BOB NEWHART | FOCUS
1. Marcia Wallace (Carol Kester) from The Bob Newhart Show . 2. Newhart as Bob Hartley. 3. Newhart as Dick Loudon with Mary Frann (Joanna Loudon) from Newhart . 4. Newhart, William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss, and John Voldstad on Newhart . 5. Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper) and Newhart (Professor Proton) in a scene from The Big Bang Theory . 6. Newhart with his award at the 2013 Emmys. 7. Newhart in a devil costume for Halloween. 8. Parsons and Newhart present an award to Stephen Colbert at the Emmys in 2013.
That was Dave Davis. He just said, “You’re Bob Hartley.” I said, “Oh, OK.”
Do you think Dr. Hartley is still prac- ticing psychology today? God, I hope not. He’d be in his 90s! Dr. Ruth is in her 90s and she’s still out there. I guess so. But they’re going to have to find somebody else to play him. I can’t do that anymore.
Well, yes, you can, as evidenced by your recurring role on The Big Bang Theory as Professor Proton. What was it like coming back to a CBS sitcom, and so victoriously? For a while I would watch sitcoms and say to myself, “You can still do that.” And then I’d answer to myself, “Yeah, I know.” After George and Leo , Chuck Lorre and I had a running tradition where he’d call me and ask about appearing on one of his shows, but we could never agree which show I would fit on. So when he called me in 2013, he said, “I’ve come for my annual turndown.” And I said, “Not so fast, Chuck. I really like that show you’re doing, The Big Bang Theory .” I really liked the writing and the marvelous cast. They wrote this great character of Professor Proton and sent me the script. It ended up being a total joy to do, and I really could say to myself, “I still know how to do this.” And the role produced a long-overdue Emmy. That must feel good, especially later in your career. People have told me that there has been a kind of anti-stand-up feeling in Emmy nominations, where voters think, “Well, they’re not really playing characters. They’re just doing themselves.” Of course, as long as they’re not your words and you have to hit marks on the floor, that’s acting. But also, I was also always up against really great heavyweights in the comedy category, like Carroll O’Connor and Alan Alda. Why does The Bob Newhart Show still hold up so well when you watch it today? Early on I reminded the writers that, when we were finished, this show was going to go into syndication. So I didn’t want a lot of specific, topical references, like a joke about Gerald Ford tripping. I didn’t want us to lock ourselves in. Would you ever have imagined in 1972 that we’d still be talking about this in 2022? Oh, God, no! In 1972 I was just thinking, “Please, God, let this work. Keep taping, keep me off the road.” Now it’s a great source of satisfaction to me that, because of a great cast and great writing, 50 years later the show is still on television.
the Family , M*A*S*H , The Mary Tyler Moore Show , us, and The Carol Burnett Show . But at the time, after a while on Saturday night, I went to CBS’s head of programming, Robert “Bob” Wood, and asked him to consider moving us. I thought we were doing some pretty good stuff, and although we were lucky to be behind Mary , I thought we were being overshadowed. He said no, that the show worked where it was. Later, we went into syndication, where we weren’t following Mary Tyler Moore , and I was happy that the show stood on its own. How did you decide to put your name in the title? I didn’t want to become like Jim Nabors with Gomer Pyle. In televi- sion you can become that character and lose any identity you’d had. We wanted to keep my stand-up identity because I was very proud of those roots and having what I’d learned from stand- up translate into The Bob Newhart Show , and then Newhart , and then Bob , and then even another show I did later, George and Leo , because my legal name is George Robert Newhart.
But then Bob’s name is Hartley, so it’s similar but not the same. Where did Hartley come from?
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER • 2022
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