Monday, July 18, 2005

Hi Again, Bob!

The DVD release of the first season of The Bob Newhart Show must have been a winner for Fox, because the second season is on its way this October. Happily, unlike the bare-bones first season, commentary tracks have been recorded by Newhart, Marcia Wallace (Carol), Jack Riley (Mr. Carlin), and Dave Davis, the surviving creator (the co-creator, Lorenzo Music, passed away several years ago).

Season 2 is a step up from season 1, largely because the Jay Tarses quotient is increased. In season 1, Tarses and his writing partner Tom Patchett wrote a couple of episodes; in season 2 they came on full-time staff and wrote seven episodes, many of which veered away from the overly polite, gentle MTM-style humor into darker areas (including an episode where the blandest character, Peter Bonerz's Jerry, becomes briefly interesting by confessing he's in love with Bob's wife). In season 3 they took over as head writers, and the show got better still, and the show hit its peak in seasons 4 and 5 when Davis and Music left (to oversee the bland, polite Rhoda) and Tarses and Patchett became showrunners. Tarses -- more about him here if you scroll down -- was one of the more unique talents to be produced by MTM; it was a company that specialized in well-made, well-produced, "quality" entertainment, but Tarses, who came to hate the well-made sitcom form, seemed to spend a lot of his MTM years trying to erode the form from within. After leaving MTM, he spent his career creating dark anti-sitcoms that didn't run very long; his most famous anti-sitcom, Buffalo Bill, will also hit DVD later this year.

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