As we continue on that Christmas creep, we’re finally going to cover a show that I can’t believe I haven’t hit before. It’s our longest episode title ever with The Bob Newhart Show!
The Bob Newhart Show – “Bob Has to Have His Tonsils Out, So He Spends Christmas Eve in the Hospital”
Original airdate: December 20, 1975
Just check out that title! I love Bob Newhart so much and this show has several Christmas episodes, but I just had to pick the one where the title is the TV Guide listing. That’s not typical of Bob Newhart episode titles. They usually have quick pun titles, not the full pitch from the writers’ room. It’s a weird aberration and probably an inside joke.
I’m not super familiar with this series. I was a huge fan of the follow-up Newhart and the fact that I was super into a deadpan comedy about a Vermont inn when I was ten years old maybe tells you everything you need to know about me. I was really into Bob’s comedy albums, too – and again, me listening to comedy albums from the Fifties as a high schooler is the Rosetta Stone of my personality. I have such warm feelings toward Bob Newhart and I have this sick feeling that when he passes, it’ll be at the end of the year after everybody has done their “Stars we lost in 20XX” retrospective. I regret typing that and putting it out in the universe.
I’ve always meant to check out Bob Newhart in depth, but it’s hard to catch up on 100+ episodes of something. I was a fool to wait, because I had an absolute blast watching this. The plot couldn’t be simpler – Bob has a sore throat right before Christmas and learns he needs to have his tonsils out. Not only does this ruin Christmas, but he’s afraid of the simple procedure. (“They’re careful with kids!”)
Once he gets his tonsils out, it’s that great Newhart set up where he’s dealing with idiots and that makes him cranky but he ends up being punished for that crankiness. That’s kind of what life is, you know? He finally goes to the childrens’ ward (a visit we don’t see) and cheers up a little and he’ll be well enough to be home on Christmas Day. That’s literally the entire plot, but it’s so funny. It’s joke after joke but not at a frenetic pace. And everything lands.
There’s a bit where Bob’s elderly nurse mistakes his neighbor Howard for a patient and it keeps calling back and getting more elaborate. It’s never wacky, but Howard accepting the reality is so funny. Howard and Jerry trimming the tree is hilarious. I’ll have a quote below, but it’s another perfect joke that keeps getting callbacks. Even Bob croaking out “water” over and over to no avail is very funny. Suzanne Pleshette maybe doesn’t have the most nuanced role in the world as wife Emily, but she brings a lot more than the “eyerolling at a funny spouse” that you see so often in Seventies sitcoms. I feel like this episode was kind of packed and usually she had more to do. I hope that’s the case because she’s very good. It was great to see the late Marcia Wallace show up because I spend decades with her as Mrs. Krabappel on The Simpsons.
The hardest 12 Days of Christmas Episodes to write are the ones where it’s just a good solid episode that isn’t totally covered in Christmas trappings. But I just really had a good time watching this and laughed a lot. It’s really good!
Also, a thing I learned: The Bob Newhart Show was co-created by Lorenzo Music, who voices Garfield. And since this one is kind of short, here’s a story I heard on a podcast that I think about a lot. When they made the Ghostbusters cartoon (officially titled Real Ghostbusters), there was some real weirdness with the character design and voices. Egon, for example, was a reedy blond. And the producers specifically didn’t want the voice actors to do impressions of the movie actors. But Maurice LaMarche did a Harold Ramis impression and got hired anyway. Also, Ernie Hudson auditioned to play his own character and they picked Arsenio Hall instead. (One day I’ll talk about how much I love Ernie Hudson.) Anyway, Lorenzo Music was the voice of Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman. After the show had been on a while, Murray caught an episode and was upset that Egon sounded like Ramis but Venkman didn’t sound like him. So he got them to fire LaMarche and replace him with Dave Coulier doing a Bill Murray impression. Bill Murray is a dick.
Best Line: “I hang the angel every year. One year I didn’t do it and the Korean War broke out.” — Howard Borden on a very important tradition
Trimming the Tree – As mentioned above, there’s a very funny scene with Howard and Jerry decorating a Christmas tree.
Christmas Decorations – Most of the sets are tastefully decorated.
Christmas Dinner – That’s the thing Bob is afraid of missing out on and in the end, he gets to go home for whatever dinner he can drink through a straw.
Gift Exchange – There are several very good bits where Elliot is working out just who he needs to give gifts to and figuring out the best ways to re-gift.
Holiday Cheer-O-Meter – On the one hand, this isn’t drenched in Christmas tropes, but it’s a good episode that is based around the holiday. And it’s something I can see adding to my annual Lonely Man Christmas Rotation, which is really all I can ask of an episode. Welcome to the 10 Club, Mr. Newhart!