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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Created By:
Cherie Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner, Phoef Sutton
Cast:
Bob Newhart, Cynthia Stevenson, Carlene Watkins, Ruth Kobart, Timothy Fall, Andrew Bilgore, John Cygan
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
Newhart portrays Bob McKay, the creator of the 1950s comic book superhero "Mad-Dog." When a Senate sub-committee decided such reading material could corrupt young readers, Mad-Dog faded into oblivion. Bob became a greeting card artist, and years later Mad-Dog is revived when the American-Canadian Trans-Continental Communications Company buys the rights to the series. Complications ensued when AmCanTranConComCo head Harlan Stone (John Cygan) insists Mad-Dog should be a bloodthirsty vigilante rather than the hero Bob originally created. Bob initially turns down Harlan's offer to revive the series with the publisher, but after his wife, Kaye (Carlene Watkins) reminded Bob that Mad-Dog would never give up dreams in the face of defeat, he decides to compromise with Harlan on creative direction, and the two became a team.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 781 min.
Price: $39.98
Release Date: 4/3/2011

Bonus:
Entertainment Tonight Interviews with Bob Newhart and Betty White
Mad Dog Comic #1 on DVD


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RELATED REVIEWS


Bob: The Complete Series (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 17, 2012)

In the 1970s, we got six seasons and 142 episodes of The Bob Newhart Show. In the 1980s, we found eight years and 184 programs of Newhart.

And in the 1990s, Bob lasted a couple of months into a second season before it wrapped with only 33 episodes under its belt.

What went wrong? Why wasn’t Newhart able to score the television hat trick? Good question, and one I hoped to try to answer as I worked through this four-DVD set. Honestly, I didn’t even remember this series’ existence until I heard about the package’s release. As a fan of Newhart’s prior series, I was curious to give this one a look.

As expected, “Bob: The Complete Series” provides all of its 33 shows on these four discs. Normally I like to offer episode-by-episode recaps and impressions, but doing this for 33 programs seems excessive, so instead I’ll go with more general thoughts.

In terms of story and characters, Bob focuses on Bob McKay (Newhart), a greeting card artist who once created a superhero comic called Mad Dog. This got canceled after only 12 issues but maintained a cult audience so a publisher decides to bring back the series.

Initially, Bob encounters difficulties with new editor Harlan Stone (John Cygan), as they clash over the direction the series will take. However, they agree to make a go of it and Mad Dog becomes reborn. We follow Bob’s work life as well as his home environment with wife Kaye (Carlene Watkins) and daughter Trisha (Cynthia Stevenson).

Note that the setting changes for the series’ final eight episodes from its second season. The comic book folds and Bob becomes president of a greeting card company. He works for owner Sylvia Schmidt (Betty White) and has to operate alongside her son, slick/sleazy Pete (Jere Burns).

Early in this set, I didn’t feel especially optimistic about Bob. I liked his 1970s and 1980s series, so I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but the show just seemed a bit… forced. Bob McKay came across as a surlier character than the usual Newhart persona, and the series felt like it tried a little too hard to match the more aggressive tone of the early 1990s.

These misgivings disappeared pretty quickly, though, as by this package’s second disc – which starts with episode 9 - Bob really begins to hit its stride. Not that the first handful of episodes flop, as they’re reasonably amusing, but they don’t feel particularly natural. Clearly the series needed a little time to get find a groove and develop.

By the time it reaches that second DVD, though, Bob really does start to become pretty entertaining. Not that it doesn’t contain some problems. For the most part, the series’ regular secondary characters never gel. I like Stevenson’s take on Trisha quite a lot; she’s cute, funny and endearing as well as quite talented in terms of comedic skills.

As for the rest, they’re less interesting. The series tries hard to score “breakout” characters like Albie the neurotic gofer or Iris the crotchety old letterer, but none of these go much of anywhere. They’re never unlikable, but they’re not memorable ala roles like Larry and the Darryls from Newhart.

