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Newhart

Newhart is a television situation comedy starring comedian Bob Newhart and actress Mary Frann as an author and his wife who owned and operated a historic inn located in a small Vermont rural town that was populated by eccentric characters. The show aired on the CBS network from 1982 to 1990. TV Guide, TV Land, and other media organizations named its series finale as one of the most memorable in television history. It currently airs on AmericanLife TV Network.

Premise

Bob Newhart plays Dick Loudon, an author of do-it-yourself books. He and his wife Joanna move from New York City to a small, unnamed town in rural Vermont to operate the historic Stratford Inn. (The real-life Waybury Inn in Middlebury, Vermont was used for location shots.) Loudon is a sane, mild-mannered everyman surrounded by a community of oddballs in a town which exists in an illogical world run by rules that elude him.

Dick later begins hosting a low-rated talk show on the town's local cable station. As seasons progress, episodes focus increasingly on Dick's TV career and the quirky townsfolk, to the point where it seems the Loudons hardly ever have any guests at their inn.

The show's premise has sometimes been likened to that of the 1965–71 situation comedy Green Acres, though Green Acres had broader humor and used physical comedy more prominently. However, while Oliver Wendell Douglas, the protagonist of Green Acres, fought against the unreality surrounding him, becoming increasingly angry and frustrated, Loudon, though less frustrated and angry, sometimes accepted it and sometimes fought it, as well, but with much less anger, frustration, and with some bemusement.

Cast

  • Bob Newhart as Dick Loudon.
  • Mary Frann as Joanna Loudon.
  • Tom Poston as George Utley, the Stratford's somewhat dim handyman.
  • Jennifer Holmes as Leslie Vanderkellen. A fabulously rich, world-class skier, with a foundation that underwrites Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Leslie takes the job of hotel maid to find out what it is like to be normal. In the second season, she is replaced by her cousin, Stephanie.
  • Julia Duffy as Stephanie Vanderkellen. Stephanie is a spoiled rich girl cut off by her parents. She grudgingly, and often incompetently, works in Leslie's old job.
  • Steven Kampmann as Kirk Devane, a chronic liar who owns the Minuteman Café across from the inn, and holds an unrequited infatuation for Leslie. Kirk eventually marries a woman named Cindy and leaves town after two seasons.
  • William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss, and John Voldstad as Larry, Darryl and Darryl, three of the most popular (and surreal) characters on the show. The three, whose last name is never mentioned, are backwoodsmen who live in a shack. They are seen infrequently in the first season, a bit more in the second, but at the start of season three, they become regulars and take over the Minuteman Café from Kirk Devane. The two Darryls never speak (until the final episode), and in a monotone voice, Larry invariably introduces them every time they enter a room with "Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl." They often make strange claims, though some of the most outrageous things Larry says turn out to be true, including a statement that Johnny Carson pays their gas bills. For a while, Larry has a crush on Stephanie, which initially frightens her, until she eventually realizes the three are basically harmless. The trio also appeared in various episodes of the television series Coach. Barry Kemp created both shows.
  • Peter Scolari as Michael Harris. The hyperactive, manipulative producer of Dick's TV show dates and eventually marries Stephanie. They have a daughter. Exceptionally shallow and superficial, Michael and Stephanie represent the quintessence of the 1980s "yuppie" couple. The dry erase board in Michael's apartment always lists "Take Over CBS" (the network which aired the series) among his ever-changing daily tasks in which he aspired to eat the liver from an alien and go camping with an aardvark. He often speaks in a breathlessly rushed, alliterative manner.

Other recurring characters included:

  • Rebecca York as Cindy Parker-Devane, A proffesional clown, Kirk's girlfriend and eventual wife.
  • Todd Susman as Officer Shifflett, the over-the-top macho police chief.
  • Kathy Kinney as Prudence Goddard, the prim but hot-to-trot librarian.
  • William Lanteau as Chester Wanamaker, the fussbudget, small-minded mayor.
  • Thomas Hill as Jim Dixon, Chester's wild-eyed friend.
  • David Pressman as Mr. Rusnak, the town's racist and chauvinist shoe salesman.
  • Jeff Doucette as Harley Estin, the town's habitually unemployed loser.
  • José Ferrer as Arthur Vanderkellen, Stephanie's effusive billionaire father.
  • Fred Applegate as J.J. Wall, the once-in-a-while director of Dick Louden's Vermont talk show.
  • Julie Brown as Buffy Denver, Dick's relentlessly annoying co-host.

Guest stars

In one episode, members of the Beaver Lodge are watching Gilligan's Island on the TV. When Michael Harris throws them out, one member protests that he wants to see how it ends (notwithstanding the fact that Gilligan episodes always ended with the castaways still stuck on the island). The protester was played by Russell Johnson, who portrayed the Professor on Gilligan.

During the first season, someone named Daniel J. Travanti made a reservation at the inn over the phone. The women did not know if it was the actor or not but got dressed up just in case. When everyone thought the man wasn't coming, they went to bed for the night only to have the actor walk in a few minutes later. Kirk signed him in and no one knew until after he was gone.

Another notable guest star was actor Jack Riley, who had portrayed Mr. Carlin, a mean-spirited patient of psychologist Bob Hartley, Newhart's character in The Bob Newhart Show. Riley (possibly playing another character, but acting exactly the same as Mr. Carlin) has a brief encounter with Dick Loudon, who finds him strangely familiar-looking. Dick then speaks to the man's psychologist, who complains about the terrible mental damage done to Riley by "some quack in Chicago", referring to Newhart's previous character. (Riley also appeared as a patient in the psychiatric ward on an episode of St. Elsewhere. He told another patient he is there because his life was ruined by "a quack psychologist in Chicago!")

