By Greg Boyd
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Season 2, Episode 3: “The Attempted Marriage”
Original airdate: Oct. 10, 1962
As last season’s excellent “Oh How We Met the Night That We Danced” showed, the story of Laura and Rob’s courtship certainly has the ability to carry an episode, even though it generally means a week without two of the show’s funniest characters. Losing Sally and Buddy once in a while, though, is a small price to pay for delightful installments such as that stellar first season episode and this one (which might actually be even better). There will almost certainly be an exception to this rule at some point, but “The Attempted Marriage” continues to prove that when Dick Van Dyke looks back into its characters’ past, the results tend to be comedic gold.
The laughs begin pretty much immediately, when Richie wakes a sleeping Rob up and asks him and Laura about a tray he found in the basement. While the framing device of “Richie asks about various things” is getting a bit tired at this point (it’s one the show has used a couple of times before), at least here it contains a couple of laughs courtesy of Richie and Laura dropping the tray and startling the still not quite awake Rob. We then proceed largely as we did in “Oh How We Met the Night That We Danced”, with a series of flashbacks: first to Rob’s marriage proposal, and then to a series of mishaps that occur as the couple tries to get married.
As much as I loved the earlier episode, there’s no denying that it was more charming than funny. The flashbacks in “The Attempted Marriage”, in contrast, are consistently hilarious, while largely maintaining that same charm. The proposal, for instance, finds Rob suffering from chills as he tries to get the words out of his mouth, then Laura having the same thing happen as she accepts. It’s at once quite sweet and laugh out loud funny. The episode’s finest scene, however, is what follows: Rob’s car breaking down on their wedding day, and his attempts to fix it. This is another of the show’s great extended comic set pieces, as Dick Van Dyke delivers some more priceless comic expressions (the look on his face as he drops something into the radiator is perfection), falls down, then (in a priceless piece of slapstick) falls again after attempting to stand on his injured leg.
Everything from that point onwards is pretty great as well. He hurries to the chapel, hopping on one foot, and finds that he’s too late. But Laura returns, and after sorting things out (and after a couple more huge slapstick laughs generated by Rob accidentally or unthinkingly banging his foot on stuff), the wedding is set for the following week. So of course, that’s the day Rob gets a respiratory infection (his attempts to breathe through his mouth are another highlight of the episode), and has to sneak off against the doctor’s orders to get married. Only he can’t hear the words due to the infection, and winds up saying “I do” on several more occasions than he should: including after the “speak now or forever hold your peace” part!
Everything ends well, of course, as they wind up getting married in a hospital room, with everyone around them wearing masks. Just another strange series of events in the past of Laura and Rob. It won’t be the last, I can promise you. The show will continue its journeys into these characters’ history in many future episodes (including an absolutely stellar installment coming up in a few weeks). And that’s a very good thing indeed.
Next Week: “Bank Book 6565696”