Favorite TV Shows of the Past – Part 2 “The Bob Newhart Show”

This is going to be a rather long blog, the reason being, I LOVED The Bob Newhart Show and still watch it in reruns almost every night on ME TV! This show starred Bob Newhart as Bob Hartley a psychologist who deals with his patients and fellow co-workers, and his home life with his loving wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). Bob & Emily’s neighbor was Howard Borden, an airline navigator, played by Bill Daily. He is always popping in on Bob & Emily as he lives right next door in the same apartment building (I can hear him now, “Hi Bob! Hi Emily!) At the medical office where Bob has his psychology practice are Jerry Robinson, D.D.S.(Peter Bonerz), an orthodontist who shared the office suite, and their joke-loving receptionist, Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace).

The show had a wonderful theme song accompanying the opening start of each episode which starts with Bob answering a phone (a reference to his early stand-up routines featuring one-way phone conversations). This is followed by a false start, then by an extended bit of jazzy but hard-charging music accompanying Bob’s walk from his office to the elevated train that’ll take him home to his wife Emily. When the train pulls into the station and Bob gets on, the music downshifts drastically and becomes softer, a bit romantic, like a love theme, it ends with a shot of Emily greeting Bob at their apartment. (The title of the piece is “Home to Emily.”)

Now if we could go back aways, the first time I ever heard of Bob Newhart was when I was given a record album from my mom, it was a comedy record with Bob Newhart. The one comedy skit that stands out to me on that album was about a woman named Mrs. Webb, she was a lady just learning to drive and Bob was her instructor! Here is the skit…

THE DRIVING INSTRUCTOR by Bob Newhart

As I said there was a thing in the paper tonight about documentaries. And I’ve had an idea for a long time for what I think is a wonderful documentary which has everything. For instance, you go to work, you come home at night and you never really think about it. It’s mechanical, it’s routine. But there are a group of men who everyday, when they go to work, never know if that night they’ll return because they face death in a hundred different ways and I’m talking about America’s driving instructors. And I’d like to present the first episode in the new TV series “The Driving Instructor”. Now I’d like to have you picture, if you would, this is a car, I’m the driving instructor and seated next to me is a woman driver.

How do you do, you are Mrs. Webb, is that right? Oh, I see you’ve had one lesson already. Who was the instructor on that, Mrs. Webb? Mr. Adams. I’m sorry, here it is: Mr. Adams. Just let me read ahead to kind of familiarize myself with the case. How fast were you going when Mr. Adams jumped from the car? 75 (miles)! And where was that? In your driveway! How far had Mr. Adams gotten in the lesson? Backing out, I see, you were-backing out at 75 and that’s when he jumped. Did he cover starting the car? And the “other way of stopping”. What’s “the other way of stopping”? Throwing it in reverse. That … would do it. All right, you want to start the car? Mrs. Webb, you turned on the lights. You want to start the car. They all look alike, don’t they. I don’t know why they design them that way. All right, let’s pull out into traffic. What’s the first thing we are going to do before we pull out into traffic? What did Mr. Adams do before he let you pull out into traffic? Well, I mean besides praying, let’s say. No, what I had in mind was checking the rear view mirror. You see, we always want to check the rear view mirror. DON’T PULL OUT !!! Hahaha! Please don’t cry. I’m sorry, but there was this bus,

