Joan Rivers passing at age 81 lends perhaps a special resonance to Bob Newhart’s 85th birthday today. The beloved Newhart is still cooking up the laughs on TV, a medium he has owned since the 1970s. His successful TV run began with the groundbreaking The Bob Newhart Show in 1972 and he didn’t stop starring in sitcoms named after him until the short-lived Bob ended in 1993. He’s been busy since, as everyone who knows Papa Elf, knows. And TV just won’t let him go. Recently he’s been killing it on The Big Bang Theory, TV’s most popular half-hour, where he plays Professor Proton.
Newhart’s longevity brings to mind another of his legendary contemporaries, Betty White. Oh to have someone script a golden age romance between the two! Newhart’s sly style may have cost him a few awards–remarkably he’s won only a single Primetime Emmy in his long career. Newhart is like that friend you count on, the one who’s always there, and who you sometimes forget to thank. They say Jerry Seinfeld was the glue that held together all the madness around him during his great run on Seinfeld, but he has Newhart to thank. Bob Newhart practically invented the role of the glue that held together the madness in his great first series, where as a psychologist he was a virtual God to a melange of hilarious characters who needed his help. Speaking of God, the great entertainer George Burns lived to be a hundred and didn’t even start playing God till he was an octogenarian. Newhart looks to have a long way to go. How about that Betty White romcom?