I spent WAY too many hours glued to the TV as a youngster during the 1970s. Many of the shows I thought were absolutely perfect in 1972 or 1975, I have trouble sitting through for 10 minutes today. Some, however, have stood the test of time.
I would have to say that The Bob Newhart Show, more than any other show, has grown in my estimation as I have matured. I enjoyed it as a kid, but love it all the much more now.
Mr. Newhart, simply put, was and is a comedic genius. One blank look from him can surpass a 15-minute monologue by many comedians, for laugh production. In the right setting, with the right handling, Bob Newhart was one of the funniest ever. Fortunately for us, that perfect setting came together in the 1972-78 Bob Newhart Show. This show had impeccable writing by Charlotte Brown, Dick Clair and others, great directing by Peter Baldwin and many others, as well as wonderful acting.
One might have doubted that the struggles of a psychologist and his patients would make good fodder for comedy. Wrong! Who can forget the obnoxious Elliot Carlton (Jack Riley), the sharp knitting needles of Mrs. Bakerman (Florida Friebus, a.k.a., Dobie Gillis' mom), and wimpy Mr. Peterson (John Fielding, also in `12 Angry Men')? Who can forget the elevator and its frequent involvement in scenes, or Bernie Tupperman (Larry Gelman), the pudgy urinologist, or the periodic visits from `The Peeper' (Tom Poston)? And these, of course, were NOT part of the main supporting cast.
Suzanne Pleshette was perfect as Bob's lovely and usually supportive wife, Emily. Marcia Wallace became a household name as Carol, the perky secretary. Peter Borenz and Bill Daily, meanwhile, were absolutely delightful as Bob's two best friends, dentist Jerry Robinson and navigator Howard Borden. Daily, who was also great in `I Dream of Jeannie,' provided one of the most hilarious characters in sit-com history, as the clueless neighbor, Howard.
The cast of The Bob Newhart Show was so good and so deep that I have to make one confession. While I love Bob Newhart himself, I believe my favorite episode was one in which he had only a cameo appearance, phoning home from a convention somewhere. Carol, Jerry and Howard became convinced that an old flame visiting Emily while Bob was gone, spelled trouble. They spied on the two in a restaurant and the scene was possibly the most hilarious in the show's run, as Jerry wore a ridiculous fake glasses/nose combo and Howard could never seem to recognize him.
The Bob Newhart Show was a high-water mark for intelligent, sophisticated humor - although occasional forays into slapstick gave it an even more satisfying balance. Overall, I would call it one of the top three or four comedies ever made.
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