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Chicago dedicates Bob Newhart statue

Bob Newhart has been honored with a statue in Chicago, home of  "The Bob Newhart Show."
/ Source: The Associated Press

“Hi Bob!” could become a popular phrase on Michigan Avenue.

A statue commemorating comedian Bob Newhart’s role as Dr. Robert Hartley on “The Bob Newhart Show” was unveiled Tuesday in downtown Chicago near the office building shown in the TV classic’s opening credits.

“Hi Bob!” was a frequent greeting on the show, which was set in Chicago and ran on CBS from 1972 to 1978. Hartley was a successful psychologist living in a high-rise apartment with his wife, Emily, played by Suzanne Pleshette.

As Hartley, Newhart employed his famous deadpan, buttoned-down persona, playing the straight man to a brash receptionist, a needy neighbor and a variety of neurotic patients.

Newhart, a native of suburban Oak Park, said he was honored by the statue and viewed it as a “tribute to the writing and to the cast.” He said he thinks the sitcom is still being enjoyed because its humor was observational instead of topical.

“We’d get a script and there would be a Gerald Ford joke about tripping over something and I’d say to the writers, ‘Guys we’re going to look silly in 20 years if we’re doing Gerald Ford jokes.’ So that was kind of intentional,” said Newhart, 74. “We’d try to make it as timeless as we could.”

The life-size bronze sculpture was commissioned by the cable channel TV Land, which shows reruns of the classic show. It depicts Newhart’s character sitting in a chair next to an empty sofa.

“Ooomph!” Newhart said when he sat down on the sofa Tuesday.

“This may come as a surprise to you, but bronze is not as soft as it looks,” he told fans gathered for the statue’s unveiling.

Newhart, who recently was nominated for an Emmy Award for a dramatic role on “ER,” followed “The Bob Newhart Show” with “Newhart” in the 1980s and two other sitcoms in the 1990s.

The statue will be located until Nov. 1 outside 430 N. Michigan Ave., which was featured in the show’s opening credits as Hartley’s office. It will then be moved about a mile east to Navy Pier because of concerns about the statue impeding pedestrian traffic.

TV Land has also sponsored statues of Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) and his son, Opie (Ron Howard), of “The Andy Griffith Show” in Raleigh, N.C.; Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) of “The Honeymooners” at New York’s Port Authority bus terminal; and Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) of the “Mary Tyler Moore” show in Minneapolis.