All right, the lane is clear now. You want to pull out? Oh, that wasn’t bad at all. You might try it a little slower next time. All right, let’s get up a bit more speed and gradually ease it into second. – Well, I didn’t want to cover reverse this early, but as long as you’ve shifted into it. Of course, you are nervous. I’m nervous. I’m not just saying that, I’m really very nervous. Well, just don’t pay any attention to their honking, you are doing fine. You are not blocking anyone’s lane. No, as long as you are here on the safety island you are not blocking anyone’s lane. All right, you want to start the car? While you are turning the lights off why don’t you turn off the heater? All right, there we are, let’s get up a bit of speed, that’s the way. Now, let’s practice some turns. The important thing on turns is not to make them too sharp, just to make a kind of gradual … Now that was fine. That was a wonderful turn. It’s hard for me to believe you’ve only had two lessons after you make a turn like … You’re sure you haven’t had more now? I find that very difficult to believe. One little thing: this is a one way street. Well, actually it was partially my fault, you see. But you were in the left-hand lane and you were signalling left and I just more or less assumed you were going to turn left. Same to you, .feller! No, I don’t know what he said, Mrs. Webb. All right, let’s pull up under the alley up there and practice little alley driving. This is something a lot of the schools leave out but we think it is pretty … YOU ARE GOING TOO FAST, MRS. WEBB !!! You were up around 60 (miles) and it’s kind of a sharp turn there. All right, just drive down the alley, that’s the way. Mrs. Webb, may be we better stop here. Well, I don’t think you are going to make it between the truck and the building. Mrs. Webb, I, I, Mrs. Webb, I don’t think, Mrs. Webb … I really … I really didn’t think you were going to make it. It just shows you we can be wrong, too. No, no I get out on your side, that’s all right. Mrs. Webb, maybe it might be a good idea if we went over to the driving area. They have a student driver area over a few blocks away and maybe traffic throws you, maybe that’s the problem. Well, turn here on the street, right. It’s only about a block … turn right here. Well, now that was my fault again, you see. I meant the next street. Not this man’s lawn. Sir, sir, would you mind turning off the sprinkler, – please. Newly seeded, is that right? That is always a way. isn’t it. Why, I don’t suppose it is so damned funny. All right, Mrs. Webb, you want to back out and get off the man’s … (creeping band?) is that right. Yeah, just back out, Mrs Webb. Thank you very much, sir, for … Oh, now we hit someone, Mrs. Webb! Remember you were going to watch the rear view mirror, remember? We covered that. The red light blinded you. The flashing red light blinded you? The flashing red light on the car you hit blinded you. Yes, officer, she was just telling me about it. All right, all right. Mrs. Webb, I’m going to have to go with the officer to the police-station. They don’t believe it and they’d like me to describe it and now the other officer is going to get into the car and he’s going to drive you back to the driving school and then you are to meet us at the police-station. My name is Frank Dexter, why do you ask? You want to be sure and get me next time!?

Now, honestly if you are just reading this and not hearing Bob Newhart narrate it, it just doesn’t do it justice and really isn’t quite as funny but anyways I wanted to share, sorry for the sidetrack there…

Back to The Bob Newhart Show, the show which aired 142 original episodes was filmed before a live audience. “Bob Newhart” was a quiet ground-breaker for its run from 1972-78 run on CBS. While “Mary Tyler Moore,” “All in the Family” and “MASH” soaked up the headlines for being convention-busting and envelope-pushing, Bob and Emily Hartley quietly shot scenes in bed together, with the emphasis on together. Those talking-in-bed scenes are some of “Bob Newhart’s” greatest moments.

Bob was such a wonderful character, his buttoned-down humor was the best! Bob was a successful Chicago psychologist who had many professional and personal misadventures, while balanced by his home life with wife Emily. Bob Newhart was funny when he wasn’t even trying to be, his expressions did it for me! His reactions came so easily to situations and did that so much so that they didn’t even need to write it into the script or tell him when to react he just did, so naturally, a true comedian/actor!

With Emily you could see what a confident, self-assured, independent woman she was, she not only was Bob’s wife but she was a professional working woman, a school teacher. A woman who had a very active and vibrant life outside their Chicago high-rise apartment. She didn’t run home to cook and clean for her shrink husband. Their marriage was very much a partnership.

Bob Hartley had some memorable patients which included mean-spirited and neurotic Elliot Carlin (Jack Riley), the milquetoast Marine veteran Emil Peterson (John Fiedler), and shy, reserved Lillian Bakerman (Florida Friebus), an elderly lady who spent most of her sessions knitting. Other patients included Renée Lippin (Michelle Nardo), Oliver Clark (Mr. Ed Herd), Noam Pitlik (Mr. Gianelli, remember this poor fellow, he was crushed to death by a truckload of zucchini!), Howard Hesseman who played Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati and schoolteacher Charlie Moore on Head of the Class.

