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George & Leo aired from September 1997 until June 1998 on CBS.
Picturesque Martha's Vineyard was the setting for this comedy about 2 mismatched in-laws. George ( Bob Newhart), was a quiet, introspective New Englander who ran a small bookstore on the island. On the eve of his son Ted's ( Jason Bateman's) wedding to an already pregnant Casey ( Bess Myer and later Robyn Lively), George's orderly life was changed forever. Ted had invited Casey's father Leo ( Judd Hirsch), to the wedding. Leo, who had not seen his daughter in 20 years ( her choice), was a small time hoodlum on the run from mobsters in Las Vegas, because he kept the last payoff he had collected. When he found out there was a spare room above George's bookstore, he moved right in-and George spent the season trying to get him to leave town. Leo was a piece of work, a loud, obnoxious. lusty con-man whose every word and action caused shivers to run down George's spine. Whenever George let Leo talk him into anything, he got in trouble-offering a bribe to the Edgartown building inspector to avoid a zoning infraction caused by Leo's living above the bookstore landing George in jail. Ted and Casey ran a small restaurant and Ambrose ( Darryl Theirse), worked for George in the bookstore. After Casey gave birth in February, they hired Alice ( Julia Sweeney), as the nanny for their baby.
An article from The CSM
Television's Mr. Nice Guy Takes His Mild Manners to 'George & Leo'
HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. — Bob Newhart drives through the much-photographed main gate at Paramount Studio and parks near Stage 20, where he's filming a new comedy series. For the next 13 weeks, "it's my home away from home," says the actor who's already had four self-titled shows.
"George & Leo," which co-stars Judd Hirsch, debuts Monday, 9:30-10 p.m., on CBS.
Once on the set, Mr. Newhart talks with Mr. Hirsch - who plays the loudmouth, overbearing Leo with complete relish - about tonight's filming. The two Emmy winners, who never met before starting this series, are developing a healthy camaraderie.
"Working with Judd," Newhart explains, "is like playing a game of tennis. You hit the ball, and it's right back. That's what I get from Judd. He puts you on the defensive, and that's good."
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The sound stage looks as if you've been transported to Martha's Vineyard. Along with the bookstore George (played by Newhart) owns, there's the interior of his home and the restaurant where his son is chef. Look out the window of his living room, and you see the water and the boats. Blowers cause a mild breeze to sway the bushes, while lighting makes the sea background glisten. You can almost smell the clams baking.
In the story line for the sitcom, George's son is marrying Leo's daughter, and Leo is a professional magician, when he isn't delivering laundered money for the gang in Las Vegas. He walked out on his family 10 years ago, and most recently he walked away from the gang, taking its suitcase of money with him.
"You can understand why his daughter isn't thrilled to have him show up on her wedding day," Newhart adds.
The dialogue begins with Leo saying to George, "You stammer." Newhart ad-libs, "Only when I'm around obnoxious people." The crew laughs, and the line stays in.
Once the audience arrives and fills the bleacher-like seats in front of the sets, Newhart comes out and greets them. With his years of doing stand-up comedy, he soon has everyone laughing.
The crew uses five cameras, and each scene is filmed twice. During one scene, Hirsch breaks up at Newhart's deadpan reading of a line. Obviously there's some chemistry developing.
Creators of the show, Dan Staley and Rob Long, say the two stars are "the odd couple of Martha's Vineyard." They wrote the series for Newhart and were really excited when Hirsch was eager to join.
Later when the episode is completed, Newhart says, "My last series, 'Bob,' was not a pleasant experience. I was told they were presenting a new 'me' - someone the public hadn't seen before. 'Don't you want to stretch as an actor?' was their frequent question. I soon learned the only place an actor should stretch is on an exercise video."
It became evident the public didn't want to see a new Newhart. They liked the meek and mild, stammering and unassuming character they were familiar with.
Newhart felt he'd had it, and told his wife, Ginnie, he was going to stay home and perfect his golf game.
