Reviewed by Ilene Cooper
Definitive is a much-abused word, especially in subtitles, but this time it's used properly. The author of Classic Sitcoms, Waldron combines nostalgia with substance, offering not only the expected stills, plot summaries, and backstage anecdotes, but also some fascinating commentary on what made the Dick Van Dyke Show unique in television history.

Drawing extensively on the recollections of the show's creator, principal writer, and producer, Carl Reiner, Waldron argues that the saga of Rob, Laura, Buddy, and Sally took the sitcom genre in a new direction, away from complete reliance on I Love Lucy-like slapstick and toward a more reality-based version of comedy. Reiner, in fact, was famous for his obsession with "realies," carefully observed snippets of reality: "How do you use that rubber thing on the end of a toothbrush?" he once asked. "Put that in the show."

Put it in the show they did--and with enough frequency to create a timelessness rare in television of any kind. The show's fans already span multiple generations, and there's no end in sight as long as the reruns keep coming, and Rob keeps tripping over (or sidestepping) that confounded ottoman.

Definitive show, definitive book.