Bob and Emily’s relatives and friends included Pat Finley as Ellen Hartley, Bob’s sister and Howard’s girlfriend. Martha Scott as Martha Hartley, Bob’s mother. Barnard Hughes as Herb Hartley, Bob’s father. John Randolph as Cornelius “Junior” Harrison, Jr., Emily’s father. Ann Rutherford as Aggie Harrison, Emily’s mother. Patricia Smith as Margaret Hoover, Emily’s friend. Tom Poston as Cliff “The Peeper” Murdock, Bob’s college friend from Vermont. Moosie Drier as Howie Borden, Howard’s son. Will Mackenzie as Larry Bondurant, Carol’s husband. Richard Schaal as Chuck Brock, a boyfriend of Carol’s. Jill Jaress as Mary Ellen, a girlfriend of Jerry’s. Gail Strickland as Courtney Simpson, a girlfriend of Jerry’s. Raúl Juliá as Dr. Greg Robinson, Jerry’s brother. Heather Menzies as Debbie Borden, Howard’s younger sister. William Redfield as Gordon Borden, the game warden, Howard’s brother.

Rimbau Medical Arts Center occupants included Larry Gelman as Dr. Bernie Tupperman, urologist. Howard Platt as Dr. Phil Newman, cosmetic surgeon. Shirley O’Hara as Debbie Flett, temp receptionist.Kristina Holland as Gail Bronson, Carol’s vacation replacement. Phillip R. Allen as Dr. Frank Walburn, another psychologist. Teri Garr as Miss Brennan, Dr. Walburn’s receptionist. 

Stars of The Bob Newhart Show Tidbits:

-Bob Newhart had a few TV series with his name as the title which included The Bob Newhart Show (1961), The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978), Newhart (1982-1990), Bob (1992-1993). He also was in such TV series as George & Leo as George Stoody, and ER as Ben Hollander.

-Suzanne Pleshette reprised her role of Emily Hartley in the memorable final episode of a subsequent comedy series, Newhart, in which viewers discovered that the entire series had been her husband Bob’s dream when he awakens next to Pleshette in the bedroom set from the earlier series. Some of her other TV credits include Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs, Nightingales as Christine Broderick, The Boys Are Back as Jackie Hansen, Good Morning, Miami as Claire Arnold, Will & Grace as Lois Whitley.

-Bill Daly is also best known for playing astronaut Roger Healey on I Dream of Jeannie. He has been on some TV series such as Aloha Paradise as Curtis Shea, Starting from Scratch as Dr. James Shepherd, ALF as Larry / Dr. Lawrence ‘Larry’ Dykstra

-Peter Bonerz’s first network television appearance was in 1965 on The Addams Family in the Season Two episode “Morticia, The Writer”. He has been on many TV series including Apple Pie, Archie Bunker’s Place, The Two of Us, Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs, E/R, Foley Square, ALF, The Thorns, My Sister Sam, True Colors, Flying Blind, Love & War, Wings, The Naked Truth. Murphy Brown, Friends, Home Improvement, The Hughleys, Good Morning, Miami, Joey.

-Marcia Wallace is the voice of Edna Krabappel on the animated series The Simpsons. She played Mrs. Carruthers in the TV series Full House and was on the soap opera The Young and the Restless in 2009 where she played Annie Wilkes.

-Jack Riley is the voice of Stu Pickles in Rugrats and All Grown Up! In 1985 he reprised his Bob Newhart Show role of Elliot Carlin on St. Elsewhere.

-John Fiedler was the voice of Piglet in Disney’s Winnie-the-Pooh productions and had a recurring role on Kolchak: The Night Stalker as morgue attendant Gordy “The Ghoul” Spangler.

-Florida Friebus played Winifred “Winnie” Gillis (the sympathetic mother of Dobie Gillis on the CBS sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis).

