you might have missed…
I’ve written a lot of articles focusing on my own self interest, in fact that’s what I do best. I throw something great out there an hope that you see it as great too. But when it comes to this article about Newhart, I’ll confess that it is written completely out of my own self interest. If it turns out that you don’t know who Bob Newhart is, and have never watched Newhart, I don’t really care, I just want my opinion to be transmitted out into the sticky webs of the internet.
When you first meet someone and think that there’s a possibility that you might date this person, you try and discover your mutual interests. When I was getting to know my future wife, we bonded over our love for the Beatles White Album, the theater, and Newhart. I remember this specifically because while we both liked the Bob Newhart Show, we each specified the later 1980’s sitcom of an abbreviated name. It’s like agreeing that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the original Star Wars trilogy, they’re all deserving of being the best but when you settle on the same film of the trilogy, that’s special.
It’s possible that unless you’re a comedy nerd, you have no idea who Bob Newhart is, so if you don’t, surely you’re familiar with the film Elf where Bob Newhart, plays Papa Elf. To those of us of a certain age, by which I mean baby boomers, or those who grew up on Nick at Night, he’s better known as Bob Newhart the comedian, Bob Hartley (The Bob Newhart show) or Dick Loudon (Newhart). I grew up on Nick at Night, back before that meant reruns of Friends, the Cosby Show, and Full House. This was the era of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Dick Van Dyke, I Love Lucy and many others. But the show and man I came to admire most was Bob Newhart and his 1980’s sitcom, Newhart.
The show centers around Bob Newhart (Dick Loudon) a do-it-yourself-book writer who moves to a rural Vermont town and buys a historic Inn with his wife and runs a bed and breakfast. The show lasted for eight seasons, and is by many critics considered to be one of the most influential sitcoms of television history. Its finale is often ranked in the top five for most shocking moments in television (I’ll spoil it for you later). Yet when referring to Newhart, people immediately think of the Bob Newhart show, which is also a fine show, but not the same show.
Newhart doesn’t break any new ground, it doesn’t push limits, or challenge our idea of what a half hour sitcom should be, with all do respect, Newhart is simple. The concept of the show was simple, the sets were simple, and the feelings that it harbored were warm, and genuine. The closest the show ever came to really blowing minds was in the finale, when Dick Loudon is hit on the head with a golf ball and Bob Hartley (his character from the Bob Newhart Show) wakes up in his bed and tells his wife about this crazy dream he had about owning and operating a Vermont Inn.
I have such fond memories of this show, playing in the background at my grandparents house when I was little, and later staying up late into the wee hours of the morning to watch it. I’ve talked about comfort Movies on the website before but I’ve never mentioned comfort television shows. I’ll forgo the obvious that Newhart is my comfort show. It just makes me happy to watch, Bob Newhart and his subtle pregnant pause filled humor, the interactions between he and his wife (Mary Frann), the crazy towns people, and the simple but excellent way the show just lives inside the skin of a 1980‘s sitcom.
For years I searched for this show on DVD, and came up empty. Every time I walked into a store that sold DVD’s I’d check. Then two years ago, right before Christmas, while in a used book store that also sold DVD’s I found it, it was like finding Jimmy Hoffa’s body buried in between, NCIS and Nip Tuck. I gave it to my wife for Christmas. Strangely we didn’t watch it right away, it just sat on our shelves collecting dust, we waited almost two full years before putting it into the DVD player, not because we weren’t excited to watch the show, but because once we watched it it wouldn’t be new to us again.
Since the birth of my daughter over a month ago, we’ve been sleeping with the T.V. on, the cold glow of the screen acts like a nightlight washing over us. We don’t have basic TV or cable, and so we’ve resorted to watching all of our TV shows on DVD, and a month and a half in, we’ve seen them all, over, and over, and over. Finally we gave in and put on Newhart.
It was just as good as we both remembered it, I worried that my distaste for the sitcom genre would have soured the show for me, but I was completely wrong. I came to appreciate it all over again. By the time that first evening was over we’d watched the entire first season, and so we went back and watched them all again, and again. When it seemed that we could recite the first season from memory I went to see if I could find other seasons on DVD.
They don’t exist. And that’s why I had no qualms about spoiling the series finale for you, because you’re not going to be watching anything but season one for a very long time or ever. It’s worse than falling in love with a show only to have it end on a cliff hanger and get canceled before being concluded, because here there are seven other seasons of Newhart out there, and I can’t watch them.
Maybe you’ll go out and watch Newheart, maybe you’ll watch this episode that I’ve attached to the end of this article, but look, do me a solid and write a letter to… the network, to The President of the United States, to the UN, or Doctors Without Borders, and beg them to bring seasons 2-8 of Newhart to DVD ASAP.