100 Episodes: The Bob Newhart Show turned its star’s signature style into an ensemble classic

For most of the history of television, the barrier to syndication—and to profitability—has been 100 episodes. The shows that have made it to that mark are an unusual group. Many were big hits. Some found small cult audiences. Still others just hung on as best they could and never posted numbers quite low enough to be canceled. In 100 Episodes, we examine the shows that made it to that number, considering both how they advanced and reflected the medium and what contributed to their popularity. This entry covers The Bob Newhart Show, which ran for six seasons and 142 episodes between 1972 and 1978.

Many of the performers who blew the dust off stand-up comedy in the 1950s and ’60s cultivated images as wild as their most imaginative verbal riffs. Lenny Bruce was the seductive, self-destructive bad boy. Lord Buckley was (in Bob Dylan’s words) “the hipster …

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