The actress, who first gained wide fame as receptionist Carol Kester on ‘The Bob Newhart Show” in the 1970s — and later grew her fan base as the voice of Edna Krabappel on FOX’s “The Simpsons,” which earned her an Emmy — died Friday, Oct. 25.
“She was in the hospital and was kind of getting up,” comedy icon Newhart tells Zap2it, “and her sister called Ginny (Newhart’s wife) and me to ask us to call Marcia and help build her up. The next thing, we went up to Seattle to visit my daughter and my new granddaughter, and we found out she was gone. We had no idea it was that serious.”
A recent first-time Emmy winner for CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” Newhart has fond memories of how Wallace came to be a part of the long-popular ensemble that also included Suzanne Pleshette as psychologist Bob Hartley’s (Newhart) schoolteacher wife Emily, Peter Bonerz as dentist Jerry Robinson and Bill Daily as airline navigator Howard Borden.
“The original pilot had Suzy and me,” Newhart says, “and Bill Redfield from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ Jerry was another psychologist, but he was into the more occult kind of things. And a lot of it centered around our living in a co-op and the meetings in the building, with Bill as the head of the tenants organization.
“Between that time and the time we actually went on the air, they added Bill Daily, who was a good friend of mine in Chicago. And, as I’ve heard the story, either Mr. (William) Paley — who owned CBS — or Mrs. Paley was watching ‘The Merv Griffin Show,’ and Marcia was on and was very funny.”
The next move came from Paley “or Mrs. Paley saying something to Mr. Paley, which was as good as being Mr. Paley,” Newhart muses. He reflects that if it indeed was socialite wife Barbara “Babe” Paley, “She said, ‘That girl’s funny. Maybe you ought to use her in that new pilot.’ And he said, ‘Good idea.’ Of course, whatever Mr. Paley wanted, he got. And that’s how Marcia ended up on the show.”
Newhart returns to “The Big Bang Theory” Thursday (Nov. 7), again playing former TV science-show host “Professor Proton,” the role that earned him his Emmy for an appearance last season. He appreciates the sitcom’s writing, an aspect he believes also is a major part of “The Bob Newhart Show’s” legacy.
“It’s funny. From time to time, I’ll see an episode and wonder, ‘How does this end?’ I can see I’m in it, so I obviously shot it … but I’m just another viewer. Some of the lines were just wonderful.”