Monday, November 21, 2011

The Bob Newhart Show: "An American Family"

Premiered November 23, 1974

Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) and his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) are preparing for Thanksgiving. Bob's parents Martha and Herb (Martha Scott and Barnard Hughes) are spending Thanksgiving with them for the first time in five years.  Martha is a control freak and has strict ideas about how a turkey should be prepared, what pies should be served, how table seating should be arranged, etc.  Bob's sister Ellen (Pat Finley) and her fiance Howard (Bill Daily) will also be there.  Howard is very nervous about meeting Ellen's parents for the first time.  Bob's office mate Jerry (Peter Bonerz) and his receptionist Carol (Marcia Wallace) will also be joining them for Thanksgiving dinner, so there will be eight dinner guests all together.

Emily's parents, Junior and Aggie Harrison (John Randolph and Ann Rutherford) show up unannounced, they've flown in with a 35-pound turkey and intend to celebrate the holiday with Bob and Emily.  Martha doesn't like this, as she has planned to cook a turkey.  Plus she and Junior have never gotten along, they start sniping at each other immediately.  So the Hartleys will now have ten guests at Thanksgiving dinner, Jerry agrees to bring extra chairs.  Bob and Emily agree to try to keep the peace between Martha and Junior.

On Thanksgiving Day, Junior and Martha make up flimsy excuses so they can skip dinner and avoid each other.  Emily invites her parents for dessert, and Bob does the same, as a way of forcing them to act like adults.  Can Martha and Junior finish their pie without ruining Thanksgiving?

J.A. Morris says:

This is a great Thanksgiving episode because most of us can relate to the plot. I've been in holiday scenarios where I had to keep peace between relatives for one reason or another. Bob and Emily were often the sanest characters on the show, this time the "crazies" they have to deal with are their own parents.

I hadn't watched The Bob Newhart show in years, but it's still a very funny series. It featured a great ensemble cast, every character had at least two laugh lines in "An American Family."  Barnard Hughes (one of the best character actors of his era) stands out as Herb.  He gets to deliver a great speech about families uniting around what they have in common during holiday gatherings.

This episode can be found on the third season dvd set of The Bob Newhart Show and is currently streaming on Hulu.

My rating:
3 and a half pumpkin pies


Joanna said...

My favorite Thanksgiving 'Bob Newhart Show' episode is "Over the River and Through the Woods." It's also my all-time favorite episode of 'Bob Newhart Show' episode.

Thanks for reminding me about this one too.

Unknown said...

In An American Family, why do they have thanksgiving dinner twice?
Does anyone notice this?