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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bob Newhart: Season 1
Bob Newhart: Season 1
Fox // Unrated // April 12, 2005
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted April 5, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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In a nutshell: A classic 70's sitcom, still as funny today as when it first aired.

The Show:

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 yourselves?"

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.

The DVD:

This set contains all 24 episodes from the first season on three double sided discs.


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 seen.


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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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