Last year, while on the eighth hole at a country club, he saw Leslie Moonves, the new president of CBS. Mr. Moonves called to Newhart, "I'm going to put you back on TV." Remembering the unhappy year and a half of his last series (under an earlier regime at CBS), Newhart replied, "I'm not sure if I want that or not."
Then, one day he told Ginnie, "I can't play golf for the rest of my life; I'm going to go nuts. I mean, if the only thing I have to show for all day is breaking 84 on the golf course, it's not very productive." "You miss working," she said matter-of-factly.
Ginnie has played vital roles in her husband's career. Remember when "Newhart" was planning its final episode? It was Ginnie who had the idea of ending it not with Newhart as the proprietor of a Vermont inn, but with him waking up with his former TV wife, Suzanne Pleshette. She was his spouse in the earlier "Bob Newhart Show" where he played a psychologist. It was as if the other show had all been a dream.
That closing segment is regarded by many in the industry as one of the best scripts in TV history.
"George & Leo" is a new ballgame. Unlike the other series, Newhart doesn't have a TV wife; he's a widower. Also, for the first time his name is not in the title.
"Well," he smiles slowly, "in a way it is. My real name is George Robert Newhart."
Of course, the difference is he has a co-star who has won two Emmys for "Taxi" and acclaim on Broadway. (Newhart has also won an Emmy, for "The Bob Newhart Show" in 1962.)
Newhart and Hirsch are so different - in temperament and in their approach to work. Ginnie, again, supplies an answer. She concedes that they are definitely opposites. But check out Newhart's pals, she says. In real life, his best friend is the abrasive comic who puts down everyone, Don Rickles.
Opposites do attract. CBS is hoping that continues to be true.
On The Set With Bob Newhart
By Bonnie Churchill, Special to The Christian Science Monitor September 11, 1997
A Review from Variety
George & Leo
(CBS, MON. SEPT. 15, 9:30 p.m.)
By TONY SCOTT
Filmed at Paramount Studios by Staley/Long Prods. and Paramount Pictures. Exec producers-creators-writers, Dan Staley, Rob Long; co-exec producer, Tom Anderson; director, James Burrows.
Cast: Bob Newhart, Judd Hirsch, Jason Bateman, Bess Meyer, Darryl Theirse, Jason Beghe.
George Stoody's (Newhart) son Ted (Jason Bateman) and Leo's (Hirsch) pregnant daughter Casey (Bess Meyer) are marrying in Ted's eatery across the way. Vegas bagman Leo, who abandoned his daughter and his wife 20 years ago, shows up for the wedding --- broke. Not only that: An armed hood (Jason Beghe) is after him. Seriously.
Not knowing about his bride's loathing for her father, Ted had invited Leo to the big event. Leo, showing up at George's store, buys a wedding gift with a rubber check. First test of Newhart and Hirsch comedy styles is satisfactory, if mild, but subsequent segs---- particularly when George lets it slip there's an empty bedroom over his bookshop.
When Casey first spots her dad, she turns thumbs down, but it's sitcom time, so that's not much of a hurdle. Throughout the pilot, the dialogue's at times funny, at other times so-so. Segs are often amusing or touching --- director James Burrows cunningly prods the sitcom to life --- as George and Leo get to know each other, as when hesitant George, referring to Leo, coughs up the words "carnival people"; or when Leo corrects George's pronunciation of "schmuck."
As in both the enormously successful "Taxi" and in the various high-class Bob Newhart incarnations, secondary characters enormously mattered; same should be kept in mind here.
Ted and Casey share a warming moment when she notes what will happen to them when the baby comes, but so far they're just an engaging couple who better get married toute de suite. Meyer's a charmer in her role, and Bateman does a terrific work as the bridegroom.
Darryl Theirse is around for a second as Ambrose, George's assistant, while Jason Beghe's mob's assassin is a standout.