We do find some amusement from occasional guest stars, though. As Bob’s poker buddies, Tom Poston, Dick Martin, Steve Lawrence and Bill Daily add a chummy “old boy” charm, and we get a fun turn from a then-unknown Lisa Kudrow. Sure, she plays essentially the same character she always plays, but she fits within the quirky Newhart universe. I also like Christine Dunford’s abrasive Shayla, Harlan’s crass girlfriend.

While DVDs Two and Three – with episodes nine through 25 of Season One – entertain pretty well, Bob takes a dive when it gets to the abbreviated eight-program Season Two. It’s no wonder the show got canceled given the general crumminess of these eight shows. The new characters tend to be unlikable and charmless, and the series harms the two carry-over supporting roles.

Actually, I take that back - Kaye escapes unscathed, as she was a dud from the start. However, Trisha loses much of her luster, as the revamped series makes her stupid and blundering. For reasons unknown, it matches sweet, likable Trisha with cynical, shark-like Pete, and it’s a bad choice. The pairing makes no sense and creates no sparks or entertainment.

Even the now-much-loved Betty White fails to add zest to the proceedings. When the series shifts to the greeting card company, it loses all the momentum it developed at the comic book. A couple of minor chuckles emerge from the final eight episodes, but they definitely disappoint; they’re flat and forced.

Well, half of a good series is better than none, I guess. Bob doesn’t manage to live up to the heights of Newhart’s earlier shows, and it can be rather hit or miss. Still, it comes with enough charm to be worth a look for Newhart fans.


The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D

Bob appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, dual-layered DVDs. Due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Videotaped TV series from 20 years ago don’t tend to hold up well, and that was the case for the less than attractive Bob.

Sharpness was fairly mediocre. Close-ups demonstrated passable clarity at best, while wider shots tended to be ugly. The image was blocky and soft much of the time. I noticed mild jagged edges and shimmering, and some edge haloes appeared as well. The series came with occasional specks and marks, though these weren’t heavy.

Colors seemed similarly bland. The series tended toward a natural palette, but the hues appeared fairly dull and drab. Blacks were acceptably dark, but shadows tended to be muddy. While I can’t say the visuals fell far below expectations, this was still a pretty unappealing presentation.

At least the Dolby Stereo 2.0 audio was pretty decent. Not that one should expect much from the restricted soundfield, as it provided little excitement. The audio remained fairly centered, as most speech and effects came from the front middle channel. Music, laughter and effects spread gently to the side and rear speakers, but those moments didn’t add much dimensionality to the piece. The mix broadened a little beyond basic mono, but it wasn’t anything dynamic.

Audio quality was more than acceptable. Speech occasionally sounded a bit reedy, but the lines were reasonably natural and intelligible. Music showed decent pep and warmth, while effects appeared fine; this chatty series didn’t bring a lot of those elements, but what we heard seemed adequate. All of this added up to an average mix.

Only a few extras fill out the set, and these start with some Entertainment Tonight Interviews. We find these for Bob Newhart (1:59), Newhart and co-stars (1:51), and Betty White (3:58). We hear from Newhart as well as actors Carlene Watkins, Cynthia Stevenson, Dick Martin, Steve Lawrence, Bill Daily, Tom Poston, and Betty White. These are brief promotional behind the scenes pieces, so they lack much informational value. Still, they’re fun to see in a “time capsule” way.

With Mad Dog Issue #1, we get a still frame gallery. Apparently Marvel Comics put out an issue of Mad Dog as a series tie-in, so the DVD lets us check it out. We get two stories: one shows a 90s-style violent Mad Dog, while the other hearkens back to a nicer 1950s version. Both are enjoyable to see.

The disc opens with ads for Cheers and I Love Lucy.

Bob Newhart’s last stab at a TV sitcom, Bob failed to find much of an audience in the early 90s. It’s hard to make a case that it deserved to be a big success – especially given the poor “reinvention” that came with Season Two – but the majority of Season One entertains, so the show has its moments. The DVD provides dated, ugly visuals as well as acceptable audio and some minor supplements. Despite the inconsistencies, Bob comes with enough comedy to deserve the attention of Newhart fans.

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