Don Wittman was Canada's Curt Gowdy, Jim McKay, Chris Schenkel, Keith Jackson. For over 40 years, he was "the soundtrack of Canadian sports" - the CFL, the NHL, the Olympics, golf, curling, and everything in-between. I've written often of the "big-game announcer" - the moment you heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Don Wittman, who died Saturday of cancer at age 71, had that kind of voice, and was that kind of announcer.
To every event he broadcast, he lent a note of authority, a dash of gravitas, and more than a hint of drama. He called 37 Grey Cups 28 Stanley Cups, 18 Olympic Games, always underplaying the event, letting the action on television speak for itself. It wasn't easy to hear him here in the States, but invariably when you caught the broadcast of a Canadian sporting event - the Grey Cup, the Stanley Cup - you heard Wittman's voice, without the self-hype and malarky that typifies most of what passes for sports broadcasting today. He was a member of the CBC Hall of Fame, to be sure, but also the CFL Hall of Fame, and once drank from the Grey Cup in a memorable post-game broadcast. With his death and that of Don Chevrier in December, Canada has now lost two of its great announcers, and great gentlemen.
Suzanne Pleshette was the perfect TV wife. She was smart, sexy, sassy, but also genuine. In her most famous role, that of Bob Newhart's wife Emily on the original Bob Newhart Show, she gave us that television rarety - someone who was a real character, not just a caricature of one.
One of the reasons for the show's success was that it dared to portray its leads as adults rather than children (they even slept in the same bed!) - and that was something, in a medium in which husbands are often shown to be clueless fools and weaklings, the wives empty-headed sexpots or shrews. What made her character so real was the chemistry with her TV husband, a formula consisting in equal parts of love, respect, passion, exasperation, and resignation - in other words, the stuff of all successful marriages. She may have been Bob's foil, as one obit described her, but she was not a fool, nor did she suffer them gladly. But you could see how a man with a sense of humor would appeal to her, how a babe like her could fall for a nerd like Bob and stay together for so many years. Her surprise cameo at the end of Newhart's 80s sitcom, reprising Emily in a scene revealing that the entire series had been a dream and Bob was in fact still in his old show, was one of the great moments in TV history.
It would be a mistake to think that the show was all there was to Suzanne Pleshette - she appeared on the big screen and was a staple in television dramas of the 60s, and appeared in more recent sitcoms such as Will & Grace and 8 Simple Rules - but it was as Emily Hartley that we knew and loved her best; and that, it would seem, is not a bad way to be remembered, on the day she died of cancer at 70.