By Greg Boyd
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Season 2, Episode 13: “A Man’s Teeth Are Not His Own”
Original Airdate: Dec. 19, 1962
At this point in the second season, The Dick Van Dyke Show has really gotten into a serious rhythm. With the exception of the atrocious “Like a Sister”, every episode since “Hustling the Hustler” has been at the very least good (and quite a few during this stretch are absolute classics). I’m reasonably sure we’ll hit another misstep at some point this year; looking at the upcoming episode list, I think there’s a clunker or two still to come, if my childhood memories prove accurate (which as always, remains to be seen). But it will not be this week, as “A Man’s Teeth Are Not His Own” is an installment that’s just rock-solid from start to finish, albeit not quite as filled to the brim with guffaw-worthy moments as the previous episode was.
It has quite a few such moments, however, beginning with an early scene in which Rob and his staff discuss comedy centered on pain, before Rob eventually becomes an example of said comedy by breaking his tooth on a chicken bone. The scene’s individual segments work together beautifully to create their desired effect. After Rob’s initial rejection of a toothache-related bit, he comes up with a sketch idea for a pianist with an itch. Dick Van Dyke the physical comedian rarely disappoints, and this bit no exception, as he struggles to scratch himself without breaking the momentum of the piece. Rose Marie’s Sally eventually joins in on the action as a conductor trying to help him, and the result is probably the funniest scene of the writers at work since season one’s “The Curious Thing About Women”.
But the real genius of it is how it functions as a lead-in to the next bit, in which Rob breaks the tooth. It allows for a hilarious couple of seconds in which everyone thinks he’s just acting out a version of the idea he’s just rejected. Then, the show (as it so often does) escalates the comic situation even further, first with Mel giving Rob pain relievers but mistakenly handing him ice water and then with Buddy putting a chair on top of his foot. In essence, it’s The Dick Van Dyke Show proving Rob’s earlier point false: a person a toothache can be absolutely hysterical, particularly if the person is played by Dick Van Dyke. Brilliant.
Equally inspired (for the most part) is where all this goes. Rob of course needs an emergency dentist appointment, only Jerry’s out of town. So he goes to another dentist, and while he’s there allows that dentist to work on another of his teeth. He then spends most of the rest of the episode beating himself up over it and worrying about Jerry’s reaction. The martyred self-loathing act is frankly kind of annoying, as it’s just a completely asinine and somewhat egomaniacal overreaction that makes him appear completely self-involved. However, he’s right to be concerned about how his friend will react (especially given what we know about Jerry’s ego), and his attempts to conceal the other dentist’s work strike just the right chord between pure absurdity and believable character-based humor. I particularly love his attempts to steer the subject matter of their conversation towards “famine and drought and pestilence” as a way of avoiding smiling.
The episode’s resolution unfortunately rests more on the character’s aforementioned self-loathing than on his much more pleasantly silly out of control panic, as Rob berates himself in Jerry’s chair at the dentist Long Beach CA office. That said, as decidedly unappealing as this behavior is, at least here some of his overblown shtick (which for the most part just isn’t funny) is used to amusing effect when he speaks it while sticking his fingers inside his mouth (thus rendering it completely incomprehensible). And it’s definitely a lot of fun to see Jerry be the voice of reason for once, when it’s usually Rob in that role. Still, if there are many amusing sides to the character of Rob Petrie, self-flagellation is definitely not one of them. And it’s this aspect of “A Man’s Teeth Are Not His Own” that keeps it from being one of Dick Van Dyke‘s all-time best installments. Still, overall it’s definitely another winner.
Here are your options of shows in Two Weeks: “Somebody Has to Play Cleopatra” and ” There is No Point” playing in the eveing, eastern time.