Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Written in 1976 and staged on Broadway the following year, D.L. Coburn's two-character play The Gin Game was first televised in 1981 with the play's stars Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy repeating their roles as a pair of oil-and-water residents in a dismal nursing home. This 2003 remake, produced for PBS, pulls off the spectacular clue of reuniting Dick Van Dyke Show stars Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, casting them in parts that are as different from Rob and Laura Petrie as it is possible to get without traveling to another planet. Van Dyke plays Weller Martin, an irascible oldster who considers the day wasted if he doesn't fill the air with the foulest language imaginable. Not surprisingly, Weller gets along with no one at the home -- which would suit him fine if he wasn't a gin-rummy addict. Enter Fonsia Dorsey (Moore), a prim, proper senior citizen who has only two things in common with Weller: She has been effectively abandoned by her family, and she loves playing cards. Inevitably, the mismatched duo embarks upon a series of spirited gin games, punctuated by terse verbal combat, at least one physical assault, and, ultimately, a touching display of tenderness and concern. For those PBS outlets whose viewers were not prepared to hear and see two TV icons swearing like sailors and striking one another, the network prepared a "clean" version of The Gin Game, where at least the language was toned down (if not the play's original bite and bitterness).