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Friday, April 11, 2014

DVD Review: Newhart: The Complete Third Season

The third season of Newhart saw one significant cast change. Peter Scolari became a regular cast member, taking the place of Steven Kampmann. Michael Harris (Peter Scolari) had appeared in a few episodes of the second season, as the producer of Dick Loudon’s local television program. In the third season, his relationship with Stephanie (Julia Duffy) is developed.

The first episode of the season, “Tell A Lie, Get A Check,” briefly explains the absence of Kirk (Steven Kampmann) and Cindy (Rebecca York). The episode opens with Dick and Joanna returning to the inn. Dick says, “After two weeks of staying in one hotel after another, it’s really great to be back home in our inn.” I love that great dry delivery of his. They learn that Kirk and Cindy left town while they were away, as Cindy got a job as a clown. Dick is left with the job of selling Kirk’s café, which leads to a great guest appearance by Ray Walston as Claude Darling, the man who initially buys the café. Dick has a great line to him: “Trust us, we lied to you.” And so Larry, Darryl and Darryl buy the café.

Larry, Darryl and Darryl play a bigger role in this season. That famous introduction “Hi, I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl” gets a bit old, but by the end of the season the writers are playing with it, creating jokes from the very fact that it was repeated so often. Like in "The Prodigal Darryl," when the first Darryl disappears and Larry leaves a gap in his introduction for the missing Darryl.

Throughout the season, Michael keeps trying to get Dick to promote his television show, but Dick and Michael disagree about the image the show should have. Several episodes feature his Vermont television show. In one episode George (Tom Poston) is a guest, and in another Joanna (Mary Frann) is the co-host. In the season’s final episode, Dick is driven to compete for a Vermont television award. Michael again wants him to change his image, and this time Dick gives it a go, and the results are disastrous and hilarious. That episode also features a puppet show put on my Larry, Darryl and Darryl to cheer up a sick Stephanie.

A lot of this season’s best and funniest moments come from Stephanie’s selfishness and her generally self-centered attitude, which is somehow endearing rather than off-putting. In “But Seriously, Beavers,” Stephanie is trying to sell make-up to the inn’s guests, but failing, leading her to pout, “I’ll never sell these and they’ll drag me off to jail and I’ll only get to wash my hair once a week and I’ll die.” The episode “Poor Reception” opens with Stephanie handing a customer his eggs, saying, “They may be cold, I was on the phone.” Her delivery is perfect. In “Happy Trails To You,” she's upset with Michael and tells him, “Don’t call me, don’t try to see me, and if you think you can get to me by sending me gifts, I guess I can’t stop you.” In “Georgie’s Girl,” she is studying for the Vermont driver’s test. She says: “If I can’t drive around in a convertible with the wind blowing in my hair, what’s the point of having a head?

In a late episode, Stephanie and Michael visit Stephanie’s parents, and we see how her personality had developed. When Stephanie speaks back to her mother, her mother laments, “Where did your nanny go wrong?” Her father is played by the excellent Jose Ferrer, and he has one of the episode’s other great lines: “Princess, I know I haven’t said this enough to you, but I bought you a car.”

The season has a few other wonderful guest stars, including Richard Stahl (in a couple of episodes) and G.W. Bailey. There are also a couple of Ghostbusters references and one really funny reference to Poltergeist. These episodes originally aired in 1984 and 1985.

Newhart: The Complete Third Season is scheduled to be released on April 22, 2014 through Shout! Factory. The three-disc DVD set includes no special features. There is one moment in the episode “Lady In Wading” where the transfer is bad, and it briefly looks like a messed up video cassette.

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