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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob Gets Schultzy into Pictures" (1957)


LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW: "Bob Gets Schultzy into Pictures" (NBC-TV/Laurel-McCadden Productions 1957) Original Air Date: October 1, 1957.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Dick Wesson as Frank Crenshaw, Merry Anders as Mary, Phyllis McMeen as Phyllis, Pattee Chapman as Gertrude, Lisa Davis as Giselle, Doris Singleton as Marsha Singer, Elizabeth Slifer as Freida.  Special Guest Star Alan Ladd as Himself.  Written by Paul Henning, Shirl Gordon and Dick Wesson.  Directed by Bob Cummings.

Introduction to the LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW episode guide is at this link.

Schultzy has been sending letters back home (Pennsylvania) to high school frenemy Marsha Singer, bragging about her life in Hollywood "making pictures".  The ruse seems blown to bits when Marsha arrives for a visit, and Bob fully intends to pop the bubble until he gets a whiff of Singer's snootiness.  Determined to take Schultzy's tormentor down a peg or two, our loverboy begins transforming his Girl Friday into competition for Marilyn and Jayne.


"Do you think this wig'll do it?"

"Well, a wiggle did it for her!'

The silver tongued orator rhapsodizes about his unrequited love for Flaming Charmaine(!) and her steamy celluloid scenes deemed too earthy for France and Italy.  With the help of three cooperative models the subterfuge works on Singer--and on Schultzy's sailor date Frank Crenshaw, who gets the acting bug and ends up cast in Alan Ladd's upcoming Navy flick THE DEEP SIX when he believes Bob's bull.  That just might come in handy, since Ladd happens to be Singer's favorite actor.


"If Charmaine is such a glamourous star, how come I haven't seen ONE of her pictures?"

"Censorship!"

Bob's successful makeover on Pamela Livingston in The Sheik might well be surpassed by his work in Bob Gets Schultzy Into Pictures.  Ostensibly helping her to get his work done, Bob puts his full force into turning Singer green and succeeds despite the expected hiccups.  True, it takes the special guest appearance at the end to really sell it, but don't sell Bob short.  It was his PSYOP on Frank that ultimately brought the seaman to Mr. Ladd's orbit---and Ladd into Bob's. 


"Who knows what motivating forces draw me irresistibly to her?"

Yes, Bob's carnality takes a backseat--for once, he puts his devilish charm to altruistic use.  The models are in on the scheme and Collins persuades them all to let Schultzy shine.  Lisa Davis played three different characters during the show's run, making her debut as Giselle here.  Perhaps Lisa Gaye was unavailable, since Giselle seems to be a carbon copy of Collette Du Bois and even mentions Collette as her friend. Frequent MAVERICK leading lady Merry Anders makes a return after Bob Gets Out-Uncled, modeling this time after being a tennis partner in that third season finale.  


Rounding out our trio is twenty year old UCLA cheerleader Phyllis McMeen (at left in the pic), who also continues the LOVE THAT BOB tradition of casting pageant contestants: she was 1955's Miss Woodland Hills.  McMeen was quite active during her UCLA years, winning on Strike It Rich in 1956 and scoring this acting role as part of the publicity.  After modeling for Halo shampoo print ads and being named homecoming queen for the Bruins as well, McMeen opted for marriage over continuing a career in 1959.  She's predictably given the fewest lines of the models but doesn't distract from the fun. 


Forever immortalized as Caroline Appleby on I LOVE LUCY, Singleton pretty much plays the same type of nemesis here for Charmaine.  Longtime BOB fans won't be surprised by the titular hero's lack of interest in romancing her--snobbery has always turned him off.  In one of her final TV roles, Elizabeth Slifer is the woman Bob thinks has the way to Alan Ladd's heart.  The prolific character actress and Dallas native passed away a year later at 62.


In the LOVE THAT BOB universe, Bob's stinkerish behavior often gets rewarded (i.e. The Beautiful Psychologist, Bob Gives S.R.O. Performance). With seemingly equal frequency, good deeds do not go unpunished (Bob Saves Harvey).  It isn't 100%, but common enough to qualify as subversive for 1950's TV.  That is again the case here, with Collins' date for the evening giving him much more than he bargained for.  Meanwhile, Schultzy's payback for her fibs?  An enhanced stature to her Keystone state homegirls, and some smooching with the star of SHANE.  The karma in this setting is subtly but noticeably worlds away from BILKO.  Tell me again why this show wasn't really ahead of its time?


