Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bob Newhart in Bob...Now On DVD...

I thought I'd pass along some news. I am not subscribed to any DVD release alerts by Amazon or other on-line stores and so whenever I come with news about upcoming DVD releases or I write about recently released DVD's it's basically due to my visiting on-line stores and finding the information on my own. This is why I'm nearly a month late in reporting the availability of Bob Newhart's Bob sitcom from 1992. In my opinion this series deserved much better and the fact that it's gained something of a cult following proves my point. There aren't too many series, whether it's comedy or drama, that airs just 30 episodes in it's original network run, September 1992 through December 1993, and get a DVD release 19 years later but that's exactly what has happened. The DVD features 33 episodes...adding 3 episodes that didn't air following it's cancellation two days after Christmas. Those 3 episodes later aired during a TV Land marathon in 1997. You can purchase the DVD, which was released on April 3, 2012, in a link at the bottom of this blog entry.

The show centered around Newhart as an artist named Bob McKay who had worked on a comic book in the '50s titled Mad Dog. After the comic book scandal came and went, McKay was forced to go into a different profession: greeting cards! At the start of the series, Mad Dog is being revived as a comic book again with the clashing of the minds soon at play: Bob wants the character to remain loyal to it's origins while hot-shot newcomer to the field, Harlan, wants the character to be a blood-thirsty vigilante and feature sexual overtones throughout the story-lines. Bob's wife is Kaye McKay and their grown daughter is named Trisha. The other supporting characters in the earliest of episodes were the previously mentioned Harlan, as well as the senior artist named Iris, the errand boy Albie, and inker, Chad. In one of the episodes, a spoof of a Comic Book Convention's awards ceremony featured Bob Kane, co-creator of Batman. Real-life comic book artists Jack Kirby, Jim Lee, and Sergio Aragones also had cameo appearances. To everyone's surprise, Mad Dog won an award, and Bob McKay greeted the audience with a brief "thank you" and walked off the stage. He was trying to point out that attempting to thank everyone will eventually create animosity as it's almost inevitable that somebody gets left out. Bob lectured his co-workers at the ceremony table that a simple "thank you" is implied to everyone...but given the delivery of the acceptance speech(?) Bob came off egotistical rather than generous. It was a hilarious episode...and there was a very funny pay-off ending as well that I won't spoil for those who hadn't seen the episode...but let's just say Bob learned his lesson.     

The playing around of the time-slot by CBS is what did the show in. The show would've had a much better chance of succeeding in a more desirable time-slot. Friday nights at any point during the late '80s through the mid '90s for both CBS and NBC was brutal as far as ratings go...the viewing habits for much of America at that point in time was on ABC which featured Family Matters and Step by Step on Friday nights amongst many other programs as time went by.

It took those shows leaving the air for other networks to really make any serious high ratings attempts on Friday night.

CBS moved Bob from Friday night to Monday night by the spring of 1993...and according to on-line sites the ratings of the show improved somewhat but then in the fall of 1993 CBS moved the show back to Friday nights...then they moved it back to Monday, one last time, before ending the show in December 1993.

I don't blame the show's concept or it's writers or anyone else connected to the show for the poor performance in the ratings. All anyone has to look at is the scheduling factor. If these episodes were to have aired on a Monday, preferably at 8:30pm, or a Tuesday night...or even a Wednesday or Thursday...it would've had a chance. Friday nights were owned, ratings wise, by ABC's sitcoms while Saturday nights were owned by NBC and their Florida-based sitcoms.

Placing Bob on either of those two nights, in 1992, was a recipe for disaster in my opinion. I have the TV Guide issue where Bob appears on the cover in a Superman-like pose and the article about the show obviously mentions the time-slot. When I saw that it would air on Friday night...even back then at age 15 I rolled my eyes because I felt that it would be ignored by the masses who were either not home on Friday night or were watching ABC's massively popular T.G.I.F. programs.

I remember when CBS yanked Murder, She Wrote from it's long held Sunday night time-slot and placed it on Thursday night in the fall of 1995...up against NBC's Friends. Landsbury's program was canceled by season's end. So, yeah, time-slots make a huge difference in ratings success and failure. If I were cynical enough I'd suspect that CBS deliberately moved Murder, She Wrote from Sunday to Thursday to, I think, justify it's predetermined cancellation (using the ratings as a scapegoat) .

The same could be said for Bob...perhaps the management at CBS at the time didn't want the program to succeed because of demographics!? Bob's follow-up, George and Leo, also on CBS, was a funny sitcom, too, that had potential but was placed against Monday Night Football (when that show still aired on ABC).  Some may read this and go "what kind of network plots the demise of their own programs?". I happen to think that it goes on quite often...perhaps a show that's green lit by a network attracts the wrong audience or maybe the demographics aren't exactly what the advertiser covets...and in spite of critical praise and positive build-up the program is put through a series of time-slot changes...effectively resulting in the program never finding any sizable audience and, yes, you guessed it...the ax falls on the series.

Unfortunate time-slots for Bob as well as George and Leo hurt their potential, for sure, but luckily Bob is available on DVD for millions of people to discover and enjoy just as we enjoyed it the first time around 20 years ago! Here's the link to Bob Newhart in Bob...

Amazon's Bob page

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