In a nutshell: A classic
70's sitcom, still as funny today as when it first aired.
Bob Newhart was working as bookkeeper for a Chicago advertising company
and living in his parent's basement when he started writing stand-up comedy
routines. He recorded some of these at home, and lent the tapes to
a friend. Eventually a talent scout heard these tapes and based on
their strength, signed Newhart to a recording contract. His first
album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was a phenomenal success.
It was the first comedy album to ever reach #1 on the Billboard charts.
His follow-up recording, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, also
did extremely well, with those two albums holding the first and second
slots in the charts for an amazing eight months.
After an aborted attempt at a TV show in 1961, Bob Newhart had little
interest in staring in another show. When David Davis and Lorenzo
Music, writers for the Mary Tyler Moore Show, presented him with
a script about a mild mannered psychologist and his trials and tribulations,
he agreed to star in the show, and The Bob Newhart Show was born.
In case you have managed to miss seeing this funny and intelligent comedy
during its oridinal run or any of the frequent re-runs, Bob Newhart stars
as Bob Hartley, a psychologist who lives with his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette)
in Chicago. His life is filled with treating his neurotic patients,
and dealing with his equally necrotic co-workers and neighbors.
This comedy was different from others that were on the air. Bob
wasn't the goofy father, who had to be extricated from some mess every
week. Newhart refused to let Bob and Emily have children for just
that reason. (In the sixth season of the show, the writers came up
with a plot in which Emily gets pregnant. When asked what he thought
of the script, Newhart replied "It's very funny. Who are you going
to get to play Bob?") It is a more intelligent type of comedy, with
humor arising out of plausible situations, rather than the usual contrived
plots that sitcoms usually generate. One of my favorite shows in
this first season has Emily trying to get people to visit the elementary
school class that she teaches for 'career day.' Bob is insulted that
she doesn't ask him, but she explains that what a psychologist does would
be too hard for eight year olds to grasp. When someone cancels at
the last minute, Bob steps in and has a horrible time in class. Not
because the children were smart-alecs throwing out witty lines of banter,
but because it is hard to describe what a psychologist is in second grade
terms. "How many of you know yourselves? I mean, really know
I enjoyed this show when it was first on the air, though I haven't seen
an episode in years. I was very pleased to discover that this is
one of the few sitcoms to really stand the test of time. Though the
hair styles, fashions, and furnishings are a little dated, the show is
still as funny as it was when it was first broadcast. I laughed several
times in every show, something that doesn't happen with most sitcoms.
The program is very low keyed, yet it had a healthy mix of satire and
humor with a little sarcasm thrown in. Bob was an everyman type of
character, someone the audience could relate to. A lot of his
problems weren't all his doing, but you could see how he contributed to
the messes he found himself in.
Like silent comedian great Buster Keaton, Newhart met most problems
and difficulties with a dead-pan reaction. These were more effective
at showing his thoughts (not to mention more humorous) than if he ran around
the room waving his arms in the air. Newhart often has long pauses
in his delivery when someone asks him a difficult or embarrassing question.
This almost forces the viewer to imagine what they would say in that situation,
and Bob's reply is always more bizarre and off the wall than anything I'd
come up with. Odd, but realistic and believable.
This show really had an ensemble cast, with all of the supporting characters
doing an outstanding job. Suzanne Pleshette played Bob's wife wonderfully,
making her his equal. She wasn't a dingbat air-head, nor was she
the one always solving his problems. She was his partner, and though
they occasionally fought (like in the hilarious episode Don't Go to
Bed Mad) one never dominated the other.
Other cast members include Bill Daily, well known for his role as Major
Roger Healy in I Dream of Jeanie, who plays Bob's always hungry
neighbor Howard, Marcia Wallace as the receptionist Carol and Peter Bonerz
(sound like the name of a porno star doesn't it?) who plays the orthodontist
with an office next to Bob's Jerry Robinson. My favorite supporting
member though is one of Bob's patients, Eliot Carlin magnificently played
by Jack Riley. This morose, terminally depressed man had a quick
tongue capable of flinging out the most hilarious insults, backhanded compliments,
and bizarre observations. The fact that he always talked in
a monotone just added to the characters appeal. You'd never think
that something funny would come out of the mouth of such a loser.
Riley managed to steal just about every scene he was in, and was a regular
character for the full run of the show.
This set contains all 24 episodes from the first season on three double
The show is presented with English and Spanish audio tracks, both in
two channel mono. Originally airing on TV in the 70's, the soundtrack
isn't dynamic or exciting, but it gets the job done. The dialog is
clear, and the show sounds very good for a show this old.
The full frame video is also looks very good for a show over 30 years
old. There is a small amount of grain to the picture, and the occasional
piece of dirt, but overall the image is clear and clean. They did
a good job encoding the shows too. With only four episodes on most
sides, there is plenty of room on the disc and digital defects are rarely
Unfortunately, there are no extras on this set. Bob Newhart has
said that he'd love to contribute commentaries and interviews, and I presume
that Fox is testing the waters with this first season. Hopefully
if this set sells well future seasons will include more bonus features.
Ironically, The Bob Newhart Show gained critical acclaim throughout
its entire run, but never won an Emmy award. Now the show is often
eclipsed by some of the other great 70's sitcoms like All in the Family,
The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and MASH, but The Bob Newhart
Show is just as funny and intelligent as its more famous contemporaries.
The show has aged very well, and each episodes contains a lot of laughter.
No collection of quality TV shows would be complete without this gem of
a show. Highly Recommended.