Kind of curious that Ladd's promotion of THE DEEP SIX didn't air closer to that film's release date (January 15, 1958--three months later), but like many shows, BOB liked to bring out the big guns early in the season (remember, Zsa Zsa Gabor opened the show's third).  Ladd's star power was fading a little from his heyday, but he's flattered handsomely by the script--somewhat to Bob's chagrin, he's everyone's favorite actor, even Chuck's.  Returning the favor, his is one of the best meta celebrity appearances on the show, besting those by Peter Lawford and even Cummings himself (more on those later as we continue the guide).  



"When there's caviar around, who wants navy beans?"

In the end, this is Ann B. Davis' episode.  Hilariously fickle and ditzy in costume, with pitch perfect reactions to the star, this is the installment that finally put her in the winner's circle come Emmy time in April 1958, and deservedly so.  Even though the writing slipped during the final season, Davis repeated at the Emmys.


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

Nothing to block this time, believe it or not.  Schultzy is getting all the action--and from our men in uniform to boot! 

DID BOB SCORE?

As noted above, he was letting his heart of gold show this time and putting his hard working assistant ahead of himself.  To the point that he DID end up with a date, but I doubt if he put much effort into getting on the basepaths.  Watch the episode below to see what I mean.


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Showing we don't need to focus on Bob's late night exploits to make a highly entertaining segment, Bob Gets Schultzy into Pictures delivers the goods long before the much-hyped appearance by Ladd, who puts a perfect capper on this fun, memorable outing.  Well written, directed and acted--Davis might have been the only one awarded hardware but she wasn't the only one deserving it from this show.  (***1/2 out of four)

***Want to see it for yourself?  YouTube is your friend:



Monday, November 28, 2022

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Hawaii Comes Calling" (1955)



LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW: "Hawaii Comes Calling" (1955 CBS-TV/Laurel-McCadden Productions)  Original Air Date: November 3, 1955.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Marjorie Bennett as Mrs. Niemeyer.  Guest Stars Hilo Hattie as Mother, Dell-Fin Poaha as Dell-Fin.  Written by Paul Henning, Shirl Gordon and William Cowley.  Directed by Rod Amateau.  


Introduction to the LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW episode guide is at this link.

Bob is welcomed back to the household after a trip to Hawaii (still not a state yet, that's four years into the future).  Ostensibly Bob's excursion was a business trip, but actually he was keeping an eye on his latest target, actress Kay Michaels.  Who incidentally never left the mainland: a misunderstanding, go figure.  Not that Bob didn't work--every angle.  Learning that "a make kaua" usually resulted in plenty of action with the lovely native ladies, Bob ends up necking with stunning Dell-Finn when he tries the phrase.  Ten times, she recounts to her overjoyed mother.  


It made for a nice vacation for our playboy, but what non-native Bob doesn't realize the phrase ("until we die") is actually a marriage proposal in the islands.  Soon our loverboy finds Poaha has followed him to the mainland with her mother and brother in tow--expecting our shutterbug to follow through on the promise.


After concluding the initial three episode arc introducing Lola Albright as Kay Michaels (Bob's primary romantic interest during the sophomore season), LOVE THAT BOB launched right into another trilogy about the Hawaii jaunt and its aftermath.  Hawaii Comes Calling is the middle installment in which the chick follows Bob home to roost.  At first Collins seems more than happy to reminisce about the trip, so much so that he doesn't even mind that busybody Niemeyer was spying on him out west!


Understandable, as Uncle Bob is a bigger hero to Chuck than ever once the youngster sees the steamy (for 1955) home movies from the islands.  If Chuck thinks his Uncle is The King at that point, his awe reaches a whole new level when the island beauty shows up on his doorstep.  Hickman gets some of his best laughs of the season with his subtle, yet thoroughly star-struck reaction--hey, he did just see quite a bit of her on the screen!


No series got you acquainted with more of the era's pageant beauties than LOVE THAT BOB, and the appearance of Dell-Fin Poaha is one more feather in the show's cap.  1950's Miss Hawaii, Poaha was starting a showbiz career like so many other contest winners.  A multi-instrumentalist who released CD's into the 21st century, Poaha played ukelele, drums, piano and sang with the Dell-Fin Trio for over forty years of mainland appearances.  Music was her sole focus after the 1950's, but by decade's end she performed on THE LIBERACE SHOW, acted on HAWAIIAN EYE (of course) and returned to LOVE THAT BOB for Hawaii Stays and Bob and Schultzy at Sea.  She's appealing despite her limited acting experience; widowed from Olympian Walter Luchinger last year, Poaha is living in California today at age 91.


