Watching re-runs today, you may not realize that The Bob Newhart Show was revolutionary when it made its debut in 1972. Here are the 5 reasons why.
1. The characters all live in a city – The standard T.V. sitcom took place in the suburbs. Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriett , and Leave It To Beaver all took place in the suburbs. However, the characters in The New Hart show all lived in an apartment building in Chicago.
2. The female lead of the show had a job – Emily Hathaway (played by Suzanne Pleshette) was a full time public school teacher, and she was good it in. Up until then, almost 100% of T.V. shown portrayed women as stay at home moms.
3. Suzanne Pleshette was sexual. – It is hard to even image Ozzie & Harriett Nelson or June & Ward Cleaver having sex. In fact, it is even disturbing to think about. In The Bob Newart Show, however, the beautiful Suzanne Pleshette was shown in a low cut nightgown sharing a king sized bed with her husband.
4. The married couple had no kids and did not plan to have any – The Newharts had a full life without children, and their friends were also all professional people with no kids.
5. The subject of mental illness was portrayed without hysteria. Dr. Robert Hathaway (Bob Newhart) was a psychologist, and a large part of the show focused on his patients. They were not crazy or dangerous people, but likeable individuals who were struggling to face the pressures of everyday life. Of course, being a comedy the situations were portrayed with humor. The most memorable patient was “Mr. Carlin” (brilliantly played by Jack Riley). Mr. Carlin was a successful real estate developer who just cannot seem to be able to connect with people personally. Actually broaching the taboo subject of mental illness is probably the biggest contribution of The Bob Newhart Show .
So, if you happen to to be flipping through the channels and come across an old rerun of The Bob Newhart Show, you may want to view it with some respect. In its own way, it began to breakdown the T.V. stereotypes of what Americans were supposed to be and how we were supposed to act.