Program's future rests in the hands of master pros Newhart, Hirsch and Burrows. And they need ammunition to garner guffaws or even gentle smiles (there's an intimidating laugh track that has to be trashed). It's to be hoped that amusingly conceived second bananas are on the schedule; if not, the war's over.
A Review From The New York Times
NEW TV SEASON IN REVIEW
By CARYN JAMES
Published: September 15, 1997
An Odd-Couple Concept,
This Time With In-Laws
'George & Leo'
CBS, Monday nights at 9:30
In stand-up and sitcoms, Bob Newhart long ago perfected the Bob character, with his droll comic delivery and buttoned-down persona. That appealing, commonsensical presence makes ''George & Leo,'' his new odd-couple comedy with Judd Hirsch as the chaotic one, funnier than it sounds.
This time, the deadpan Bob character is named George, and he owns a bookstore on Martha's Vineyard. His son, Ted (Jason Bateman), is about to marry and surprises his fiancee with an unwelcome wedding guest: her long-lost father, Leo, who invades George's bookstore wearing a mustard-yellow jacket, writing bad checks and claiming to be a professional magician. ''I didn't know my son was marrying into,'' Mr. Newhart says, taking a brilliantly timed pause, ''carnival people.''
Leo is, in fact, a bagman hiding out from Las Vegas business associates. ''Those Vegas boys,'' Leo says, ''they don't just kill you, they torture you.''
''Like how?'' asks a skeptical George. ''They make you go to the Liberace Museum?'' Of course, these two have no patience for each other; of course, Leo will stay on the island, the better to get on the nerves of his new-found family.
Mr. Hirsch plays Leo just this side of annoying, making him a solid foil for George. But the series relies on Mr. Newhart's enduring appeal. In reruns, ''The Bob Newhart Show'' (the psychiatrist series) and ''Newhart'' (the innkeeper series) hold up as classically funny comedies of manners. Then he changed to a crankier persona for ''Bob'' (the series nobody watched). Mr. Newhart has freely admitted that he didn't want to make that mistake again. He hasn't. Playing to his strengths, he turns the familiar feel of ''George & Leo'' into something welcome: a genuine Newhart sitcom. CARYN JAMES
Here's An Article From Entertainment Weekly
Pop Culture News
LOVE THAT BOB
HIS LATEST SITCOM, GEORGE & LEO, REMINDS US HOW MUCH WE ADORE NEWHART. IN FACT, LET US COUNT THE WAYS WE...
By Bruce Fretts
Casually dressed in a short-sleeved golf shirt, blue pants, white socks, and sneakers, the balding, rumpled man shuffles into the office he keeps above the garage of his gated Bel Air mansion and settles into an armchair. As he says hello, not quite making eye contact, he could be your best friend's dad -- or your dad. Yet Bob Newhart may be the coolest 68-year-old man alive.
Not that he's feeling cool on this sweltering August day. Newhart is about to head to the Paramount lot to reshoot scenes for the pilot of his new CBS sitcom, George & Leo. And, yes, even after 40 years of performing, he still gets nervous. ''It's like a friend that I would miss if it weren't there,'' he says of the butterflies in his stomach. ''It's like a high-wire act. There's got to be a risk.''
Newhart knows well the danger of doing another sitcom. After long runs on CBS as Chicago psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78) and Vermont innkeeper Dick Loudon on Newhart (1982-90), he stumbled badly with his last effort for the Eye, the comic-book-themed Bob (1992-93). But this time, Newhart has not only solid costars -- Judd Hirsch as Leo, the Las Vegas lounge lizard who lives in the pad above the Martha's Vineyard bookshop owned by mild-tempered George (guess who), and Jason Bateman as George's son, who marries Leo's daughter -- but a cozy spot in CBS' successful Monday-night comedy lineup. ''If we don't cut it,'' says Newhart, ''we've only got ourselves to blame.''
