Bob Newhart and Judd Hirsch are two of the most enduring and recognizable stars in TV history. Between them, they’ve had five very successful series (The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart, Taxi, Dear John, and Numb3rs).
Back in 1997, Newhart and Hirsch teamed up for a sitcom for CBS called George & Leo. In the TV series, Newhart plays George Stoody, the owner of a small bookstore on Martha’s Vineyard. His son Ted (Jason Bateman) runs a bistro and marries Casey Wagonman (Bess Meyer, then Robyn Lively). Ted invites her estranged father, Leo (Hirsch), to the wedding who turns out to be a conman who won’t leave. (You can see the pilot below.)
The series barely lasted a season but is memorable in that one particular half-hour episode featured cameos by 19 actors from previous Newhart and Hirsch shows. Those participating were Peter Bonerz, Oliver Clark, Bill Daily, John Fiedler, Jack Riley, and Marcia Wallace from The Bob Newhart Show; Billie Bird, Jane Carr, Harry Groener, and Tom Willett from Dear John; Julia Duffy, Tony Papenfuss, Tom Poston, William Sanderson, Peter Scolari, Todd Susman, and John Voldstad from Newhart; and Jeff Conaway and Marilu Henner from Taxi.
The eighth episode of George & Leo, “The Cameo Show,” first aired on November 3, 1997. Unfortunately, there’s no online video of the episode so, here’s a description of what happened…
A dim-witted pilot (Daily) comes into the bookstore, looking for a “How to” book on flying planes. George doesn’t have what he’s looking for and the pilot leaves, muttering, “Bad news for me, really bad news for flight 41 to Cleveland.”
After the opening credits, we see there’s a silent charity auction being held in the bookstore. Ted is running it and, to get things going, he’s written his dad’s name down on several bidding sheets. George’s name is also written on the sheet for a group therapy session. Leo admits to having put George’s name on that one. Leo feels like George has become very jumpy ever since he arrived on the island. George doesn’t have to wonder why.
Leo has his heart set on winning the raffle for a Ford WindStar van. He’s using the power of visualization and envisions himself driving the vehicle. George envisions him driving far, far away. Both men are very happy when the Mayor (Willett), his assistant (Susman), and Ted announce that Leo has won.
Later, when a woman (Bird) comes to the bookstore counter to ask about the tour, we learn that Leo has started a value-added taxi business. He tells George, “You drive somebody to the ferry, it’s eight bucks, but if you point out a couple old buildings along the way, it’s 15!” George insists he doesn’t know anything about the island and Leo counters, “Neither do they!”
As Leo leads people out of the store he says, “Get your cameras ready, we might just see Martha herself!” George’s drool clerk, Ambrose (Darryl Thierse), says, “There was a time, I was the most aggravating person in your life.” George concedes wistfully, “Yeah.”
Ted enters and tells George that he won the therapy session. Rather than letting him just throw it away, Ted asks his dad to return it to Dr. Harris. The office is in the same building as George’s dentist, Dr. Robins (Bonerz), whose assistant is also his wife, Marcia (Wallace). They tease George about finally getting the help he needs.
Dr. Harris (Scolari) has a group already in session with four patients (Riley, Fiedler, Clark, and Pat Crawford Brown). George reluctantly takes part and, after enduring their teasing, he hands out some no-nonsense advice and leaves. He fires back at the dentist and his wife as he goes and cuts them down to size.
The patients end up liking George’s advice better than Dr. Harris’ “mumbo-jumbo.” They sneak out of the session when Dr. Harris uses the bathroom and follow George to Ted’s bistro. They sit around him as he eats lunch. The doctor follows them and is incensed when they won’t follow him back.
Later, George goes back to the therapist’s office to get his help in making the group leave him alone. Dr. Harris is packing his things since the group and the guy who thinks he’s a pilot are his only patients. The only thing he has left is his wedding next week. His fiancé, Julia (Duffy), then enters and briskly breaks the bad news that she’s leaving him and leaves.
In the next scene, we see George sitting in the therapist’s chair, taking notes, and Dr. Harris lying on the couch. The group comes back and begs to be let back in. They claim George seduced them. Dr. Harris ultimately welcomes them back and George notes that everything’s back to normal. Harris says, “Yes, except for my beloved Julia.” Just then, she returns but only because her car is blocked in the driveway by a new Mercedes. Riley’s character initially claims it’s his and she flirts with him but Fiedler’s is the real owner. As he leaves with Julia, he says, “So long, suckers!”
We see Leo giving rides to various people. The first pair (Conaway and Carr) ask him to turn off the radio, which is playing the Taxi theme. After hitting a bump, Conaway asks “Have you ever driven a cab before?” Leo tries to point out some landmarks to get them to pay more money and identifies a house as having been Martha’s, built in 1498. Conaway counters that he grew up on the island and that was his aunt’s house, built in the 1975. Carr says she’s going to turn him in and Leo gives his name as “George Stoody.”
Leo tries to tell the next rider (Henner) that Bluebeard the pirate owned a particular house. She doesn’t buy that he lived in a split-level ranch house. Leo thinks there’s romantic chemistry between them and she threatens to beat him unless he takes her back to the bookstore. She finally screams for help into the cab radio.
Leo’s next fare (Groener) believes he should have won the van. After all, he bought 15,000 tickets to Leo’s one. The van was to be an integral part in the Martha’s Vineyard Separatist Movement. The group wants to lead a revolution but they need a van to do it. Leo thinks they might need a little more than that and Groener says, “Well, now we’ll never know, will we?” They’re later stopped by a cop (Poston) who says he’s been getting a lot of complaints about a cab like his. He doesn’t like the looks of them, gets angry pretty quickly, and says, “Unless you’ve got a hidden video camera, your ass is mine!”
At the end of the day, George and Leo eat in the bistro and agree that it’s been a very strange day. Leo’s van’s been impounded because he didn’t pay the insurance and registration fees.
George leaves the room for a moment and three strange woodsmen (Sanderson, Papenfuss, and Voldstad) enter, looking for some place to eat. Leo says the place is closed and they head to the pier to look for rats. George comes back and asks, “Who was at the door?” Leo replies, “Nobody I know.” End of episode.
I once had the opportunity to ask Riley and Daily about “The Cameo Show.” They didn’t really remember much about filming it other than the fact that it was like a huge party and a lot of fun.
An interesting sidenote about the show’s name: Newhart’s shows always have his name in the title. There have been two called The Bob Newhart Show (a variety show and a sitcom), Newhart, and Bob. George & Leo didn’t break that trend since Newhart’s full name is actually George Robert Newhart. Here’s the pilot…