Bob’s attempt to weasel out of the nuptials isn’t fully resolved at the fade out, necessitating the aforementioned third installment the following week.  This is a fine lead-in to it with one quibble: it's A Make Kaua, not A Mali Kaua.  Henning, Gordon and Cowley were usually more meticulous.

What are you guys watching, stag movies???

MOST SUGGESTIVE LINE:

Bob and Chuck watch the aforementioned home movies of the trip with looks on their faces suggesting they're watching something far naughtier on that projector.  We do see what they're viewing: Dell-Finn in a two piece bathing suit for most of the footage.  After several minutes of watching himself in action with Miss Hawaii, Bob excuses himself so he can take a cold shower.  


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

Mrs. Neimeyer was spying, but certainly wasn't stopping anything or even attempting to.  Bob had a clear path this episode and didn't even need that car Chuck was so eager to borrow.  But----

DID BOB SCORE?

Definitely got on the bases in the islands, with the opportunity to cross home plate back in L.A., but since the traditional Dell-Finn required marriage to do that, our playboy passed.  Some lines just can't be crossed with ol' Bob....


THE BOTTOM LINE:

As was often the case with Henning's three parters, short on plot advancement in this middle installment, but it is never dull.  The humor involving Hattie's mother is corny to modern eyes, and mute brother George could stand to be more menacing to heighten Bob's anxiety.  Then again, perhaps the large knives are enough--Henning and Company seemed to think so.  Amateau's deft handling of an installment that barely leaves the Collins living room deserves mention--this never seems stagy despite the household confinement.  Here's hoping that prequel Hawaii Calls and sequel Hawaii Stays are made easier to see in the near future, but Hawaii Comes Calling works well as a standalone.  (*** out of four)

Expanding on that thought: if you'd like to check out Hawaii Comes Calling for yourself, good news, it's on YouTube!  See below:




Friday, October 21, 2022

F TROOP Fridays: "Too Many Cooks Spoil the Troop" (1966)

 



F TROOP Fridays: Number 35





F TROOP: "Too Many Cooks Spoil the Troop" (ABC-TV/Warner Brothers 1966) Season 1, Episode 28; Original Air Date March 29, 1966.  Starring Forrest Tucker as Sergeant O'Rourke, Larry Storch as Corporal Agarn, Ken Berry as Captain Parmenter, Melody Patterson as Wrangler Jane, Frank deKova as Chief Wild Eagle, Don Diamond as Crazy Cat, James Hampton as Bugler Dobbs, Bob Steele as Duffy, Joe Brooks as Vanderbilt, James Gregory as Major Duncan, Jamie Farr as Standup Bull, Ivan Bell as Dudleson.  Written by Stan Burns and Mike Marmer.  Directed by Gene Reynolds. 


"I hereby requisition your cook--and that's an order!'

Major Duncan brings his usual saddlebag of trouble to Fort Courage, taking Cookie with him after a dinner in the mess hall.  Fortunately O'Rourke has a solution for Parmenter, presenting a formerly modest Agarn as the perfect replacement.  Of course, it's the latest moneymaker for O'Rourke Enterprises--they can order more food than they need, using some leftovers in the saloon and selling the rest to the Hekawi.


"Sarge, it takes me twenty minutes to boil a three minute egg!"

Despite Agarn's lack of culinary talents, O'Rourke reasons that a simple cookbook will solve that problem well enough.  Naturally it ends up destroyed, forcing Agarn to improvise.  And subsequently, O'Rourke to do the same in order to calm the restless troopers.  Crazy Cat proves to be a much better cook than his army counterpart.  Problem solved?  New one emerges---the Major is back, ready to pull rank again after losing Cookie to a Colonel.

"This is a balanced meal."

"Yes it is, these biscuits weigh as much as the main course!"

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Troop is one of the boldest expansions yet for O'Rourke Enterprises.  There will no doubt be an increase in the requested supply budget caused by the Sergeant's latest idea, but as always, our non-coms will handle one crisis at a time.  Gaslighting the Captain is never a problem, first on Agarn's heretofore concealed reputation as a great cook, then on the quality of the chow he's tasting.  But Agarn is the only man available for the Sarge who can be trusted, and so this scheme will rely heavily on a cookbook.


