Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon: “Bupkis”

It’s finally here! 'It' is The Dick Van Dyke Show blogathon hosted by Thrilling Days of Yesteryear to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this television classic. I will be reviewing two episodes, “Bupkis” and “The Life and Love of Joe Coogan.”

I started out doing a scene-by-scene, line-by-line description of this episode, but after working about two hours and finding myself only twelve minutes into the episode (stopping a lot to transcribe dialogue, make notes, and take screencaps), I decided to just highlight a few scenes and lines that I especially love from this episode. Plus, I think in most cases reading about the plot of an episode is not nearly as fun as just watching it. So if you want to watch it, you can do so for free on Hulu (I’m not sure if this works in other countries, but it does here in the U.S.)

One of the reasons I had to blog about this episode is because I frequently find myself humming or singing the eponymous “Bupkis.” The song is described in the episode as not that great:

"Bupkis" is in season 4, episode 24)

Rob: “It stinks—it’s a real stinker”
Laura: “Enough to be a big hit”

However, I kind of like the song; I think it’s very catchy.

To give you an idea of what this episode is about, here is a summary (contains spoilers):

“While listening to the radio, Rob hears a novelty pop song called  ‘Bupkis’ that sounds familiar to him. It's because he wrote it with a colleague named Buzzy Potter when the two were in the army. Apparently, Buzzy failed to give Rob any writing credit for the song. That's because two months earlier, Buzzy, down on his luck, came by Rob's office wanting to revive his and Rob's song writing partnership. When Buzzy asked about peddling the old songs, Rob verbally gave Buzzy outright ownership of the songs. Buddy and Sally believe that Buzzy probably already had a deal at the time to get the song recorded, and as such that Rob should sue, or at least speak to a lawyer about the issue. When Rob's attempts to be gracious with Buzzy result in a contemptible reaction from Buzzy, Rob decides he needs to get some sort of emotional satisfaction out of the situation, perhaps in the form of beating up Buzzy. In the process, Rob learns a little more about the true history of ‘Bupkis’.” (from IMDb)

In case you are wondering, Rob side-steps the ottoman in this one. :)

My favorite scene in this episode is when, during breakfast, Rob is listening for the morning weather report on the radio. There is this hilarious lullaby-like song that goes on and on:
Time for the weather.
Night time, day time, summertime, wintertime,
It's always time for the weather.
Weather, weather, weather, weather, weather,
Weather, weather, weather, weather, weather.
Night time, day time, summertime, wintertime,
It's always time for the weather.
You have to hear it to really get the humor, but this part always cracks me up. As always, Dick Van Dyke's reactions are hilarious.

After all that, Ritchie and Laura come in (Ritchie is wearing a raincoat that makes him look rather like a Storm Trooper.)

Rob: "It's time for the weather, I think."
Laura: "Oh well, thanks darling; I don't need it. I just looked out the window and it's raining."

Laura and Ritchie leave and the weather finally comes on:

Radio announcer: "The forecast for the metropolitan area today is warm and cloudy. And now back to music on WIFE, wife, the radio station most people are married to.” 

Rob: *chuckles* "Huh, I'd like to have a divorce"

Then “Bupkis” comes on:
You took my arm, with golden charm,
a diamond mine, a love so fine.
But what did I get from you? Bupkis!
What did I get from you? Bupkis!
Bupkis is a lot of nothing and
that's what I got from you.
Bupkis is a lot of nothing and
that's what I got from you.
Again, you have to hear the song. If you watch it on Hulu (see link near the top of this post), the “Weather, weather, weather” bit is about 1:34 seconds into the episode, and  “Bupkis” can be heard at approximately the 2:34 mark.

I love how Rob dresses—button up cardigans and skinny ties. I also love the fact that they drink their coffee out of a cup and saucer. When did we stop doing that?

I also have to mention Laura’s clothes. Her character is one of my style icons. I just love that early sixties style, and she pulls it off effortlessly.

Rob gets up and makes a phone call on his rotary telephone (remember those? I don't!) Leafing through the phone book he calls WIFE radio station and does one of those great one-sided phone conversations that Dick Van Dyke was so good at. He asks who wrote the song that was playing and finds out that it was Buzzy Potter...and no one else.

