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TV Greatest Hits: The Bob Newhart Show and the Mary Tyler Moore effect

Debuting September 16, 1972 and completing its original run August 26, 1978, The Bob Newhart Show was part of a highly rated Saturday night of adult comedies on CBS. The show was produced by the same creative team as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, also part of the winning lineup.

There are some obvious similarities between the shows. Both Bob Newhart and Mary focus equally on the main characters’ office and home lives. Both employ an eccentric supporting cast to offset the temperance of the main characters. And both exemplify the 1970s, though Mary Tyler Moore expresses it more through wardrobe, while it is the set design on The Bob Newhart Show that is quintessentially ’70s.

Newhart plays Bob Hartley, a psychologist living in Chicago with his wife Emily, a schoolteacher. Regulars include neighbor Howard Borden, a divorced airplane navigator; Jerry Robinson, the orthodontist that shares Bob’s office space; Carol Kester (later married to Larry Bondurant), Bob and Jerry’s saucy receptionist; and a colorful cast of crazies whom Bob treats.

The Bob Newhart Show was the forerunner to two of Newhart’s other sitcoms, Newhart and Bob. All three are vehicles for Bob Newhart’s buttoned-down comic persona. Newhart’s trademark telephone routine is worked into every episode, providing him with the best means to showcase his patented deadpan delivery. Surrounded by neurotics, depressives and other mentally unstable people at his psychology practice, Bob has plenty of opportunity to underreact. A top-notch supporting cast—including Suzanne Pleshette, Bill Daily, Peter Bonerz, Marcia Wallace and Jack Riley—serves as an excellent balance to Newhart’s low-key sensibility.

Bob Newhart (Bob Hartley), Suzanne Pleshette (Emily Hartley), Bill Daily (Howard Borden), Peter Bonerz (Jerry Robinson), Marcia Wallace (Carol Kester), Patricia Smith (Margaret Hoover), Larry Gelman (Dr. Bernie Tupperman), Pat Finley (Ellen Hartley), Moosie Drier (Howard Borden, Jr.), Barnard Hughes (Herb Hartley), Martha Scott (Martha Hartley), John Randolph (Cornelius Harrison), Ann Rutherford (Aggie Harrison), Tom Poston (Cliff Murdock), Will MacKenzie (Larry Bondaurant), Jack Riley (Elliott Carlin), Florida Friebus (Lillian Bakerman), Renne Lippin (Michele Nardo), Noam Pitlik (Victor Gianelli), Lucien Scott (Edgar Vickers), Jean Palmerton (Corinne Murdock), William Redfield (Gordon Borden), Heather Menzies (Debbie), Alice Borden (Lois Borden)

production details
CBS / 1972-1978

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