Reviewed by Bruce Fretts
Most companion volumes to TV series are cut-and-paste exercises in nostalgia, slapping together plot summaries and publicity photos with random bits of backstage trivia. So it's a pleasure to report that The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book: The Definitive History and Ultimate Viewer's Guide to Television's Most Enduring Comedy is actually a good read.

Author Vince Waldron weaves all the minutiae you ever wanted to know about the still-sturdy 1961-66 showbiz sitcom into a compelling 300-page narrative, then adds an 80-page episode directory. And there are plenty of pictures. Among the nuggets Waldron mines: The show's pilot was called Head of the Family, starred creator Carl Reiner as Robert Petrie (pronounced PEE-trie), and was financed by Peter Lawford (who sent the script to Joseph P. Kennedy for approval); when the series was recast, Van Dyke worried that Mary Tyler Moore was too young to play comedy writer Rob Petrie's wife, Laura (he was 35; she was 24); while rehearsing the episode in which Laura gets her toe stuck in a faucet, Moore stormed off the set because she wanted to be on camera more (and because she was cranky from trying to kick her Pall Mall habit).

In typically thorough fashion, Waldron doesn't just tell us about the actors who played Petrie's fellow Alan Brady Show scribes, Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) and Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam). He tells us who inspired the characters (Reiner's fellow Your Show of Shows vets Selma Diamond, Lucille Kallen, and Mel Brooks) and who played them in the pilot (Sylvia Miles and Morty Gunty)...Waldron waltzes through the series' story as gracefully as Van Dyke sidestepped his living room ottoman. (A-)