You can see Dick cracking up here, thinking he messed up the scene.
There is actually a goof in this part, according to IMDb:
Revealing mistakes: When Rob (Dick van Dyke) goes to call the radio station about the song "Bupkis," he dials the phone number first, and then realizes that he should have looked up the number in the phone directory that was present in the scene just for that purpose. So, with the phone to his ear *after* dialing the number, he flips through the phone book, finds a number, and says "Right!" as if he knew the number, but was just confirming it. Dick van Dyke (as Rob) smiles as he starts the phone conversation with the radio station, knowing that he blew the scene. Evidently, the director thought that no one would notice, so they used that take anyway.

Now jump to later that morning at the office: Buddy comes in, followed by Sally who is carrying a tray of coffee cups. Buddy lets the door swing behind him as he enters and Sally asks: "You gonna hold the door open for me, Gentleman Jim?" Buddy replies: "I let ya carry the coffee, what do ya want?" Sally rolls her eyes.

Sally: "Hey, your name isn't here. It says it's by Buzzy Potter."
Buddy: "You don't think any guy who wrote a song called 'Bupkis' recorded by the Dum-Dums is gonna use his real name, do you?"

Bupkis is a Yiddish word meaning ‘nothing’. Rob explains that he learned a lot of Yiddish words from Sol Pomerantz when he was in the Army.

According to the credits, the recording used in the show was sung by “Dick and Dee Dee.”

Rob: "It just so happens I wrote that song with Buzzy Potter."
Sally: "Oh, and they left your name out?"
Rob: "No, HE left it out!"
Buddy: "Oh, Potter's a crook."
Rob: "No, Petrie's a jerk!"

Another great scene in this episode is when Rob is trying to get up the nerve to tell Laura that he sold the song.

Rob keeps peeking over his newspaper as Laura puts together a puzzle.

Laura notices something is up and Rob comes over and proceeds to clumsily explains how life is a lot like a jigsaw puzzle.

DVD and MTM interact so well together. I think they have some of the best chemistry of any TV couple I’ve seen.

Laura: Suppose one of those songs you gave away became a huge hit. I mean, you’d probably feel
awful ridiculous—sit around here with your mouth open, blinking your eyes… {Source}
Mary Tyler Moore is really good in this scene.

I love Laura’s glare when Rob accidentally knocks her puzzle on the floor.

Love Laura's outfit here
 The last scene I'm going to mention is the one where Rob goes to find Buzzy.

There is a quick little part at the beginning where Rob is nervously pulling out the stuffing from a hole in the couch in the waiting room. He looks up sheepishly as he realizes what he is doing.

The (hilarious) secretary also noticed.

Rob runs into an old Army buddy, "Sticks" (who now goes by Frank) Mandalay, who used to play the drums. They are both there to see Buzzy Potter.

Rob: "He's got the whole ex-Army after him."
Secretary/Sheila: "And a couple of ex-wives, too!"

They finally catch Buzzy as he tries to sneak out. Buzzy's excuse isn't very convincing...

Buzzy: "After you were shipped out I heard that you were killed in action."
Sticks/Frank: "Where? There was no war then."
Buzzy: "Well, I thought that was strange."

Eventually both Sticks and Rob figure out what's going on.

Sticks/Frank: "You wrote the lyrics?"
Rob: "You wrote the tune? What did he write?"
Sticks/Frank: "His name on the music sheet."

Of course they finally square everything away and Rob and Sticks get the proper credit on the recording.
I hope these disjointed notes made sense. I'm not used to writing reviews for a single TV show episode!

Stay tuned for my post about "The Life and Love of Joe Coogan."


  1. While I'm not particularly wild about the song (Laura is absolutely right when she argues that the tune is just dumb enough to be a hit) this is a favorite of mine because it features Greg Morris, an actor who can do no wrong in my book.  (He's just as funny here as he is in the classic "That's My Boy?")  Great post, Audrey...I'm looking forward to the other one as well!

  2. Oh, I didn't even notice that was the same actor. Good call!

  3. There were a lot of black folks who got pretty damn good roles on Dick Van Dyke, with no fanfare of chest-puffing.  As Ivan noticed, Greg Morris appeared twice, but there's a lot of great examples.  In one episode, Rob has to accept an award from an NAACP-like organization for their pro-minority work on the show  After accidentally dying their hands before the banquet, Rob and Laura are forced to wear gloves to cover up, and as he gives a speech, realizes he was afraid of what the people at the party would think about the color of their skin.  He goes on to say that he hopes that one day there would be no awards for doing work with minorities, because everybody will be just people.

  4. I remember that episode! Yes, the show was very ground-breaking in many ways. I love that about it!


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