Friday, July 24, 2015

The Petries' Fourth Wall

These two photographs from the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show are fascinating, troubling, and, in many senses of the word, revealing:



I coveted reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show when I was a kid—I still do—marveling as so many did at the cool, beatific state of the Petries' marriage and their chill suburban lifestyle, There was something preternaturally calming and dependable about their fictional lives, and to see the "fourth wall" removed momentarily baffles.

Fictional homes and apartments fascinate us. Several years ago a blogger who goes by the name of "Don" interrogated Rob and Laura's home, wondering—as I had—on the rooms and hallways that were never shown. (Read his other terrific posts on "148 Bonnie Meadow Road" and "The Curious Geometry of the Petrie House" here and here.) Famously, Mark Bennett in his book TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes meticulously drew up blueprints of fictional TV residences. Here, in all of its verisimilitude, is the Petries' house:



Images of the audience, of directors and cameras and thick cables and stage lights: they subvert this kind of loving, if obsessive and borderline fetishistic, imagination. I have homes on the mind these days, and I look at these photos—narrative idealizing scolded by reality—with a certain amount of melancholy.

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