Suzanne Pleshette ( born January 31, 1937 – died January 19, 2008) was an American character actress, best known for her role as Bob Newhart’s wife, Emily Hartley, on the Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s. She co-starred with Bob Newhart in the popular Bob Newhart Show on CBS in which she played school teacher married to a Chicago psychologist. After the end of the Bob Newhart Show, she went on to other work but was called back to reprise her role as Emily in what is probably the most-liked finale to a sit-com ever fillmed. Bob Newhart had gone on to star in another sit-com called Newhart in which he played a New England inn keeper. In the final scene of the final episode of Newhart, just as in the final scenes of the Bob Newhart Show, Bob and Emily are in bed together when he wakes up and tells her that the entire Newhart series was a nightmare caused by “eating too much Japanese food before going to bed”.
Suzanne Pleshette also was an accomplished actress before she landed in the world of television sit-coms. Pleshette appeared in over two dozen made-for-television movies and numerous feature film of the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and was nominated for an Emmy Award on several occasions, most notably for Dr. Kildare. A former stage actress, she replaced Anne Bancroft in the Broadway version of The Miracle Worker (opposite Patty Duke), to rave reviews. She also provided the voices of Yubaba and Zeniba in the English dub of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award-winning film Spirited Away. Her most memorable film role was that of schoolteacher Annie Hayworth opposite Rod Taylor in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film The Birds (1963).
In 1998, Pleshette provided the voice of Zira in the Disney sequel The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. After John Ritter’s death in September 2003, she played the mother of Katey Sagal’s character in the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. Pleshette also starred in several other television series, including Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs, Bridges to Cross, Nightingales, The Boys Are Back, Good Morning, Miami and Hart to Hart. She also guest-starred in several episodes of the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, playing the estranged mother of Megan Mullally’s character Karen Walker. Her role in the series would be her last acting performance.