon this… a forgettable episode, although the singer was quite talented. He just didn’t belong in a comedy.