The first episode of the second season ("It Happened One Afternoon") was filmed on July 15, 1983 with Elke Sommer as the guest star; however, the version that was broadcast featured Stella Stevens in the role. The reason for the re-shoot is not known.

In one of his earliest on-camera roles, Gregory Jbara guest starred on the twentieth episode of the fifth season ("Fun with Dick and Joanna") as "Edward".

Changes

At the beginning of the second season, Newhart was re-tooled somewhat. The first season was produced on videotape. From Season Two forward (in keeping with the visual style of other CBS sitcoms), the show was produced on film.

As Newhart centered on its star's dry comic style, the character of Leslie (who was written as intelligent, sensitive and well-adjusted) did not provide much of a comic foil for Dick. Leslie was replaced by her vain, shallow, materialistic cousin Stephanie (who had appeared in episode 14 of the first season, "What is This Thing Called Lust").

The character of Kirk was eventually written off the show, and the Minuteman Café was taken over by backwoods brothers Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

Dick began hosting a talk show on the local TV station, produced by Michael Harris, who ended up being a serious romantic interest for Stephanie. It was this point when the show focus moved from Dick's hotel to his talk show and the odd behavior of the locals. The tone of the humor also changed subtly, from the more realistic approach of the first season to increasingly surrealistic plots, culminating in the show's finale (see below).

"The Last Newhart"

The series boasts one of the most memorable series finales in television history, entitled "The Last Newhart." The entire town is purchased by a visiting Japanese tycoon, who plans to turn the hamlet into a huge golf course and recreation resort. The lone hold-outs are Dick and Joanna, who keep their property thanks largely to Dick's refusal to play along with what he views as the latest demented whim of the townspeople. Everyone else takes their huge payoffs, says their final good-byes, and leave Dick and Joanna to run the Stratford Inn.

Flash forward five years. Dick continues to grimly run the Stratford, while golf balls constantly pelt the walls. Joanna dresses like a geisha, and the Japanese replacements for George and Stephanie are even less helpful than the originals.

The ex-townfolk — richer and odder than before — unexpectedly pay the Loudons a visit. Michael and Stephanie's daughter has grown up to be a tiny clone of her mother. George has opened a new theme park dedicated to handymen. Larry, Darryl and Darryl have all married gabby, talkative women (one of whom is played by a then-unknown Lisa Kudrow). When their wives will not shut up, the Darryls yell out in unison, "QUIET!" Aside from Larry, who had always commented on how talkative they were, this moment is the only time on the show that anyone has ever heard them say a word. Everyone is stunned (the studio audience gasped in shock before erupting in a loud ovation).

Things quickly become chaotic, with the visitors cheerfully deciding on an extended stay at the inn. Dick vents his frustration at how unmanageable and stupid everything has become, but nobody is interested in Dick's opinion, so he announces that he is finally fed up and is leaving for good. As he storms out the door, Dick turns around and says, "You're all CRAZY!" Just then, he is struck by a wayward golf ball and collapses, unconscious. The screen goes black.

Then a light is turned on, and viewers see Newhart in bed, saying "Honey, you won't believe the dream I just had." However, when the woman next to him turns on the light and rolls over to speak with Dick, it's not his wife, Joanna, but Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), Bob Hartley's wife from The Bob Newhart Show. The bedroom is a recreation from The Bob Newhart Show, and — in a parody of a 1980s television vogue — the entire Newhart series is revealed to have been a dream in the mind of Newhart's 1970s character. Bob tells Emily that in the dream, he lived in a weird Vermont town surrounded by strange people: a snobbish maid and her alliterative husband, a dense handyman, and three eccentric woodsmen, two of whom were mute.

When he reveals that he was married to a beautiful blonde in the dream, an annoyed Emily tells Bob to go back to sleep and flicks off the light on her side of the bedroom. Reviving a technique from The Bob Newhart Show, in which one of the Hartleys incredulously flicks back on a bedside light and restarts the conversation, Emily turns her light back on and inquires, "What do you mean, 'beautiful blonde?!' Bob tells her to go back to sleep, commenting, "You should wear more sweaters," something Joanna was noted for. The scene ends to the strains of the old Bob Newhart Show theme song (although this was removed for syndicated reruns).

After the credits, at the point when the cat in the MTM logo normally meows, the typically understated Newhart "meow" voiceover is replaced by the two Darryls shouting "QUIET!"

In 1991, the cast of The Bob Newhart Show reunited in a prime-time special. One of the things they did was analyze Bob's dream. During the discussion, the Hartleys' neighbor, Howard Borden (Bill Daily), recalled, "I had a dream like that once. I dreamed I was an astronaut in Florida for five seasons", as scenes from I Dream of Jeannie featuring Daily were shown. (Jeannie ran for five years on NBC.)

The episode was based on an idea thought up by Bob Newhart's wife, Virginia.

In November 2005, this episode was named by TV Guide and TV Land the most unexpected moment in TV history.

The episode was watched by 29.5 million viewers.

Production

The show was produced by David Mirkin, (who also wrote nine episodes, and directed four), Bob Bendetson, Sheldon Bull, Barton Dean, Mark Egan, Stephen C. Grossman, Barry Kemp, Michael Loman, Richard Rosenstock, Mark Solomon, Roy Teicher, Dan Wilcox, Douglas Wyman, and Shelley Zellman. In addition, well-known comedian Dick Martin was the chief director of the series for most of its run.

The opening sequence consists of b-roll from the 1981 film On Golden Pond, meaning that the scenes shown are of New Hampshire, not Vermont. Henry Mancini composed the show's theme music.

DVD Release

On February 26, 2008, 20th Century Fox released Season 1 of Newhart on DVD in Region 1.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season 1 22 February 26 2008

External links

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