-Renée Lippin played Ida Gewertzman in the 1978 TV series Free Country and she played Linda Grincato in the1987 TV series Mariah.

-Oliver Clark played John Doe #6 on the NBC drama St. Elsewhere.

-Noam Pitlik appeared in various roles as American and German characters on the TV series Hogan’s Heroes.

-Howard Hesseman played Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati and schoolteacher Charlie Moore on Head of the Class.

-Pat Finley played Maggie Ralston on the TV series From a Bird’s Eye View and Peggy Becker on the TV series The Rockford Files (another favorite show of mine that starred the handsome James Garner).

-Martha Scott played Patricia Shepard, Sue Ellen and Kristin’s controlling mother on Dallas and Lee Majors’ mother on The Six Million Dollar Man. She was also a surrogate mother of sorts to Lindsay Wagner on The Bionic Woman.

-Barnard Hughes had a recurring role on All in the Family as a Roman Catholic priest, Father John Majeski and won an Emmy for his role as a senile judge on Lou Grant. He also was on soap operas Guiding Light and As the World Turns as well as a brief appearance in an early episode of Dark Shadows.

-John Randolph’s most famous film role was Chief Sidney Green in Serpico, he also played Donna Pescow’s father in-law on the television series, Angie.

-Ann Rutherford played Polly Benedict in the Andy Hardy series in the 1930s and 1940s. Ann also played Scarlett O’Hara’s younger sister, Carreen, in the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind.

-Patricia Smith played Sylvia Bayles in The Twilight Zone episode Long Distance Call (Season 2 – episode 22); as Norma Bartlett in The Fugitive episode “Goodbye my Love” in 1967.

-Tom Poston played George Utley, bumbling country handyman of the Stratford Inn, on Newhart along side his longtime real-life pal Bob Newhart, they also appeared together in the 1971 comedy film Cold Turkey.

-Moosie Drier first role was as a deaf boy in two 1972 episodes of Lassie. He was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In from the middle of season three to the final season in 1973, hosting a “Kid News for Kids” segment. He played Riley on the children’s television program Kids Incorporated from 1983–1988.

-Will Mackenzie directed the 1989 romantic comedy Worth Winning which starred the dashing Mark Harmon, Madeleine Stowe and Lesley Ann Warren.

-Richard Schaal had a recurring role in Just Our Luck as Chuck and was featured in several episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and Phyllis.

-Jill Jaress played Ginny Loomis in the TV series The New People and was on the soap opera Passions as Mildred.

-Gail Strickland played nurse practitioner Marilyn McGrath in the 1988 TV series HeartBeat. She was on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman from 1993-94 as the character Olive Davis.

-Raúl Juliá played Miguel Garcia on the soap opera Love of Life in 1969. He also played Rafael on the children’s show Sesame Street in 1971-1972.

-Heather Menzies played Jessica on the TV series Logan’s Run.

-William Redfield played the title role in the DuMont series Jimmy Hughes, Rookie Cop in 1953. He is best known as Floyd, the younger brother of Felix Unger (played by Tony Randall), on The Odd Couple.

-Larry Gelman played Vinnie, the poker playing friend of Oscar and Felix, in The Odd Couple.

-Howard Platt played “Officer Hopkins”, or “Hoppy” in the hit NBC-TV comedy series Sanford and Son from 1973-1977.

-Shirley O’Hara was on TV shows such as Have Gun – Will Travel, Gunsmoke, My Three Sons, Marcus Welby, M.D. and Mannix.

-Kristina Holland had a recurring role in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father as Tina Rickles, Tom Corbett’s secretary, and as the voice of Alice Boyle in the animated series Wait Till Your Father Gets Home.

-Phillip R. Allen played Roy Turne in the TV series The Bad News Bears.

-Teri Garr’s first speaking role in a motion picture was a one-line appearance as a damsel in distress in the 1968 Monkees film, Head, written by Jack Nicholson.

-Actor Peter Bonerz who played Jerry the dentist learned how to direct on the set of this show and went on to become an award-winning director of other comedy series.

