DVD Review: The Bob Newhart Show (The Complete Series)

Bob Newhart was a stand up comedy force at the start of the ’60s. His comedy album The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart won the Grammy for Best Album and Best New Artist. He turned his stardom into an NBC variety show called The Bob Newhart Show. It was canceled after one season. Bob didn’t completely vanish from TV with dozens of appearances on The Dean Martin Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. But would he ever get another TV show? Luckily David Davis and Lorenzo Music writers on The Mary Tyler Moore Show wanted to create a show for Bob. This time he’d be part of a major hit that lasted until he decided it was time to end the show. The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series brings six seasons of psychological comedy to your neurotic DVD player.

Davis and Music tailored a show that played to Bob’s comedy strength. His best-loved stand-up routines were phone conversations where he listened to outlandish things and responded with his wry wit. Having Newhart play psychologist Bob Hartley was perfect. He was allowed to listen to his patients and make a well timed observation. Even better was allowing group therapy so the patients can give each other the business. The most popular of the regulars on the sofa included the caustic Mr. Carlin (Jack Riley), the wimpy Mr. Peterson (John Fiedler), and constantly knitting Lillian Bakerman (Florida Friebus). The comedy didn’t come from merely mocking people who have phobias or neurotic behaviors. There were a couple great gags including a clown that hated people laughing at him and a ventriloquist and his dummy needing couples therapy. Ultimately the comedy helped take away a bit of tension when it came to how America viewed mental health in the ’70s. Seeing a psychologist was no longer something done if you’re criminally ill or mentally unstable. Bob’s co-workers were a bit unstable. Carol (The Simpson‘s Marcia Wallace) was the fun loving receptionist for the medical floor. Jerry (Peter Bonerz) was Bob’s best pal and a dentist who might have dipped into his nitrous stock.

But the ultimate key to Bob’s life is his better half. Emily Hartley (Suzanne Pleshtette) remains the greatest wife on TV. She was a strong woman who worked as a school teacher. She didn’t put up with much crap from Bob or his nutty friends. She was sensible with a touch of fun. Her smile was a great reason for Bob to leave the office and make that commute back home. When he was back at the apartment, he had to deal with his loopy neighbor Howard Borden (I Dream of Jeannie‘s Bill Daily). Somehow this flighty man was a navigator on airplanes. His na├»ve approach to the world proved perfect for many of the complications in Bob and Emily’s apartment. During “Ex-Con Job,” Howard walks in on Bob and Emily being robbed. The scene ends up being a peerless comedy moment with Howard’s reaction. He was more than just the usual goofy neighbor that over occupy sitcoms.

The Bob Newhart Show ended after six seasons because Bob didn’t want it to hit comic fumes and recycle itself. This was a smart move because the show didn’t get stale. Bob understood from his time as a stand up comic that you never wanted to stay on stage too long and lose the audience. He brought the show to the proper end although years later, he’d bring us back to the Hartley’s bedroom at the end of Newhart. During it’s heyday on CBS’s Saturday night lineup, Bob Newhart Show was scheduled with All In the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H* and The Carol Burnett Show. Bob and his gang were more than equal to their TV peers. Of those legendary show, the only one that inspired a popular drinking game. The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series will allow you and your guests to play rounds of “Hi Bob” endlessly.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The quality of the episodes varies with some being better than others. You will get the detail of the odd decorations in Bob’s office and apartment. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The mix is good enough to hear the lines over the studio audience’s laughter. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

Audio Commentaries on episodes include “Last TV Show” with Newhart and Jack Riley, “Blues for Mr. Borden” with Newhart, “The Modernization of Emily” with Newhart, Marcia Wallace and co-creator David Davis, “The Battle of the Groups” with Newhart and Peter Bonerz, “Sorry, Wrong Mother” with Newhart & Bonerz, “Tobin’s Back in Town” with Nehart & Fred Willard, “The Ceiling Hits Bob” with Newhart, “The Way We Weren’t” with Newhart & director Jim Burrows, “The Longest Good-Bye” with Newhart, Burrows, Suzanne Pleshette & Tom Poston, “Who Is Mr. X” with Newhart & Marcia Wallace, “Over the River and Through the Woods” with Newhart, Riley & Burrows, “My Boy Guillermo” with Newhart, Wallace & writer Sy Rosen and “Guaranteed Not to Shrink” with Newhart, Burrows, Pleshette & Wallace. The cast and crew have a fun time recounting making the show.

The Making of the Second Season (13:42) explores how the sophomore effort took the show up another level. The featurette also covers how the show started with an interview of co-creator David Davis.

Making of Season Three (8:57) gets Bob explaining how the writing never slumped, but the show improved. He gives the background on how a few new faces got their break on the show.

A Second Family Featurette (11:44) lets Bob talk of his two most well received shows.

Hilarious Gag Reel (4:50) has the cast breaking each other up. This looks like it was made for a cast and crew wrap party.

Group Therapy (46:12) rounds up Bob, Bill Daily, Bonerz, Reilly and director Michael Zinberg for a talk about the show. All of them have fond memories of the show. They also are grateful to work on a series that was so much fun to make.

The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary Special (46:32) is a clipshow that picks up the action at the end of Newhart. Bob is haunted by the dream that he had moved to Vermont. The joke is that this is the 20th anniversary of him shooting the unaired pilot.

Unaired Pilot (28:13) finally gives us a glimpse of how the show was originally constructed. Jerry isn’t a dentist. Bob spends most of his time dealing with his condo neighbors. There’s an even longer montage of Bob commuting in Chicago.

The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series brings together all the goodness from the greatest comedy about a psychologist. The boxset brings together all the bonus features from the previously released first four season sets. These aren’t flipper DVDs so it’s worth the upgrade.

Shout! Factory presents The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series. Starring: Bob Newhart, Suzanne Pleshette, Peter Bonerz, Bill Daily and Marcia Wallace. Boxset Contents: 142 episodes on 19 DVDs. Released: May 27, 2014.

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