Unlike most '60s sitcoms, The Dick Van Dyke Show allows the viewer to spend an equal amount of time with the father at home and at work. (The show was created at a time when it was often unclear what many TV dads did for a living.) Another unique feature of the series is its keenly insightful behind-the-scenes glimpse at a television comedy show. Carl Reiner, the show's creator and original writer, based many of the episodes on his experience as a writer for the comedy series Your Show of Shows. In fact, Reiner played the part of Rob Petrie in the pilot episode of the show (called Head of the Family). But Broadway star Dick Van Dyke so impressed the network brass that he was cast as the lead and the show was renamed.
To play Rob's wife, Mary Tyler Moore was plucked from the world of commercials and minor TV roles. The Dick Van Dyke Show made her a comedienne of the highest order and gave her ample opportunity to exhibit her dance training. Show business veterans Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam gave authenticity to the parts of Rob's writing partners Buddy and Sally. Richard Deacon was perfect as Mel Cooley, the producer and brother-in-law of the boss. (When these shows were produced, Richard Deacon simultaneously played Fred Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver. Carl Reiner ended up playing Alan Brady, the egotistical star for whom Rob worked. In the first few seasons, the character is heard but never seen. And his show, The Alan Brady Show, is also never seen, except once during the third season's Christmas episode.
The 2004 CBS special The Dick van Dyke Show Revisited reunited most of the cast for a scripted reunion in which present day Rob and Sally receive an assignment from Alan Brady to write his eulogy. The special also included clips from the original series.