It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) woke up next to his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) after a really strange dream. This was of course the conclusion of Newhart’s second very successful sitcom, Newhart. TV Guide called it the most unexpected moment in TV history. You can watch it here.
Newhart revolves around “how-to” author Dick Loudon (Newhart) and his wife Joanna (Mary Frann) after they move to a small town in Vermont to run a historic inn. The strange locals include heiress and maid Stephanie Vanderkellen (Julia Duffy), handyman George Utley (Tom Poston), TV producer Michael Harris (Peter Scolari) and three strange woodsmen brothers named Larry, Darryl and Darryl (William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss, and John Voldstad).
It seems that Newhart’s wife, Ginny, came up with the idea for the surprise twist but the show’s writers came up with it on their own, essentially playing off the Dallas “Bobby in the shower” dream season. Pleshette was only too happy to do it. Almost all of the cast and crew were kept in the dark regarding the show’s priceless final moments and it was taped only once and in front of a studio audience. Everyone was asked to keep the twist a secret and, miraculously, it didn’t leak out. The National Enquirer erroneously reported that the finale would end with Dick dying, going to heaven, and meeting God (George Burns).
It’s unlikely that the Newhart characters will return in a traditional reunion project. Frann died in 1998 and Poston passed away in 2007, a year before Pleshette, his wife.
Larry and the two Darryls did pop up in the 1997 series finale of Coach. (Both sitcoms were created by Barry Kemp.) They also briefly appeared in The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary Special. All of the surviving regulars from the Newhart cast did take part in the memorable cameo episode of George & Leo sitcom.
Here’s a cast reunion that aired a couple years ago, in February 2008. It was taped as part of a series of TV cast reunions for NBC’s Today Show and I believe it’s the only time they’ve reunited on television.