Saturday, September 05, 2009

Bob Newhart Turns 80

I guess this is more significant to the over–40 crowd, but today is Bob Newhart's 80th birthday.

I was luckier than most people my age. I knew about Bob Newhart before most of my friends did. My parents owned a copy of his debut album, "The Button–Down Mind of Bob Newhart," which won the Grammy for Album of the Year and displaced an Elvis album and a cast recording of "The Sound of Music" from the top of the Billboard charts.

I listened to that record so often when I was a boy that I memorized many of the routines and used to recite them for my friends. I don't remember most of them now, but if I hear a line from one of them, it's usually enough to spark a memory surge!

Perhaps some of my friends' parents also had copies of that record, but not many, I'm sure.

Even so, any of my friends who didn't know who Bob Newhart was when I was reciting his routines in the schoolyard soon learned. He headlined his own TV show, "The Bob Newhart Show," from 1972 to 1978, then he was the star of another long–running show, "Newhart," from 1982 to 1990.

The final episode of "Newhart" has, variously, been described as both the greatest finale for a TV series and the most unexpected moment.

The unexpected part was the conclusion. Newhart, who played an innkeeper in the second series, played a psychologist in the first one. At the end of the "Newhart" episode, he was shown waking up in bed — in the bedroom from the first series next to Suzanne Pleshette, his wife in the first series. Turned out, the entire second series had been a dream — which was a clever parody of the show "Dallas," in which one full season turned out to have been a dream a few years earlier.

Newhart claimed that his real–life wife was the one who came up with the idea.

Well, whoever had the inspiration, it was brilliant. Watch it for yourself in the attached clip — although, if you're too young to remember "The Bob Newhart Show," it probably won't seem that funny to you.

Just take my word for it. It's funny.

Happy birthday, Bob.