Failure doesn't seem terribly likely. Despite his smaller-than-life persona, Newhart is a comedy giant -- these days more popular than ever. As Nick at Nite's reruns of The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart win new legions of fans, his concerts sell out casinos and colleges alike. ''Hi Bob! has something to do with the generational crossover,'' says Newhart of the popular college drinking game (quaff when you hear the phrase!) that he says he's never played. ''But I don't want to go down in history for that.''
With such an all-ages appeal, Newhart has become the Tony Bennett of comedy: He's so technically proficient, so refreshingly sincere and unironic, so square to be hip, you can't help but love the guy. But just in case you need convincing, here are nine additional reasons to revere him:
1 BOB NEVER FAKES IT. Newhart is exactly the same on stage and off -- well, almost. ''There's a very slight voice change that I'm aware of,'' says Newhart, ''but probably no one else is.'' Probably not. Just ask his coworkers: ''He's not Arnold Schwarzenegger off stage. And he doesn't cross-dress,'' says Hirsch. Adds Bateman, ''He hasn't become this a -- hole star. He's just a real nice person, and he's able to translate that into the characters he plays.''
Such an honest personality has served Newhart well on the small screen. ''TV is very unforgiving of falsehoods,'' observes George & Leo executive producer Rob Long. ''It's a very close medium, and if you're faking it, [viewers] can tell instantly. '' Even his halting speech style is legit. ''I didn't survey the field of comedy and say, 'Hey, nobody has a stammer,''' says Newhart. ''So, uh, I mean, that's just my natural way of talking.''
2 BOB IS THE TOSCANINI OF TIMING. Nobody can pace a joke better than Newhart; he even makes silence funny. "Bob's the King," proclaims Bateman, no neophyte at turning punchlines as the veteran of seven sitcoms. "He put the t in timing." Like his stammer, Newhart's sense of comic rhythm came naturally. "I didn't develop it, I just always heard it," he says. "It has something to do with mathematics and music. Timing is like a thirty-second note--it's not a sixteenth note, and it's not an eighth note. You just hear it, and if you don't put it in there, it's jarring." 3 BOB WAS A LOUSY ACCOUNTANT. Before launching his stand-up career, Newhart kept books for a Chicago firm in the late '50s--and hated every minute of it. "I had to balance petty cash at the end of the day," he recalls. "And it'd be a dollar over or under, so after a while of trying to find it, I'd just put in a dollar or take one out. They said, 'You can't do that.' So I said, 'You're going to pay me $5 an hour to find one dollar?' That's when I realized this was not for me."
4 BOB ONCE SOLD MORE RECORDS THAN ELVIS. After a few years struggling in nightclubs, Newhart recorded a comedy album, 1960's The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. It shot to No. 1 on the charts, ahead of Elvis discs and the Broadway cast album from The Sound of Music. "We were totally unprepared," says Newhart. "All of a sudden, I was on Ed Sullivan for six shots." With the subsequent release of The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!, Newhart soon had a simultaneous hold on two of Billboard's top spots. That feat was matched a few years ago by Axl Rose's Guns N' Roses. Says Newhart, with characteristic dryness, "At least it happened to a friend. That kinda softened it."
5 BOB WAS A COMEDY REBEL. In 1960, TIME magazine lumped Newhart with so-called "sick comic" Lenny Bruce as well as avant-garde performers Jonathan Winters and Mike Nichols and Elaine May. "I never quite understood it," says Newhart. "I guess I did a thing on a dead president--Lincoln--and Mike and Elaine did a thing on a funeral home, and Lenny, of course, was all over the place." Mind you, Bob wasn't offended by the "sick" label: "At that time, I was happy to be called anything." In retrospect, a better name for these stand-ups might be pioneers. "It was a total departure from where comedy had been," says Newhart. "Anybody could do 'Take my wife, please.' But if you put your personal stamp on material, no one could steal it." Newhart's influence continues to this day. Cheers vets and George & Leo creators Rob Long and Dan Staley credit him as the reason they got into comedy: "You watch those stand-up shows and it's endlessly similar people in front of a brick wall," says Long. "Bob's not interchangeable."
