The Bob Newhart Show

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Hi, Bob!...& Carol & Jerry & Emily & Howard!

A Sitcom that aired on CBS from 1972-1978 and was the forerunner to two of Bob Newhart's other sitcoms, Newhart and Bob!. It was a top-rated success at the time, and has quietly earned classic status since. Produced by David Davis and Lorenzo Music as a deliberate complement to The Mary Tyler Moore Show (an established hit produced by the same studio, MTM Enteprises, and immediately preceding it in CBS' Saturday-night lineup), it shared much the same format: drop a bunch of wacky character actors into a professional setting and hire an established star as their Straight Man.

At the time Newhart was one of comedy's hottest stars, renowned for his dryly understated standup persona. Who better to field the role of an uptight psychologist than the guy whose biggest hit album was The Button-Down Mind?

The premise revolves around well-respected Chicago shrink Dr. Bob Hartley and his strong, sexy schoolteacher wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) -- as one critic put it, a marriage of two people who're convinced the rest of the world is crazy, and have agreed to keep an eye on one another. It's a wise precaution: Surrounded by neurotics, depressives and other mentally unstable people both in private life and at his psychology practice, Bob has plenty of opportunity to underreact.

To further the cause Newhart's trademark 'telephone' routine, in which he valiantly holds down one end of an increasingly surreal conversation, is worked into every episode. Other recurring opportunities included needy neighbor Howard's habit of dropping in at very odd hours (he was an airline pilot) and the standard closing scene, featuring Bob and Emily in bed, talking over the events of that episode and more often than not dueling for the last word.

A distinctively veteran supporting cast -- including Pleshette, Bill Daily (as Howard, the friendly but somewhat addle-headed airline navigator who lived next door to the Hartleys), Peter Bonerz (Jerry, the swinging-single orthodontist from the clinic office next door), Marcia Wallace (Carol, the hyper-competent secretary they share) and Jack Riley (Bob's uber-patient Elliott Carlin) -- serve as fine foils. Carol even made it onto an episode of Murphy Brown years later, as one of Murphy's few plausible secretaries-of-the-week, who leaves when Bob comes back to beg her to return to the Chicago office ("Jerry has made a mess of his appointments!").

Not surprisingly Newhart referenced it most frequently, and memorably; in an episode where Dick and his wife go to a counselor, they meet the doctor's previous patient, Jack Riley as Mr. Carlin (the doctor says that he's got a lot of work ahead of him there, "due to some quack in Chicago"). And in Newhart's final episode, one of the most famous in TV history, the entire series is revealed to be a dream of Bob Hartley's -- from which he awakens in his original bedroom set, next to Suzanne Pleshette.

This was actually the second show Newhart did that was called The Bob Newhart Show. The first was a Variety Show that aired for one season from October 1961 to June 1962.

Tropes used in The Bob Newhart Show include:
  • Absentee Actor: Part of Newhart's deal for doing one last season was that he could take some episodes off. The sixth season has five episodes where Bob is out of town and doesn't appear except for a pre-filmed sequence on the phone.
  • The Alcoholic: Carol, although its played for laughs with her getting tipsy at work after lunches and making Irish Coffee for the Office Christmas parties.
  • Alliterative Family: More rhyming than alliteration. Howard Borden had a brother: Gordon Borden the game warden. Later, Emily told Bob about Howard's other brother: Norman Borden the Mormon doorman (it didn't take him long to guess that she'd made that brother up).
  • All Just a Dream: Most of the episode "You're Having My Hartley" turned out to be a dream.
  • Amicable Exes: Howard and his ex-wife.
  • Berserk Button: If Bob BBQs a steak for you, do not put ketchup on it.
  • Bucket Booby Trap: Subverted. Emily and the Peeper's wife rig up one of these for Bob and the Peeper, but it remains balanced atop the door when each of them comes inside.
  • Catch Phrase: "Hi, Bob!"
  • Christmas Episode: One each season, in fact.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The show devoted quite a few episodes to Bob's sister Ellen (Pat Finley) and her romance with Howard, but shortly after getting engaged to Howard in Season 4, she disappeared from the show and was never mentioned again.
    • Margaret Hoover, a neighbor seen in a few Season 1 episodes, was introduced as a friend for Emily but vanished without a trace.
  • Cute Kitten: Mimsie, the MTM Enterprises Vanity Plate.
    • In one episode Mimsie is replaced with a cat featured in that story.
  • Deadpan Snarker: A Newhart trademark. The supporting characters (especially Emily and Mr. Carlin) often responded in kind.
  • Distant Finale: The final scene of Bob Newhart's next series, Newhart, revealed that the events of Newhart were all a dream that Bob Hartley had one night.
  • The Ditz: Howard.
  • Drop-In Character: Howard.
  • The Eponymous Show
  • Everything's Better with Bob
  • Failure Is the Only Option: No matter how many breakthroughs Bob has with his regular patients, they never even come close to getting better. Lampshaded in an episode where Bob becomes frustrated at his lack of progress with Mr. Carlin.
    • Also lampshaded in a Christmas Episode in which Bob's gift to Mr Peterson was that he was cured and Bob was "letting him go free". Mr Peterson was less than thrilled.
  • Flanderization: Howard was originally supposed to be the show's representative of divorced men, in contrast to married Bob and single Jerry. As the show went on, he became defined mostly by his stupidity and immaturity, until by the end he was Too Dumb to Live.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Jerry's post-retirement quest to locate his birth parents.
  • Freudian Couch
  • Grand Finale: "Happy Trails to You", which has Bob and Emily leaving Chicago after Bob gives up his practice to accept a teaching position at a college in Oregon...a move which was conveniently ignored for the Newhart finale and subsequent reunion special.
    • Not necessarily. Maybe they came back, because the small-town college experience was too goofy for words, thus providing much of the material for the subsequent dream? The later Murphy Brown cameo supports this idea too.
  • Happily Married
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: "Home to Emily", composed by series co-producer (and future Garfield voice) Lorenzo Music with his wife Henrietta. Two different arrangements were used over the course of the show's run.
    • Referenced in an episode of Taxi in which Jim Ignatowski - a big Bob Newhart Show fan - finds himself set up on a date with Marcia Wallace playing herself. He insists on regaling her with the lyrics he's composed for the theme:

