The Bob Newhart Show took the sitcom world by storm in the 1970s

Vintage The Bob Newhart Show 1970s sitcom at Click Americana

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“The Bob Newhart Show” is a sitcom that focuses on the life of Dr Robert Hartley, a psychologist based in Chicago who is portrayed by Bob Newhart.

Newhart’s trademark dry humor and deadpan comedy style pervades the show as he interacts with a host of quirky patients while also dealing with his loving wife Emily, his carefree orthodontist friend Jerry, their eccentric neighbor Howard, and their witty receptionist Carol. The show is a classic example of old-school American TV that brilliantly uses humor to explore human behavior.

Bob Newhart show opening credits

Years: 1972 to 1978
# of seasons: 6
# of episodes: 142


Bob Newhart as Dr Robert Hartley: The central character of the show, Bob plays a successful Chicago psychologist known for his dry wit and comedic timing.

Suzanne Pleshette as Emily Hartley: Bob’s supportive and loving wife, Emily is a school teacher who often provides insight into Bob’s clients and their quirks.

Peter Bonerz as Dr Jerry Robinson: Jerry is Bob’s orthodontist friend who shares the office suite with Hartley. His carefree lifestyle often provides a contrast to Bob’s more structured existence.

Bill Daily as Howard Borden: The neighbor from across the hall, Howard is a divorced airline navigator who often stops by unannounced to share stories or ask for advice.

Marcia Wallace as Carol Kester: The receptionist in the office suite, Carol provides comic relief with her witty remarks and observations about her bosses and their patients.


In the age of sitcoms, “The Bob Newhart Show” was a standout — a television classic that turned the world of comedy upside down with its straight-faced humor and wry wit.

Debuting in 1972 and running for six seasons, the sitcom starred the inimitable Bob Newhart as Robert Hartley, a psychologist in the Windy City — Chicago. (Younger generations may know the comedian best for his portrayal as Papa Elf in the movie Elf.)

Bob Newhart and Suzanne Preshette (1973)

Right from the get-go, the show made waves with its unique comedic style. Bob Newhart’s dry, subtle humor, matched with his character’s sometimes bizarre clientele, was a breath of fresh air in the sitcom world.

The show also gave audiences a glimpse into Robert’s personal life, introducing us to his schoolteacher wife Emily, played by the charming Suzanne Pleshette, and their eccentric yet endearing neighbor, Howard Borden, a perpetually confused airline navigator portrayed by Bill Daily. Both of these characters, with their own unique quirks and personalities, added depth and complexity to the show’s humor.

Bob Newhart and Bill Daily - TV show history
Bob Newhart and Bill Daily

Bob Newhart’s interaction with his colleagues was another highlight of the series. His best friend, Jerry Robinson, played by Peter Bonerz, was an orthodontist who shared an office suite with Hartley. Their receptionist, Carol Kester, played by Marcia Wallace, was another unforgettable character who brought her own touch of humor to the show.

What made “The Bob Newhart Show” special wasn’t just its clever writing and stellar cast. It was its ability to derive humor from mundane, everyday situations and turn them into comedic gold.

The show was also among the first to delve into the world of psychology, giving audiences an unprecedented look into the world of therapy, albeit through a comedic lens.

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Stars of the 1970s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show

With its combination of witty writing, memorable characters, and a pioneering premise, “The Bob Newhart Show” remains a beloved part of television history, offering a nostalgic trip back to a time when comedy was more than just about slapstick and laugh tracks.

In short, “The Bob Newhart Show” was, and remains, a paragon of sitcom television. It broke the mold of the typical sitcom structure, and used dry wit and subtlety to create a show that was both funny and relatable. So, let’s raise a glass to Bob Newhart and his amazing cast of characters — they truly gave us a sitcom that was, and is, a class apart.

Marcia Wallace and Bob Newhart on The Newhart Show
Marcia Wallace and Bob Newhart on The Newhart Show
The Bob Newhart show theme song & opening credits

YouTube video

“The Bob Newhart Show” — Special to The Miami News (1974)

From The Miami News (Miami, Florida) November 9, 1974

Is “The Bob Newhart Show” getting funnier in its third season, or are fans just becoming used to the underplayed Newhart brand of comedy?

Bob Newhart show opening credits

The humor comes easier this fall, characters display an added sharpness and appear to be taking more potshots at psychologist Hartley (Newhart) to provoke that pained expression. The psychologist’s sister Ellen (Pat Finley) started the ball rolling in September, moving in with Hartley’s neighbor, Howard Borden (Bill Daily), the divorced airline’s navigator.

ALSO SEE: Embracing chaos, The Odd Couple remains unforgettable in TV sitcom history (1970s)

Vintage Bob Newhart TV show scene from the 1970s (2)

The open-minded psychologist winced at Sister’s disregard for convention he couldn’t help it. His sister settling in with Howard across the hall was too close for comfort. Ellen will be hovering throughout the year to apply needles when needed.

Fellow medics and two group therapy classes keep the pace up and down at Bob’s Chicago office. In the beginning, medical problems were bypassed, since no one wanted to poke fun at the truly sick. This roadblock has been rather skillfully avoided by Hartley group therapy sessions, composed of patients with minor troubles. Therapy shows worked so well, the psychologist conducts two units, one for the unemployed.

Henry Winkler and Bob Newhart on the Bob Newhart show - Clink Shrink episode (1974)
Henry Winkler and Bob Newhart on the Bob Newhart show – Clink Shrink episode (1974)

But Hartley patients must prove their mettle with fans. According to Newhart, all the characters were originally one-shot performances, including Jack Riley’s troubled Mr Carlin.

Rhoda TV show actress Valerie Harper talks about her show and the benefits of success (1974-1978)

A smallish man, Carlin takes in every group meeting, and he improved to the extent of being bold enough to date tall Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace), the secretary, wearing lifts on the big occasion. Naturally, Carlin blew it, taking Carol to a Japanese restaurant where he had to remove his shoes.

Vintage Bob Newhart TV show scene from the 1970s (3)

The shoe bit fits Bob Newhart’s feelings worried about the lack of action and the amount of chitchat going on. Too much time was being spent in the Hartley apartment with husband-wife discussions. “It looked like ‘Father Knows Best,'” Bob said. ‘I felt we needed more sight gags. Now the writers are looking for more spots like Carlin’s shoe bit.”

Vintage Bob Newhart TV show scene from the 1970s (5)

Newhart is careful only to suggest ideas like Mr Herd (Oliver Clark), who came into the office, and analyzed his problems, while psychologist Hartley just sat there and listened to the patient give his solutions. It was a nice commentary without the need for sight gags or a laugh track.

Bob Newhart Show leads - Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette

“I’ve always contended that laugh tracks kept comedy writing down a level,” the deadpan comedian noted. “To me, writing is the toughest job on a series. In comparison, I have a soft touch; so I only make suggestions. If I wrote a show and it flopped, I wouldn’t be able to criticize anymore.”

Newhart, however, is constantly filing away material in the back of his head for use in his nightclub act or on the show. Years of training and watching people’s foibles keep the brain humming, despite the fact the comic is now an established television star.

TV Guide 1975 - Bob Newhart Show cast

“It can’t turn it off,” Newhart said. “I would like a vacation, but I’m afraid would lose my touch. There was a time when I thought I had lost my sense of humor; I hadn’t written anything in months. I don’t want to go through that again.” Bob contends a comedian will never run out of material as long as there are people to observe.

ALSO SEE: How ‘All in the Family’ set TV records – plus the show intro & theme song (with lyrics)

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