Love That Mistletoe: A Forgotten Sitcom Christmas

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! As Sitcom Tuesdays prepare to dive back into the 1950s, it’s unfortunate that not all of the series I’d like to cover can be covered. One of these is The Bob Cummings Show (1955-1959, NBC/CBS) — known in syndication as Love That Bob — for although I have almost every episode (just missing four, with another few that are incomplete — most from KXTX airings), the fact that it isn’t on TV right now and only a handful of public domain entries are findable on home video (or YouTube) means it’s an unideal candidate for full coverage. This is sad, because The Bob Cummings Show is a very witty — and character-driven — series, with a premise revolving around a bachelor loathrio who belies many of the stereotypes persisting in our collective imagination about ’50s TV…

But, if I can’t cover the series in full, I can at least share an episode with you — an outing from Christmas Eve 1957, “Bob’s Christmas Party.” Directed by Cummings and written by creator Paul Henning, along with Dick Wesson and Shirl Gordon, this fourth season excursion won’t win any points for being a holiday staple. But it’s an excuse to see the series congregate its regular cast of familiar faces — Cummings, Rosemary DeCamp, Dwayne Hickman, and Ann B. Davis — along with several of its most memorable recurring players, including Lyle Talbot, Ingrid Goude, King Donovan, and the hilarious Nancy Kulp. It’s congenial sitcom fun, with a light plot and a couple of nice laughs. Hope it’s as merry-making for you as it is for me!

 

 

Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Monday for a musical theatre rarity!

19 thoughts on “Love That Mistletoe: A Forgotten Sitcom Christmas

  1. Thanks for posting this. I just watched it, and seeing the station promos makes me miss the station KXTX used to be. It’s strictly a Spanish-language station now and has been for decades, but its lineup back then was even better than MeTV’s lineup. I remember when it showed a 6-hour block of Westerns every Saturday afternoon.

    If you haven’t seen it, Hal Horn has a webpage that has frequent reviews of Bob Cummings’ show, as well as F-TROOP, HONDO, and lots of classic movies. Here’s a link to an episode of Bob’s show:
    https://hornsection.blogspot.com/2019/04/television-review-love-that-bob-bob-in.html

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for sharing that link — Mr. Horn is one of our subscribers (and occasional commenters).

      • I just checked, and I copied this one off Ch 39 back in the day too; it appears it is in better shape than some of my other old VHS tapings, so thanks for jarring my memory on it. I’ll try to get a review up if I can keep things timely and get it posted by the 25th :)

  2. Thank you for including this, Jackson! LOVE THAT BOB is one of the rare series I can watch, even though I loathe the lead. Cummings is just grisly to watch–the character is obnoxious and the actor is annoying. (And do not even GET me started on how grating it is when Cummings plays Bob’s grandfather, Josh Collins. Sheer agony.) But oh, that sterling supporting cast! Rosemary DeCamp, Dwayne Hickman, and especially Nancy Kulp and the equally hilarious Ann B. Davis are always wonderful to watch. And the series is refreshingly adult (if sexist and often mean-spirited when it comes to Schultzy and Pamela). Believe it or not I wish the series was available on DVD. Footnote: I met Ann B. Davis in 1995 at a book signing and told her that Bob was crazy, that I would have married Schultzy in a heartbeat. She smiled and thanked me. She was a very sweet lady and I loved her all the more afterwards.

    • Hi, Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I think you’re too harsh on the Bob character; remember that the premise of the series has him selflessly agreeing to care for his widowed sister and teenage son, and the central conflict stems from the tension between his swinging bachelor life and his responsibilities as the head of a household. It’s a fascinating ‘50s drama — caught between freedom and domesticity, which is defined as the opposite — and the show’s early years explore this theme relentlessly.

      However, this central dilemma is often lost on viewers today if they only adjudicate the episodes currently in circulation. Most of what’s available now comes from the last two years, by which point the central premise had already been well-exhausted, forcing episodic story to be more creative. Ann B. Davis was a beneficiary of the diminished use of the core premise, as episodes began to focus more on her, highlighting their relationship and giving the impression that the Bob/Schultzy bond was most seminal.

