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Chicago psychologist Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) puts out his shingle for the very first time as The Bob Newhart Show launches its first season. Among the familiar characters introduced during season one are Bob's schooteacher wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette); the Hartley's neurotic next-door neighbor, airline pilot Howard Borden (Bill Daily); dentist Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz), a self-styled swinging bachelor who works in the same office building as Bob; the building's scatterbrained receptionist Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace); and Bob's most frequent patients, paranoid Elliot Carlin (Jack Riley), high-strung Mr. Petersen (John Fiedler), and flighty widow Mrs. Bakerman (Florida Friebus). Also making their first appearances are Bob's highly judgmental mother Eleanor Hartley (Martha Scott); the divorced Howard's impressionable son Howie (Moosie Drier); and Emily's friend Margaret Hoover (Patricia Smith), a character originally intended as the equivalent of "Rhoda" on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but ultimately written out of the series.
The pilot episode (helpfully titled "P-I-L-O-T"), in which Bob and Emily consider adopting a child, was not the first episode shown; that honor went to "Fly the Unfriendly Skies," wherein Bob tries to help Emily overcome her fear of flying. In later first-season episodes, the normally reserved Bob becomes jealous of Emily's handsome tennis instructor and goes through the torments of the darned trying to tell his mother that he loves her; the Hartleys come to regret their mutual promise never to go to bed in an angry mood; Jerry falls in love with oral hygenist Cynthia Fremont (Elaine Giftos), who unfortunately turns out to be too much like him for the relationship to last; Howard and Carol briefly enjoy a romance; Howard becomes the archetypal overprotective big brother when his sister Debbie (Heather Menzies) goes out on a date with Jerry; Emily's full-time job with the Board of Education has a curious effect on Bob; and despite his worries that his patients can't live without him, Bob goes on a European cruise with Emily -- one that threatens to become a Marx Brothers movie before it even gets under way. The Bob Newhart Show closed its first season with very healthy ratings, ending up 16th place in the Nielsens.