Dining with Rob and Laura

The Hub is a big fan of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” from the ’60s. For Christmas, I gave him a DVD set of all five seasons of the show, and I’ve noticed something as we’ve been watching those old episodes. Most of them include at least one scene in the Petries’ kitchen – usually breakfast or dinner. And Rob and Laura are really interacting with their food. Snappy dialogue is flying around, and Laura (played by the saucy  Mary Tyler Moore) is frosting cakes, simmering sauces, tossing salad or mixing meatloaf with both hands in a bowl of hamburger. She’s actually cooking – I could see steam rising up from pots on the stove. She was spreading real icing on a real cake as she talked to neighbor Millie.

I admit that I don’t watch a lot of sitcoms, but I can’t remember the last time I saw someone actually cook on one. On “The Cosby Show” in the ’80s, Cliff was famous for his creatively bad cooking, but it was done as a gag bit – those pots on the stove were empty. I see an occasional pizza box or already set tables with indistinguishable food on “Suburgatory,” but no cake decorating.

Also, when Rob, Laura and little Ritchie sit down to eat, they actually eat the food. I mean, bite and chew. While still shooting out fast-paced dialogue.  In the first-season episode we watched last night, Laura finishes preparing a meal, Rob helps put it on the table, Laura serves him some vegetables and Rob serves her some meat, they each cut and nibble – while their hilarious argument over Rob’s absence from Ritchie’s school play goes on.

In the scene, preparing and sitting down to dinner was shown as simply a part of their life together. Something about these scenes reinforces their characters without a word being said, and shows the closeness of their marriage even in the midst of a disagreement. Was all this cooking and eating intentional, or just to show life at the time? I don’t know, but it certainly gives another dimension to the characters.