  3. Jon H, thanks for the shoutout! I hope to have all 173 episodes reviewed eventually, though my copies are also off KXTX Ch. 39 from the late 80s and as a student at the time, I was taping in SLP to save tapes/$$$. Some aren’t that viewer friendly three decades later. :(

    Upperco; thanks for posting! Haven’t reviewed this one yet but it is from the show’s best writing combo IMO. Shirley Gordon was a true pioneer; they missed her during the 1958-59 season IMO.

    Myself, I think Cummings is underrated now and he and the show deserve better. He was especially good behind the camera, consistenly getting great comedic performances from non-professional and/or inexperienced actors. Dwayne Hickman’s book “Forever Dobie” offered a lot of insight into Cummings’ approach as a director. It is a real shame that he did not work more as a director after this show.

    One last note on KXTX Channel 39; they aired LOVE THAT BOB continuously from 1985 to the end of 1989, at one time having a 4 hour block from 2 AM – 6 AM. Their late night lineup in the winter/spring of 1986 made for some late weeknights for this school boy (unknown to my parents :): from 12:30 AM – 2:30 AM signoff–LOVE THAT BOB, THE NEW DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, BEST OF GROUCHO, FARMER’S DAUGHTER. I really wish the latter was available now.

    • Hi, Hal! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’m pleased to see the series so popular here — were I find every episode, I might consider it for full coverage next year. Do you indeed have the complete set? Most of the people I’ve found who claim to have every episode are indeed missing a handful. ( “Ideal Husband,” “The Christmas Spirit,” “Long Live The King,” and “Bob Plays Gigolo” are the four that currently elude me in full.)

      Also, I share your favor for Gordon, but having now seen most of the run, I lean towards Season Three being the show’s high point: the characters have become well-developed, yet it’s still possible for the original premise to be explored in weekly story, making Three the most balanced version of the show — the aesthetic midpoint between the first two years and the last two. (I can understand why some prefer the more elevated use of Schultzy in Four and Five, but I think the show needs more Margaret/Chuck to reinforce its dramatic premise, and Three is therefore ideal.)

      • Wow, you have more episodes than I have. I probably have about 120, with about half of those in watchable condition after 30 years on SLP VHS. :-) If you have the following, I’d love to work out a trade of some kind:

        Bob Batches It
        Bob The Chaperone
        The Sergeant Wore Skirts
        The Models Revolt

        To me Season Five is the weakest. Cummings’ ownership of the show went up to 45% and George Burns’ reduced to 25%, and Cummings decided to go with a lot of ‘name’ guest stars in an effort to increase the ratings. So the first half of the season is a bit gimmicky; then Dwayne Hickman virtually left at mid-season after being cast as Dobie Gillis and the show got its very own “Cousin Oliver” in the form of Tammy Marihugh. Sure sign it had run its course, but 173 episodes is a great run.

        Just glad you’re covering it; Shokus Video has about 11 DVD’s also, with some good prints including several shows from the first 3 seasons in addition to the Seasons 4-5 heavy public domain DVD’s we keep running across.

        https://sunshine.rahul.net/~shokus/cgi-bin/shop/cashcart.cgi?ACTION=thispage&thispage=sitcoms.html&ORDER_ID=209824059

        • Hal, I don’t use this site as a venue for trading, but I’m happy to send subscribers a few episodes of any series discussed here. If you’re interested in those four episodes, let me know and I will send them your way.

          Also, I’d be very grateful if you do have the four episodes I’m missing in full, for adding them to my collection would make it more likely that the series gets full Sitcom Tuesday treatment here.

          As for your take on Season Five, I agree — much as I appreciate the additions of Rose Marie and Kathleen Freeman to the recurring cast, Tammy was not a viable replacement for Chuck, not only because she wasn’t capable of comedy (and certainly not to the degree that Hickman was), but also because her character’s emotional attachment with Bob wasn’t nearly as strong, and therefore the narrative stakes were always low. We just didn’t care.

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