Bob Newhart became a TV icon over the decades. The Bob Newhart Show is considered a classic of the ‘70s. Newhart played a Chicago psychologist with a cast of eccentrics needing his help. He returned in the ‘80s with Newhart. He became an author of “how to” books that buys a Vermont Inn and deals with local eccentrics including Larry, Darryl and Darryl. It only seemed natural that in the ‘90s, Newhart would return to TV for another sitcom in the ’90s. Bob made him an ex-greeting card artist who works at a comic book publishing company full of eccentrics. Unfortunately, Bob was not a long running hit which is why Bob: The Complete Series features the entire season and a third that it lasted on CBS.
The series starts out right with Bob McKay (Newhart) nervous about his brand new job. Decades before he had created a comic book called Mad-Dog. It was about a vet who becomes a superhero. The comic barely lasted a year and was shutdown after Congress went nuts about kids being ruined by deviant drawings. The modern publisher that owns the rights wants to revive Mad-Dog at the height of the ‘90s comic book boom. They hire Bob for the project. He quits his gig illustrating greeting cards to go for the dream one more time. Bob quickly becomes a fish out of water in “Mad-Dog Returns.” The office is covered in ’90s geek bait. Publishing executive Harlan Stone (John Cygan) wants to make Mad-Dog more rabid. He wants the hero to kill his sidekick to let readers know this isn’t Bob’s old Mad-Dog. Bob’s not happy with this change. He wants to go back to happy cards. Bob’s wife Kaye (Carlene Watkins) can’t deal with him not getting back in the comics game.
“A Street Car Named Congress-Douglas” involves an all-star Poker night. Harlan sees Bob dealing cards to his old comic book pals that really are Newhart’s old pals. It’s quite a treat to see a shuffle going to Dick Martin (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In), Steve Lawrence, Bill Daily (The Bob Newhart Show) and Tom Poston (Newhart). “Mad-Dog on 34th Street” gives Bob a rush when he learns the character will be a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Things look good when the gang from work watches it being inflated. However things go wrong and the balloon goes solo. Bob must hop a taxi driven by Steven Wright (Half Baked). The two comics work well against each other. “The Lost Episode” makes Bob meet his number one fan (Harold and Maude’s Bud Cort) to get a first edition. “Bob and Kay and Jerry and Patty” marks a cameo from soon to be superstar Lisa Kudrow (Friends). “You Can’t Win” is a winner since it has a cameo from comic genius Jack Kirby. This makes the DVD set worthy of shelf space at the Second Foundation. “I’m Getting Remarried in the Morning” brings back Bob’s Poker buddies. “Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Mad Dog Gone?” is startling as the comic book company is bought and everyone gets fired. What a strange cliffhanger.
Season two brings Bob back to the world of greeting cards. He’s now working for Betty White’s company. His daughter (The Player’s Cynthia Stevenson) gets romantic with the goofy Whitey van de Bunt (Robin Hood: Men in Tights’s Eric Allan Kramer). The big romantic moment is when Dick Martin dates Betty White. “Better to Have Loved and Flossed” reunites Bob with Peter Bonerz (Jerry the Dentist on The Bob Newhart Show).
The radical transformation didn’t help boost the ratings of the show. The second season only lasted 8 episodes. Bob wasn’t quite as good as his two legendary shows, but it was improving over the season. There was just too much panicking from the network to make changes. But did viewers really expect Bob to change that much? The show deserved a longer run. It’s a shame the Betty White ratings magic wasn’t working in overdrive nearly two decades ago. Two out of Three isn’t bad for a sitcom superstar.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. While the show was shot on film, the post production was done on video. It has a video resolution. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. The levels are fine so that the studio audience laughter doesn’t step on the actors. The episodes are subtitled.
Entertainment Tonight Interview with Bob Newhart (1:59) helps Newhart get us used to the new version of Bob on primetime.
Entertainment Tonight Interview with Bob Newhart and His Co-stars in a “Streetcar Named Congress-Douglas” (1:51) gives a behind the scenes peek at the Poker table. Sitting around the felt with Bob are Dick Martin, Tom Poston, Steve Lawrence and Bill Daily.
Entertainment Tonight Interview with Betty White (3:58) lets folks know that the show is getting transformed for the second season. Betty gives viewers a tour of the set and Newhart’s dressing room.
“Mad-Dog” Issue #1 lets you read the comic book that was released to help promote the show.
Bob: The Complete Series was Bob Newhart’s third sitcom. He’s still funny as the artist who goes between the world of comic books and greeting cards. It’s just a shame people kept meddling with the show thinking they can save it with drastic changes.
CBS DVD presents Bob: The Complete Series. Starring: Bob Newhart, Betty White, Cynthia Stevenson and Dick Martin. Boxset Contents: 33 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: April 3, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.