Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB - "Bob Plays Margaret's Game" (1958)

 
Hold it!  I think you're gonna like this picture!

LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob Plays Margaret's Game" (Original Air Date: 12/23/1958) Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary DeCamp as Margaret, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck Collins, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Barbara Lang as Doris, Anne Neyland as Gwendolyn, Benny Rubin as the caterer.  Written by Paul Henning and Dick Wesson.  Directed by Bob Cummings.

Series overview of LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW previously published here for the one hundredth anniversary of the star's birth in 2008 at this link.

Bob's widowed sister Margaret is concerned about her son Chuck (now in college) being influenced by Uncle Bob's "attitude towards women".  Model Gwendolyn is the latest to be hinting about marriage, so Bob creatively gives her the brushoff with a (technically truthful) story about a trip of "undetermined length".  Chuck witnesses this, and Margaret witnesses her son trying out some of Uncle Bob's lines.


Bob is unrepetant when she confronts him, advising her that it's about time she stopped playing "Mother Hen" and started going out herself since Chuck is about to "fly the coop".  The ladies' man comes to regret this somewhat heated advice when he brings his latest model (Barbara Lang) over for a date and ends up with no car, jacket, food or credit card to impress her with.


Nearly 150 episodes in, and only a half season from the finish line, LOVE THAT BOB is still exactly the same show it was at its January 1955 outset, which is a good thing.  The youth revolution is still in the (now near) future, so Chuck is still Grasshopper to Bob's Master Po on all matters of the "fair sex".  Schultzy is still pining for Bob, normally on his side but all too eager to give the playboy photographer his comeuppance in this case (since it involves foiling his latest attempt to bed a beautiful model).


And the ladies are still lovely (and usually twenty years younger than Cummings).  In this episode, the spotlight is on the rarely seen Barbara Lang.  Like LOVE THAT BOB's go-to bombshell Joi Lansing, Lang was one of episodic television's answers to Marilyn Monroe in the Fifties, frequently guesting on Warner Brothers' shows (MAVERICK, LAWMAN, 77 SUNSET STRIP).  She missed out on the opportunity to play opposite Elvis in JAILHOUSE ROCK and unfortunately had both her career and her life shortened by various health issues.  Sadly, Lang passed away at age 54 in 1982.

Anne Neyland
Anne Neyland (briefly seen here as Gwendolyn) did appear (in a supporting role) in JAILHOUSE ROCK, and the part originally intended for Lang went to the even more star crossed Judy Tyler.  Tyler was killed in an automobile accident at 24 before the film was released.

Cummings helmed all of the show's final two seasons himself, 74 episodes in all.  He never directed episodic television outside of his biggest hit, but his work behind the camera was consistently solid, making the most of every gag, verbal and visual.  The sharp acting supports Dwayne Hickman's rememberance of Cummings as a stickler for rehearsal.  Many have noted that Cummings' somewhat theatrical mannerisms were out of style less than a decade later, but he knew his comedic strengths well, milking each double entendre from the Henning/Wesson script for all it was worth.


LOVE THAT BOB was always a show that can be appreciated on two different levels.  It's a well written Fifties sitcom, with misunderstandings and wit not unlike that of Henning's later smash THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, only more sexual.  Much more.  It's also well directed and acted (Davis won two Emmys and Cummings was nominated three times).  But it isn't much of a stretch to see it as the 1950's equivalent of (say) a Playboy or Penthouse photographer who has been really affected by 15+ years of scantily clad models half his age throwing themselves at him, and----oh Hell, you have the link to the series overview in the first paragraph, just read it!  Whether you consider it "good TV", or "so bad it's good" TV, LOVE THAT BOB is a must see.

The self-contained storyline of BOB PLAYS MARGARET'S GAME was something of a throwback to the show's early days by this time, as Paul Henning filled the last two seasons of LOVE THAT BOB with several multi-episode story arcs.  It is atypically lacking in action at Bob's photography studio, but otherwise serves as a decent enough introduction to what LOVE THAT BOB was all about.  In other words, it's as witty, campy and un-PC to modern eyes as any other episode.  (*** of four)

Want to see BOB PLAY'S MARGARET'S GAME for yourself?  Here ya go, courtesy of YouTube:


Oh, and how did Bob do this episode?  .500.  He had to have scored with Gwendolyn, but definitely struck out with Doris.