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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Television Review: LOVE THAT BOB: "The Wolf Sitter" (1955)

LOVE THAT BOB: "The Wolf Sitter" (Original Air Date: December 8, 1955) Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret Collins MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Dwayne Hickman as Chuck MacDonald, May Wynn as Jean Blackburn, Sheila James as Gertrude, Claire Kelly as Miss Kelly.  Written by Paul Henning, Shirley Gordon and William Cowley.  Directed by Rod Amateau.

Series overview of LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW at this link. 

Everyone around swinging photographer Bob Collins is seeking a little extra cash.  Schultzy needs to borrow $19.98, but it is to buy a sweater for "the Boss", ever the object of her pursuit.  Margaret offers to loan it to her--as soon as she can borrow it from her brother.  Bob's nephew Chuck seems to have the most urgent need: he's making wooden spoon sets out in the garage in an attempt to bolster his college fund.

Bob counsels Chuck to find a less noisy venture, and to make himself "the brains" instead of the brawn.  The successful shutterbug has more counseling to do at work: after going through Collins' binders full of women, Schultzy has selected gorgeous Jean Blackburn as the model for his afternoon shoot (a skin oil ad).  What's the problem?  Blackburn is "the one girl the Boss just can't get a date with", according to Schultzy--which leads to a bet that he can do just that, with $19.98 at stake.

While the show's template is already well established in this early outing, the almost hyper pace of later seasons isn't.   Bob is quite the stinker this time out, taking "all's fair in love and war" to a new level.  To thwart Jean's honest (and unseen) scheduled date, Bob intercepts every phone call and telegram sent by his hapless rival, stretching the truth much further than we're used to seeing from him.

In later seasons, Bob would be misleading, sure.  But he would almost never tell an out and out lie.  To name two examples, his statements that he beat Pancho Gonzalez at tennis in Bob Gets Out-Uncled and his claim to have made "literally hundreds of pictures" in Bob Gives S.R.O. Performance were at least technically true.  Claiming to be sent overseas the next day by the Air Force here is not only blatantly dishonest but disappointingly uncreative in comparison, which makes you less invested in Bob's quest this time out.

As for Chuck, he's still in high school at this early stage, and curiously seems more concerned about earning money for college than trying to get in on Uncle Bob's action.  This innocence at least gets him as far as helping Bob relax his model before he's sent elsewhere.  Stories concerning Bob's influence became much more common during Chuck's college years.

Half the fun of any LOVE THAT BOB episode is spotting the starlets of the Fifties, and twenty-one year old Claire Kelly (SNOWFIRE, GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN) made her debut with a brief appearance as Collins' outgoing model (and prior night's conquest).  Unattainable Jean Blackburn appeared in multiple second season installments, played by May Wynn (a.k.a. Mrs. Jack Kelly, at least until 1964).  Best known for her appearance in THE CAINE MUTINY, Wynn's acting career ended in 1960.

To the modern eye, both starlets are likely upstaged by fourteen year old scene stealer Sheila James, later to become most familar chasing after Hickman's DOBIE GILLIS from 1959 to 1963.  She essentially gets The Wolf Sitter's punchline, giving Bob his comeuppance after the playboy photographer weasels his way past Blackburn's honorable suitor.  Her brief appearance is the most memorable thing about a decidedly below average early installment.

Damn cockblockers!


As usual, Schultzy was--subtly, by calling the one model uninterested in Bob "after hours" for the skin oil ad.  Later, after Bob bucks the odds and gets a date, niece Gertrude plays goalie at Jean's apartment.  But the ultimate blocker turns out to be Bob's nephew.  It gets Chuck literally (if not violently) sent to the woodshed.


It's certainly implied that Bob scored the day before with Miss Kelly, and obstacles notwithstanding, it's his own damn fault and he doesn't score on the day we're watching.  I mean, c'mon Bob, all those models, with only one resisting your charms, and she's the one you're focused on?  Pride is one of the seven deadlies, you know.

Pretty familiar early outcome, with all that maneuvering resulting in Bob running afoul of his own advice to his nephew.  The show wouldn't really hit full stride until Cummings took over the director's chair during the third season.  While The Wolf Sitter boasts a decent punch line, the journey there gets a labored at times.  Additional interest for viewers in seeing the future Zelda Gilroy and the future Dobie Gillis in giving Bob his just desserts.  Who says youth isn't served here?   (*1/2 out of four)

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