A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Newhart centers on a married couple living and working in a remote Vermont inn, where they interact with a rotating cast of quirky characters (though star Bob Newhart by far gets the most screen time). The series ran for most of the 1980s, so you'll see some female characters sketched along some now-dated gender lines. But aside from the occasional flirtation and a few jokes that subtly touch on sexual topics (like the discovery that the inn used to be a "cathouse" in the 1700s), the content is remarkably clean.
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What's the story?
Named for its popular star, actor-comedian Bob Newhart, NEWHART follows the misadventures of New York City author Dick Loudon (Newhart) and his wife, Joanna (Mary Frann), as they buy a charming historic inn in rural Vermont and attempt to run it as a businesses, helped and more often hindered by a cast of quirky locals. From backwoods brothers Larry (William Sanderson), Daryl (Tony Papenfuss), and Daryl (John Voldstad), to self-absorbed "yuppie" couple Michael (Peter Scolari) and Stephanie (Julia Duffy), this small New England town's got some huge personalities.
Is it any good?
While it might seem hokey by today's standards, this series is still fun and filled with memorable, kooky characters. The Bob Newhart Show, which aired on CBS from 1972 to 1978, broke new ground in television at the time with its focus on the field of psychology and its attempts to show the lighter side of mental health. It also paved the way for Newhart, which aired on the same network just a few years later and applied its titular lead’s impeccable timing and deadpan delivery to an arguably more mundane topic -- rural life.
Watching it today feels less like you're watching television and more like you're watching a well-directed and well-timed stage play in which the jokes fall exactly as they should. And that's part of what makes Newhart a classic that continues to deliver decades later. Yes, it's dated (and the rooms go for $20 a night!), but it's still delightfully funny.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Newhart's premise and characters and how appealing they are to modern audiences. If a writer pitched the same show today, would it get picked up? And would the characters still look and act the same? How might you change the characters to make them more relatable?
How does Newhart compare to the most popular comedies on television today? What's changed in terms of how comedies are written, produced, and consumed? Which era of TV comedy do you prefer?
Newhart's series finale is considered one of the most talked about in television history -- right up there with M*A*S*H, Seinfeld, and The Sopranos. What made it so memorable for its time, and how would it play with audiences today?
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