Bob Newhart and Mark Harmon
If it's hard for you to believe that legendary TV funnyman Bob Newhart has never won an Emmy, don't worry: NCIS executive producer Gary Glasberg says he has trouble wrapping his head around that, too.
On the set: NCIS welcomes Bob Newhart
But Glasberg hopes that will soon change. Newhart, best known for his eponymous sitcoms The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart, guest-starred on NCIS last season as Dr. Walter Magnus, a former NCIS medical examiner who trained David McCallum's Ducky. "We came up with a list of actors that we thought that would be perfect for it," Glasberg says. "And then someone actually mentioned Bob. ... The role evolved and then turned into him. But initially, the thought was, 'Well, that'll never happen.'"
Fortunately for the show, Newhart's wife is a huge fan. "They go out to dinner every Tuesday night with some friends. But they always have to get home in time to watch NCIS," Glasberg says with a laugh. "Sure enough, he read the script and responded to it. The rest was just as smooth and entertaining and wonderful as could be."
But the role required some gravitas, too. Dr. Magnus' return was somewhat of a last hurrah, as the episode reveals that he's battling Alzheimer's disease. "My experience has been any time you can give a really talented comedic actor an opportunity to do some drama, they very often deliver," Glasberg says. "I knew that Bob had done some dramatic parts before, and we just sort of instinctually knew that this could work. This was an opportunity to see a different side of him and his real acting talent."
Check out photos of Newhart throughout his career
Glasberg says they also allowed Newhart to breathe some of his trademark style into the character. "His comedic timing is so specific to him that dialogue took on a whole new life when it was put in his hands," he says. "There's also a phone call sequence that happens about halfway through the show where Bob is ordering some takeout food. He has a history of doing scenes on the phone. That was something that we specifically wrote in to showcase what he's known for. It was a tiny, little moment that we added, and I'm thrilled that it came out the way that it did."
Although Glasberg would love to see Newhart back on the show, he says the character's situation probably won't allow for any repeat visits. "We recognized that this was a one-time thing," he says. "Very often when you write these parts and you get a great actor for it, you end up wishing that you had written it a little differently so that they could come back. But it would be unrealistic for me to think that he could return. All you can do is appreciate what the experience was and file it away as being unique."
But is it unique enough to earn Newhart an Emmy nod and perhaps, finally, a win?
Cheers & Jeers: NCIS says, "Hi, Bob!"
"As we were filming it, I remember Mark Harmon turning to me and saying, 'Bob Newhart needs to be recognized for this. This is really special," Glasberg says. "The man has had an extraordinary television career. This was a role that allowed us to see him in a different way. If in return NCIS can give him some recognition through an Emmy nomination, we would be honored and thrilled to be able to provide that."
Do you think Newhart's NCIS performance was Emmy worthy?