Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Lots of laughs with these lovable/wacky characters
Cons: Characters sliding a little toward caricature
The Bottom Line:
This classic sitcom
Still brings plenty of great laughs
In funny season
“Some People Just Can’t Read the Crayola on the Wall.”
We have now entered the second half of Newhart! I’m a huge fan of Bob Newhart’s 1980’s sitcom, which has slowly been hitting DVD. After a several month gap, Shout Factory has given us season 5, and this season of the sitcom is still filled with great laughs.
In this series, Bob Newhart stars as Dick Loudon. Along with his wife Joanna (Mary Frann), he runs the Stratford Inn in a Vermont. They are surrounded by an eclectic group of friends and employees. There is their handyman George Utley (Tom Poston), a native of the town whose family has been taking care of the Stratford for generations. Their maid is Stephanie Vanderkellen (Julia Duffy), a spoiled rich girl who has been cut off from her family and has to work for a living. Michael Harris (Peter Scolari) is Stephanie’s boyfriend and the producer of Dick’s local access TV show at the local station, WPIV. And next door, running the Minute Man Café, are Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl (William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss, and John Voldstad).
Over the course of this season, Dick has a mid-life crisis and follows his dream of becoming a cowboy, Michael has a dream interview with a big TV network, Stephanie starts to worry about her job when an injury forces Dick and Joanna to hire a temporary maid who is actually good at the job, the bell tower that George’s father built needs to be repaired, and Joanna gets angry at Dick for something he did in her dream. Meanwhile, Michael tries to help Larry win the girl of his dreams, a new friend drives a wedge between Larry and the Darryls, Dick tries to find a place to sleep after a fight with Joanna, and a stuffed animal becomes an issue for everyone’s Thanksgiving plans.
As you can see, there are plenty of great stories this season. We’ve moved a bit away from stories with guests at the inn and focus on stories with our core cast of characters. While Larry, Darryl, and Darryl aren’t in every single episode, they are in most episodes of the season, and between these eight characters there are plenty of laughs to go around. Add in some supporting townspeople and employees at the TV station, and it’s easy to see just how many laughs we can generate from the characters we already know.
And laughs there are. Oh, we know all these characters at this point, and the writers know all the characters. Quite often, you know the joke that is coming, and yet they are still so funny you can’t help but laugh.
That’s a credit to the very talented cast. Their chemistry and comedic timing is perfect. They take the words of the writers and bring them to life perfectly. This is a case where everything is running perfectly, and we get to reap the benefits.
As the series progressed, the characters began to become more and more caricatures of themselves. There are hints of that here, especially with Michael, but it’s not really over the top yet.
Meanwhile, the show was obviously from the 80’s, mostly with the fashion. The comedy is timeless, however, and you’ll be laughing at the jokes even if the clothes date things.
Season 5 consisted of twenty-four episodes, and all of them are presented here in stereo and full frame. There are moments in each episode that the picture shows its age, being a little soft, but it’s not too bad. There is one episode that comes with a warning about poor quality, and a few scenes of that episode are pretty bad. However, it is still watchable with plenty of laughs. There are no extras on the set, but I’m just happy to have the episodes.
Whether you are a longtime fan or not, you’ll be thrilled to have season 5 of Newhart in your collect. You’ll be laughing before you know it as these wonderful characters again entertain.
Season 5 Episodes:
1. Co-Hostess Twinkie
2. Camp Stephanie
3. Dick the Kid
4. High Fidelity
5. Desperately Desiring Susan Part 1
6. Desperately Desiring Susan Part 2
7. My Two and Only
8. Thanksgiving for the Memories
9. Utley, Can You Spare a Dime?
10. Sweet and Sour Charity
11. Everybody Ought to Have a Maid
12. Saturday in New York with George
13. Love Letters in the Mud
14. First of the Belles
15. It’s my Party and I’ll Die if I Want to
16. Chimes They Are A-Changing
17. Unfriendly Persuasion
18. Jail, Jail, the Gang’s All Here
19. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Loudon
20. Fun with Dick and Joanna
21. Night Moves
22. Harris Ankles PIV for Web Post
23. Good-By and Good Riddance, Mr. Chips
24. Much to do Without Muffin