May 21, 2010

Was This Really 20 Years ago?

Today marks the 20th anniversary of what many TV viewers consider the finest last show of any series, the final episode of Newhart. TV Guide even voted it “the” most memorable final scene of a series on television.

Before his success on TV, Newhart started his career 50 years ago as a comedian, winning the top three Grammy Awards in 1960 for his debut comedy record, which made him a national star. But he really became well known to the public with his first series “The Bob Newhart Show” (in which Bob played “Dr. Bob Hartley,” a psychologist). After his second series, "Newhart" had run for a good long run, Bob Newhart decided he was tired of the grind of a TV series. That is when they had to decide how to end the show.

From Bob Newhart's Facebook page, the story on how that happened:

Newhart discussed it with many people, including his wife Ginnie.
She gave birth to the idea of bringing back Bob’s former TV series wife, Suzanne Pleshette, for the series finale.
The idea was that Bob would wake up from his “dream” of being a Vermont innkeeper and, of course, his “reel” wife, Suzanne, aka “Emily Hartley,” would be next to him in the bed.
Alas, eight seasons of “Newhart” was only a dream.
To keep the show’s finale a secret, Newhart and his producers went to great lengths and even wrote fake finales that potentially starred George Burns or George C. Scott in the role of God.
The tabloids picked up on the miscues and published them, but the real finale was only known to Newhart, Pleshette and a few top executives. Even his co stars didn’t know the real ending until the night the show was taped at CBS’ Studio City, Calif. Studios.
The audience present for the TV taping was sworn to secrecy until the show aired May 21, 1990 and an enduring slice of TV history was created.

For those few people who never got to see it, here is the last 10 minutes:

This always starts a great debate when you talk about famous finales of TV series, and I had this conversation with some friends a long time ago. A lot of people mention the ending of MASH, which I think is still the most watched ever. Others will go with Newhart, or the ending of Cheers, where the final words Sam uttered to a late-arriving patron -- "we're closed". Those of us old enough to remember The Fugitive recall how after 4 years of running from the law in pursuit of the one-arm killer finally got his revenge.

My favorite that I blogged about many moons ago was the ending of St Elsewhere. Donald Westphall and Daniel Auschlander were the two heads of the hospital, and Donald Westphall had a son with Autism. The scene switched from the hospital to an apartment and was in black and white. Donald came home from a blue collar job carrying a lunch pail, where Danial Auschlander was his father taking care of his son. He asked "grampa" how the day was with his son, and he said same as always, just playing with his toy. Then he asked, do you ever wonder what goes on inside his head all day? He answered we'll probably never know, and the camera zooms in tight to his toy, which is a snowglobe he keeps shaking. As the camera pulls in real tight, you see the the building inside the snowglobe is the hospital, St. Eligius, otherwise known as St Elsewhere. The idea being that the entire series had been made up in the mind of the young boy that had autism.


  1. That was only 20 years ago? I thought more like 25. Anyway, I remember bursting out laughing when it was Emily/Suzanne in bed with Bob.

    Best. Ending. EVER!

    I was disappointed in the MASH and Cheers endings, and I missed St. Elsewhere's ending due to night school in college. I wonder if YouTube has that one, because it sounds awesome!

  2. I always thought it funny how a lot of people didn't like the St. Elsewhere ending, but liked the Newhart one.

    You really should wear more sweaters. Classic line.

  3. Yeah, I remember that one. Sheer brilliance.

    I also thought the ending of Seinfeld was fabulous - all those characters coming together in court to throw Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer in jail! Hahahahaha!

  4. I hated the way they ended St. Elsewhere. It was a stupid gimmicky cop out.

  5. JJ: I was really disappointed with the entire last season of MASH. It was like they kind of gave up on the show.

    Scope: I forgot about that line until I watched it again!

    Cora: Lots of people didn't like the Seinfeld ending, but I liked it.

    Dr: I couldn't disagree more. I thought it was brilliant.

  6. Anonymous11:11 AM

    I've never seen Newhart (did you just faint?) and I don't watch a whole lot of TV, but I'm already pretty inconsolable about the end of LOST. Sniff.

    The St. Elsewhere ending sounds like something that would induce me to batter someone with a baseball bat while saying bad, bad words.

  7. I remember this - it was hysterical! The entire last season of MASH made me cranky. And I remember the St. Elsewhere ending and thought it was good.

  8. You had me at "bob newhart has a facebook page"

  9. I never got the chance to see this, but I heard about it. I saw it now :)

  10. I think Bob Newhart had the best show end ever. I'm usually disappointed with farewell shows, but not that one.