Welcome to the world of Newhart, that quintessential 80s show. The show may be long gone from network television airwaves, but a small, dedicated group of fans manage to keep its spirit alive on the Internet. A handful of Newhart web sites are attracting fans who are thirsty for reruns and a long-rumored Newhart T.V. reunion.
Closer to home, the ghosts of the offbeat T.V. show still haunt the quaint Waybury Inn in East Middlebury, Vt.
The inn, a former stage-coach stop at the foot of the Green Mountains on Route 125, served as the exterior of the T.V. shows fictional Vermont inn. Location scouts for Newhart felt it represented the essence of a New England inn. It was that essence the producers wanted to show each week during the programs credits. (The T.V. inns interiorwhich looked nothing like the Wayburyswas built on a Hollywood soundstage.)
All that remains of the remains of the exterior T.V. shoot are wooden signs found in the Wayburys pubThe Stratford Inn and The Minuteman Cafe.
Comedian Bob Newhart played Dick Loudon, a writer of how-to books who buys a classic 18th century Vermont inn, the Stratford Inn (a.k.a. the Waybury Inn), became host of a low-rated local talk show entitled "Vermont Today," produced by a shallow baby-boomer schlockmeister Michael Harris (this show-within-a-show was a veiled spoof of WCAX-TV, Channel 3s quaint local programming).
Among the shows cast, apparently only comic actor Bob Newhart has failed to pay a visit to the Waybury Inn. In fact, Newharts only visit to Vermont was at the Burlington airport. During the shows first run, the comic actor stepped off a plane), with his wife Joanna. Leslie Vanderkellen was the priviliged maid working her way through college, George Utley (played by comedian Tom Poston) was the somewhat dim-witted handyman, and Kirk Devane was the deceptive owner of the rundown Minuteman Cafe next door.
In 1983, the Leslie character was replaced by her spoiled and shallow cousin Stephanie. That same year, Kirk married Cindy, a circus clown, and they moved to Europe at the beginning of the shows third season in 1984.
Characters Michael and Stephanie later fell in love and eventually married and had a baby, also named Stephanie.
The unnamed Vermont village that provided this show's setting was populated by eccentric characters such as Chester Wanamaker; Jim Dixon; Bev Dutton, the no-nonsense manager of ficitional Channel 8 (from which "Vermont Today" originated); andlast but not leastLarry, Darryl and Darryl, three surprisingly cultured Vermont woodsmen.
Ironically, in spite of the shows closing in September 1990, most out-of-town guests at the Waybury today are unaware of the inns connection to Newhart.
Newhart vanished soon after its final episode airedthe program hasnt had much of a rerun life since. Selected episodes were once available on VHS video for die-hard fans, but the videotapes are no longer distributed although a DVD version may be available in 2008. Currently, Newhart is only broadcast in Canada.
Despite its demise, the spirit of Newhart lives on. You can still encounter the memories of the Newhart gang at the Waybury Inn.
Thanks to TV Tome.com and Bob-Newhart.com for providing the framework for this story.