Published Feb 11, 2014A return to the cozy confines of the Stratford Inn in an idyllic area of Vermont for the second season of Newhart finds the show starting to really find its legs. The wonderfully drawn comic characters, simple but inventive storylines and razor-sharp one-liners continue to establish a world where chaos always seems to reign over the gifted, stammering titular comic who took playing the straight man to new heights on the program.
Bob Newhart is Dick Loudon, the owner and caretaker of the inn with his wife, Joanna (Mary Frann). They are assisted by the dim-witted but folksy handyman, George (Tom Poston) and pestered good-naturedly and frequently by Kirk (Steven Kampmann), the owner of a neighbouring café. In the season's first episode, they also begrudgingly hire the conceited Stephanie (Julia Duffy) as a maid, after learning that her marriage from her brief appearance last season ended shortly after taking the vows.
The plots usually stem from Dick being interrupted while wanting to get some writing done, as he has ostensibly purchased the inn in an effort to have a more serene environment to continue his successful career as the author of a series of do-it-yourself guides. These distractions range from the pleasant, such as when Dick has an opportunity to host a local television show, to more tedious activities like potlucks, parades and theatre productions that take on added importance in such a tightly knit community.
The subversive key to the show's humor is in how Newhart's subdued lead character is rarely ever striving for anything but peace and quiet, allowing the comedian to put his strengths to good use in reacting to everything around him with biting retorts and subtly exasperated expressions. This makes plenty of room for great supporting characters.
Though all of them are given plenty of screen time and make the most of it, Kampmann is especially prominent (in his final season on the show) thanks to a storyline involving him meeting and marrying a woman who works as a clown.
There are few weak episodes and a couple of genuine classics, one standout being when Dick's call-in TV show finds him interviewing a man claiming to own the smallest horse in the world and then fielding calls from angry viewers who are adamant that they own a smaller horse. It's also worth mentioning that recurring characters Larry and his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl further establish their roles here and have earned studio applause at their entrances by the end of the season.
The only drawbacks with the release are that the episodes have been mastered from original copies that have developed a lot of grain over the years and that there is absolutely no supplemental material to speak of on the discs. (Shout! Factory)