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Milt Gross Movie Review: Newhart, the complete first season, starring Bob Newhart
By Milt Gross
Aug 26, 2012 - 1:05:43 AM

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A happy surprise.

Remember Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryle?

Recently, my daughter and her husband in western Maine, mailed us the two-disc Newhart, the complete first season DVD.

There was no birthday, holiday, or other special occasion. They just sent it as a present.

What a present! It took Dolores and I back to the 1980s, well before we first met but back to a time when we separately had laughed at Bob Newhart and friends at their Vermont inn until tears ran.

From the box containing the two discs of 22 episodes, "In 1982, Bob Newhart, one of the best-loved comedians of all time, made his triumphant return to television with the Emmy-nominated Newhart, a truly remarkable sitcom showcasting the legendary funnyman's hilariously droll sense of humor and impeccable comedic timing."

This DVD of a familiar series of comedies set in the hills of Vermont has brought back hours of yesteryear's enjoyment to Dolores and me. Photo by Milt Gross.

That pretty well sums it up, but in viewing it I was drawn to the quiet, rural area depicted as Vermont. Perhaps it takes me to that inner self, always seeking that emotional place of peace in a busy, busy world.

In case you've forgotten what most likely you too thought was a great series, Newhart starred as Dick Loudon, a writer, with his wife, Joanna, played by Mary Frann, bought the old inn to escape New York City's frantic lifestyle and re-open the long-closed inn.

I read somewhere once that many people, also from NYC, but indeed from places such as Boston and Philadelphia quit their lives in those places and moved to Vermont to recreate the homey scenes of the series in their own lives. I also read that most of them went broke and left Vermont in poor economic condition, something that just doesn't seem right or possible when you view the TV series.

A passenger on my Island Explorer bus in Acadia National Park several years ago told me that she and her husband had followed that crowd.

The town to which they had moved was so small, she said, that a sign on the road approaching it read, "If you can read this, you're not from here."

The woman also told me how they decided not to open a country inn after all. She and her husband had discussions, after they move into the old building, about their opening their inn.

"Honey," he would say, "while you're in the kitchen making eggs for our guests, I'll be greeting them in the dining room."

"No, no," she would reply, "you have it backwards. While you're in the kitchen cooking eggs for our guests, I'll be greeting them in the dining room."

The woman told me that one day during their discussion, they both realized how many eggs operating an inn would involve. That was when they canceled their plans, she said.

Tom Poston played the role of what may have been my favorite character in the series, George. George with his hands deep in his overall pockets, an innocent not-too-bright smile on his pleasantly wrinkled face, and repairing or otherwise adding to the comedic aspects of the show.

The episodes played on country living. "In the Beginning," where they meet the other characters of the series, none of which appeared quite as intelligent as Loudon Joanna. I think it was that difference, the others acting rather bumpkinish or otherwise not quite with it, that gave the Newhart series its flavor.

In an early episode, we meet the three laborers, who first come to remove a body that has been buried in the basement for probably a century or so. The lead of the trio introduces himself with, "Hi, I'm Larry. This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl."

Despite our hardiest attempts to not criticize, every so often one of us will look at the other and say something like, "Oh, look, there's Larry. I wonder if his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl are near."

I wonder how many folks say or think that about me. Nope, couldn't happen. And never about Dolores, who is so clever that each week I give her my paycheck and she gives me my allowance of $50. I tell bus passengers that I work for $50 a week.

Other episode titles included, "Hail to the Councilman" in which Loudon becomes a town councilor, a special role until he discovers that most other residents of the town also were town councilors, "Shall we Gather at the River" when Joanna manages to fall in during an ice-skating party, and "No Room at the Inn" in which 24 guests belonging to one organization help a husband and wife, the wife about to give birth in their room. Thankfully, it turned out that the organized group was a group of doctors.

On and on they went, the first season ending with the 22 episodes.

Meantime, we're on Disc 2, viewing our way through it and then through Disc 3.

The kids found our copy of the first series in Walmart. If you're Walmart fans, perhaps you can too. To find other series, we'll be looking at Netflix, Amazon, and other places that don't require us to climb out of our seats and actually walk into a big box store.

I don't know how many seasons there are in DVD for our viewing pleasure. We have a new project, find out.

Then plan to sit back and laugh a lot, perhaps a bit teary eyed.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@midmaine.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

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