MovieChat Forums > Newhart Discussion > Dislike the last two seasons

Dislike the last two seasons


I've written in another thread that I feel vintage Newhart is seasons 3-6. The first two with Kirk and the previous maid seem like a different show sometimes; and the last two seasons contain a lot of jump-the-shark moments in my opinion.

I understand there will be people who really love the more outlandish plots of the final seasons, but after watching two late season 7 episodes, it only confirmed my feelings how much I dislike the writing at that stage of the series.

I think they really ruin Michael when they give him the nervous breakdown. The scenes with him as the mime in the restaurant where Stephanie is on a date with an old friend were completely over the top. This was the episode called 'One and a Half Million Dollar Man.' Even the subplot with Larry & the Darryls knowing Stephanie's friend intimately required too much suspension of disbelief. It's like they were going for high camp jokey-ness and sacrificing character development at this point. We certainly would not have had Larry and his brothers as people who went to New York to see Broadway shows on the down-low. It's funny, but this isn't true to their characters and their earlier presentation as backwoods stereotypes.

The next episode 'The Little Match Girl' brings Eileen Brennan back as Corinne, an illustrator that worked with Dick on an earlier book. There is no way someone like Dick would have been so dumb as to sign her out of a mental institution without checking out what caused her to be placed there in the first place. And it's completely painful watching Michael languish in the sanitarium. The scene where Stephanie visits him was dominated by a bald roommate trying to make a move on Stephanie, and there was hardly any exchange between Stephane and Michael about what put him there and where their relationship had gone wrong. Again, solid characterization sacrificed for campy scenes with nutty patients and over the top jokes.

Of course, I am not saying all the episodes in the last two seasons do not work-- but many of them are off on such a weird tangent that it's difficult to watch.

At its heart, in the glory seasons from the third until the sixth year (with better writers and producers) we have a Rockwell view of life in a small New England hamlet, full of charm and slightly eccentric characters. But all of that just gets carelessly thrown by the wayside in season 7 and they had no real way to explain the ridiculous story choices and direction of the characters without making it Dick's dream at the end. And that in itself was ridiculous because nobody would have a dream with 184 separate, consecutive stories in it-- unless he was in a coma and had been sleeping for a long time, to cover years of hairstyle changes, clothing changes, changes in technology and so forth.

Absolutely preposterous. A sad way to watch this show go, when it was truly one of the best things on television for those four middle years.

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Although I'm laughing a lot watching the final two seasons on Antennatv/Youtube (never watched the original run and Antennatv skipped a bunch of season 7 episodes) and enjoy the over the top absurdity, it's clear that the de-emphasis of Dick storylines either killed Bob Newhart's television career, or indicated his style of humor went out of fashion sometime around 1987 or 1988. I mean, he didn't have a successful show after Newhart ended, and it seemed most of the plots the last two seasons were focused on the supporting cast with Dick just being the straight man.

They should have just renamed the series "Scolari & Duffy" at the start of the 8th season!

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The show right after this one, 'Bob,' had a major revamp after the first season-- but something was off in both seasons, and they tried to rely on a lot of the old formula that had made him a hit in the past-- like having Jere Burns essentially do the Howard Borden/Kirk Devane/Michael Harris foil. I think he returned to the airwaves too soon and didn't have it all figured out before they aired, which led to changes and an early cancellation.

Now, the next series, which came around 1997, with Judd Hirsch entitled 'George & Leo' was very good. It had more of a long story arc, where these guys were sort of rivals and their children fell in love-- the son was played by Jason Bateman. CBS axed it after one year, probably because it was appealing to an older audience, but it could easily have lasted and would have been a substantial hit.

It's a shame Duffy and Scolari did not get to spin their well-honed characters off on to their own show, but in a way, all the stories in the last two seasons of 'Newhart' had rendered the characters useless in a continuing format. It was just too surreal and not at all anything you could build on anymore.

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I don't think it was canceled. And neither was Bob Newhart's first sitcom. He is the one who decided to end both shows when he did and go out on a high note.

The later two sitcoms, however (Bob and George & Leo) were cancelled, the first one because it didn't catch on even after a format change; and G&L because it was not attracting the correct demographics for CBS which at the time was trying to appeal to more youth-oriented audiences (the same reason Murder, She Wrote got the axe).

The major issue I have with the last two seasons, as I stated previously, is the writing is a bit sloppy in some episodes. They are forgetting some of the things that had been carefully established with the characters-- or else blatantly ignoring those foundations in their quest to be zanier.

I think Michael is totally ruined in season 7. And Joanna is not written correctly in many episodes of 7 & 8. It's like she has a slight personality transplant, which the previous writers and producers would never have done. Also, Larry and his brothers are suddenly now these world-savvy travelers who have apparently associated with lots of famous and important people away from Vermont, which makes no sense given how they were introduced and established in prior seasons.

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I've just finished watching the entire series last night on Antenna TV, and you're right. While I didn't mind season seven quite as much, season eight was a really unpleasant experience all around. The earlier seasons had a timeless quality to them. Season 8 had horrendously dated jokes ( Guest: We've just been on the worst cruise of our lives!" George: Was Leona Helmsley on board?"), ridiculous dream sequences and made most of the characters snarky and unlikeable. Seriously, did you notice George the kindly, old handyman seemed to become more and more of a jerk as the season went on? As for the "it was all a dream" ending, I like the idea in theory. I mean, it's the sort of thing that's funny when you tell someone about it. But watching the same characters grow over eight years only to have them all erased from existence gave me that same unpleasant, melancholy feeling I usually have at the end of a Twilight Zone episode.