"You're going to enjoy that food if it kills you."

"It probably will!'

Once the Corporal's shortcomings in the kitchen become impossible to ignore, O'Rourke has to cut the Hekawis into the subterfuge.  Try as O'Rourke might to conceal his diversions, his 50/50 partners always end up getting their cut somehow.  Conversely the Hekawis--unencumbered by Uncle Sam's watchful eye--are consistently better at profiting long term from their side hustles: The Playbrave Club, the steam room, even joining O.E. at dipping into government funds.   


Another (unknowing) beneficiary is Wrangler Jane, whose general store is the middleman for the orders charged to the Army.  O'Rourke has been getting yeast and barley for some time with the mess hall as cover, but said orders increase dramatically with Wild Eagle's taste for beef and squab and the saloon apparently needing geese (30, and the Chief didn't order them).  It would appear that Jane, the Hekawis, and O'Rourke all make a profit and the government loses money on the deals.  While the Civil War was the biggest cause of the explosion in U.S. debt during the 1860's ($65 million at the start of the decade, $2.76 billion by 1866), Fort Courage certainly wasn't helping matters.


Too Many Cooks might Spoil the Troop but good cuisine is apparently very hard to find, unless the White House cook spoils the demand by writing his memoirs.  This little goof (along with O'Rourke's deft maneuver back to the status quo once the credited Agarn is tapped by Major Duncan) results in Cookie getting his old job back--and apparently learning a few tricks of Crazy Cat's trade via Agarn.

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Troop is the only first season assignment for the writing team of Stan Burns and Mike Marmer, and the freelancers show a great grasp of the characters and established tone.  They would return for The Great Troop Robbery and enjoyed a long run in the final decade of the variety show's heyday during the 1970's, most notably on Dean Martin's show and celebrity roasts.  


The latest in a score of visiting officers, James Gregory would prove to be a great enough foil to return as Major Duncan for Lieutenant O'Rourke, Front and Center.  Stern, authoritative, and just a tad obnoxious in pulling rank, Duncan doesn't have a good experience at the Hekawi camp with Agarn showing him to downside of "Indian style" food.  The Major apparently doesn't hold a grudge, since he's a very enthusiastic Playbrave Club customer on his return trip.  It's too bad that this Major didn't make his way back for the color installments, but Gregory himself did, threatening O'Rourke Enterprises in a new civilian role (Carpetbagging, Anyone?).

Also a returning guest star is Jamie Farr, who wasn't even credited in Our Hero, What's His Name? but gets that wrong righted this time as the unsuccessfully auditioning Standup Bull.  How funny was he?  Read on:

THINGS YOU LEARNED:

Henny Youngman apparently stole his most famous line from Standup Bull, a little known tribal circuit comic from the 19th century.  Alas, Bull's humor is just too ahead of its time--"don't smoke signal us, we'll smoke you" is the stone-faced response from the Chief.

Crazy Cat cooks with wine.  I suppose dishes with bourbon or sherry are out of the question since the Sarge wouldn't want to dilute saloon supply to feed the army.


HOW'S BUSINESS AT O'ROURKE ENTERPRISES?

This scam was far from a disaster, but didn't last long and obviously didn't generate the anticipated profits with $11 weekly going to Wild Eagle within a week and the gig ending shortly thereafter.  The Sarge should have known this plan was precarious.  But while his non saloon-and-souvenir schemes usually fail, he has a commendably high batting average at damage control that rivals Bilko's. 


NUMBER OF TIMES O'ROURKE COULD HAVE BEEN TRIED FOR TREASON:

Hiring Native help in the mess hall qualifies if it is learned that he's plying the troopers with alcohol through his dish.  Might be stretching the definition, but this places Crazy Cat inside the Fort and gives him access to the plans of the "enemy".


HEKAWI WISDOM?

No official sayings this time, but that bear skin rug in Parmenter's quarters?  A gift from Wild Eagle, who feels that "a bear skin in the tepee brings good luck".

PC OR NOT PC?

On balance, the former.  Major Duncan feels the Indian cooking is unsanitary.  To be fair to him, his opinion forms from the exaggerated version provided by the partners to keep Agarn in the fold and safely away from Apache territory.  As noted above, Jane and Wild Eagle likely make out better business-wise from O'Rourke's latest side hustle than the man himself.  The ever empathetic Parmenter even defers to the Hekawi manual once.  Finally, while it may not quite make up for the oft-cited, one sided real estate deal in Manhattan twelve score ago, but Wild Eagle requests and receives a ten percent increase from O'Rourke's initial offer negotiating for Crazy Cat's culinary services--for Minuit's aforementioned "bad treaty".  


