Suzanne Pleshette on her TV marriage with Bob Newhart
Image credit: The Everett Collection
"I think we have a terrific marriage," Pleshette said in a 1976 interview with Tampa Bay Times. "Our feelings about each other are mature, and we appreciate each other as human beings."
Suzanne Pleshette was talking about just one of her many popular TV and movie husbands at the time. Can you tell which one she was talking about?
1. The marriage she shares with psychologist Bob Hartley during The Bob Newhart Show (1972).
2. The one she had with Dean Jones in the popular Disney film The Shaggy D.A. (1976).
3. Her marriage to Darren McGavin in several films, including Law and Order (TV movie, 1976).
The answer to this question is Bob Newhart. Her relationship with Newhart was one of the major reasons the series became such a success. Many fans and TV viewers loved watching their love unfold onscreen.
Pleshette achieved top television status in her role as Dr. Bob Hartley's wife in the 1970s situational comedy. She was Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show for a total of 142 episodes.
"Emily is not smarter than Bob, nor is she manipulative, like most wives on television series," Pleshette said. "She is appreciative of Bob's idiosyncrasies, and he respects her desire for an identity of her own."
According to the interview, her and Newhart's relationship wasn't always that easy. When the show was first starting out in 1972, the writers made Emily seem much younger than she actually was. Pleshette fought for her character to have depth... and some confidence.
"In the beginning, the writers concentrated on the domestic side of Emily's life with little concern about her career as a schoolteacher," Pleshette said. "Last season we had two shows at her school; This year she has been promoted to vice principal, so I think there will be even more involvement at school."
She also said that, at first, her character's reactions were not as feminine as she wanted them to be. Through time, her character was able to develop into a well-rounded person.
"The writers were reluctant to inject Suzannisms but now I can pretty much play myself," Pleshette said. "I am the more outgoing, more demonstrative half of the couple. That has been true in my own marriage, and it is also true in Bob's marriage to Ginny."
Bob Newhart's real wife, Ginny Newhart, passed away at the age of 82 in 2023.
Even though it seemed like Pleshette was always playing the role of a wife, she had many other roles throughout her successful career that let her explore more opportunities.
Because of her physical appearance with dark hair and a deeper voice, she said she would often be typecast as the villain. And if featured in romantic TV shows or films, she said: "I rarely got the man at the end of the movie. Or if I did, he died in my arms."
Pleshette had many reasons to love the role of Emily, but one of the main reasons was being a co-star next to Newhart. She said she felt as though marriage made a comeback due to people's love and interest in The Bob Newhart Show.
"In my own generation, if you weren't married by the time you were 21, it was old-maid time," Pleshette said. "Most people I know are on their second marriage, and those are happy ones. Because husband and wife know why they are getting married."
In a 1977 interview with Detroit Free Press, Pleshette admitted that she was shy but would hide it by being the loudest person in the room. That energy wasn't always met with welcome arms; she said women like her had to fight for decades in order to have freedom within a role.
"Let's talk about Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda and Phyllis," Pleshette said. "Whether you like them, or not, they are women who do things and think things. And Maude. I think we've come a long way. You have to remember that these are situational comedians and it's a harder war to fight."
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