blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Bob (1992) s01e04 – Penny for Your Thoughts

Show creators Bill Steinkeller, Cheri Steinkeller, and Phoef Sutton are back writing this episode, which must be why Bob Newhart’s able to get laughs from the lukewarm jokes. Not all the jokes are lukewarm, some are good, but a lot are lukewarm. However, the writers are just as unable to give Cynthia Stevenson material she can effectively essay. Actually, I’ll bet a memoir from Stevenson about doing nineties sitcoms would be insightful.

After a cold open joke only Newhart can make amusing, the first plot point in the episode is Stevenson getting a new job in a beer hall. She has to dress as a serving wench and she and mom Carlene Watkins talk about making her boobs stick up while dad Newhart gets real uncomfortable. Did push-up bras not exist in 1992? Maybe they hadn’t hit CBS yet.

Not only does Stevenson get this meek, shallow character, she’s now got to do it with some weird self-body-shaming thrown in? Stevenson gets a lot of sympathy for “Bob.”

Anyway. The main plot has Newhart and creative partner John Cygan (who finally has better clothes) waiting to hear what the board of directors thinks of their comic book. Because multi-national conglomerates care about their single issue comic books.

There’s going to be a lot of forehead crunching at “Bob”’s version of comic book publishing this episode—including finding out Timothy Fall is the inker and Ruth Kobart is the letterer, which means the entire rest of the office—at least ten people, all but two non-speaking (more on them in a second)… are coloring the comic book. Or just hanging out.

Eventually the comic gets sent to a focus group, which is a fairly successful scene thanks to Laura Waterbury and Rebecca Staab, but then Watkins hears the group doesn’t like the girl in the comic and it’s based on her so she’s got an existential crisis. And a bad lightweight drunk scene—the smoking stood out more, but I forgot the nineties I guess—before it all gets resolved.

Though I did forget everyone in the office—including all the women—mock Newhart for thinking Watkins is a great looking woman. Oh, the nineties.

Like when the show brings in Patty Holly as one of the office staff so when Cygan is shitty to her, it’s not just misogynist; Holly is a Black woman so there’s a very weird misogynoir aspect to it.

The episode’s definitely an improvement over the previous one and the “tone” seems better, but it’s still Newhart holding everything together. Cygan’s not funny and the show can’t figure out how to make him funny. He’s got this terrible monologue then Newhart’s got one and nails it.

Last thing. Bill Zuckert plays the shoeshine guy who has sway with the board regarding the comic book (yep) and he’s quite bad and quite poorly written. It’s very strange how many opportunities the writers pass up, especially where they often go instead.

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