1 9 8 2 – 1 9 9 0 (USA)
182 x 30 minute episodes
In this series, Newhart played Dick Loudon, a writer of informational “how-to” books who moved from New York to Norwich, Vermont, with his smart, funny, and sexy wife Joanna (Mary Frann) to realise his dream of running a country hotel – the 200-year-old Stratford Inn.
As with Newhart’s previous comedies, there were numerous quirky supporting characters. Tom Poston (who had been a frequent guest on the earlier show) was the inn’s sweet-natured but unhandy handyman, George Utley, and Julia Duffy played the vain, lazy and spoiled Stephanie Vanderkellen, an heiress working as a maid – who replaced her less interesting cousin, Leslie (Jennifer Holmes), after the first season.
Stephanie’s boyfriend, Michael Harris (Peter Scolari), was an insufferable 1980s yuppie and producer of a local TV show, Vermont Today, which Dick began hosting a few years into Newhart’s run.
Dick and Joanna’s neighbour, Kirk Devane (Steven Kampmann), who owns the Minuteman Cafe and Souvenir Shop next door, was a habitual liar.
Perhaps the most memorable, and certainly the most unusual, characters were three bizarre backwoodsmen, of whom only one ever spoke (until the final episode).
“I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl,” was their stock introduction. They could always be counted upon to enjoy any activity that would disgust most people.
The show, like Newhart’s earlier sitcom, weeded out weak characters and developed the strong ones as it went along.
Newhart closed its successful eight-year run with one of the best final episodes of any series.
Everyone in town sold their property to a Japanese corporation, and the finale included a parody of Fiddler on the Roof, and ended with Newhart waking up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette and explaining that he’d had a very strange dream (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the famous 1986-87 season of Dallas.)
Sadly, Mary Frann died in 1998 at the age of 55.
Cindy Parker Devane