I posted the final NEWHART scene last week and also featured and interview with Bob Newhart where he says his wife Ginny came up with the idea for the big twist (SPOILER ALERT: the whole series was all just a dream of Bob’s character from his first series).
I since have heard from several writers of the NEWHART show saying that wasn’t true. According to numerous sources, that final scene was the brainchild of writer Dan O’Shannon. I contacted Dan and he confirmed but did say it’s quite possible Mrs. Newhart thought of it independently. Still, the sense I get from the staff is that they worked off Dan’s idea.
So here’s yet another example of a writer not getting credit because he’s invisible. They rarely do TV interviews with writers. And if they do it’s so the writers can talk about the actors.
When Fox put together that two-hour MASH anniversary program a few years ago we writers were invited to participate. They assembled us in a room, asked questions, and filmed it. The session lasted almost two hours and along the way there were some wonderful observations and terrific anecdotes. When the show aired they used maybe a minute of it. I was on for five seconds. Meanwhile, what you saw for most of the program was the cast sitting around on a set just rambling. If they got to one of our episodes it’s only because a cast member said, “Hey, remember that one where we…?”
Believe me, we weren’t as photogenic but you would have learned a lot more about MASH listening to us. At least Larry Gelbart was on the panel with the actors. But then, and I mean this with no disrespect, why have Jamie Farr explain the objective of this or that when Larry is sitting right there?
Was I bitter? No. I laughed. It was so expected. I was shocked they even wanted to talk to us the writers in the first place.
This isn’t going to change, despite any outrage from writers. If your ultimate goal is to become famous you’re in the wrong profession. But writers at least should get CREDIT for what they create. The NEWHART finale is a classic. It has a place in the history of television. Shouldn’t the writer who actually devised it at least get mentioned?
I love Bob Newhart. He’s a lovely man. And I guarantee he wasn’t slighting a writer on purpose. I’m sure he honestly believes his wife came up with the ending. And again, maybe she did – independently.
But for me, it’s all the more reason to have this forum. I love that from time to time I can shine a spotlight on a writer who deserves recognition. So congratulations Dan O’Shannon for dreaming up an inspired TV finale.
The only problem is – if I were an actor with a blog I’d have 200 times the hits.