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Friday, May 12, 2023

F TROOP Fridays: "A Fort's Best Friend is Not a Mother" (1966)


F TROOP Fridays: Number 37                  

F TROOP: "A Fort's Best Friend is Not a Mother" (ABC-TV/Warner Brothers 1966) Season One, Episode 31.  Original Air Date: April 19, 1966.  Starring Forrest Tucker as Sgt. O'Rourke, Larry Storch as Cpl. 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, Ivan Bell as Dudleson, Ben Frommer as Papa Bear.  Guest Star: Jeanette Nolan as Mrs. Parmenter.  Written by Ed James and Seaman Jacobs.  Directed by Seymour Robbie.

The latest visitor to Fort Courage is the wife of General Thor X. Parmenter, sister in law to Colonel Jupiter Parmenter, and of course mother of one Captain Wilton Parmenter.  Mrs. Parmenter intends to stay with her son for a few days en route to California, but after getting a good look at Wilton's quarters and girlfriend Wrangler Jane the General's wife decides to extend her stay--to keep her son away from things "far more dangerous than wild Indians". 

"I made a General out of your father and I can make a General out of you!"

With twin goals to pursue: bringing son Wilton equal in rank to her husband and thwarting Jane's attempts to get wifed by Wilton, Mrs. Parmenter digs in with gusto.  Side by side with her son from reveille and performing twice as many inspections (i.e. mess hall, barracks, Duffy's mustache), the General's wife wakes up sleepy little Fort Courage.  It's only a matter of time before her snooping uncovers O'Rourke Enterprises, so the Sarge decides to convince her that the Fort is a powder keg that can go off at any second.  As always, O'Rourke half solves the problem--Momma Parmenter is headed off on the next stage, but she's alerted the family friends in D.C. that the Captain is to be transferred with her!

"She wants us to dig a moat!  Who we fightin', Robin Hood??"

After a visit from the Captain's Uncle in Iron Horse Go Home, we find out this time that A Fort's Best Friend is not a Mother, as the Parmenter matriarch proves to be the biggest threat of all potential family members to the Fort Courage status quo.  As played by Jeanette Nolan (later to headline her own western sitcom, GUNSMOKE spinoff DIRTY SALLY), Mrs. (no first name) Parmenter is smothering mother one line, stern disciplinarian the next.  With her husband's stature, even O'Rourke is wary of her wrath, as she can go places that no officer encumbered by military decorum can. 

"Horace Greeley had a terrible sense of direction!"

A mother's touch can only go so far, though, and General Custer was far more successful in turning Wilton into a feared figure (Old Ironpants).  The General had the advantage of getting Parmenter away from the men for two weeks--with home field advantage here, the Captain exasperates Mom by being "entirely too familiar" with his subordinates.  O'Rourke is correct in figuring her prim and proper Philadelphia sensitivities will be overwhelmed by a "wild" west town, but doesn't figure on her discomfort taking The Great White Pigeon away.

"The town needs you, I need you, the whole West needs you!"

"You're right.....but what'll I tell my mother?"

Not to worry, the Sarge figures out a way to satisfy his adversary's ambition while assuaging her fears with another well-placed Hekawi attack.  Or more precisely, plans for one.  The Council of War is one of the show's funniest sequences, and Corporal Agarn is to be commended for having the stones to impersonate Geronimo so soon after claiming to have killed the warrior almost resulted in the Corporal's own demise (Our Hero, What's His Name?).  

In the end, Captain Parmenter impresses Mom sufficiently with his forcefulness to reclaim his command from her, and apparently one trip out West was enough for her as Nolan was another one and done guest star.  We later learn she has a daughter though, as Wilton's sister Daphne visits for the second season's Miss Parmenter

But that's in the future.  F TROOP's initial season displays a show at its peak with three episodes left in that batch, but about to lose its co-creators: this was the penultimate episode for James and Jacobs (The Day The Indians Won).  While they lost their power struggle with producer Hy Averback, the writers went out with several high notes.  A Fort's Best Friend is Not a Mother is F TROOP at the height of its comedic potency, marred only by the rather tiresome re-use of DODGE CITY footage for the staged "brawl" at O'Rourke's saloon.  The move to color would fortunately take away the temptation away to do it again (and Warner's almost certainly would have without it).


