Television sitcoms have come a long way since the early days of television.
Of course, that isn’t necessarily a complement.
Fifty years ago, one of the best sitcoms was The Bob Cummings show, aka Love That Bob (in syndication). It began in 1955 on CBS, moved to NBC after half a season where it ran for two years, then returned to CBS for its final two year run.
It was syndicated during daytimes in the 1960s as Love That Bob on ABC.
The plot was pretty simple. Bob Cummings played Bob Collins, a Hollywood photographer, ladies man, and air force reservist. He is constantly pursuing the the gorgeous models he photographs, but his plans more often than not fall apart.
This series, which co-starred Rosemary DeCamp – who is well remembered as playing Jimmy Cagney’s sister in Yankee Doodle Dandy – and also played the part of Peg Riley in the first incarnation of The Life of Riley on TV (with Jackie Gleason).
Ann B. Davis had third billing, but she became hugely popular as `Schultzy’, and had a good deal of screen time in the series. While she went on to play Alice in The Brady Bunch, to my generation she will always be Schultzy. She won two Emmy awards for the role.
The series also starred such up and coming stars as a young Dwayne Hickman (Before he would become Dobie GIllis) and Nancy Culp playing a man-crazy bird watcher before she became Miss Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies (Playing almost the same role).
The star was Charles Clarence Robert Orville `Bob’ Cummings (June 9, 1910 – December 2, 1990) – who had matinee idol looks, and a suave delivery – but never quite jelled as a major movie star.
Cummings began working on Broadway in the early 1930s, opposite Fanny Brice. He’d spent time in England and had perfected an upperclass English accent, which helped his career. He acted under the name Bruce Hutchens for awhile in the 1930s, but returned to his given name by the late 1930s.
His film career picked up in 1939, when he starred in Three Smart Girls with Deanna Durbin, and then followed that film with a series of fairly lightweight comedies.
Cummings received good notices for his dramatic performances in Kings Row (1942) , Saboteur (1942), and Dial M for Murder (1954), but his film career languished.
His films weren’t bad – just largely forgettable.
But it wasn’t until The Bob Cummings Show that he really gained stardom.
He followed up his success with 2 more series attempts (The New Bob Cummings Show, and My Living Doll). Neither proved to be successful, and both only ran a short time.
His big show was re-run for about a decade on daytime television, but black & white episodes fell out of fashion by the early 1970s, and since then they’ve seen only limited play. The copyright on these shows was never renewed, and they have fallen into the public domain.
While a slower pace than today’s snappy sitcoms, and less risqué (although not altogether innocent), these shows remain an enjoyable window into the humor and lifestyles of 1950s.
Here then are 20 episodes from The Internet Archive.
Love That Bob : Bob Goes Bird Watching
Bob Saves Harvey
Bob's Forgotten Fiancee
Bob In Orbit
Bob Plays Margaret's Game
Bob and Schultzy Reunite
Bob and the Dumb Blonde
Bob Gets Harvey A Raise
Bob and the Ravishing Realtor
Bob Becomes A Stage Uncle
Bob DIgs Rock And Roll
Bob Goes To The Moon
Bob Judges A Beauty Contest
Bob Butters Beck, Beck Butters Better
Grandpa's Christmas Visit
Grandpa's Old Buddy
Collins The Crooner
Grandpa Attends A Convention
Grandpa Moves West