I walked out of the Paley Center for Media in Bev Hills a tiny bit unsatisfied after taking in “The Bob Newhart Show” reunion tonight. The discussion among the core cast members (minus Peter Bonerz) was fun and funny, but low key. There were no jaw-dropping anecdotes or side-splitting stories of episodes gone wrong or saved in the clutch by a quick-witted crew member, etc. But it hit me by the time I got to my car. In all of its low-key-ness, it was the perfect tribute to “The Bob Newhart Show.”
As discussed by Newhart and panelists Suzanne Pleshette, Marcia Wallace, Bill Daily, Jack Riley and helmer Dick Martin, “Bob Newhart” was a quiet ground-breaker in its 1972-78 run on CBS. While “Mary Tyler Moore,” “All in the Family” and “MASH” soaked up the headlines for being convention-busting and envelope-pushing, Bob and Emily Hartley quietly shot scenes in bed together, with the emphasis on together. Newhart staked his claim to “Bob Newhart” being the first TV comedy to eschew twin beds for a more realistic queen-size mattress. And as fans of the show know, those talking-in-bed scenes are some of “Bob Newhart’s” greatest moments.
Also unusual for the era was the concept that from the get-go, there were no kids in the picture for Bob and Emily, despite the fact that they obviously had the hots for each other; maybe Emily a little more so than Bob. As Pleshette put it in her trademark gravely-snarky voice, “If you listen quietly (in the bedroom scenes) you can hear me sticking my foot up his ass” to get her co-star going in the intimate setting.
Pictured above left: Suzanne Pleshette and Bob Newhart. Above right, clockwise from top, Marcia Wallace, Bill Daily, Jack Riley, Pleshette, Newhart and Dick Martin. Pics courtesy Paley Center/Kevin Parry Photography.