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Dick Loudon

Dick Loudon is a troubled soul. This may seem surprising, since he is the first person that every nut in Norwich consults, complains to, or pleads with. But do they ever consider the fact that maybe the guy in the loud yellow cardigan sweater has some issues of his own?

See, many "Newhart" fans forget that Dick isn't pure New England. His life at the Inn is a way of putting his money where his mouth is; in other words, he's living what he writes about in his books. But Dick hails from New York City. He's not used to a place with as many weirdos as Norwich.

The observant TV afficionado will realize that Dick is neurotic. He stutters at the beginning of nearly every sentence. He has a temper that quietly simmers for minutes on end, only to explode in a well-placed jab at whoever is in the room with him. Usually, no harm is done, since the folks around the Inn generally aren't swift enough to know they're being made fun of.

It seems that Dick misses New York. He frequently meets with publishers. He hosts a local TV show, "Vermont Today." In one instance he does it for forty-eight hours straight. Clearly, he's got some energy to burn off.

Thankfully, as the seasons wear on, Dick mellows out a little. Why the change? Some say it's the normal adjustment process. Others claim it's the arrival of "Vermont Today," which gives him a performing outlet. Then again, many viewers swear that it's the disappearance of Kirk Devane that allows Dick to decompress a little.

But maybe life in Vermont ends up doing Dick some good. He knows that writing a "how-to" book on fixing a house is a whole lot less complicated than putting together a "how-to" plan for fixing people's lives, which is what he's stuck doing over and over again.

George Utley

Perpetually depressed, George Utley is a caretaker who desperately needs to be taken care of. And Dick Loudon usually gets to do the honors.

George comes from a long line of Vermont handymen, a lineage that dates back to the American Revolution. True to his patriotic roots, George is so uniquely American that his lifelong dream is to become a used car salesman.

The care George provides isn't limited to the Stratford Inn. He babysits the Darryls while Larry is away. He is sensitive enough to pine away for the same girl after forty years. He cares deeply for the baby birds, raccoons, and squirrels who surround the Stratford Inn. In fact, he's nicer to them than he is to the guests.

George Utley is a Norwich native. And that's where he should probably stay.

Joanna Loudon

Joanna Loudon: beautiful, outgoing, personable. Why is she married to Dick? Was it the attraction of a sophisticated New York man of letters, even if he did only write how-to books?

Joanna is sharp, charming and, above all, sane. (Even if she does have a tattoo of a sea horse on her thigh.) Whether it's selling real estate, giving historical presentations, or managing her marriage to a grouchy man, Joanna knows how to navigate her way through the loon-filled terrain of Norwich, Vermont.

While Dick may berate, needle, and verbally abuse Joanna over a game of miniature golf, he still respects her enough to ask her for help in writing a book. Of course, he objects when Joanna proposes a long string of changes to it. And Dick's the jealous type--especially when it comes to Joanna wanting to keep a date made twenty years earlier with her ex-boyfriend from college. And he's not thrilled when a young Stratford guest develops a crush on her. Of course, Joanna's not above turning green when a star-struck admirer wants to set up a fan club for Dick, either. And she's not exactly thrilled when Dick works with sophisticated novelist Erica Chase.

We'll never know for sure what Dick and Joanna are doing with each other. We can rest assured knowing that Norwich is a better place with Joanna in it, though.

Kirk Devane

When analyzing Kirk, you might want to consider the age-old question, "What's in a name?" Well, say his name out loud. Go ahead: "Kirk De-VAIN." Once you've done that, you've got a good idea of what the guy is like.

Kirk is indeed vain. He is also manipulative, superficial, and desperate. He is a pathological liar. Kirk runs the Minuteman Cafe and Giftshop next door to the Stratford Inn. But he is more likely to tell you he's a member of the United States Congress.

It's a good thing that Kirk loves himself, since no one else seems to. He's not good-looking--certainly not handsome enough to be the self-proclaimed chairman of the Norwich Singles Club.