THE BOTTOM LINE:

Consistently funny, Too Many Cooks Spoil the Troop shows the upside of fresh minds getting a crack at a show's well established tropes.   Burns and Marmer keep 'em coming fast enough that the groaners aren't intrusive, and the gags that hit give Storch, Diamond and Tucker a field day.  Generous portion of laughs for our Privates as they react to a week's worth of starvation (Dudleson's deadpan line might be the best, in context).  A rewatchable winner.  (***1/2 out of four)


Monday, September 26, 2022

35 Years Ago Today: J.J. STARBUCK (1987-88)



J.J. STARBUCK (1987-88 NBC TV/Stephen J. Cannell Productions) Starring Dale Robertson as Jerome Jeremiah "J.J." Starbuck, David Huddleston and Jimmy Dean as Charlie Bullets, Shawn Weatherly as Jill Starbuck, Ben Vereen as E.L. "Tenspeed" Turner.  Created by Stephen J. Cannell and Lawrence Hertzog.

J.J. STARBUCK aired for the first time on this date 35 years ago today, Saturday, September 26, 1987.

Jerome Jeremiah Starbuck is a gregarious San Antonio billionaire, chairman and founder of Marklee Enterprises (named for his son Mark and wife Lee).  With a heavy drawl, ten gallon hat and the impeccable manners of a country gentleman, he takes his 1961 Lincoln convertible (subtly fitted with a bull's horns on the hood) around the country solving baffling mysteries and helping those in need.  


Is he doing this for the Hell of it, a la millionaire police captain Amos Burke (BURKE'S LAW)?  No, he's trying to be a better person (a la THE EQUALIZER's Robert McCall and later MY NAME IS EARL's titular Hickey).  A tragedy made Starbuck realize he'd prioritized work at the expense of his family: Mark and Lee were flying to surprise him at work when a crash killed them both.  With money's real importance in the big picture now sadly apparent to him, J.J. turned the day-to-day operations over to right hand man Bullets and decided to use his influence, money and pure old fashioned horse sense to help others avoid his mistakes.  And sometimes, to help bring justice to those who were using their riches to avoid it.


Mostly inspired by a catastrophic fatality from Cannell's own personal life (his 15 year old son Derek was killed in a beach accident) and partly by NBC President Brandon Tartikoff's vision of a "Charlie Bullets" who drove around with steer horns on his auto, J.J. STARBUCK didn't get a warm greeting from the day's critics, who found Starbuck to be a bit cartoonish (Robertson also disliked the outlandish hood ornament; Cannell felt it part of the package luring the guilty into a false sense of security) and the homilies (about six in the pilot, but cut down to a more reasonable two or three per episode after) too corny.  At least they didn't find much wrong with "Gone Again", the theme song by Ronnie Milsap:


Cannell's colorful touch is in evidence throughout, and while it's hard to argue STARBUCK was a lost classic, it deserves a look.  For one thing, J.J. is pretty much a loner despite the presence of Dean and Weatherly in the credits.  Weatherly is really recurring, and Dean literally phones his role in, spending a couple of minutes per show on the phone with J.J. going over Marklee bidness and helping his boss connect with contacts needed to carry out the week's mission.  (Huddleson is a bit more ambulatory in the pilot, FWIW.) There's no Mark Shera or Joe Penny around to provide a youthful counterpart to our senior sleuth--64 year old Dale Robertson refreshingly goes it alone.  (At the outset, that is--more in a bit.)  With an older lead, focus is more on mind games (billionaires have a long, long list of contacts in a lot of different fields) and people skills than action.  Robert McCall was far more ready to shoot or fight, but he was a decade younger.

She wasn't in every episode, but Weatherly deserves a screencap, right?

There's also the sturdy presence of TALES OF WELLS FARGO star Dale Robertson, handpicked by Cannell to star.  He'd largely been missing from Hollywood since completing his DEATH VALLEY DAYS stint in 1970 and purchasing a large ranch in his native Oklahoma near Yukon.  Robertson never formally retired, taking brief runs on DYNASTY and DALLAS for a few episodes each, but mostly tended to his ranch until Cannell came calling.  He's excellent in the lead, really selling J.J.'s wisdom and courtesy (even "Hell" or "Damn" will get an admonishment not to cuss!).  And no, I'm not just praising him because he was from my home state.