That sure looked like considerable damage done to the saloon just to scare the Captain's mother into leaving.  A new mirror and, well, every bit as much damage to the watering hole as was done in O'Rourke vs. O'Reilly (and of course, the film DODGE CITY).  Plus, the scheme backfired, so whatever the cost to repair the place (mirrors, glasses, etc.) was all in vain.


Despite the consorting with the enemy, the Sarge is probably in the clear thanks to the deflection of allowing himself to be burned at the stake by the savage Chiefs.  Who would suspect a man endangering himself like that?


Vanderbilt's enlistment was purely accidental, Duffy remains a bachelor, and most of all, buglers do NOT tell General's wives what to do.


Wilton's mother certainly looks down her nose at the "wild" natives, but to be fair, she's that way with everyone.  She calls Fort Courage the most peaceful town she's ever seen though, so maybe things are spicier back east than we could have surmised from Lucy Lanfield's visit.  

Jeanette Nolan gets the same room to run that was given other 'name' guest stars, and has a field day with some wonderfully loony lines from James and Jacobs.  Clumsy stock footage during her town tour is really the only drawback here, and the Council of War is just one of the highlights--others are Jane's subtle tug of war with her future(?) mother-in-law over an oblivious (as always) Wilton and Nolan's scrutiny of the troops.  It all adds up to another hilarious first season outing.  (***1/2 out of four) 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "Return of the Wolf" (1955)

LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW: "Return of The Wolf (or: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonda)" (1955 NBC-TV/Laurel-McCadden Productions).  Original Air Date: June 19, 1955.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary de Camp as Margaret MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, Lyle Talbot as Captain Paul Fonda.  Written by Paul Henning and Bill Manhoff.  Directed by Rod Amateau.

Introduction/overview for LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW is at this link. 

"I just landed...but now that I hear your lovely voice, I'm right back up in the clouds again!"

No, that isn't Bob on the phone with Shirley or Collette.  It's Paul Fonda calling Margaret to let her know he's back in town.  The Return of the Wolf is enough to give Bob second thoughts about taking Chuck on a planned fishing trip and leaving Margaret alone in town with his old Army co-pilot.  As Margaret surmises when Bob calls Fonda a wolf, it takes one to know one.

Our playboy shutterbug bounces from home to office to lakeside cabin and home again attempting to stop the liason, just missing Margaret and the big bad Wolf at each stop.  He enlists Schultzy to provide the workplace distraction and his beloved nephew to thwart the rest, all the while insisting that the latter is way too young for such things.

Simple first season setup puts the shoe on the other foot in Lyle Talbot's titular return after a brief attempt to play matchmaker for Margaret in Choosing Miss Coffee Break and its sequel.  Understandably, she finds Fonda more exciting than Hal Peary's giggling politician and chafes at brother Bob's hypocrisy.  There's no models to be found and the plot and premise is already familiar: Bob to the Rescue aired just two months prior.  But Return of the Wolf improves considerably on its more generic predecessor.

LOVE THAT BOB excelled at dream sequences: The Sheik and Bob Tangles with Ruthie are two of the best examples reviewed here previously.  Like the former, Return of the Wolf features fantasy inspired by the silent era, complete with title cards.  It's a perfect fit for Cummings and Talbot as they receive free reign to see who can overact most outrageously.  Amazingly, Ed Wood alumni Talbot seems to win that battle in hilarious fashion--and deCamp hams it up commendably as well.