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Exactly. The earlier seasons had a much more timeless quality to them, especially seasons 3-6 where Miriam Trogdon was in charge of the writing. The last season was trying too hard to be hip and topical.

And I think Joanna changes personality and George changes personality, because of lazy writing. It's easy to write a zinger where someone can get a laugh out of meanness, but it ruins this kind of show and takes the softer more charming touches away that were deeply established in the characters and their Rockwell-type surroundings.

A lot of bad story choices at the end, and poor characterization that resulted in a loss of focus for a once-great series.

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Most series reach their heights after a season or two I've noticed and reach low points toward the end typically.

Dini

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You liked Kirk and Cindy better than Michael and Stephanie? Or is it Leslie? I don't remember.

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I liked both couples. I think Kirk and Cindy should have continued as recurring characters. Michael & Stephanie (later with the baby) were much more developed because they were featured longer and the writers took them in more directions.

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Haven't seen those seasons at all since they first aired, but your comments are, based on what I do remember, absolutely correct. They stretched things way too far and changed much of the characters in those last two seasons. As you say, they did still have some really funny shows, but much of it was preposterous.

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A perfect example of the over-the-top preposterousness was the one at the beginning of season 8 where Dick carelessly tosses a cigar in a trash can at a fancy restaurant and the place burns down. Out of guilt, Dick & Joanna allow the owner to stay on at the Stratford, where he essentially takes over the cooking duties. The actor was brilliant and the episode was quite funny, but wondering if he would enact revenge on the Loudons was stretched out, and personally I don't think Dick was the kind of person to be so careless as to cause a fire. Plus, he would not have kept such information from the authorities. So the integrity of the main characters is being sacrificed in order to do what is a broad sketch involving the chef-owner and the Loudons.

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The last two seasons will always be my favorite. I love how insane the plots get. The show also built up the town way more towards the end, bringing in recurring characters and giving the old characters more to explore (Joanna's real estate job and subsequent TV show, Michael and Stephanie's baby and moving into the carriage house). Bob Newhart does best when he can be the straight man for wacky characters around him, and they really pulled out all the stops for the end of the series. My favorite episode was one of the last ever produced: "Seeing Double" is just perfection in my eyes.
And let's keep in mind, this is all Dr. Hartley's dream, so it makes sense that things get a little out of hand.

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I do like the Seein' Double episode, because I think it ranks up there with the best of the WPIV episodes that poke fun at network television industry practices. But even it is a broad sketch, and it probably goes on too long in spots.

Michael and Stephanie's move into the carriage house with the baby was a natural progression for them (nothing outlandish or insane about that). It would have seemed weirder if they stayed on at the inn, and if Stephanie had kept working forever at the Stratford under Dick & Joanna.

The middle four years featured the townsfolk fairly often, so this is not a new thing at the end of the series. It is just that one or two new recurring characters have been added, like Miss Goddard. But all the others-- Officer Shiflett, Jim & Chester, and Larry & the Darryls-- were present in the earlier stories. However, Harley has been killed off by the new writers and some of the WPIV staff changes, and all the Beaver Lodge stuff (with those wacky characters) is dropped.

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I really thought the first two seasons were very good. I can never understand why so many people disliked them. Kirk was a jerk, but some of his lines were so biting that a few times I almost split a gut laughing at the brilliant delivery of lines by Kampmann and Newhart's reaction to what Kirk said. The Michael and Stephanie thing got so tired and making them such a big part of the final two seasons was such a mistake. The final two seasons were mostly horrible. The writing was sloppy and the jokes were tired. They should have ended it during season 6.

I also heard that Bob Newhart wanted Kampmann out because the character or Kirk was getting so popular. Not sure if it's true though.

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I've never read anything that said Newhart and Kampmann were rivals on the show. But I do think Kampmann should have been given his own series by the network. A spinoff with Kirk and bride Cindy in a different setting might have been very popular. Kirk still had a lot of growing to do as a human being when he was written out. There was more that could have been done with him, and Kampmann had the part nailed.

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Yeah, Kampmann was excellent. I think that Kirk was one of the most underrated characters on a sitcom. I really do think that someday he may get some recognition, because Kampmann's delivery of his lines were so spot on and Newhart's reactions to those lines were also great. I may be in the minority(even though I do like a lot of what came after season 2), but I think that the show was much better during the first two seasons and if they followed the original formula(without Lesley of course) the show would have been even more beloved. I think the final two seasons somewhat ruined how this show will be remembered in years to come. Michael was a one joke kind of guy; I guess he was easier for people to relate to, but the lines Kirk uttered revealed a guy who was a complicated mess full of contradictions.

I did read an interview with Kampmann where he says that he was let go probably because Newhart thought that Kirk was hijacking the show. I suppose we will never know for sure what the real reason for his departure was.

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Agreed. Just watched "Child in Charge" with George McGovern as a guest star - "Stephanie's parents buy Baby Stephanie WPIV making her the new owner of the local television station". Painfully bad. Dick talking to the baby at the end? Embarrassing.

And people complain about the Kirk episodes?!

https://www.facebook.com/The-Kirk-Devane-Fan-Club-1069087409770071/

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