Produced by the team that propelled the The Mary Tyler Moore Show to great success, The Bob Newhart Show was part of CBS's historic Saturday night line-up, which created "Appointment Television" before there was ever anything called "Must-See TV." Bob Newhart, coming off a highly successful stand-up career, was well suited to the low-key, adult comedy that was The Bob Newhart Show.
The show was based around successful Chicago psychologist Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) and his schoolteacher wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), as they worked through the everyday difficulties facing a married couple. At Newhart's request, the creators never tried to force children into the Hartleys' lives. The writers were able to add a quiet realness (similar to the writing on The Mary Tyler Moore Show), which made the show a hit right from the beginning. It was the writing, coupled with stuffy, dry-witted Bob and the warm and friendly but slightly sarcastic Emily, that helped the show end its first season in 16th place.
Many episodes (especially after season one) took place at Bob's office. His wisecracking husband-hunting receptionist Carol Kestler (Marcia Wallace), and Bob's good friend, the skirt-chasing orthodontist Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz), added big laughs to the storylines, without being unrealistic. The writers were also able to add a series of running jokes that involved the elevators (behind Carol's desk) and various cast members. It was almost as if the elevators themselves became a member of the cast.
One of the show's greatest sources of humor, which became more of a focus in later seasons, was the dynamic between Bob and his patients in their sessions. Maybe it's because no one in therapy seemed any stranger than the characters in Bob's non-professional life. In fact, the writers often made use of the contrast between the (relative) normalcy of Bob's patients versus the zaniness of the people not in therapy, allowing audiences to see that funny behavior isn't always a "pie in the face." Another running joke was Bob's frequent one-sided telephone conversations. This was developed by Newhart himself from his popular stand-up act from the 1960s. The writers found the phone calls highlighted Newhart's excellent deadpan timing, without adding significant or unnecessary padding to the show.
The Bob Newhart Show ran for six very well-received seasons, until Newhart and the writers decided Bob would step away from his practice to pursue a teaching job in Oregon. This allowed everyone to leave on a high note, with a successful show. Nearly four years later, Newhart would begin developing his new show, simply titled Newhart. ~ Sharon McRill, Rovi