The Bob Newhart Show: Season One

It's not too surprising that The Bob Newhart Show opens with a telephone bit; no one works the phone like Mr. Newhart. This certainly wasn't the first sitcom built around a stand-up comic's routines (nor would it be the last) but it is one of the best. Some 30 years later, it is still funny and clever. Yes, nostalgia plays a factor but I maintain that it is a stronger, more enjoyable show than most of today's sitcoms. I repeat, not everyone loves Raymond. Newhart plays Bob Hartley, a Chicago psychologist. The first thing you might notice is that Dr. Hartley isn't a very good therapist: his patients never improve, he's often flustered and he spends a good deal of time discussing their lives with his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) and friends Jerry (Peter Bonerz) and Howard (Bill Daily). Ethics aside, Bob is a funny, albeit grumpy therapist whose heart is in the right place. Other than references to sex (which I found disturbing), the show holds up after so many years and so many reminiscences (on my part). The actors rise above their stock character status: Howard is more than the not-so-bright neighbour, Jerry is more than the lothario best friend. I'd like to recount the scene when Bob asks Howard if he would like anything while he's in Winnipeg and Howard replies that he needs padded coat hangers but it just won't work on the page; it's all in the timing. I'm convinced that Bob Newhart moulded my sense of humour. Set up, pause, punch line gets me every time. There are no extras on the DVD. They didn't even bother with a "Where Are They Now?" retrospective, which is disappointing, even though I already the answer. Perhaps the producers thought the first season episodes speak for themselves and I'm not one to argue with that logic. Considering the fact that I spent a fair amount of time wondering why I never noticed how cute Howard was, I might already be too far-gone anyway. (Fox)