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Did Newhart Drop An Early Hint About The Show's Epic Final Episode Twist?

Bob Newhart has spent decades making people laugh. Some people may know him for his roles in "Elf," "The Big Bang Theory," and "The Librarian" movie trilogy. But to many, he's known as either psychiatrist Bob Hartley or as innkeeper Dick Loudon. He played Bob Hartley on "The Bob Newhart Show" from 1972 to 1978. He would take over the small screen again in 1982, but this time as Dick in the sitcom "Newhart." While the shows have two very different storylines, it was the ending of "Newhart" that revealed a big twist: the quiet Vermont life that Dick had been living for eight seasons is actually a dream that Bob is having while sleeping next to his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) in their Chicago apartment.

The ending has gone down in TV history, but it was a surprise that some people missed upon the finale's debut. Newhart told Yahoo! Entertainment that they got approval from CBS to add an extra five minutes to the show's usual 30-minute length, but not every station got the memo. "They allowed us to air the [longer] show and tried to notify as many cities as possible, but apparently, a lot of them didn't know anything about the five extra minutes, so they didn't air them!" he said.

Despite the mishap, it's a finale that people still talk about today. And some are speculating that a hint about the show's surprise ending may have been mentioned a few years prior to the show's end.

Redditors speculate that the hint to the surprise ending happens three seasons before Newhart ended

Some Redditors believe that a clue about the bigger picture of "Newhart" may have been dropped in Season 5, Episode 22, "Harris Ankles PIV for Web Post." Dick Loudon is trying to console Michael Harris (Peter Scolari), who is upset about his favorite TV show's ending. Dick tells him that great TV shows always find a way to come back. Michael replies, "How about that show with the shrink who stuttered?" Dick responds to this nod to "The Bob Newhart Show" by telling Michael that Bob Hartley did not stutter but rather stammered. 

In the subreddit r/BobNewhart, u/code_monkey_wrench wrote, "Both shows can't be aware of each other, can they?" To that, u/StardustBrother replied that they believe that Bob's real memories are intertwined with his dream. "In the dream world, it is Dr. Hartley's 'real world' that is seen as fake," they wrote. They also noted that this may have just been an inside joke for viewers and not a nod to the surprise ending as they believe that the show's conclusion was not planned out at that time.

Multiple people had the idea for the big finale years before Newhart's end

Season 5, Episode 22 aired in March of 1987. Season 6 was airing during the tail end of that year, and Bob Newhart told Yahoo! Entertainment that this was the same year that he was thinking about ending the show. It was a Christmas party conversation that he said sparked the idea for the big finale. "Ginny [Newhart's wife] knew I was unhappy with CBS. She told me, 'You know what the final show should be? You wake up in bed with Suzie [Pleshette] and you describe this dream you had about owning an inn in Vermont,'" he said. Newhart added that Pleshette was at the same party and she loved the idea.

But Bob and Ginny Newhart are not the only people with a claim to this idea. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, writer Dan O'Shannon said he came up with the idea after watching the series finale of "St. Elsewhere," which ended in 1988. "I went to the writer's room and told them. They said it was great. The executive producers called up Bob, who apparently loved it," he said. Newhart told Entertainment Weekly that he gave the idea to the writers, but O'Shannon doesn't recall that moment. However, the idea would be shelved due to the renewal of the popular TV show. In 1990, it would become reality and create a moment fondly remembered by many.