While TV hall of famer Bob Newhart rescued the Emmycast one year, he has yet to take home TV’s top honor despite six bids.
That shocking oversight could be remedied this year as he leads the Comedy Guest Actor race for a well-received appearance on “The Big Bang Theory” with 3/10 odds. His competitors are three past Emmy champs Justin Timberlake and Louis C.K. (both for “Saturday Night Live“) and Bobby Cannavale (“Nurse Jackie“) as well as Will Forte (“30 Rock“) and Nathan Lane (“Modern Family“).
Newhart’s big break on TV came at the 1960 Emmy Awards. As Tom O’Neil recounts in his 2000 book “The Emmys,” the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May backed out of the ceremony because of an “inappropriate” skit and the young comedian was drafted, filling in with routines about the Navy and Russian leader Nikita Krushchev‘s trip to Washington.
The L.A. Times praised Newhart, “who was unknown six months ago,” and Variety said he “just about grabbed the laurels and ran.” His appearance boosted sales of his disc “Button Down Mind” and he went on to win three Grammy Awards a few months later: Album of the Year (beating Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole), Best New Artist (besting Leontyne Price), and Best Comedic Performance.
Two years later, his short-lived variety show “The Bob Newhart Show” prevailed at the Emmys as Best Humor Program over “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Car 54, Where Are You?,” “Hazel,” and “The Red Skelton Show.” However, because Newhart was not a producer of the program, he did not collect an Emmy. His first ever nomination was that same year for Best Comedy Writing, losing out to “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
His long-running 1970s series “The Bob Newhart Show” (same title but a situation comedy set in Chicago) reaped four Emmy bids but none for Newhart. Lead actress Suzanne Pleshette collected two noms and the show itself was up for Best Comedy Series in 1977 (defeated by “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”).
Newhart was nominated as Best Comedy Actor for his next long-running program “Newhart” three times. He lost in 1985 to Robert Guillaume (“Benson”) and followed that with two defeats to Michael J. Fox (“Family Ties”) in 1986 and 1987.
The Vermont-based “Newhart” would set an Emmy record for futility with an overall 25 losses. Among those were multiple bids for supporting players Julia Duffy, Tom Poston, and Peter Scolari plus two Best Comedy Series defeats to “Cheers” (1983, 1984).
The Academy inducted Newhart into its TV Hall of Fame in 1993. Other inductees that year were newsman John Chancellor, producer/host Dick Clark, host Phil Donahue, game show producer Mark Goodson, soap opera creator Agnes Nixon, and actor/producer Jack Webb. His friends Tim Conway, Dick Martin, and Don Rickles were part of the tribute.
His fifth Emmy nomination came in 2004 as Best Drama Guest Actor on “E.R.” He lost that race to William Shatner (“The Practice”). The sixth nom was in 2009 as Best TV Movie/Miniseries Supporting Actor for “The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice.” He was defeated by Ken Howard (“Grey Gardens”).
This seventh nomination came for his work opposite two-time Comedy Actor champ Jim Parsons and past nominee Johnny Galecki on the CBS laffer. His character, Arthur Jeffries, was a former childrens performer called Professor Proton who is now hired to entertain in their apartment.
Newhart turns 84 on Sept. 9, six days before the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony.
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