Bob's Dream--or Unhand my Sister You Cad! is the climax and undisputed highlight of Return of the Wolf, but the uncomplicated, bare bones plot has other charms.  The charms of Charmaine Schultz are used to distract El Lobo while Bob scrambles to cut him off at the office, but predictably Fonda treats the would be seductress as one of the guys.  Yes, just like Bob.  I guess Schultzy is powerless to land the poon hounds but has the nice guys (a la Frank Crenshaw) to herself.  Naturally, she prefers the "cads", and despite the constant admonishing from her younger brother, so does Margaret, apparently.   

Despite his cheesy entrance line, Fonda says he's a changed man--though his reaction to Margaret greeting him in a wedding dress indicates he still has lothario tendencies in common with his war buddy.  Hey, Paul's still single when the series ends and so is Bob.  Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?  Packing for the fishing trip and the lack of success on it offer secondary pleasures, keeping the smiles coming until the belly laughs of the finale commence.  It all adds up to a lot of fun being had for actors and audience despite the dearth of models.


Bob was!  Yes, it's funnier when he's the blockee instead of the blocker, but variance is welcome in small doses.


See above.  Wasn't even trying, so you know it's still early in the show's run.


Three segments from the end of LOVE THAT BOB's freshman season, Return of the Wolf displays a sitcom emerging from its infancy and rounding into form.  Talbot would continue popping up for the next four seasons, and remained Bob's best male foil throughout.  Soon, Henning and friends would find ways to keep Collins and Fonda on the chase at the same time (Bob Meets Fonda's Sister) but with at least two memorable setpieces, Return of the Wolf is a great showcase for the show's regulars and its most frequent recurring character.   (*** out of four)

To watch this one on YouTube, click on this link

Friday, February 10, 2023

F TROOP Fridays: "Captain Parmenter, One Man Army" (1966)


F TROOP Fridays: Number 36

F TROOP: "Captain Parmenter, One Man Army" (1966 ABC-TV/Warner Brothers) Season One, Episode 26: Original Air Date March 15, 1966.  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 Duffy, Joe Brooks as Vanderbilt, John Mitchum as Hoffenmueller, Ivan Bell as Dudleson.  Guest Stars: Willard Waterman as Captain Bill "Cannonball" McCormack, Herman Rudin as the Shug Chief, William Phipps as the Scout.  Written by Howard Merrill and Stan Dreben.  Directed by Charles R. Rondeau.

"You mean...we're civilians?"

Fort Courage is visited by its inaugurating CO, Captain McCormack.  The old ramrod was bent up pretty good by his subordinates, becoming a civilian entirely after completing his tour of duty.  But the old Cannonball rolled one over on his tormentors before leaving, swearing them in for another hitch after his resignation.

This revelation makes every enlisted F Trooper sans Parmenter a free agent, and ever enterprising O'Rourke sees another golden opportunity: expanding O'Rourke Enterprises without the need to hide his activities from the army.  The men follow their non commissioned leader, with Duffy (gold prospecting), Dobbs (orchestra tryout), Vandy (the medical field) and Hoffenmueller (a brewery) seeing the chance to pursue long-held dreams.  They aren't the only ones--with Parmenter alone at Fort Courage, the Shugs see a chance to realize their dream--conquering the now very short-handed fort.

In Scourge of the West we learned that Captain Parmenter followed two Captains and a Major who had been dispatched previously by O'Rourke, and Captain Parmenter, One Man Army introduces us to F Troop's first Captain, "Cannonball" Bill McCormack.  Understandably, leading F Troop was enough to drive poor Cannonball completely out of the service, but given the pranks described it's pretty clear that blustery Bill just didn't win the hearts of his Privates the way Parmenter has.  At least McCormack (played by erstwhile Great Gilversleeve Waterman) enjoys his last laugh rather heartily.

