The Bob Newhart Show regulars.

The Bob Newhart Show cast:
Bob Newhart, Suzanne Pleshette, Bill Daily,
Marcia Wallace, and Peter Bonerz.
The show ran from 1972-1978.

 

The Bob Newhart Show:
I'm Okay -- You're Nuts!

by Ken Sanes

The Bob Newhart Show is a classic TV sitcom that depicts Bob Hartley, the quirky but well-adjusted Chicago psychologist who is surrounded by a society of very odd characters, including a parade of basket-cases for patients. In this, he is much like Andy Taylor in the Andy Griffith Show, who is surrounded by a lot of strange townsfolk. But whereas Andy Taylor is the wise man with a solution for everything, who uses his sheriff's position as a platform from which to do good, Bob on the Bob Newhart Show is someone who is in an official wise man's position but who really doesn't have much of a solution to anything. Mostly he listens, consoles, reflects back, and gives people a place to come to talk about their problems, which may be the wisest thing of all.

The people who work on the same floor as Bob are pretty odd, as well. One exception is Carol, the secretary, played by Marcia Wallace, who looks a little unusual but holds everything together and has insightful barbs to offer about what is going on around her. She's definitely a fool figure, whose barbs at others' expense reveal something about their personalities.

Bill Daily plays the next door neighbor, Howard, a man-child and professional pilot who is always between flights and can't make a home for himself, which is why he seems to live with Bob and Bob's wife Emily (played by Suzanne Pleshette).

I won't offer any homilies here about how the Bob Newhart Show reflected the emergence of America's therapeutic culture, lest these overviews sound even more like Nick at Nite's sardonic caricatures of sociology than they do already. The Bob Newhart Show is often low comedy, reflecting the basic ethos of the sitcom: I'm okay; You are totally bizarre.

Bob Newhart went on to star in Newhart, another version of The Bob Newhart Show, with Bob as Dick Loudon, the proprietor of a Vermont inn and a writer of how-to books (a nice comic touch) who is once again surrounded by lovable crazies lost in their own strangeness. In the famous last episode we discover that his life in Vermont is just a dream. He's really Bob Hartley, the psychologist, in bed with Emily back in Chicago. Now that's television.

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* Publicity photo of Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett from the
television program The Entertainers, 1964.
* Photo from The Bob Newhart Show: Emily (Suzanne Pleshette)
listens to Howard (Bill Daily).
* Publicity photo from the The Bob Newhart Show:
Carol (Marcia Wallace) marries Larry Bondurant (Will MacKenzie).
Also pictured is Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart).

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1996-2012 Ken Sanes