The Dick Van Dyke Show
Season 2, Episode 16: “The Foul Weather Girl”
Original Airdate: Jan. 9, 1963
The Dick Van Dyke Show’s second season episode, “The Foul Weather Girl,” is not the worst episode of the season, but it is close. The episode feels tired and uninspired as if Carl Reiner and the other writers were taking a breather in the middle of a long season.
There are many aspects of the episode that do not play well to modern audiences, but even the offensive parts are more characterized by a general feeling of tiredness than by any ideological issues.
If this were the show’s average level of quality, it would be a problem (similar to the problem that the first few years of The Mary Tyler Moore Show had), but in the grand scheme of a generally very strong season, a blandly average episode like this is not a big deal.
Jealousy within a marriage is not necessarily a bad idea for an episode. The Dick Van Dyke Show has done successful episodes about it before and will again.
But the episode “The Foul Weather Girl” is just plain boring from the very beginning.
At their best, Dick Van Dyke episodes unfold as a dizzying and delightful series of escalating events, thanks to careful sequencing in the script and note-perfect staging in front of the camera.
At their worst, they unfold like the episode’s telegraphed attempt at eliciting its first really big laugh: Rob mistaking old school friend Jane Leighton (Joan O’Brien) for Laura and kissing her.
The big comedy lecture Rob gives to the kids in season one’s “Father of the Week” comes into play here in analyzing why this moment doesn’t work as intended: lack of surprise.
True, anticipation can add to the humor, but there still needs to be some sort of new twist to a scene like this.
And there really isn’t here. There’s just the kiss, followed by Laura walking in; both moments are predictable and unfold exactly as expected.
Most of “The Foul Weather Girl” is just as predictable and poorly executed as the kiss scene.
The episode is not completely devoid of joy, but the joys are limited and mostly consist of small individual moments within larger scenes that mostly fail.
Rob’s habit of coughing whenever he’s in an uncomfortable situation is a nice running gag, so it’s always great to see it recur under new circumstances.
However, on the whole, both the concept and execution of the story are flat.
Joan O’Brien is fairly good as Jane, and she delivers another of the few highlights of the episode with her excellent rendition of “Just in Time.” But the character herself is very poorly written and in a way that is also quite offensive.
She is there almost entirely to fuel the conflict between Laura and Rob and to be the object of Buddy’s and (even more disturbingly) Richie’s objectifying remarks.
Then, the show throws her under the bus by portraying her as an ungrateful, conniving schemer who is using her looks to advance her career as she begins to ingratiate herself with Mel once she has gotten all the assistance she needs from Rob.
The episode “The Foul Weather Girl” is sexist and poorly written. It portrays the character of Jane Leighton unfairly, objectifying her and then slut-shaming her for flirting with married men.
The show also seems to suggest that Jane should be eternally grateful to Rob for helping her advance her career, which is a paternalistic and outdated view.
The episode ultimately fails to criticize the men who hold all the power in the workplace and instead chooses to focus on the evils of unchecked female sexuality. This is a dangerous and harmful message to send.
In short, “The Foul Weather Girl” is a sexist and lazy episode that promotes harmful stereotypes about women.
The main reason why the episode “The Foul Weather Girl” fails is because the jokes are all predictable and unfunny.
Even usually reliable sources of humor, like Buddy and Mel’s banter, fall flat. The episode’s best gag is a reveal about pepper and chocolate pudding, which is pretty sad.
The episode’s premise is promising, but the jokes don’t live up to it. It’s as if the writers forgot to include any humor in the script.