Judge Dennis Prince is ready for any meek psychologist to crawl inside his head and see what makes him tick. Any takers?
Our reviews of The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete First Season (published May 11th, 2005), The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Third Season (published May 15th, 2006), and The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Fourth Season (published October 4th, 2006) are also available.
Announcer: Tonight we take pride in presenting one of Chicago's leading
psychologists…Dr. Robert Hartman.
In its highbrow manner The Bob Newhart Show resoundingly charmed television audiences during the summer of 1973. Although it got off to something of an unsteady start during its flagship season in Fall 1972, the show grew a vast following as more and more viewers continued to stay in their seats following The Mary Tyler Moore Show. During the summer reruns it became clear that the show about a psychologist who may be more in need of therapy than his patients had made itself a niche in the Saturday night lineup and was poised to gain momentum in its second year.
Facts of the Case
Robert A. Hartley (Bob Newhart) maintains his standing as a respectable psychologist in Chicago's upper end, yet to onlookers around him it appears he's the one in need of emotional rescue. His adoring wife, Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), stands by her man through thick and thin, in ups and downs, and seems to personify the marital commitment, "for better or for worse." During this second season, Bob and Emily routinely fend off all manner of singular and social conundrums, often brought on by insignificant situations yet sure to tap a brooding peccadillo previously buried deep within them. But Bob and Emily aren't the only ones who struggle to cope in the modern era. Airline pilot and next-door neighbor Howard Borden (Bill Daily) is the likable yet naive divorcee who seems to have a knack for landing a date though most wind up as one-timers. At the office, Bob is recipient of a steady flow of unsolicited psychoanalysis by armchair analysts Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace), the office secretary, and Dr. Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz), the painfully candid dentist down the hall. Although Bob seems to feel safest when leading his group therapy sessions, he unwittingly emerges as the least secure in his Suite 715 office. The joke is that resident misanthrope, Elliot Carlin (Jack Riley), the semi-senile Lillian Bakerman (Florida Friebus), the dangerously insecure Emile Peterson (John Fiedler), and the rest of the group typically seem to have a greater sense of self-confidence and self worth than the good doctor.
"On Saturday night there was All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, us and Carol Burnett. People stayed home. It was like Thursday night with Seinfeld or with Cosby, people just arranged their week around Saturday and they just didn't go out on Saturday."—Bob Newhart
The Bob Newhart Show has become an American standard of classic television. Although it was continually deprived of Emmy awards (not even a single nomination!) during its initial run, it ultimately was duly recognized during the 2005 TVLand Icon Awards. Upon its second season and thereafter, the show was constantly ranked in the Nielsen Top 30, and for good reason. The ensemble cast had quickly gelled into a comedic collective that married top-notch writing with precision delivery. As noted by Newhart above, the show was one of the CBS anchor programs that dominated Saturday nights, season after season. It was TV worth staying home for and its relevance hasn't diminished a bit some three decades later.
Thanks to the persistence of the Newhart fan base, the highly enjoyable (and long overdue) release of the first season set has now been followed by this second season in similar boxed format. Contained within two slimline keep-case inserts, The Bob Newhart Show—The Complete Second Season, includes the next 24 episodes, originally aired between 1973 and 1974. Presented across three flipper discs, here are the topics for discussion in each group session:
Similar to the episodes on the first season set, these second season entries don't appear to have been "restored" or "remastered." If you appreciate the original textures and occasional blemishes of a 1970s production, you'll find plenty of authentic goodness in these episodes that, thankfully, never degrade into anything that's unwatchable or otherwise marred by distracting elements. As for the audio, it's presented in a similar "vintage" Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is as vibrant as it needs to be and, again, preserves the original 1970s experience.
Most welcome in this second season set are extra features that were conspicuously absent from the initial season's DVD debut. Here you'll find that Newhart has laid down commentaries for five episodes, one in solo and others joined by the likes of Jack Riley, Producer/Creator David Davis, and Marcia Wallace. These are fun tracks to listen to although they sometimes lapse into silence (which isn't so bad as you realize that the commentators are enjoying the on-screen hilarity as much as we are). It's terrific to have these commentaries and we can only hope for more of the same in subsequent releases. Next up is a fun 13-minute new featurette, "The Bob Newhart Show In Action." Here we meet up with Davis and Newhart, interviewed separately, as they reminisce over the show, its origin, and its impact on television. Show creator David Davis openly offers that, at the time, he was himself in therapy (as was most of Hollywood in the 70s as opposed to in court or jail in the new millennium) and used that as his inspiration of the core situation of The Bob Newhart Show. "Not a psychiatrist but a psychologist," muses Davis, "because Bob listens funny. He does great reactions; he's a reactive comic."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Rebut what? Are you crazy? This is pure TV gold.
Thankfully, The Bob Newhart Show is gaining momentum in the TV-on-DVD marketplace and hopefully we'll be seeing more seasons in the coming months. Play these discs for your family and friends and you'll rediscover the fun of this retro group therapy that you can enjoy all over again.
Not guilty. Case dismissed.
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