By Greg Boyd
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Season 2, Episode 4: “Bank Book 6565696”
Original Airdate: Oct. 17, 1962
I’m wrestling a bit with my overall impression of “Bank Book 6565696.” As you may have gathered from my reviews of several season one episodes, there is the occasional installment when Dick Van Dyke‘s general timelessness gives way to sexism. This is one of those cases, and as such there are definitely moments in the episode that fall flat, although they may well have been hilarious to 1960s viewers. Much of this has to do with Rob’s whole attitude towards discovering Laura’s secret bank account, which is largely atrocious. First he assumes that the money is for a present for him (because she certainly couldn’t have her own reasons for wanting to keep it a secret). Then—after not getting what he expected—he actually gets upset that she’s hiding it from him.
Now, some of this is understandable. I think it’s fair to say that people in a marriage should discuss finances up front and decide how everything is going to work. But his reaction is essentially to proclaim that she shouldn’t need to have her own account, since he supports her just fine. And then, in a moment that made me absolutely detest him, he points out that the money in her account all came from him. Well, yeah . . . she left her (quite successful) career to stay home and raise their child. And now Rob seems to think she should simply be dependent on him for everything, and that he should be in complete control of the finances.
I’m not saying this isn’t the way a 1960s husband might react. What I am saying is that it’s despicable, and (as has been the case in previous episodes) prevents a number of the jokes centered on the titular object from holding up to today’s audience. I know there have been comments in the past that I’m not really being fair to these sorts of episodes. But I think it’s possible to acknowledge the time period the show was made while at the same time noting that it’s just impossible for people (or maybe it’s just me) nowadays to laugh at Rob’s behavior in episodes like “Bank Book 6565696,” because they’re too busy wanting him to stop acting like a patriarchal jerk. It’s simply a case of the show not aging well in certain instances. We’ll see this happen when new audiences are discovering 30 Rock in 50 years. They’ll find lots to love, but certain things (mostly the political jokes, I’d expect) won’t work for them the way they did for us. It’s just the way it goes. (The truly great shows—like Dick Van Dyke—manage to keep this sort of thing to a minimum, of course.)
But while the main storyline is dreadfully dated, “Bank Book 6565696” still contains a lot of laughs in spite of it (which is more than I can say for certain other episodes that shall remain nameless). I just love the scene where Rob runs, crawls, and at one point even climbs around the house, looking for his present. Just another awesome piece of physical comedy from Dick Van Dyke, as are his attempts to hold in his sneeze earlier in the episode. Also great is Sally’s expression when she realizes that Rob is not listening to her at all. So a number of jokes here and there definitely work (although hopefully we’ll be getting some great Buddy insults soon, as they’ve been disappointingly absent over the last few weeks). That’s not enough to overcome the episode’s issues, but it at least keeps it from being a complete slog to get through.
Still, “Bank Book 6565696” is easily the weakest installment of season two thus far, and the first episode of the season that doesn’t really work overall. Oh well. They happen every so often, and even more so when you’re dealing with a show that’s over half a century old at this point. And as less-than-stellar and dated episodes of Dick Van Dyke go, this is one of the better ones to be found. It’s considerably stronger than many similar season one outings, in that its more problematic elements are at least combined with some timeless physical comedy—that scene where the writers do addition in midair is brilliant—and the occasional great one-liner. The show can do much better, for sure, but we’ve seen that it can also do a heck of a lot worse.
Next Week: “Hustling the Hustler”