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.
"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.
WHO WAS BLOCKING?
Bob was! Yes, it's funnier when he's the blockee instead of the blocker, but variance is welcome in small doses.
DID BOB SCORE?
See above. Wasn't even trying, so you know it's still early in the show's run.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
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)