That said, it might have been a mistake to open the series with four consecutive murders to be solved.  Each affluent culprit played by a special guest star committed the crime in Act One, showing us the meticulous steps taken to cover up the killing.  Each seemed impossible to convict, and each underestimated the ol' country bumpkin poking around in his affairs--who grated on the suspect and ingratiated himself with everyone else.  Yes, seen in succession, the first four episodes give critics calling it a COLUMBO clone (or, COLUMBO played by McCLOUD) plenty of ammo.  There would be a wider range of stories after that, including one A-TEAM styled adventure involving terrorists attacking Marklee(!), but with MLB pre-emptions, it was over a month before we saw any variance in the show's approach.  Detractors initially calling it derivative and repetitive certainly appeared to have a point until then.


J.J. STARBUCK was kind of star crossed from the get-go.  Following MATLOCK on Tuesday nights meant the show was scheduled against MOONLIGHTING, which was at its ratings zenith and gathering as much press as any show could in 1987.  Then, Dale Robertson broke his hip in an accident on his ranch during a break in filming that October, making it necessary to bring in assistance for the convalescing star to keep filming on schedule.  While Cannell had an inspired idea for that, bringing in Ben Vereen to reprise Tenspeed from his much loved but short lived 1980 flop TENSPEED AND BROWN SHOE, this unfortunately cost Starbuck his loner mystique and took away a quality that made the show stand out.  Finally, NBC couldn't really seem to decide whether J.J. STARBUCK should air on Tuesdays or Saturdays, so it was hard to know when it would be airing.  It all added up to a short 16 episode run, and Robertson went back to his ranch for good.  He passed away in 2013 at age 89.


Thanks to the wonderful YouTube channel Murder, She Watched, episodes of J.J. STARBUCK have been uploaded to enjoy for the first time in, well, 34 years to my knowledge.  I'm also thankful the channel has some CRAZY LIKE A FOX segments, which means I'll be resuming that episode guide shortly.


I've been right plum busier than a termite in a sawmill, but I reckon I can rustle up a little time to review some of them thar J.J. STARBUCK episodes at this here blog.  Be a lookin' fer 'em in the near future, and remember, ten percent is what ya make it and ninety percent is how ya take it!  


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Air Force Calls Bob, Grandpa Answers" (1957)



LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW: "Air Force Calls Bob, Grandpa Answers" (NBC-TV/Laurel-McCadden Productions 1957) Original Air Date: September 24, 1957.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins and Grandpa Joshua Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Charmaine Schultz, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, John Hoyt as General Tallman, Ingrid Goude as Miss Sweden.  Written by Paul Henning, Phil Shuken, Shirl Gordon and Dick Wesson.  Directed by Bob Cummings.

Introduction to the LOVE THAT BOB/BOB CUMMINGS SHOW episode guide is at this link.


The show's fourth season opens with Bob Collins in the studio with Goude, having talked her into modeling after Bob Meets Miss Sweden.  Schultzy gleefully reports that's all he's talked her into--the Swedish beauty is convinced her photographer is nothing but a playboy (perceptive!).  But fate intervenes courtesy of the U.S/A.F.  Bob's girl Friday dutifully brings a telegram calling reservist Major Collins in for active duty, which sufficiently impresses his newest model enough to offer cooking from her homeland the following evening.


Recognizing this setup as a familiar ruse they've pulled before, Bob is ecstatic with Charmaine's quick thinking.  Unfortunately for our shutterbug, this telegram isn't a phony--so he calls Grandpa to fly out and help Margaret during the two weeks he'll be away.  Hijinks ensue when Grandpa Collins thinks the Air Force assignment is his, and the former calvalryman reports to General Tallman while Bob plans to frolic in the pool with Ingrid.  


For the second season in a row LOVE THAT BOB opens with a beauty pageant winner and a trip to Los Angeles for Grandpa.  The stakes are certainly higher this time, with Bob potentially losing his USAF commission instead of a mere date with Zsa Zsa Gabor.  One look at "Major Collins" convinces Tallman (not so affectionately known as Old Ramrod) is convinced that Bob's hard living has caught up with him.  But then Grandpa starts to ace every test--familiar humor that Henning would repeat with Granny in THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES many times.  


