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Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Television Reviews: LOVE THAT BOB: "Bob Helps Martha" (1959)/"Bob Helps Von Zell" (1959)

LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW: "Bob Helps Martha" (1959 NBC-TV/Laurel-McCadden Productions) Original Air Date: May 26, 1959.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Guest Stars: Elena Verdugo as Rosita Ballestero, Rose Marie as Martha Randolph, Harry Von Zell as himself.  Written by Paul Henning and Dick Wesson.  Directed by Bob Cummings. 

LOVE THAT BOB a.k.a. THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW: "Bob Helps Von Zell" (1959 NBC-TV/Laurel-McCadden Productions) Original Air Date: June 2, 1959.  Starring Bob Cummings as Bob Collins, Rosemary deCamp as Margaret MacDonald, Ann B. Davis as Schultzy, Guest Stars: Elena Verdugo as Rosita Ballestero, Rose Marie as Martha Randolph, Harry Von Zell as himself, George Burns as himself.  Written by Paul Henning and Dick Wesson.  Directed by Bob Cummings. 

Introduction to the LOVE THAT BOB/THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW episode guide and overview of the series is at this link.

Schultzy's friend Martha Randolph has 'borrowed' the Spanish costume from Bob's studio without the Boss' knowledge, and had a chance meeting with a television star while wearing it--GEORGE BURNS SHOW announcer Harry Von Zell.  Von Zell thinks he's really met a Senorita, and plumber's secretary Martha tells a teeny white lie to lead him on.  Namely, that she is one of Bob's models.  Unfortunately, Martha can't continue the ruse because Bob needs the costume to photograph the much more culturally appropriate professional model Rosita Ballestero for an ad campaign.

Rosita is also much sexier (no offense, Martha) and much, much more jealous and hot tempered.  Despite Schultzy's warning that Rosita won't take the gig without a little romance from Bob, our playboy is willing (even eager) to do whatever it takes to get the job done.  What a pro!

But you know what they say about the best laid plans (or plans to get laid--however you look at it).  Von Zell drops by Bob's office, hoping to see the Senorita Bonita sans mask and veil.  Naturally Rosita is confused with Martha by the snooping Harry and sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, as Harry ends up with Rosita as his evening's date after the smoke clears.  Martha is angered and Bob is none too happy either but plots to put things back in place before the night even gets young. 

"You mean he traded me like a sack of flour???"

A Paul Fonda (or even a Bill Lear for that matter) wouldn't have been so innocent in creating the misunderstanding with Rosita, but the fictionalized Von Zell of the BURNS AND ALLEN universe is certainly clueless enough to seem unintentional.  For sure, "turned you over to me" should have been offensive enough wording to shoot both Von Zell and Collins down in Rosita's eyes and Von Zell doubles down: "I got you for nothing!"

"She is a doll, you are a dog, and he is my new sweetheart!"

Yep, ignorance is bliss, and Von Zell doesn't even realize he's being used by Rosita to get back at Bob.  The first half of this Henning/Wesson two parter has an amusing springboard that builds for a while as the action moves back to the Collins household as our playboy attempts to get the right puzzle pieces in place for the evening: Bob with Rosita and Harry back to Martha.  Lucking into outkicking his coverage doesn't give Harry a clue: he arrives for his date dressed like a mariachi guitarist.  (At least Von Zell does have a musical background.)  Bob knows how to play to one's strengths, and he gets Martha and Harry together by surmising that the way to Von Zell's heart is through his stomach.  

"Between the flippin', flatterin' and flamenco-in', I'm too pooped to park!"

In the star studded (and gimmicky) final season, Elena Verdugo made three appearances in all, with these episodes following Bob and the Ravishing Realtor.  She was Bob's special guest star for a reason, hot off PANAMA SAL and her own long running CBS series MEET MILLIE.  Verdugo as Bob's latest model was a real coup, but it's too bad her material wasn't better; the earlier segment was marred by improbable silliness better suited to less sophisticated sitcoms, and this two parter really seems padded out--particularly in its second half hour.

As a standalone, though, Bob Helps Martha has its moments, with the confusion at the Collins studio providing the best laughs.  The slapstickier Act II at the home front suffers in comparison--as game as Cummings is with the physical humor, Martha's inedible pizza is one more fifth season setpiece that doesn't live up to the standards of the show's prime.  Second part Bob Helps Von Zell shifts the focus to the playboy's effort to get Harry to make his moves on Martha, but unfortunately has fewer laughs and more obvious padding.  Even the planned payoff of George Burns' guest appearance (stealing Schultzy away to replace Gracie!) doesn't really deliver.  Both episodes are thankfully sans Tammy Marihugh (a.k.a. this series' Cousin Oliver) but have the other problems all too common in 1959 LOVE THAT BOB segments: an overreliance on meta guest stars, all-too-conventional situations and Dwayne Hickman's M.I.A. status.  Wesson and Henning still have some verbal wit in them but the end is in sight.  (Bob Helps Martha: **1/2 out of four; Bob Helps Von Zell: ** out of four).


How we really know LOVE THAT BOB is nearing the end, just five episodes from it: Collins' aforementioned line about being too pooped to park.  With Elena Verdugo????  Dude....Lothario is losin' it.


Von Zell, inadvertently, though Bob loses interest after removing the unwitting obstacle.  What show is this again?  (The fictional Von Zell of the BURNS universe was single, but the real Von Zell had been married to wife Minerva for 34 years(!) at this point, and remained so until his death in 1981.)


For McCadden Productions for sure.  LOVE THAT BOB was nearing the finish line and THE GEORGE BURNS SHOW had already aired the final installment of its one and only season a month earlier.  Burns was making his second appearance of this season (Bob Butters Beck, Beck Butters Better was the other) but all the crossovers didn't help Burns and Von Zell keep their show going sans Gracie Allen.  

If you'd like to watch this two parter for yourself, here it is, courtesy the YouTube channel of yours truly:

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