Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Bob Newhart Show: "Over The River And Through The Woods"

Premiered November 22nd, 1975

Jerry:This is the worst Thanksgiving I ever had.
Bob:I knew it was gonna be bad, but I didn't know it was gonna be this bad this early.

It's autumn in Chicago and Thanksgiving is approaching.

Psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) and his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) are planning to spend Thanksgiving with Emily's family in Seattle.

Elliot Carlin stepping into Bob's office. 
One of Bob's patients, Elliot Carlin is worried about Thanksgiving.  Carlin hates the holidays.  He's still depressed that no one knocked on his door on Halloween and he's dreading Thanksgiving.  With Carlin in such despair, Bob thinks he should stay in Chicago to help his patient.  It also doesn't hurt that he's not terribly enthusiastic about going to see Emily's family in Seattle.

Bob wins a tiny turkey in a raffle. 
When Emily hears about this, she says Bob can do what he likes for Thanksgiving, but she still is going to Seattle without Bob.  Realizing he'll be alone at Thanksgiving,  Dr. Hartley invites his patient Mr. Carlin, and his colleague Dr. Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz) (who has no family) to his house for the holiday. Jerry is excited about watching football on Thanksgiving, because his Alma Mater William & Mary is playing in a televised game.

Bob unsuccessfully attempts to flip a pancake. 
The holiday morning arrives, Bob misses Emily, who always made pancakes for him on Thanksgivings of the past.

Jerry in his W&M sweater,  jug in hand. 
Jerry arrives with a jug filled with vodka and cider (but mostly vodka).  William & Mary is losing their game badly so he takes a drink every time the other team scores.  Mr. Carlin shows up in his usual pessimistic mood.  He has brought a bottle of scotch to go with Jerry's booze.  Bob's neighbor Howard (Bill Daly) shows up as well.  Howard was supposed to spend the holiday with his son, but plans have changed and he is also left alone on Thanksgiving.

The gang watches football.  Carlin comments that this is the worst party he's ever been to.
All four of them are lonely and depressed.  Everyone decides to drown their sorrows in alcohol. They have a tiny turkey, but no one is sure of how to cook it.

Bob drunkenly attempts to order some takeout. 
Will they still manage to have a good Thanksgiving feast?

J.A. Morris says:

It's hard to this episode justice.  The plot of "Over The River And Through The Woods" is basically "Bob Hartley & friends get drunk on Thanksgiving,"  but  there's more to it than that.

Jack Riley is absolutely brilliant here as Elliot Carlin .  He stays in "deadpan" mode throughout the episode while everyone around him is howling drunk with laughter.  Riley's delivery (or lack thereof!) is especially great when he tries to tell knock-knock jokes.

Bob and Emily are usually the level-headed characters surrounded by quirky oddballs.  But this episode shows that after a few shots of alcohol, Dr. Hartley is just as goofy as Howard and Jerry.  It shows that without Emily, Bob is adrift, and she's the real brains of the marriage.

Like most Thanksgiving episodes (including an earlier Thanksgiving episode of this series), food preparation comes into play.  It often involves arguments over how to make the food, but in this case, no one knows how to cook a turkey.  The most important "turkey" moment involves one of this episode's many knock-knock jokes, which I won't spoil.

At its heart, "Over The River And Through The Woods" is another Thanksgiving episode where lonely people find common ground with others and create a "family" of sorts for the holiday.

As an added "bonus," the characters wear 1975 fashions that haven't aged very well.  The clothes increase the comedic value of this episode.  Bob's leisure suit is especially ridiculous.

Gotta love those plaid pants!

This episode is available for viewing on dvd.  You'll find it on The Bob Newhart Show:The Complete Fourth Season.

"Over The River And Through The Woods" is one of the best episodes of The Bob Newhart Show.   It's also one of the greatest Thanksgiving episodes in the history of television.  On a personal note, I quote this episode year-round.  Highly recommended!

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 pumpkin pies!

RigbyMel says:

This is a silly, funny episode of a great show.

I enjoy the drunken hijinks of the cast but question whether they actually would have been televising a football game featuring William & Mary (MY alma mater) on TV in Chicago in 1975.  (W&M is a small school, and football is not their forte.)

Jerry explains how bad the holidays were at the orphanage when he was a kid. 
I also think the deconstruction of knock knock jokes, which is a running gag through much of the episode, is pretty on the nose.

Male bonding over booze.
As J.A. Morris says, we visit the trope of lonely people forming a surrogate family for the holidays in this episode, but with a twist -- of vodka and cider and scotch -- which certainly makes it interesting even if the silliness gets the better of it in spots.

I don't have as strong a liking for this episode as my co-blogger, but it is most definitely worth watching.

RigbyMel's rating:

3 pumpkin pies.

No comments: