Release Date: February 11, 2014 (Shout! Factory)
Packaging: Viva Case
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 510 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Mono
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: None
Dick, Joanna, George, and Kirk are back in Newhart - The Complete Second Season! And in this season, the cast changes a bit as Julia Duffy joins the cast as the new maid Stephanie, who grew up with a silver spoon (only to now be the one washing those silver spoons as she tries to gain experience in the "real world").
For those unfamiliar with the series, it was Bob Newhart's second successful journey into the sitcom world. After playing Chicago psychologist Bob Hartley in the '70s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show, he came back with this series in 1982, where he is now Dick Loudon, a New Yorker who runs a small bed and breakfast in Vermont with his wife Joanna. Naturally, it isn't all smooth sailing, and as the series progresses, it evolves into something along the lines of an '80s Green Acres as Dick has to deal with the crazy things in his world every day, even as they seem to make less and less sense as the days go by. The first season, even though it did well in the ratings, had less of the "crazy" aspect of the series, but it really started to kick in with this season, where the series really began to leave a legacy of its own.
The season begins with the two part episode "It Happened One Afternoon," where Joanna hires a new maid for the Stratford Inn while Dick is away (and possibly getting into some trouble of his own). Two dogs show up at the inn in "Animal Attractions." In "The Stratford Wives," Joanna becomes a threat to a Vermont tradition with some seemingly harmless women's liberation. Dick puts together a play he'd written in "The Girl From Manhattan," but Joanna is less than thrilled when he casts her as the mother of the character based upon her! Dick puts together a Thanksgiving dinner for the whole town in "Don't Rain on My Parade." In "Lady and the Tramps," Stephanie is lost in the snow, but rescued by three people (you know who they are if you know the series well enough!) who'll possibly make her wish she'd remained lost.
Dick has a deadline to meet in "The Man Who Came Forever," but he can't seem to escape constant interruptions. Kirk joins a singles club in "The Looks of Live." In "Kirk Goes for the Juggler," Kirk has found the woman of his dreams... except she's a clown, literally. A professor makes a pass at Joanna in "A Jug of Wine, A Loaf of Bread and POW." Stephanie's old boyfriend visits the inn in "Cats," and brings his wife along with him. In "Curious George at the Firehouse," George is so excited about becoming a volunteer firefighter that he loses the keys to the firetruck... right as the town has their first fire in years. Dick accidentally becomes the host of a TV show in "Book Beat." In "Kirk Pops the Question," Kirk seems to be able to do everything BUT pop the question.
Kirk may be put out of business in "Best Friends." In "Kirk Ties One One," Kirk has a challenge to be able to stay conscious on his wedding day, at least until the deed is done. Kirk's grandmother visits in "Go, Grandma, Go," and lends him her car... but he seems to have forgotten that she has a tendency to steal things. Dick is an eager beaver to join a club in "Leave it to the Beavers." In "Vermont Today," Dick gets his own show, and in the meantime, Stephanie meets Michael for the first time. Dick is the master of ceremonies in the Maple Syrup Beauty Contest in "Send Her, Ella." The season ends with "New Faces of 1951," where Dick and Joanna put together a birthday party for George (for the first time ever).
The episodes on set mostly seem to be unedited... but there are a few on here that I'm pretty sure are syndicated episodes simply based upon shorter runtimes (by two whole minutes) and including the syndicated version of the opening credits (which runs about 15 seconds shorter). The episodes in question are "Kirk Ties One On" and "Leave it to the Beavers." While I do not have unedited versions to compare these to in order to say with 100% certainty that they are edited, I think it is reasonable to say that they are almost definitely syndicated versions, but we'll let fans judge for themselves. Runtimes are as follows:
1. "It Happened One Afternoon (Part 1)" (23:31)
2. "It Happened One Afternoon (Part 2)" (24:34)
3. "Animal Attractions" (24:07)
4. "The Stratford Wives" (24:30)
5. "The Girl From Manhattan" (24:31)
6. "Don't Rain on My Parade" (24:18)
7. "Lady and the Tramps" (24:22)
8. "The Man Who Came Forever" (24:01)
9. "The Looks of Love" (24:29)
10. "Kirk Goes for the Juggler" (24:38)
11. "A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and POW" (24:29)
12. "Cats" (24:39)
13. "Curious George at the Firehouse" (23:50)
14. "Book Beat" (24:08)
15. "Kirk Pops the Question" (24:38)
16. "Best Friends" (24:11)
17. "Kirk Ties One On" (22:26)
18. "Go, Grandma, Go" (24:11)
19. "Leave it to the Beavers" (22:18)
20. "Vermont Today" (24:09)
21. "Send Her, Ella" (24:18)
22. "New Faces of 1951" (24:01)
Like almost all recent Shout! Factory releases (or really any studio for that matter), the set comes packaged in a Viva case. The cover art has a cast photo, and there is a description of the season and a few episode snapshots on the back of the case. Inside, you'll find the three discs, which have Dick and Joanna on Disc 1, Stephanie and Michael on Disc 2 (which I find a little odd, since Michael wasn't very prominent in this season), and George on Disc 3. You'll also find a listing of all of the episodes, along with original air dates and descriptions, inside the case.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on this set are simple, but still nice looking. The main menu has a cast photo (same one as seen on the cover art), along with options of Play All and a list of episodes. The theme song plays in the background. Once you select an episode, it plays immediately. There are chapters within each episode at all of the appropriate places.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality leaves quite a bit to be desired. You can almost expect it to be bad when Shout! uses their typical "best possible sources" disclaimer on the DVDs (they do on this set). The entire set, though, isn't terrible, and the problems seem to be isolated to just certain episodes. Some of the episodes look like they were filmed decades earlier than the 80s without much remastering, and there is grain and debris (along with other defects) to be found throughout the set. On the other hand, part of me feels as if I may be making a bigger deal out of the issues than they really are since Shout! made the disclaimer, so it is hard to say how bad it really is. But in the end, it looks a bit worse than how I remember in syndication, but it is not something unwatchable either. The episodes are presented in a somewhat dull sounding mono audio track, and each episode is closed-captioned.
There are no special features on the set. Hopefully, Shout! Factory will put something together for a future release of this series. Something featuring Bob Newhart, in particular, would be great to see.
Finally, Newhart moves ahead on DVD! I never thought that the day would come. I'm mostly satisfied with what Shout! Factory has given us here, although I can't say that I'm particularly happy about the two (likely) edited episodes. I think the video quality issues, though, are something that can be overlooked... they're not that bad.
This series really was Bob Newhart's greatest series (at least in my opinion), and this season was where the series truly began. That isn't to say that the first season was bad, but this season was the one that really began to set the tone for the remainder of the series. I think, in particular, bringing in Julia Duffy as Stephanie and Peter Scolari as Michael really helped the series. That isn't to say that the characters of Leslie and Kirk (who actually does return for most of the second season, but disappears at the end) were bad characters, but they often seemed to be off in their own world instead of with the rest of the characters. I'm hopeful that Shout! will bring us more of this classic series to DVD in due time (the third season is already scheduled), but for now, I strongly urge fans to buy this to send the message that we do want this series released in its entirety on DVD!