6 BOB SPARED VIEWERS MANY YEARS OF CLOYING SITCOM TOTS. When Newhart was first offered the role of psychologist Bob Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show, one of his requirements was no children allowed. "I didn't want to play 'Oh, look at the pickle Dad has gotten himself into,'" explains Newhart. In the show's fifth season, the writers presented Newhart with a script in which wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) was expecting. Newhart phoned the producer: "I said, 'It's a very good script--who are you going to get to play Bob?'" Rewrites transformed it into a dream sequence in which Emily thinks she's pregnant. Only when Newhart was old enough to have grown kids did he play a TV dad.
7 BOB NEVER GAVE A DARN ABOUT MOVIE STARDOM. "I've certainly had an undistinguished movie career," concedes Newhart, whose spotty big-screen resume includes such blips as 1962's Hell Is for Heroes and 1980's First Family. "I never had the patience for it. I need the immediacy of a live audience." Newhart recently came close to dropping out of his first feature-film role in years, as a high school principal in the current Kevin Kline comedy In & Out, when the production was delayed and nearly overlapped with a long-planned family visit. "I talked to [director] Frank Oz and said, 'Look, I like you very much, but if I have a choice between staring at you or at my granddaughter, frankly I'd rather stare at her.' And he said, 'I promise I'll have you out in time,'" recalls Newhart, who, in addition to his one grandchild, has four kids with Ginnie, his wife of 34 years. "I have different priorities."
8 BOB IS ADMIRED BY ELLEN DEGENERES AND LISA KUDROW. In 1986, DeGeneres won over Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show with her "phone call to God" routine. That breakthrough monologue was influenced by Newhart's legendary phone bits, in which he would react to an unheard caller. (Ellen once approached him to play a therapist on the show, but Newhart--who almost never does guest shots--declined.) And Kudrow made a guest appearance in the last episode of Newhart (as one of Larry, Darryl, and Darryl's chatty fiancees) long before she became a Friend. "It's not based on shtick or one-liners," says Kudrow of Newhart's appeal. "It's just funny to watch a human being try to make everything okay."
9 BOB NEVER OVERSTAYS HIS WELCOME. Newhart voluntarily pulled the plug on The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart when he felt the shows had run their course. "I've always wanted to go off the air a year early rather than a year late," he says. So when does Newhart envision George & Leo ending its run? "Whenever that little man who's been on my shoulder says, 'Well, okay, close it down.'" In life, as in comedy, timing is everything.
(Additional reporting by Dan Snierson)
Posted Sep 26, 1997 | Published in issue #398 Sep 26, 1997
An Article from The Deseret News
George & Leo' a blast from the past
By Scott Pierce, Television Editor
Published: November 3, 1997 12:00 am
Tonight's episode of "George & Leo" is the reunion episode to end all reunion episodes.
Series stars Bob Newhart and Judd Hirsch are reunited with no fewer than 19 of their former co-stars from four of their old series.The appropriately titled episode - "The Cameo Show" (tonight at 8 on Ch. 2) - puts Newhart's George and Hirsch's Leo in some strangely familiar company in the aftermath of a charity auction.
You get an idea of what you're in for in the opening moments when Bill Dailey - who played neighbor Howard Borden in "The Bob New-hart Show" - wanders into George's bookstore looking for a book about aviation.
(Howard, of course, was a commercial airline pilot.)
Tonight's episode is pretty funny, but it's also nothing short of amazing simply because of the logistics involved. It's hard to believe that any sitcom could work in 20 guest stars - let alone 20 with ties to other shows.
The problem is handled by use of a fund-raising auction (at which one of the auctioneers is Todd Sussman, who played Constable Shifflett on "Newhart"). Leo wins a van, which he promptly turns into his own sight-seeing taxi service - despite the fact that he knows absolutely nothing about Martha's Vineyard.