Above all, Kirk uses people--especially Dick Loudon. When his insurance company doesn't believe his claim that his store was robbed, he runs to Dick. When he is offended over the proposed building of a Rocket Burger in the town, he runs to Dick. When he miraculously gets married his car breaks down on his honeymoon, he runs to Grandma; but he still gets Dick involved.

Maybe it's good that Kirk left the show after two seasons.

Larry, Darryl & Darryl

Immortal words: "Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Darryl, this is my other brother Darryl."

No one knows who, or what, is responsible for the three brothers who drift in and out of the Stratford Inn as if paying routine visits from their home planet.

In a conversation with Dick Loudon, a Stratford guest at one time says, "There's something about Vermont that produces a special breed of man." In walk Larry, Darryl and Darryl. "Then there's the occasional hybrid," quips Dick.

Larry is the leader, so it's only natural that he handle all the speaking chores. But like all leaders, he has difficult crises to manage. At one point, the trio actually meet a friend, whose name is Sam. For a while, Larry's leadership position is threatened by the dynamic newcomer. Other disputes in the balance of power arise when it is discovered that Darryl #1 is actually the oldest of the three. Larry is also saddled with the task of finding babysitters for his brothers whenever he goes away.

While the Larry-Darryl-Darryl axis is indeed strong, it's good for the TV viewer to keep in mind that even the strongest union goes through its difficulties. They go through some very difficult experiences, such as adopting an eighteen-year-old named Ted.

Inheriting the Minuteman Cafe after Kirk Devane leaves, Larry, Darryl, and Darryl are indispensable to Norwich. They do more than provide local flavor; they can leave a taste in the town's mouth that's not likely to fade away any time soon.

Leslie Vanderkellen

Once upon a time, in Dick and Joanna Loudon's early days at the Stratford Inn, when their lives were viewed through the haze of video rather that through the grainy resolution of film, there lived a maid named Leslie Vanderkellen.

Leslie was never an ideal fit for the Stratford Inn. A Dartmouth student who came from a lot of money, Leslie's heart just wasn't in her job. In fact, the reason she took the position in the first place was to see what it was like to be "average."

Leslie left after a year to study in England. That was fine with Dick and Joanna. Her only unforgivable act was recommending her cousin Stephanie as a replacement.

Michael Harris

Michael Harris has to wear many hats during his years in and around the Stratford Inn. He works as a TV producer, which is stressful. He gets fired from his TV job to take a position as a shoe clerk, which is also stressful. Worst of all, he's Stephanie's husband.

Michael begins dating Stephanie shortly after they meet. They are the quintessential yuppie couple. As a couples counselor puts it, they share the same shallow values. (Michael takes this as a compliment.) His ideal date with Stephanie involves walking around town and feeling superior to everyone they see.

Though he isn't quite the weasel Kirk Devane is, you still can't help but wonder how a guy like Michael can live with himself. But a maybe better question is how Michael can live with Stephanie.

Stephanie Vanderkellen

Almost devoid of redeeming qualities, Stephanie Vanderkellen is everything you've ever hated in a preppy rich girl. She's materialistic, shallow, moody, and arguably the most incompetent maid ever to work in a Vermont inn.

Stephanie replaces her cousin Leslie as the Stratford maid. Why she did this we really don't know. Perhaps it is similar to Leslie's reason: to see what it is like to be "average."

Stephanie is beautiful. There have been times when she's sought things more important than wealth and beauty, but she never really found them. "Believe me," Stephanie says at one point, "I am the last person in the world to diminish the importance of physical beauty... There are other things that are more important." She then turns to Dick and asks, "Like what?"

Maybe Stephanie finds something a little deeper in her marriage to Michael Harris, who calls her his "cupcake." She likes Michael for a lot of different reasons, but mainly for his hair. Also, she shares Michael's love for running into picture frame stores and replacing the pictures of those "losers" in the frames with pictures of themselves. Stephanie also seems to love her baby, little Steffie, although the goo-goo language she talks around the baby is enough to make everyone in the room spit up.

As Stephanie puts it, being a Vanderkellen means having so much money that she never has to pray. Maybe TV viewers should say a prayer for Dick and Joanna.

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