Even then, defeat is only temporary for O'Rourke.  The Sarge turns this inconvenience into an El Dorado but really doesn't appear to be doing anything as a civilian that he wouldn't be as a non-com.  Previously, O'Rourke Enterprises tried having the VP on the outside with disastrous results in Me Big Heap Injun.  This time there's lots of money made, with the big difference being O'Rourke's presence--clearly, Sarge is President for a reason.  I think quality control would have proven to be a real problem in expanding the 19th Century answer to Men's Wearhouse, however (more on that below).

Stan Dreben and Howard Merrill continue showcasing increasing competence for titular Old Man after his salvage of the pension fund in Go For Broke and his eagle eyed revelation at the denouement of Spy Counterspy, Counter Counterspy.  This is Parmenter's finest moment as CO to date, as he holds off an attack by the code breaking Shugs with only Wrangler Jane's assistance.  Wilton's idea to save Fort Courage is lifted from the MAVERICK episode The Ghost Soldiers, but hey, it is never an insult to have your intellect compared to Bret's--objectively, Wilton's bluff is by far the more convincing of the two.  Parmenter wears several hats for the week, and there's also little dropoff at Bugler from Dobbs with the Captain assuming those duties--admittedly, that one is a low bar to clear. 

As for the Shugs, they get mentioned a few more times during the first season, but this attack is their last hurrah as formidable opposition.  New Chief Herman Rudin (replacing Henry Brandon) isn't any more successful than his predecessor at capturing Fort Courage, with little excuse given the troopers' reduction in manpower.  We later learn in The Day The Indians Won that Geronimo reduced the Shugs to a half dozen braves, explaining the reason we never saw nor heard from them during the color season.  The peaceful, mutually prosperous approach wins yet again!


The escape of the Shug Chief in the coda is just the latest: Bald Eagle and El Diablo previously broke out of that cell, which seems to be even less effective than the Fort's cannon.


Quite a few.  The biggest: why would O'Rourke just come right out and state "this saloon is only the beginning" when announcing the formation of International Trading Corporation?  I thought Good Old Pete was the frontman?  Even if you're temporarily out of the Army, you've already stated you're coming back, so why risk potential snooping into the ownership?  Why didn't Dobbs and Vanderbilt just change suits?  And finally, who played the saloon girls celebrating the troopers' freedom?  Two have speaking parts--both attractive, yet also uncredited. 


Briefly booming, though the quality control shows the Hekawis to be far better at making blankets than suits.  Presumably the saloon lost all the troopers (including the owner) to Dodge City for a weekend, but sure seemed to benefit from the same regular customers celebrating their newfound freedom.


Since he and Agarn were legally out of uniform most of the episode, there weren't any chargeable offenses this time.  As was the case in Here Comes the Tribe, the non-coms prove remarkably effective behind enemy lines, but the lack of an official commission at the time of the heroics leaves them with no official recognition for it.  Considering their side hustle, it's probably best to keep flying under the radar anyway....


A hell of a lot more PC than the aforementioned Ghost Soldiers.  The Shugs weren't able to get very close to Fort Courage thanks to the the number of bullets Jane and Wilton were able to produce, so falling for Wilton's bluff is far less insulting.  Elsewhere the Shugs successfully break the telegraph code and their Chief escapes from his captors, so they are intelligent, resourceful foes--note it was Geronimo and not F Troop that eventually did them in later.  As always, Wrangler Jane remains the best shot in the territory by a wide margin.  Thank God she didn't go to Dodge!


About par for the season's course, with the civilian clothes alone providing a lot of laughs.  Dreben and Merrill go light on the usual pratfalls and generously distribute funny lines to the supporting cast along with a less roisterous helping of sight gags.  Parmenter's growing competence doesn't extend to sniffing out the secrets of O'Rourke Enterprises or ending his clumsiness, but he does a nice job literally holding the Fort while we get a glance at what the troopers would be doing if not enlisted.  It's too bad we couldn't peek at that weekend road trip.  (*** out of four)

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?"


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.


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


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.


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???


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.  


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----


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....


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:


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.


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. 


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".


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".


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, 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".  


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)