Judge Patrick Naugle does not have any brothers named Darryl.
Hi, Bob! Again!
Dick Loudon (comedian Bob Newhart), a local author of do-it-yourself books, and his wife, Joanna (Mary Frann, Days of Our Lives), have moved from the hustle and bustle of New York City to a small rural town in Vermont. There they have reopened the 200-year-old Stratford Inn, a bed and breakfast surrounded by a lot of local oddballs. The town's residents include the Stratford Inn's handyman, George (Tom Poston, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement), the spoiled rich Stephanie Vanderkellen (Julia Duffy, Designing Women), and three local woodsmen whose lives are more bizarre than Dick could ever have imagined. Check in, grab some tea, and settle down with Newhart!
I'll be honest in admitting that I don't have a lot of background with the classic 1980s sitcom Newhart, nor do I have a lot of experience with Bob Newhart's previous series, The Bob Newhart Show. I recall catching random episodes during as a kid, but I haven't actively sat through the series since the mid-to-late 1980s. In other words, Newhart was mostly uncharted territory for me. I found Season Two amusing and funny, but not so much that it made me belly-laugh to tears. There are moments where the series almost feels like it's tipping over into melodrama with some of the character's reactions to the storylines. Bob Newhart's sense of humor is as dry as the Mohave Desert, and if you don't like that kind of delivery, Newhart may not be your cup of tea.
Newhart as a leading man is soft spoken and warm, sort of like a cozy old sweater. His stammering and nervousness makes the character of Dick Loudon endearing, and that goes a long way to making Newhart a pleasant and amusing sitcom. The supporting cast is sort of like a group of planets revolving around the sun. Whereas Newhart's Dick Loudon is the center of the show (and in a way, the straight man), the other cast members all bounce off of Newhart's sometimes lackadaisical charm. Tom Poston's dim bulb George Utley, the handyman who isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, offers up a hound dog delivery that makes him one of the funniest characters on the show. Mary Frann is Dick's patient wife, who has a penchant for wearing lots of sweaters and trying to wrangle the craziness going on in the Stratford Inn. Peter Scolari and Julia Duffy are a perfect match as Dick's hyperactive producer and a rich girl who has to learn to live on her own. Both would join the cast during the second season and eventually marry (fictionally) as the show progressed. Finally there's the classic threesome of William Sanderson's Larry and the two mute Darryl's (John Voldstad and Tony Papenfuss), woodsmen who live in a shack and were so popular they became regulars on the show. Often entering with Larry's catchphrase, "Hi, I'm Larry. This is Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl," the threesome have a bit of a Marx Brothers feel and round out the cast nicely.
Like a lot of early 1980s sitcoms, the plots and stories contained in Newhart are of the more innocuous variety. At one point Dick must fend off the advances of a celebrity (The Poseidon Adventure's Stella Stevens) who has hired him (inadvertently) to write her memoirs. Other plots are mostly about little things that happen to the Loudon's, often having to do with the Stratford Inn and the locals that make the Loudon's lives—oh for lack of a better word—interesting. Compared to Newhart, everyone is kooky. There isn't anything here that would be considered risqué; Newhart has a comforting, lived-in quality to it, the kind you could curl up and watch in front of the fireplace.
Each of the 22 episodes (spread across three DVDs) of Newhart: The Complete Second Season is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, the show's original aspect ratio. Shout! Factory's work on this set is good, but by no means great; the video transfers aren't in fantastic shape. While the picture quality is certainly a good step up from VHS, overall the image isn't super sharp or clear. Colors look fine with dark black levels, but again they aren't going to impress those who are sticklers on sharp looking transfers. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English and is about on par with the video transfer. This is a very front heavy mix that isn't going to give your home theater system much of a workout. The biggest boost comes in the form of Hollywood icon and The Pink Panther composer Henry Mancini's theme song. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are included on this release. There are no bonus features.
I found myself smiling more than laughing, which isn't terrible but also not what you want from a classic sitcom. I can't say I'm all that eager to revisit Newhart anytime soon, but I'm certainly not regretful I spent some time at the Stratford Inn.
A thrill for fans who hope Shout! Factory keeps releasing each season on DVD.
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