1 9 7 2 – 1 9 7 8 (USA)
142 x 30 minute episodes
The Bob Newhart Show made its debut on 16 September 1972 and completed its original run on 26 August 1978.
The show was part of a highly rated Saturday night of adult comedies on CBS in the USA and was produced by the same creative team as The Mary Tyler Moore Show (which was also part of the winning lineup).
One time accountant, comedian Bob Newhart starred in this, his second TV series about successful Chicago psychiatrist, Dr Hartley.
Bob Hartley lived with his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), a school teacher, at the highrise Thorndale Beach Apartments, 5901-5855 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, Illinois. He worked from his office at the Rampo Medical Arts Building.
Regulars included neighbour Howard Borden (Bill Daily), a divorced airline navigator for EDS (European Delivery Service) who hated pilots and had an annoying habit of barging into their apartment without knocking; Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz), the bachelor orthodontist that shared Bob’s office space; sharp-witted and saucy receptionist Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace) who Bob also shared with Jerry; and a colourful cast of crazies whom Bob treated.
The regular patients, defined by their specific quirks, developed and grew throughout the show’s long run. They had problems ranging from ordinary, everyday neuroses to homosexuality to extreme paranoia.
The patient who appeared most regularly – and the one with the biggest problems – was Elliot (Jack Riley), without doubt, one of the most neurotic individuals ever seen on television.
He was completely lacking in self-confidence, had a persecution complex, and was forever putting himself down.
Emily began as a substitute teacher at Gorman Elementary School, became a full-time teacher and moved up to vice principal at Tracy Grammar School. Carol married travel agent Larry Bondurant and also tried out some other careers, but always came back to Bob and Jerry.
Howard was engaged for a time to Bob’s sister Ellen (Pat Finley), a newspaper reporter, but she went out of his life and off the show when she moved to Cleveland for a better job – and after she had a flirtation with Howard’s visiting brother, game warden, Gordon Borden (William Redfield).
The show made creative use of some running gags: Bob’s one-sided telephone conversations (which had been a popular part of his stand-up act) which were worked into every episode; his habit of trying to explain situations by using analogies no one understood; and his bedtime conversations with Emily, as each would turn back on the light and make one more comment.
The Bob Newhart Show was the forerunner to two of Newhart’s other sitcoms, Newhart and Bob. All three were vehicles for Bob Newhart’s buttoned-down comic persona.
A top-notch supporting cast served as an excellent balance to Newhart’s low-key sensibility.
The show also inadvertently spawned a unique drinking game called “Hi Bob!!”.
The Bob Newhart show is fondly remembered and there have been several tributes to its enduring popularity.
Marcia Wallace made a guest appearance on Taxi as the dream date of cabby Jim Ignatowski, who had nearly memorised every episode of The Bob Newhart Show. Many members of the creative staff of Taxi had begun their careers at MTM Productions, the company that produced The Bob Newhart Show.
Newhart also reprised Dr Hartley on a Saturday Night Live segment in the 1990s, with Hartley being the only voice of reason on a talk-show panel.
And when TV character Murphy Brown (as part of a continuing joke on the show of the same name) was finally assigned a competent secretary, it was again Marcia Wallace, playing Carol. At the end of the episode, Newhart showed up as Bob Hartley and, after reducing himself to begging, won her back from Murphy.
Suzanne Pleshette died of respiratory failure in January 2008 at her Los Angeles home. She was 70 years old. She had chemotherapy for lung cancer in 2006.
Dr Bob Hartley
Carol Kester Bondurant
Dr Bernie Tupperman