The Bob Newhart Show appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, dual-layered DVDs. Due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The shows showed their age but remained fairly watchable.
Like everything else, sharpness seemed erratic. Some shots looked fairly concise, while others could be vague and soft. In general, the image showed acceptable definition but no better than that. Sporadic examples of shimmering and jaggies occurred, and I saw occasional signs of edge haloes as well. Occasional specks and marks interfered, but these weren’t too heavy.
Colors tended to be average, as the shows featured fairly mediocre hues; they weren’t dull but they didn’t offer much pep. Blacks demonstrated decent depth, while shadows offered acceptable smoothness.
Surprisingly, the image seemed worst in its later years. While Seasons One through Four had their problems, Seasons Five and Six were the ugliest. They came with flat colors, worse definition, more dirt and a more “digital” feel. The shows were still tolerable, but they went downhill.
Don’t expect much from the bland monaural soundtrack of Bob Newhart Show. The audio lacked much range and seemed flat. Music sounded thin and wan, while effects worked about the same way; they could be a bit distorted and display little punch.
Speech was intelligible but not much better. The lines showed a little roughness at times and seemed tinny much of the time. Some background pops appeared along the way. Nothing here came across as bad for its age and roots, but the audio remained pretty lifeless.
When we shift to extras, we find 15 audio commentaries. Here’s what we find:
“The Last TV Show” (Season 2): actors Bob Newhart and Jack Riley.
“Mister Emily Hartley” (Season 2): Newhart, actor Marcia Wallace and writer/executive producer/series co-creator David Davis.
“Blues for Mr. Borden” (Season 2): Newhart.
“TS Elliot” (Season 2): Newhart, Wallace and Davis.
“The Modernization of Emily” (Season 2): Newhart, Wallace and Davis.
“The Battle of the Groups” (Season 3): Newhart and actor Peter Bonerz.
“Sorry, Wrong Mother” (Season 3): Newhart and Bonerz.
“Tobin’s Back in Town” (Season 3): Newhart and actor Fred Willard.
“The Way We Weren’t” (Season 3): Newhart and director James Burrows.
“The Ceiling Hits Bob” (Season 3): Newhart.
“The Longest Goodbye (Season 4): Newhart, Burrows and actors Suzanne Pleshette and Tom Poston.
“Who Is Mr. X?” (Season 4): Newhart and Wallace.
“Over the River and Through the Woods” (Season 4): Newhart, Burrows and actor Jack Riley.
“My Boy Guillermo” (Season 4): Newhart, Wallace and writer Sy Rosen.
“Guaranteed Not to Shrink” (Season 4): Newhart, Burrows, Pleshette and Wallace.
Going into these commentaries, I expected them to be spotty and that’s what I got. On the positive side, we find a mix of good anecdotes as well as some insights into the series. It’s also simply fun to hear these folks chat and reminisce.
However, the tracks tend to be pretty inconsistent and rarely become particularly valuable. If you add up all the good content across all 15 commentaries, you’ll get a fair amount of material, but you need to sit through a lot of banality to get there; we discover maybe 30 to 45 minutes of worthwhile notes in total.
Still, as I noted, it can be delightful to hear the participants interact. It’s nice to encounter the reunions involved, and the connections among the speakers add a little life.
Unfortunately, the tracks remain tedious much of the time, and we get an awful lot of repetition; you’ll hear some of the same stories three or more times along the way. The commentaries have their charms but lack a ton of merit.
After that, we get the 13-minute, 42-second Making of Season 2 that features Davis and Newhart. We hear about the origins of the series, creating a character for Newhart, and a few other aspects of the production. Though brief, the featurette gives us some useful notes.
The Making of Season 3 goes for eight minutes, 57 seconds and includes notes from Newhart. He talks about changes for Season Three as well as guest stars. This becomes an enjoyable but insubstantial piece.
For Season Four, we find a featurette called A Second Family. It lasts 11 minutes, 44 seconds and provides info from Newhart, as he chats about a few S4 episodes. Since we got commentaries for those shows, this piece becomes somewhat redundant, but it’s a decent overview.
A Season 4 Gag Reel fills four minutes, 50 seconds. It’s a pretty standard mix of goofs and giggles, so don’t expect anything unusual here.
Everything else pops up on a new “Bonus Disc”. Shot back in 1972, an Unaired Pilot runs 28 minutes, 13 seconds and comes with some notable differences from the final show/series. For instance, here Jerry Robinson is another psychologist, not a dentist, and there’s no Carol, Howard or Mr. Carlin. It’s a fun alternate to see.
Shot in December 2013, Group Therapy takes up 46 minutes, 12 seconds with a panel chat among Newhart, Bonerz, Riley, director Michael Zinberg and actor Bill Daily.
They discuss the series’ origins and development, casting, characters and performances, various experiences over the years and aspects of their careers after the show ended.
Expect a fair amount of repetition from the commentaries, mainly because we get so much from Newhart. Daily doesn’t say much, and that becomes a disappointment since he doesn’t appear on any of the commentaries. This still offers an enjoyable chat but it’s not quite as informative as I’d like.
From 1991, we find a 46-minute, 32-second 19th Anniversary Special. A reunion program, it brings back the main cast for a new story that picks up right after the famous ending to the 1980s Newhart series.
While it’s fun to see the actors back again, the tale on display doesn’t go much of anywhere. It uses the Newhart dream as the framework for a clip show, so expect tons of snippets from the 1970s series. I’m glad the special is here as an archival piece, but it’s not that interesting on its own.
Finally, the set provides a 40-Page Booklet. It provides an essay from author Vince Waldron as well as episode details and photos. It becomes a good complement to the set.
As a child in the 1970s, I enjoyed The Bob Newhart Show, and the series continues to delight well into the 21st century. Across all six of its seasons, Bob Newhart offered smart comedy and plenty of entertainment. The DVDs give us mediocre picture and audio along with a spotty roster of bonus features. Nothing about the presentation here will dazzle, but the programs remain terrific.