OK, so Estelle Reiner didn’t really get her big toe stuck in a bathtub spigot.
But she did inspire her husband, Carl Reiner, to write “Never Bathe on Saturday,” a memorable episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in which Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) and Rob (Van Dyke) Petrie go away for a romantic second honeymoon. Things go awry when Laura’s big toe gets wedged into a hotel bathtub spigot — because, as she yells to a helpless Rob, she was “playing with the drip.”
“We went to a hotel very much like [in that episode], sort of a weekend honeymoon,” says Reiner, 96, who created the classic CBS sitcom (1961-66). “My wife didn’t get stuck [in the spigot] but the water was dripping and she had her toe under it — and she was playing with the drip.”
Newly colorized versions of “Never Bathe on Saturday” and another Reiner-scripted episode, “Where Did I Come From?,” air Friday from 9-10 p.m. on CBS, preceded (from 8-9 p.m.) by two colorized episodes of “I Love Lucy”: “The Christmas Episode” and “Pioneer Women” (colorized for the first time).
“Both of those episodes were things that actually happened in my life, as most of the ‘Van Dyke Show’ episodes did,” says Reiner. “I wrote about 30 or 40 episodes [actually 54 in total] but always asked the other writers, ‘What happened in your life today that’s different from other days?’ ”
The 1965 episode, “Where Did I Come From,” is told mostly in flashbacks as Laura and Rob recount the day their young son Richie (Larry Mathews) was born.
“One of my kids, Bobby, when he was small, he asked the question: ‘Where did I come from?’ ” Reiner says of his son, filmmaker Rob Reiner. “I remember taking the Dr. Spock [‘Baby and Child Care’] book off the shelf. It said, ‘Just answer simply and don’t give your child any more information than they’ve asked for.’ ”
Initially, Reiner was going to star as Rob Petrie in his own show called “Head of the Family.” When that didn’t work, it morphed into “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” co-starring Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam . Danny Thomas was the producer.
“Danny said, ‘Who’s that girl that came to audition for me when we needed a daughter for ‘Make Room for Daddy’? She was wonderful, but her nose went the wrong way,’ ” Reiner says. “I saw 22 girls before I saw Mary. I said to [executive producer] Sheldon Leonard, ‘I don’t know what I’m looking for,’ and he said, ‘You’ll know when you find her.’
“The rest is wonderful history for me.”
And, Reiner says, the show could have originally aired in color.
“When we started, someone suggested that we do [the series] in color, but it was like $6,000 more an episode and that would’ve taken all the profit out of it for the partners,” he says. “So it was decided to do it in black and white and I’m glad we did. It was of the time, but I’m so happy that it’s in color now. Mary was so exquisite, with those flashing black eyes and the shining hair and of course those incredible legs. And Steve Martin said Dick Van Dyke is, hands-down, the finest comedian he ever saw. And I agree 100 percent.
“I’m hoping they can colorize all the ‘Van Dyke’ shows,” he says. “One reason it doesn’t look like an old show is that I assiduously never wrote any slang of the day and I told the writers working with us, ‘No slang and no references to the politics of the day.’ I knew it would have a life of its own if it didn’t date itself.”
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