Bob Collins has subtly become more lecherous in a year's time.  Grandpa Meets Zsa Zsa saw our photographer eschewing young pageant contestants in order to pursue the titular icon.  Miss Sweden?  The same age, but a much different matter.  Twenty year old Ingrid Goude is half Gabor's age (and less than half Bob's) but he pulls out all the stops to change her mind--not just here but throughout the 1957-58 season.  Yes, Goude's sophomore LOVE THAT BOB marks her addition to the regular cast as the one model The King just can't conquer. 


A can't miss Christmas party, a Miss Perfect Body contest, even a trip to the moon(!)--Bob tries literally everything he can think of to score with the 1956 Miss Universe runner-up.  To no avail, of course.  But at least he usually gets her into a bathing suit for our enjoyment--and Chuck's.  Ingrid Goude didn't return for the fifth and final season, instead moving on to THE KILLER SHREWS and then a lower profile as a housewife (to department store mogul Jerome Orbach).  She's still with us at 85 but hasn't acted since 1961.


General Tallman is the anti-General Shoop, recognizing Major Collins as a "good pilot" but holding Bob's personal life in disdain.  He is respectful of Grandpa's performance at age 90 (ten years older than reported in other segments) but seems gleeful at the prospect of directing Bob's two week hitch after the unfortunate misunderstanding.  The later Bob in Orbit gave us a likely look at the nitty-gritty of that 'training'.  Too bad Bobby boy didn't get a Swedish meal from Ingrid before the start of it.


Cummings' 22nd segment behind the camera was his first attempt to direct himself in a dual role.  As was rapidly becoming the norm with his heavier workload, he acquitted himself nicely wearing three hats.  Chemically enhanced or not, the star's 1957-58 direction was Emmy worthy.  He directed several inexperienced guest stars to comedically sharp performances while continuing to deliver the goods in his own nominated one.  Outside of BILKO no peer brought the energy like LOVE THAT BOB, and Air Force Calls Bob, Grandpa Answers shows it kicking off Season 4 in its prime.  


WHO WAS BLOCKING?

Once again Bob Collins' biggest obstacle is his own grandfather, who pretty much steals his date for the second season opener in a row.  To be fair, Joshua was called out west by Bob, so you could make the case that he blocked himself.


DID BOB SCORE?

First base is achieved in two minutes as Bob's USAF assignment gets him a kiss along with that date.  But, perspective--Ingrid Goude is guest starring and Grandpa appears, so we have two of the surest guarantees that Bob will remain stranded there at the end of the inning.  Tough start to the season!


THE BOTTOM LINE:

LOVE THAT BOB would go to the Grandpa well a tad too often in the gimmicky final season, but Bob's octogenarian alter ego had been missing for an entire year before this one.  As is usual with his appearances, there are some groaningly contrived misunderstandings.  I mean, Grandpa was a Rough Rider in the service and there was no Air Force yet!  Cummings hadn't yet allowed this shtick to become overused and the show had its best writing team out in full force, so Air Force Calls Bob, Grandpa Answers still scores even if its titular shutterbug doesn't.  The show's one hundredth installment, BTW. (*** out of four)

Mike Kenney has several LOVE THAT BOB episodes on his YouTube channel, including this one.  Enjoy!



Sunday, July 10, 2022

F TROOP Fridays: "The Ballot of Corporal Agarn" (1966)






F TROOP Fridays: Number 34











F TROOP: "The Ballot of Corporal Agarn" (1966  ABC-TV/Warner Brothers) Season Two, Episode 42: Original Air Date 10/27/66.  Starring Forrest Tucker as Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke, Larry Storch as Corporal Randolph Agarn, Ken Berry as Captain Wilton Parmenter, Melody Patterson as Wrangler Jane, Frank deKova as Chief Wild Eagle, Don Diamond as Crazy Cat, James Hampton as Bugler Dobbs, Bob Steele as Private Duffy, Jimmie Horan as Trooper Hogan.  Guest stars: Lew Parker as George C. Bragan, Tol Avery as Derby Dan McGurney, Luana Patten as Mindy McGurney.  Directed by Seymour Robbie.  Written by Austin and Irma Kalish



This special weekend edition couldn't wait until Friday, since I didn't want to wait that long to honor the legendary Larry Storch, who passed away at exactly 99 1/2 years old on July 8. Nope, not waiting several more days to pay tribute.  No way!  He wants his eighteen gun salute!  Corporal, for all the laughs over so many years, The Horn Section salutes you.  Now go hit Dobbs with your hat, he's been completely unsupervised up there for over a year now



During mail call, Corporal Randolph Agarn receives his absentee ballot for the mayoral race in his hometown of Passaic, New Jersey.  Feeling that casting his "one little vote" would be a waste of time and money, Agarn laughs off suggestions that he perform his civic duty.  Meanwhile, the horse race back home between "Derby" Dan McGurney and song and dance man George C. Bragan is still tied after several recounts, with only one absentee ballot outstanding--Agarn's.