 

More Tidbits about the show/actors:

-A popular drinking game was invented by college students during the run of the show. Whenever someone on the show says, “Bob,” each player had to take a drink. If someone said “Hi, Bob,” you had to guzzle your drink.

-Suzanne Pleshette was cast after she appeared by accident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson seated next to Bob Newhart. Producers thought she and Bob clicked together and asked her to read for the show. Her third husband in real-life was Tom Poston, himself a guest starrer on “Bob Newhart” and a co-star of Newhart’s 1980s CBS sitcom “Newhart”

-Over the course of the series, the phrase, “Hi, Bob” was said 256 times. Howard Borden (Bill Daily) said it a total of 118 times. Dr. Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz) logged 43. Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace): 36 times and Emily Hartley (Suzanne Pleshette): 17 times. Minor characters or guest stars said it 43 times, and Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) even said it once himself.

-Bill Quinn, the actor who played the recurring role of the mailman for Bob Hartley’s office building, was Newhart’s father-in-law in real life.

-Even though Bob Newhart didn’t want there to be children turning his show into a family sitcom, Emily Hartley did announced that she was pregnant during a show that turned out to be one of Bob’s nightmares.

-Bob Newhart and Peter Bonerz are the only cast members to appear in all 142 episodes of the show.

“The Bob Newhart Show” on the closing scene of “Newhart”

“The Bob Newhart Show” would have one more famous moment in the sun, in the closing scene of the star’s subsequent CBS comedy “Newhart.” He awoke in a familiar-looking bedroom to tell his wife — who turned out to be Suzanne Pleshette as Emily — that he’d just had “the strangest dream” about owning a Vermont inn, which was the premise of that entire series.

Bob Newhart is quoted as saying “They had a floater, which is a screen in front of the set where the next scene is coming up. We pulled it away, and it was the bedroom … and people started applauding the set, even without knowing Suzie or I were in the bed. I was surprised by that reaction.

“Some shows get knocked for their finales,” Newhart notes, “but we had another show we could refer to. To me, that was always a Monty Python moment, a wink and a nudge of, ‘Hey, you know what we’re doing here.'”

“The Bob Newhart Show” holds a reunion love-in at Paley Center in 2007, here is just a little of that interview with Bob Newhart, Suzanne Pleshette, Marcia Wallace, Bill Daily, Jack Riley and helmer Dick Martin:

“We loved each other very much for the qualities (in the other) that we didn’t have,” Pleshette observed of the Bob and Emily characters.”We were opposites… And there was obvious sexual energy between us…” (Right on cue Newhart interjected, dryly, “I don’t remember that.”) “We were a bright couple, we were a working couple….We were fabulous,” says Pleshette.

Pleshette even made a point of expressing to the crowd “how much joy I had working with (Newhart).” She confessed to watching him do the audience warm up each week and marveling at his easy manner and utterly unique approach to humor. Working with for six seasons was like watching a master magician hone his craft. It didn’t matter that she knew how he pulled off most of his tricks, she was in awe of his talent “every time I walked out with Bob Newhart, and I still feel it today,” she gushed. (Once again, Newhart didn’t miss his cue. “I didn’t know you were listening” to the warm ups, he said sheepishly.)

Bill Daily picked up the thread, observing that one strength of the cast was that “everybody had their own kind of humor.” Newhart was, well, Newhart. Peter Bonerz was Jerry the skirt-chasing Peter Pan. Wallace as the sassy, man-hungry secretary Carol was all her own (“She was kind of a tramp,” Wallace admitted), as were the supporting characters. “Nobody was trying to outdo each other on the show. Everybody had their own thing going.” “And right down to the guy making the coffee, it was the best bunch of people,” Daily said. (This time, it was Riley’s cue. “I never felt the warmth and the magic,” he muttered, just as the eternally morose Mr. Carlin would have.)

 
This show was by far my most favorite comedy series of all time! Such a great cast and the humor was fun, it makes me laugh every time I watch it! I hope you enjoyed this blog and stay tuned for another stroll down memory lane with some other all-time great TV shows of the past!

 

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