The Bob Newhart Show is one of those classic sitcoms from the 70s that has languished in home video purgatory for years. While other, lesser shows have found a home on DVD, this essential series has only had one season on home video release. Until now. Shout! Factory, the saviors of classic TV entertainment, have released The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series, a DVD box set that includes every episode of the show, as well as a booklet that details the history of the show and includes a synopsis of every episode, plus a bonus disc that contains the unaired version of the pilot episode, a 19th Anniversary special from 1991, and new interviews with Newhart sitting with some of the living cast members.
The birth of The Bob Newhart Show begins with Mary Tyler Moore. The runaway success of her sitcom in the early 70s had CBS clamoring for more comedies with class. David Davis and Lorenzo Music, two writers on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, were approached by the network to create a show of their own. Stressed, and short on ideas, they could only come up with a name of an actor they’d like to work with: Bob Newhart.
At the time, Newhart was one of the most popular standup comics in America. His nightclub act and comedy albums were huge hits. He’d attempted TV once before, a failed variety show, and was reluctant to return to the medium. But Davis and Music wrote a brilliant script and the comedian was hooked.
The producers of the show also came up with one of the best ensemble casts in the 70s, a group of actors who not only let Newhart shine as the lead, but became fan favorites as well. The Bob Newhart Show was divided between Bob’s workplace and home life spent with his wife in downtown Chicago. Newhart played Bob Hartley, a psychologist. This job was perfect for allowing the deadpan Newhart react to the characters and the crazy things they said to him. Among the actors who played his patients were Jack Riley and John Fielder. Other people in Bob’s office were Peter Bonerz as Jerry, an orthodontist, and the late Marcia Wallace as Carol, their receptionist.
At home, Bob had just as much zaniness to deal with thanks to his neighbor, Howard (I Dream of Jeannie’s Bill Dailey) and his smart, sexy wife, Emily, played Suzanne Pleshette. It’s the relationship with Emily that was groundbreaking for the time. In an era in which married couples on TV were still expected to be shown in separate beds, the writers were determined to explore a realistic married life for this fantasy couple. As Vince Waldron’s essay accompanying the set states, “By openly acknowledging that a couple on the far side of thirty could enjoy a healthy, hearty sex life, the cast and creators of The Bob Newhart Show made it clear that this was a situation comedy for grown-ups.” The chemistry between Newhart and Pleshette was so believable and beloved, audiences cheered when the actors briefly reprised their roles in the finale of Newhart’s second hit sitcom, Newhart, in the early 90s.
Whenever a show with so many years under its belt finds a home on DVD, there’s always the question as to whether it holds up in the modern era. Perhaps because I grew up watching The Bob Newhart Show, or perhaps because he remains as funny now as he was in his heyday, but I feel that it remains solid. Will millennials embrace The Bob Newhart Show? They should, after all, they all grew up watching Will Ferrell’s Elf, and this is Papa Elf we’re talking about. Shout! Factory, as always, has done everything possible to preserve the picture and sound quality of these old shows. This is another fine addition to their growing catalog.
Dan Curtis was the creator of the cult TV daytime drama, Dark Shadows, a series about, among other supernatural ideas, vampire Barnabas Collins, the 175-year-old vampire searching for his lost love, Josette. After Dark Shadows, Curtis continued his television career by directing many horror movies for the medium, including an adaptation of Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde and this adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, both of which starred Jack Palance.
Curtis claimed that he always loved Stoker’s novel, hence his own vampire creation in Collins. So it made sense that he might take a stab at the character once he began making eerie TV movies. Curtis brought to this production the idea of lost love tormenting the undead soul of the vampire. In doing this, Curtis made Dracula into a sympathetic character, providing a deeper reason for him to leave his home of Transylvania. In Curtis’ story, Dracula discovers that the reincarnation of his long lost love is living in England. He leaves his homeland to go turn her into a vampire so that they may live together forever.
If this plot point sounds familiar, you may recall that Francis Ford Coppola used it in his film Bram Stroker’s Dracula in 1992, a point of contention with Curtis. In the interview with the producer/director included on this Blu-ray, he doesn’t call out Coppola by name, but you know who he’s talking about.
The opening half hour introduces Palance as the lovesick Dracula. He has invited Jonathan Harker (Murray Brown) to his castle in Transylvania under the false pretense of wanting to buy property in England. In truth, he’s seen a newspaper photo of Harker’s fiance and her cousin, Lucy (Fiona Lewis). Convinced that Lucy is his deceased wife reincarnated, Dracula traps Harker in the castle and goes off to steal Lucy away from her family. Throughout these opening scenes, Palance plays Dracula with a mixture of menace and sadness, bringing humanity to the monster.
After the story switches to England, Dracula takes a back seat to Dr. Van Helsing and his hunt for the vampire. He is aided by Lucy’s fiancé, Arthur (Simon Ward). Together, these two men do away with Lucy and track Dracula back to his castle lair in Transylvania. While Palance has less screen time during the latter part of the movie, this is in sticking to the original book plot. By film’s end, Dracula and Van Helsing face off to great effect.
This Dracula has some significant talent behind it. In addition to Palance and Curtis, the film also stars Nigel Davenport as Van Helsing, and has a strong script written by the legendary Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, Duel). Overall, this is a great movie now just finding a Blu-ray release. Transferred using the original 35 mm print, this Dracula looks more like a feature film than a made-for-TV flick. The film was shot on location in Yugoslavia and England, and has the feel of a Hammer film. Fans of the famous horror film studio will surely enjoy this film.