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.