Sensing that the personal touch will secure the decisive margin, Derby Dan arrives at Fort Courage on the noon stage accompanied by his attractive niece Mindy.  Her charms appear to be working on the Corporal, until Bragan's subsequent arrival lets the cat out of the bag regarding the importance of Agarn's decision.  Sensing "the sweetest deal that we have ever run across", Sergeant O'Rourke counsels his Vice President to start a bidding war between the two candidates in exchange for Agarn's tie-breaker.



With their second (of eight) second season installments the Kalishes bring political intrigue to Fort Courage.  Agarn is an inspired choice to represent the voting public as the cigar smoking career office seeker competes with the neophyte "song and dance man" (notably named Bragan, at a time when Ronald Reagan's gubernatorial campaign was a week away from succeeding) for the serviceman's decisive tally.



Naturally, savvy Sergeant O'Rourke is more than a match for the candidates when it comes to wheeling and dealing.  Wielding the real power behind the throne at Fort Courage makes guiding Agarn's decision right up the Sarge's alley, and he successfully sews up a sweet deal including a hundred acres of land, a Vice Mayor position for the Corporal, and government jobs for his remaining relatives in the city (which, incidentally, wasn't officially chartered until 1873--seven years after most of season two takes place per other episodes).  Hey, Passaic only had 6,000 people in 1880, so Agarn couldn't have that many kinsmen to cover. 



Alas, the stitches come loose thanks to the weakest link in O'Rourke Enterprises, albeit unwittingly.  Adept at inadvertently giving people ideas, Agarn's consolation prize results in a rather costly one for the election's loser.  Maybe that's why they say he's so dumb!



It isn't much of a surprise that the ever-villainous Tol Avery is presented as the greater of two evils in this contest.  Derby Dan considers election fraud in the teaser, but temporarily takes the high road.  Once he ends up second best in negotiations, he resorts to blackmail.  Bragan relies on a more charming personality without the hardball, but his negotiating shows he's picked up on the practicalities of politics.




Nearing the end of her career, former Disney child star Luana Patten is another eclectic guest star for F TROOP as Derby Dan's opportunistic niece.  Agarn's infatuation with Mindy indicates that Betty Lou is well out of the picture, which begs the question: who did Agarn's ex vote for?


NUMBER OF TIMES O'ROURKE COULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH TREASON:

Once, though not for any specific actions during this installment.  Derby Dan McGurney stumbled onto the general knowledge that O'Rourke and Agarn were consorting with the enemy in their business dealings, using the threat of exposure for bidding leverage.  Fortunately for them and O'Rourke Enterprises, the shrewd career politician didn't learn about their saloon ownership.  Speaking of....



HOW'S BUSINESS AT O'ROURKE ENTERPRISES?

They might have been foiled in their efforts to secure a hundred acres of land and a Vice Mayor position to go with Agarn's Vice Presidency of the Enterprises, but our non-coms do benefit from McGurney's desire to have a premature celebration as he throws a big party at their saloon on "election day".




PC, OR NOT PC?

Chief Wild Eagle certainly gets his shots in, surmising that voting means "taking land from the Indians" when O'Rourke calls it one of the processes of American democracy.  Crazy Cat is intrigued, thinking that voting is better than Wild Eagle's declaration that the position of Chief "should be handed down from father to son!".

Nagging Question: Based on what we learned in The Return of Bald Eagle, wouldn't that make this man Wild Eagle's eventual successor?




THE BOTTOM LINE:

The resolution here is a bit rushed (little far-fetched too--it's an absentee ballot, what Election Day?) but the maneuvering in The Ballot of Corporal Agarn is top notch, allowing Storch another opportunity to really shine in his Emmy nominated season.  Seemingly every successful sixties sitcom had to tackle the topic, and F TROOP does it as well as any of them.  (***1/2 out of four) 



We will pay further tribute to Larry Storch later this month.  R.I.P. to a genuinely great American. 

Yours truly with Mr. Larry Storch, August 2000