And among those he runs into are a couple of Hirsch's former "Taxi" (1978-83) co-stars - Marilu Henner (Elaine) and Jeff Conaway (Bobby).
Other passengers include Hirsch's former "Dear John" (1988-93) co-stars - Jane Carr (Louise), Harry Groener (Ralph), Billie Bird (Mrs. Philbert) and Tom Willette (Tom).
Some of it's a bit obvious, like when Conaway asks Leo, "Have you driven a cab before?" But there are some funny bits, as when Leo puts the moves on Henner and when Groener plays a member of an underground group trying to liberate Martha's Vineyard.
Meanwhile, George wins a therapy session, which he doesn't think he needs. But he's convinced to join in by the therapist, Dr. Michael Harris (Peter Scolari, who played Michael Harris on "New-hart"). And, of course, Newhart played a psychologist on the 1972-78 "Bob Newhart Show."
Turns out that Dr. Harris shares office space with a couple of "Bob Newhart Show" alumni - a dentist played Peter Bonerz and his receptionist/wife (yes, wife) played by Marcia Wallace.
And when George is introduced to the therapy group, who should it turn out to be but the old "Bob Newhart" group - Jack Riley (Mr. Carlin), Oliver Clark (Mr. Herd) and John Fiedler (Mr. Peterson).
(Pat Crawford Brown subs for Florida Freibus, who was Mrs. Baker-man.)
There's also some nice interplay between Scolari and Julia Duffy, whose characters closely mimic Michael and Stephanie on "Newhart."
Perhaps the oddest crossover comes when Tom Poston plays a cop who tickets Leo. Poston, of course, is a veteran of both "Bob Newhart" (as George) and "The Bob Newhart Show" (as the recurring character of the Peeper) - but his scenes are with Hirsch.
And there may perhaps be a surprise headed our way. The last scene from this episode was not on the tapes provided to critics - but we do know that William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss and John Volstad (Larry, Darryl and Darryl) are scheduled to appear.
Of course, this episode didn't get guest stars from all of Newhart's and Hirsch's TV shows. They could have gotten somebody from the 1961-62 variety hour "The Bob Newhart Show" - Ken Berry was a semi-regular.
And how about Hirsch's 1976-77 police drama "Delvecchio?" (Charles Haid - who went on to co-star in "Hill Street Blues" - was his co-star.) Or "Detective in the House," which aired for a month in 1985. (Jack Elam was a regular in that one.)
Well, maybe 19 old co-stars is enough for a single half-hour episode.
The best news about "George & Leo" is that CBS has upped the order to a full season's worth of episode - 22. This is a promising series that deserves the time to develop.
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION; Decent but Cranky the Fourth Time Around
By ANDY MEISLER
Published: November 23, 1997
DURING LUCILLE BALL'S final years as a television star, even her most devoted fans winced at her pratfalls and scatterbrained coquettishness. Some of Jack Benny's long-running shtick, particularly his relationship with his ''girlfriend,'' Mary Livingstone, wore thin by the 1960's. Even Michael Landon, in his last series or two, could have used a grown-up haircut.
So how are we to assess the comedic autumn of Bob Newhart? Does the oldest comedy star on television remain bankable in today's prime-time programming, at least among the bulging demographic cohort that fondly remembers his early career? More fundamentally, does the buttoned-down comic persona of the 68-year-old Mr. Newhart, formed during the Eisenhower Administration, remain as serviceable as ever?
So far, the answer seems to be yes, if one listens to what the critics are saying about his new sitcom, ''George and Leo,'' on Monday nights on CBS -- his fourth on the network since 1972. But the public's response, as measured by the ratings, is less conclusive; they've been respectable but not sensational (for Nov. 10, the show, on at 9:30, got an 8.6 rating, or roughly 8.4 million viewers, beaten only by ''Monday Night Football.'')
