Newhart was a situation comedy that aired on the CBS
network from 1982 to 1990.
The show starred comedian Bob Newhart as Dick Loudon, an author who
moved from New York City to the fictional town of Stratford, Vermont (with
locations shots filmed in the town of Middlebury, Vermont), to run an inn,
and also along the way becomes a local television talk show host, hosting
a largely-unwatched show on books and authors.
Loudon is a sane, mild-mannered everyman surrounded by a community of
oddballs. It is an illogical world that moves just a bit too fast for him.
The show's premise has sometimes been compared to that of the 1965–71
Acres, though Green Acres had broader humor and used
physical comedy more prominently.
Mary Frann portrayed Loudon's wife, Joanna, who also ran the inn, which
was named The Stratford Inn. The show also featured Tom Poston as
somewhat dim handyman George Utley, Peter Scolari as Loudon's hyperactive
and manipulative television producer Michael Harris, and Julia Duffy as
hotel maid Stephanie Vanderkellen, who is a spoiled rich girl cut off by
her parents and who grudgingly, and often incompetently, works as a maid.
She is also Harris' girlfriend, later wife, the attraction mainly being
that they're both exceptionally shallow and superficial.
Jennifer Holmes starred in the first season as Leslie, the Loudon's
hotel maid, prior to Stephanie being hired. Also fabulously rich, a
world-class skier, and with a foundation that underwrites Jacques-Yves
Cousteau, she is Stephanie's more cheerful, nicer cousin and said she took
the job to find out what it is like to be normal. "It's fun,"
Loudon responded unconvincingly.
During the entire run of the show, actors William Sanderson, Tony
Papenfuss, and John Voldstad were cast members who became three of the
most popular (and surreal) characters on the show, Larry, Darryl and
Darryl. The two Darryls never spoke (until the show's final episode in
which they said one word), and in a monotone Larry would introduce them
every time they entered a room with "Hi, I'm Larry, this is my
brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl".
The three, who apparently had no last name, were dirty backwoodsmen who
lived in a shack, but from the things they said often appeared to be from
another planet, though some of the most far-out things often turned out to
be true. For a time Larry had a crush on Stephanie, which initially
frightened her, until she eventually realized the three were basically
decent, though strange.
(The characters of Larry, Darryl, and Darryl also appear in various
episodes of the television series Coach,
which was created by the creator of Newhart, Barry Kemp.)
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.
Other recurring characters include chronic liar Kirk Devane (Steven
Kampmann), who owned the Minuteman Café across from the Stratford Inn
(later acquired by Larry and the Darryls), the over-the-top macho police
chief Officer Shifflett (Todd Susman), the prim but hot-to-trot librarian
Prudence Goddard (Kathy Kinney), the fussbudget, small-minded mayor
Chester Wanamaker (William Lanteau) and his wild-eyed friend Jim Dixon
Jokes could be quite sly on the show. In one episode, members of the
Beaver Lodge are watching Gilligan's Island on the TV. Loudon
throws them out with one member protesting that he wanted to see how it
ended, though the joke was that they always end the same way with the
castaways not getting off the island. The sly joke was that protester was
Russell Johnson, who appeared on Gilligan's Island as the
"The Last Newhart"
The series had one of the most memorable final episodes in television
history. Titled "The Last Newhart," everyone in Stratford,
Vermont sells the town to Japanese investors, who plan to turn the hamlet
into a huge golf course and recreation resort. Everyone, that is, except
for Dick and Joanna, thanks largely to Dick's refusal to play along with
what he views as the latest whim of the townspeople. Everyone takes their
huge payoffs, says their final good-byes, and leave Dick and Joanna to run
the Stratford Inn.
Flash forward to five years later, when everyone decides to pay the
Loudens a visit — richer and odder than before. Larry, Darryl and Darryl
arrive, each having married gabby, talkative women. When their wives will
not shut up, Darryl and Darryl yell out, "QUIET!!!" This is the
only time on the show that anyone--except Larry, who always comments how
talkative they are--has ever heard them say a word and Dick is astonished.
Michael and Stephanie are the parents of a little girl, whom they have
of course have spoiled rotten. And George has opened his new theme park
dedicated to handymen. Joanna, meanwhile, has become a geisha girl, and is
gladly playing along with the eccentric new owners.
Things quickly become chaotic, and Dick finally vents his frustration
at how unmanageable and stupid everything has become. Nobody is interested
in Dick's opinion, so he threatens to leave.
Just as he is making good on his promise, a wayward golf ball strikes
the temple of Dick's head, causing him to crash to the floor in an
unconscious heap. The screen goes blank.
Then, a light is turned on and viewers see Dick in bed... or is that
Dick? He tells his wife, "Honey, you won't believe the dream I just
had." The other light comes on, and it's not Joanna, but Emily
Hartley (Suzanne Pleshette). It is Bob Hartley, Newhart's character from
the 1970s series, The
Bob Newhart Show. He explains his dream — no one in the town is
normal, the maid is snobbish, her husband speaks in alliteration, the
handyman failed to grasp various concepts ... and then there were these
three guys, and only one of them did the talking. Emily is irritated at
how ridiculous the dream sounds and tells Bob to go back to sleep.
- The first (and what many fans and critics call the best) season was
produced on videotape. From season two forward (in keeping with the
visual flow with other CBS sitcoms), the show was produced on film,
first in 16MM, and in the final two seasons, on digitally edited 35MM.
- The Dry erase board in Michael's apartment listing his goals always
mentions "Take Over CBS" in addition to his changing daily
tasks, somewhat of a jab at the network the series aired on.