It's taken TV comedy vet Bob Newhart 74 years to make his dramatic debut. Sure, he's done serious films, but "generally as the comic relief." So what better place to do full-on drama than our favorite weepy hospital series, NBC's ER? He begins a three-episode stint on Oct. 30 as a visual artist who's distraught over losing his sight. Back on the funny front, he'll be seen as a "very nice" Santa's helper in Will Ferrell's Christmas flick Elf (opening Nov. 7). Here, he chatters with TV Guide Online about his latest adventure.
TV Guide Online: You've won so many awards Grammys, Emmys, etc. Is there a Bob Newhart Memorial Tribute room in your house?
Bob Newhart: No, my wife tends to be very modest about my achievements. Much more modest than I. (Laughs) She tends to hide my awards all over the house. Well, in the den, I have my Emmys. But they're in a bookcase. You really have to know where they are, to find them. My TV Guide covers are hanging on the wall in my office.
TVGO: That's great. So on ER, you play a man who's losing his sight.
Newhart: He builds architectural models. He worked for Mies van der Rohe. He's estranged from his daughter; they lost touch after his wife died. So he really doesn't have anyone. Now, he's diagnosed with macular degeneration.
TVGO: Your storyline is with Dr. Lewis (Sherry Stringfield), right?
Newhart: Yeah. She puts him on a suicide watch and watches over him. They become friends, and he tells her that everything in his life has to do with his eyesight. The idea of not being able to see is just overwhelming. The rest of that story has to do with trying to talk him out of it.
TVGO: So they get close?
Newhart: Yes. They become platonic friends.
TVGO: Drat. That means no love scene?
Newhart: No, no, no. (Laughs) That would be obscene.
TVGO: There's a trend with older actors in love scenes, some of whom bare some, if not all, of their anatomy. Even Anthony Hopkins shows some pecs in an upcoming movie. Are you game, Mr. Newhart?
Newhart: (Cracks up) Well, the only thing you'll see is whatever's visible between the ties in the back of my hospital gown.
TVGO: Which is constructed to humiliate people.
Newhart: (Laughs) Yes, it sure is! Additional reporting by Daniel R. Coleridge