Friday, July 24, 2009

The button-down mind( and rapidly cancelled variety show ) of comic genius Bob Newhart - Rare clips from Newhart's NBC-TV series - Circa 1962

Bob Newhart was hosting the 1962 EMMY AWARDS when his NBC-TV comedy/variety series, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, won the Television Academy's coveted award for "Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Humor."

It was total validation for his observational, character driven style of television comedy.Some said he was too young, too cerebral and too subtle to register on the small screen.If Gleason and Berle went for belly laughs, Newhart's humor targeted your frontal lobes.

Bob Newhart had the unique ability to make you laugh and think.

A quiet and quirky accountant who looked at life in an ironic way, Newhart began writing and recording funny routines with a partner to preserve his sanity. The pair had some success selling their comedic bits to radio stations, but ultimately went their separate ways.

The Chicago native began to work as a solo act in nightclubs and honed his imaginative and inspired routines. They included a harried portrait of a besieged driving instructor, a craven, Madison Avenue advertising man, pitching his devious campaign strategy to candidate Abe Lincoln, and a bureaucratic security guard trying to determine how to handle King Kong climbing up the Empire State Building.

Unlike the most successful nightclub performers of the day, Newhart didn't do jokes about his domineering Mother-in-Law, those crazy teenagers or flavor-free airline food. He crafted hip snapshots of aberrant human behavior which had hilarious consequences for his appreciative audience.

Newhart's career exploded after Warner Bros. Records released his first comedy album in 1960.Entitled THE BUTTON-DOWN MIND OF BOB NEWHART , the vinyl LP won the recording academy's Grammy for "Album of The Year," beating out popular and bankable musical artists.

In doing that,he opened the door for comedians like Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Flip Wilson to do mainstream,long-form monologues on records.

The witty and wry social observations on the bands of his album propelled Bob Newhart into stardom
But television was a challenge for a young performer who lacked the confidence to carry a network show and lacked the confidence of the network that carried the show.While critical reviews were excellent, ratings and revenues were low.

On Emmy night, 1962, Newhart received a message from NBC programming executives and it was not a congratulatory telegram.

It was a cancellation notice.

The competition was formidable for the BOB NEWHART SHOW. The NBC-TV series aired on Wednesday nights at 10pm, opposite ABC-TV'S THE NAKED CITY, a gritty,police drama and CBS-TV's respected dramatic anthology,THE U.S. STEEL HOUR.Even with NBC-TV's powerhouse lead-in of THE PERRY COMO SHOW , the audience wasn't ready to accept young Bob Newhart as a variety host.

THE BOB NEWHART SHOW lasted only one season.

CBS-TV soon hired him to star with Carol Burnett and Dom DeLuise in The Entertainers, a weekly comic revue with music. The material wasn't written in Newhart's bright and bemused voice.

It tanked , quickly.

While devastated, Newhart's personal tenacity and professional work ethic carried him forward into a decade of success in Las Vegas showrooms, New York nightspots and as a frequent guest on such series as The Tonight Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace.He had small parts in films and recorded more albums.

The 1970's saw Bob Newhart welcomed into the MTM Productions family, where he achieved Television Icon status with his hit sitcom,The Bob Newhart Show,that aired on CBS-TV.

Below are two rare excerpts from two episodes of THE "FIRST" BOB NEWHART SHOW. Enjoy!!!!!

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