The Dick Van Dyke Show
Season 1, Episode 12: “Empress Carlotta’s Necklace”
Original airdate: Dec. 12, 1961
The Dick Van Dyke Show focuses more on humor than on conveying deep ideas. As I’ve mentioned previously, I believe it embodies the classic sitcom.
Its primary aim is to make us laugh heartily and frequently within the given scenario, and therefore, it seldom delves deeply into character development or thematic exploration.
“Empress Carlotta’s Necklace” deviates slightly from this typical approach. While it derives numerous laughs from the premise of Rob purchasing a necklace that Laura strongly dislikes, it also uses this concept to offer genuinely insightful commentary on art and its appreciation.
These insights, in turn, enhance the episode’s humor. I consider it one of the most outstanding episodes in the series so far.
So, who is right, Laura or Rob? Is the necklace dreadful or not?
These questions are inherently unanswerable, and to the episode’s credit, it avoids attempting to provide clear answers.
Art appreciation’s subjective nature is something many of us have encountered, whether it involves debating a movie with a friend or discussing the merits of a TV show‘s finale.
“Empress Carlotta’s Necklace” derives much of its humor from this subjectivity, and what makes the episode remarkable is that it refrains from taking a definitive stance.
While the viewer is inclined to align with Laura’s viewpoint (at least in my opinion), the humor remains effective regardless of whether one finds the necklace beautiful or unbelievably unattractive.
The episode skillfully explores the humor in the concept of two individuals observing an object and perceiving it in entirely different ways, especially when one of them has purchased the item for the other without knowing their true feelings about it.
Much of the comedy between Laura and Rob in this episode revolves around the stark contrasts in their artistic perspectives and how these differing opinions can sometimes blind them to each other’s feelings.
When Laura opens the box containing the necklace, her exclamation of “oh, Rob!” doesn’t seem to convey excitement or joy, but Rob interprets it that way due to his affection for the necklace.
Throughout the episode, Laura’s body language and demeanor strongly imply her dislike for the necklace, yet Rob remains oblivious.
This scenario is relatable to many as we’ve likely encountered similar situations where our enthusiasm led us to misinterpret others’ feelings.
I recall attempting to share my love for Hayao Miyazaki’s films with my father, only to realize after some time that he didn’t share my appreciation.
While the portrayal of this phenomenon in “Empress Carlotta’s Necklace” is exaggerated for comedic effect, it still resonates as a fairly accurate depiction.
What’s equally significant is the humor in this situation.
Laura’s initial reaction to the necklace stands out as one of the funniest moments, but many others come close.
Rob extends an invitation to Millie and Jerry to view the necklace, and the initial awkwardness repeats, now with two more people present.
Much like Laura, Millie immediately expresses her dislike for the necklace and firmly rejects Jerry’s suggestion to buy her a similar one (in contrast to Rob’s positive reaction).
When met with puzzled looks, she concocts a feeble explanation—both Jerry and Rob completely buy into it—about the impracticality of having two such remarkable necklaces in close proximity.
It’s genuinely amusing, and while the comedy doesn’t quite reach the level of “My Blonde-Haired Brunette” or the upcoming climactic scene, it consistently delivers a high level of humor throughout.
I didn’t find the necklace particularly impressive in either direction.
However, this indifference plays a significant role in what makes the immediate and passionate reactions it provokes so effective in terms of comedy.
It’s almost like the necklace possesses magical qualities to elicit intense emotions, both positive and negative, from people.
The exaggerated responses to this relatively unremarkable piece of art never cease to be comical.
Meanwhile, the situation did not affect Rob’s father, which might be due to his minimal attention to it.
In contrast, Rob’s mother exhibits perhaps the most exaggerated reaction of all, bursting into tears at the sight of what she perceives as the most beautiful thing she’s ever encountered.
This, in turn, spares Laura from the need to convey her feelings to Rob by gifting the necklace to someone who clearly values it more.
“Empress Carlotta’s Necklace” dedicates a significant portion of its time to poking fun at our emotional reactions to art and the resulting complexities.
However, in the end, this scene illustrates that our lives would be much less enriched without these emotional responses, even if they occasionally lead to awkward situations with loved ones.
While Rob’s mother’s tears of joy upon receiving the necklace are played for comedic effect, the scene also serves as a genuinely touching and uplifting moment for anyone who has experienced strong emotions while watching a movie, TV show, or listening to music (three of the most prevalent art forms in today’s world).
And haven’t we all had such experiences?
- I didn’t discuss the opening scene where Rob purchases the necklace, but I found it quite enjoyable. Mel’s cousin portrayed a moderately amusing character, and Buddy delivered some excellent lines. I especially appreciated his quip about not trusting Pickles’s taste because she chose him as her husband.
- The segment involving “the discount” (which consistently results in a price of $35) was also remarkably clever.
- Both Mary Tyler Moore and Van delivered fantastic comic expressions throughout this episode. I particularly relished the silly grin that frequently appeared on Van’s face when he witnessed how “delighted” she was.
- One of Millie’s suggestions for disposing of the necklace involves “putting it in the blender and drinking it.”
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