The show is most popular among adult viewers over 34, the demographically undesirable (at least to advertisers), and CBS has renewed the show through the rest of its first season.
''Bob's on-screen character is decent, easily embarrassed, just a tiny bit cranky -- and surrounded by people who bedevil him always,'' said Rob Long, the co-creator and executive producer of ''George and Leo.'' ''He's got a very strong moral sense. The problem is, people keep changing the margins of what's right and wrong. He keeps trying to adjust, but they're always moving just a little too fast for him.'' Mr. Long was 7 years old when the first of Mr. Newhart's sitcoms went on the air.
CBS, mired in third place among the networks, is counting on Mr. Newhart's appeal. Mondays are traditionally a strong comedy night for CBS, and the show also stars another proven comic actor, Judd Hirsch.
Mr. Newhart himself is unsure whether his brand of comedy is still sure-fire, or even mainstream, in 1997.
''Sure, I worry,'' he said in an interview in his small but spotless Paramount Studios dressing room recently. ''The show may not work. The audience has changed considerably. It includes a lot of people who are a lot younger than I am, and I don't know if they want to watch two guys in their 60's. Maybe they see us as their dads or their uncles. Maybe they don't see any relevance; maybe they do. The only thing I can do is do my best work with writing I believe in.''
This time around, the circles under Mr. Newhart's deep-set eyes are a little darker and the bulge at the bottom of his cardigan a bit more pronounced. But the character he plays in ''George and Leo'' is pure Newhart: different only in superficial detail from Bob Hartley, the young-fogy Chicago psychologist he played in ''The Bob Newhart Show'' from 1972 to 1980, and from Dick Loudon, the older-fogy Vermont innkeeper he played in ''Newhart'' from 1982 to 1990.
As effortlessly established in the new show's first few episodes, George Stoody is a mild-mannered widower, a retired mutual fund manager who buys a bookstore on Martha's Vineyard to be near his son, Ted (Jason Bateman), and his very pregnant daughter-in-law, Casey (Robyn Lively).
Ted and Casey were not married until the second episode, a fact that drives the uptight George into paroxysms of stammering indignation, which everybody treats as mere byproducts of his harmless and semi-endearing eccentricity. Indeed, almost everything in the modern world drives George to new heights of stoic powerlessness.
Those are minor irritants, however, compared with the sudden appearance in his life of Leo Wagonman (Mr. Hirsch), Casey's long-absent father. The polyester-friendly Leo, a one-time magician and full-time con artist and ladies' man, shows up on George's doorstep on the lam from a Las Vegas-based mob hit man. In the pilot, Leo bargains fiercely and obnoxiously on the price of a coffee-table book to give his daughter as a wedding present, then writes George a bad check for the amount.
''WHY, UH, WHY DID you bother bargaining with me?'' says George, when he eventually tumbles to Leo's scheme. ''Why didn't you write me a check for a -- for a thousand dollars?''
Naturally, Leo takes advantage of George's essential decency to finagle a spare bedroom atop the bookstore. Naturally, too, Leo embroils George in various other flaky scams.
''In this one, Judd plays everybody -- Mr. Carlin, Larry, Darryl and Darryl, and everybody else combined,'' said Mr. Newhart, mentioning a few of the many annoying characters who surrounded him in his first two sitcoms.
And he, some say, plays himself. A frequent observation about Mr. Newhart is that in the public's mind at least he and his persona are virtually indistinguishable.
Is that accurate?
''No, I'm acting,'' said Mr. Newhart. ''I'm really acting, and I've been doing it for a long time. When they aren't your own words and you have to hit marks and there are three cameras, that's acting.''
He concedes that much of his own personality has gone into the creation of George, Dick et. al. A slightly deeper secret is that the traits Mr. Newhart shares with his alter egos -- including a fearless acceptance of his dull side and a stubborn adherence to tradition and propriety -- have served him considerably better in real life than they serve his characters on the small screen.