Jim: Here comes Bob and Carol/His wife Emily really likes him/He has five people in his group...(repeat)

  • Locked in a Room: Bob and Emily spend the Bicentennial Fourth stuck in their building's storage room.
  • Man Child: Howard is this through and through, more childish than his young son. The show frequently hints that Bob and Emily see him as the child they never had.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: Deliberately subverted. Newhart's response when the producers told him that 'Bob & Emily were going to have a baby' that season has passed into legend: "Sounds great. Now, who are you going to get to play Bob?"
  • Miniseries: In one episode Howard wants to watch a show called Sick Man, Well Man (Rich Man, Poor Man).
  • Newhart Phonecall: Natch.
  • Notable Commercial Campaigns:
    • In one episode Howard blames his divorce from his Stewardess wife on the fact that "the skies got a little too friendly".
    • In the hostage episode Howard excitedly exclaims "The Colonel's got breasts!", a parody on a then current KFC ad.
  • Only Sane Man: Bob on occasion, though not nearly to the extent that Dick Loudon was on Newhart.
  • Parental Abandonment: Jerry was raised in an orphanage, and one season 5 episode involves his efforts to locate his natural parents.
  • Peking Duck Christmas: Or, in this case, Moo Goo Gai Pan Thanksgiving.
  • Pie in the Face: When "The Peeper" comes to visit, Bob tries to nail him with this as he comes in the door...and gets his new wife instead. Then the Peeper hits Bob with a pie of his own.
    • Also featured in the final Christmas Episode entitled "'Twas the Pie Before Christmas" in which Mr Carlin puts a hit out on Bob ... with a professional pie thrower.
  • Post Script Season: Newhart originally planned to stop the show after the fifth season, so the writers all took new jobs and wrote a Grand Finale where Emily and Bob would finally become parents. Then Newhart agreed to come back for one more year, so the episode became All Just a Dream and a sixth season was produced with an entirely new team of writers.
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Naturally employed with Bob's phone conversations.
  • Reunion Show: A 1991 special had Bob and his friends analyzing his crazy Vermont dream.
  • Running Gag / Once Per Episode: Bob and Emily would be in bed, one of them would say something, shut off the light, then the other would turn their light on and continue the conversation. Became a Brick Joke in the final episode of Newhart.
  • Sassy Secretary: Carol.
  • Shout-Out: The episode "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" pays tribute to The Sting with an "Entertainer"-ish version of the theme music and scene titles like "The Deal" and "The Fuse".
  • Shown Their Work: Subtly. Newhart insisted that his character be a psychologist (i.e. therapist), not a psychiatrist, as he didn't want to poke fun at serious mental illnesses.
  • The Shrink: Bob.
  • Sit Comic
  • Snowed In: One Christmas episode has Bob trapped at the office by a blizzard.
  • Talking in Bed
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Mr Peterson and Doris.
  • The Tonsillitis Episode: "Bob Has to Have His Tonsils Out, So He Spends Christmas Eve in the Hospital".
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Played with in Universe....Robert Hartly quite possibly could be the first sitcom character to own a VCR (given to him by an ex-convict patient).
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette, a gorgeous ex-movie star, were famously mismatched in looks, though this was rarely commented on in the show itself. It was however lampshaded in a very early episode:

Emily: Bob, I never went for tall, good-looking guys. That's why I married you.

  • Wacky Guy: Mr. Carlin and Howard.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: When Howard sees a therapist and gets cured of his dependency on Bob and Emily, the Hartleys do everything they can to bring the old Howard back and make him helplessly dependent on them again.
    • Justified in that the therapy has given Howard an entirely new personality that's even more unhealthy than his old one.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: When Carol first meets Howard in "Bob and Emily and Howard and Carol and Jerry", he's come from a dentist appointment and the drugs haven't worn off, so he's uncharacterically serene and poetic. This makes a good impression on Carol, who decides she wants to go out with him. On the date, Howard is back to his old self, leading to a disastrous date that causes Carol to change her mind about him and start avoiding him. When Howard finally figures out what's going on and calls her on it, they briefly argue, but then both decide that they love each other after all and run off to take a trip together. No mention is ever made of this again, nor do we ever see Carol and Howard dating after this.
  • The Windy City
  • You Look Familiar: The Peeper (Tom Poston) would return as Handyman George Utley in Bob's "Newhart" dream, although Bob doesn't seem to recognize him when he wakes up.
    • The actor who occupied the position of wacky neighbor in the pilot would later play the role of Howard's brother Warden Gordon Borden.
    • Comedian Archie Hahn (from the British Whose Line Is It Anyway?) made his television debut in one episode of this show, playing a hotel bellhop. He appeared again in a later episode, this time playing a cruise director.
  • Your Favorite: For Bob Banana Cream Pie, for Emily Blueberry Cheesecake.