Is it possible to spend too much time with Darcy and Elizabeth? If we begin to have peculiar dreams about them, is it time to step back from Pemberley? I had an awful dream last night and thought I would share it with you, but first let me remind you of a classic scene in television history that may have inspired my dream.
During the last two minutes of the final episode of the wildly popular Bob Newhart show thirty million viewers were treated to a classic twist so delightfully bizarre that TV Guide, TV Land and A & E named it the most unexpected moment in TV history.
Follow closely. It gets confusing. Final episode of a Newhart (1982-90) in which Bob Newhart plays Dick Loudin, a Vermont innkeeper and author of self-help books. His “wife” of eight years was the delightful fair-haired actress, Mary Frann. The Newhart Show was populated by the most eccentric characters this side of Wonderland.
Finale of Newhart:
The screen went black. When the light came on viewers could see Bob Newhart was playing the role of Dr. Bob Hartley, (Newhart’s character from The Bob Newhart Show 1972-78). He was wearing pajamas and sitting up in bed in a room that looked oddly familiar… from his old show.
Dr. Hartley speaks to the lump sleeping next to him, “Honey, wake up, you won’t believe the dream I just had.” His wife turned on her light and thirty million viewers lost it when dark-haired Suzanne Pleshette, who played Bob’s wife Emily in the first sitcom, is his bedmate instead of the expected Mary Frann, playing Joanna Loudin.
As it sunk in that eight seasons of the award winning Newhart had been nothing more than a madcap dream, the result of Dr. Bob Hartley eating right before bed I was stunned. This finale episode went on to become the most unexpected moment in television history.
Many in the studio audience (and millions of television viewers) realized with a shock that the entire Newhart series (and presumably Dick Loudon’s entire existence) had just been revealed to have been nothing more than Bob Hartley’s dream.
Bob tells Emily that in that dream, he lived in a weird Vermont town surrounded by strange people: an heiress maid, her alliterative boyfriend, a dense handyman, and three eccentric woodsmen, two of whom were mute.
Emily is not interested in hearing any more about Bob’s dream. She cuts him off, rolls over and turns out the light. Bob tells her as she is settling down to go to sleep that he was married to a beautiful blonde in the dream.
There is a pause in the dark.
Then, imitating a ploy from The Bob Newhart Show, in which one of the Hartleys flicks back on a bedside light and continues the conversation, Emily turns her bedside lamp on again, and looks down at Bob: “What do you mean, beautiful blonde?”
The scene ends to the sound of the old Bob Newhart theme song and credits in the old Bob Newhart font style, and long, thunderous applause.
Just for giggles, click here to refresh your memory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgdUWXf8jJk
Gone in a poof was an eight-year dream troupe straight out of Wonderland:
Dick Loudin: A perfect fish out of water. He was the mild-mannered every man who struggled to make sense out of a cast of whimsical oddballs.
Joanna Loudin: Dick’s charming wife, co-innkeeper, and sympathetic ear for the loopy group.
George Utley: Dim handyman played in typical Tom Poston style. He was a classic.
Stephanie Vanderkellen: A disinherited heiress working as an incompetent maid in the Loudin’s Inn. She made vain and shallow look like virtues.
Michael Harris: Stephanie’s love interest. Michael was able to reach the shallow depths were Stephanie dwelled. They were a dead-on parody of a 1980’s yuppie couple.
Larry, Darryl, and Darryl: The trio of backwoodsmen, two of whom were mute, lived in a shack. Dimwits with good hearts. Larry’s recurrent introduction became a classic line oft repeated by fans because it was so darn funny.
Today the Newhart finale is considered a classic, joining shows like Seinfeld, MAS*H, and the Sopranos on the list of the all-time best series endings. “People still come up to me and talk about it,” says Newhart. “It’s held up as the standard for other shows.”
It is the second proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice. I see Darcy walking with a lady at his side, but I am concentrating on the expression on his face. He appears stunned and brings his hand to his forehead as if he feels faint. “Although you have accepted my offer of marriage, it must be the excitement of the moment, for I just now imagined I had offered for another lady, one of humble means. She had four sisters and a shrew of a mother. And the family estate was entailed to a rodent of a rector!”
Darcy turns to study Caroline Bingley’s face. “Forgive me, dearest, but she did have the finest eyes!”