Mr. Newhart and his wife, Ginnie, have been married for 36 years and have four grown children, all doing well outside show business. Mr. Newhart himself is a wealthy man; he recently sold one of his Southern California homes to Edgar Bronfman Jr., who in 1995 acquired MCA, including Universal Studios, for his company Seagram.
This success story began in the late 1950's. Mr. Newhart vaulted to fame when he lampooned the Organization Man under pressure in a series of comedy records, now classics, that still form the core of his stand-up act. He was the host of a short-lived variety show in the early 1960's, but only when he starred in his first sitcom did he find his real place in television.
Both that first sitcom, ''The Bob Newhart Show,'' and ''Newhart'' did so well that at the end of their long runs, Mr. Newhart, slightly tired of his characters, had to pull the plug himself. Then, in 1992, came ''Bob,'' which was considered a bit of a mess. Mr. Newhart played Bob McKay, a middle-aged comic-book artist who vented his innermost feelings from time to time. The series was pre-empted, retooled, rescheduled repeatedly and finally, after a season and a half, canceled. Even Mr. Newhart was relieved.
''As I've said before, the worse thing an actor can do is 'stretch,' '' he said. ''The public couldn't care less whether you are stretching or not, and if you feel a need to do it, then put on an exercise video. But don't do it in front of millions of people.''
He was not eager to risk failure again.
''I pleaded with him,'' says Leslie Moonves, president of CBS Television. ''I met with him several times, and listened to his concerns. He wanted good co-stars. He wanted a good time slot. And he wanted us to support him by sticking with the show and moving it around the schedule. Once he jumped in, though, he was a happy guy. In fact, he sat with us and read with 30 actors we were auditioning. He's not really one to throw his weight around.''
This is not to say, however, that Mr. Newhart has lacked the final say on his shows.
''In my estimation,'' said Mr. Newhart, carefully, ''power lies in how seldom you utilize it.''
To illustrate this point Mr. Newhart explained that he had a longstanding rule against acting with children, and that -- during the sixth season of ''The Bob Newhart Show'' -- he felt called upon to remind certain people of that fact.
''One Friday night after I did the show, they gave me the script for the next week,'' he said. ''On Saturday I read it and discovered that Emily -- my wife in the show -- was pregnant. So I called up the producer at that time and said, 'It's a funny script.'
''He said: 'Oh! You like it?'
''I said: 'Oh, God, yes. It's very funny.'
''He said: 'Oh, good. We were a little worried you wouldn't like it.'
''I said: 'No, no. It's very funny. Who are you going to get to play Bob?' ''
The script was rewritten. Emily's pregnancy turned out to have been a dream.
Correction: December 14, 1997, Sunday An article on Nov. 23 about Bob Newhart's television series ''George and Leo'' misstated the ratings ranking of CBS among broadcast networks when the series had its premiere in September. CBS was in second place, not third place.
To read some articles about George & Leo go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=NLsyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=2vEDAAAAIBAJ&dq=george%20%26%20leo%20tv%20show&pg=3428%2C4429107 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0gtbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=HU4NAAAAIBAJ&dq=george%20%26%20leo%20tv%20show&pg=1174%2C2308895
To watch some clips from George & Leo go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=george+%26+leo
For more on George & Leo go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_%26_Leo
For a Bob Newhart Website go to https://web.archive.org/web/20060626035501/http://www.bobnewhart.com:80/televisionLG.cfm?ttlabbrv=gl
For The Robyn Lively Photo Gallery go to http://www.fanpix.net/gallery/robyn-lively-pictures.htm
For a website dedicated to Julia Sweeney go to https://www.juliasweeney.com/
For some George & Leo-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/george-leo
For a Review of George & Leo go to https://web.archive.org/web/20120614060341/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/georgl.htm
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3mClsjm1Ig
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Keywords: George & Leo (Links Updated 7/28/18)