Jerry Van Dyke And Dick Van Dyke On ‘The Middle’: Story Of Brother’s Last On-Screen Appearance

The late Jerry Van Dyke and his older brother Dick Van Dyke always had a complicated relationship. Yet, in 2015, when the two appeared on The Middle as estranged brothers — which turned out to be their last time on television together, they created TV magic by portraying complicated siblings. How did the Van Dyke brothers end up performing together on The Middle and what did they have to say about this episode?

Back in 2015, Eileen Heisler, creator and executive producer of The Middle, spoke to the Los Angeles Times and explained that for years, they wanted to have Dick Van Dyke guest star on the ABC comedy.

Jerry Van Dyke already had a regular role on the show as Frankie Heck’s (Patricia Heaton) cantankerous father Tag Spence, Dick would be a fun bonus.

Her wish eventually came true because Jerry, who had been staying at Dick’s home in Malibu, had an idea for an episode. Over 50 years ago, the two real-life brothers had previously played brothers on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Why not do the same on The Middle?

Heisler knew that the relationship between the two brothers was unusual. In real life, there was a sort of competition between the brothers. Dick, six years older than Jerry, started out as the big star, and eventually Jerry followed in his footsteps. Jerry was often compared to his older brother, always in the shadow of Mary Poppins star Dick.

“We always sort of knew that Dick and Jerry had an old funny relationship. They are very different personalities. Our show is all about family dynamics. We wanted to make it a fun thing about a brothers’ dynamic that didn’t change no matter how old you are.”

Those family dynamics in this case was the special bond between siblings, and they always know those stories that no one else does. This is what was “discussed” between Heisler and Jerry.

“Your sibling is your partner for life. They are the ones who have all your stories.”

The plot for “Two of a Kind” was around a family feud. Jerry, who played Tag, Frankie’s father, has had a longstanding feud with his older brother Uncle Dutch (Dick Van Dyke).

After years of silence, Uncle Dutch had sent Tag a letter to try to reconcile, but Tag won’t have any of it. Eventually, they end up meeting on neutral ground, the Heck’s house.

Naturally, Frankie thinks she can reunite the brothers again, while husband Mike (Neil Flynn) can’t see it ever happening.

Frankie and the kids are delighted in the charming Uncle Dutch, while poor Mike is yet again, stuck sitting with the bitter Tag.

The two brothers bickered over age, vitality and youth. Before seeing Dutch, Tag was convinced that his older brother was going to be fragile and elderly. After watching a spry Dutch do a soft shoe, Tag claims the cane he is holding is Mike’s. He is not about to seem more elderly than his older brother!

When all hope of a reconciliation was lost, the two, left alone by the exasperated Hecks, end up singing a song “Two of a Kind” that they once sung in variety show during their youth. At the end of the episode, there is still some of that old animosity, but they have an understanding. The relationship was healed.

Heisler explained that the table read before filming was “hushed,” as the cast watched the two classic actors work their magic.

While speaking to the L.A. Times, the two brothers jokingly bickered a bit about their real-life relationship. Jerry believed that working on The Middle was “important” to their relationship.

“We are becoming closer. I’m really getting to know him better at this age.”

Dick added that the two became closer because they were “working together more.” The two had also been paired up in The Sunshine Boys in Texas and California a few years prior to The Middle. They were spending a lot of time together!

Jerry always had to have the “last laugh,” and made a joke about his brother being friendlier now because Dick thought he was going to lose Jerry.

“The nicer he is to me, the more I think he thinks I’m going to die.”

The Middle episode entitled “Two Of A Kind” was the last time Jerry Van Dyke worked with his brother, and it was the last time he was on the ABC show. His health had been going downhill since a car accident around the time of the filming of this episode. Jerry Van Dyke died on Friday at his Arkansas ranch.

Patricia Heaton posted a loving tribute to the man who so hysterically played her grumpy father.

“Much love to my wonderful TV dad #jerryvandyke and condolences to my TV dad-in-law #dickvandyke. Jerry, you were hilarious and terrifically talented – what an honor to be able to watch up close as you and your brother create your special magic. Rest In Peace Jerry…”

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